Lilian Motongori at Autodesk Gallery in SanFrancisco
The first time I heard of Techwomen was during a WomEng Fellowship I was part of in Nairobi, Kenya 2016. I was a young 4th year, Mechanical engineering student heading to my 5th year. It was also the first time I was in a room of many young smart women from different universities doing engineering and I can't forget how inspiring that experience was for me coming from a class where we were only 2 girls. It was also the first time that I found purpose in pursuing engineering, unlike my previous years where I was just studying to pass my exams, get that paper and go pursue other things like politics that I seemed so interested in at the time. So during one of the WomEng sessions, we had mentors who came to speak to us. These were women who were already working in STEM fields and we were divided into groups where they would rotate as they speak to the group members. One of the ladies that came to speak to our group happened to be previous techwomen fellow and she told us of this techwomen program that happens annually, How good it is, you get to travel and work in silicon valley and all that was needed to apply was just 2 years working experience in the field. She showed us photos and I purposed to apply for the program.

2017 came and I decided to just try my luck even if I was a student. The questions seemed so long I was just postponing, I ended up not even submitting. 2018 came I had at least worked a little in the field and gave it a try even though I knew my work experience wasn't enough. This time I finished the application but I knew I would not be selected. True to that. I was not selected. I, however, worked on getting enough work experience since internships didn't count in the application. 2019 the applications were opened this time I applied again, and finally, I was selected for the program. It was the best thing that happened to me in 2019. (I will talk about my experience later in another article). Luckily and coincidentally, I met with the then Director for WomEng (Kenya), Zani Gichuki during the 2019 techwomen fellowship. She happened to be a fellow too and it was a really awesome experience.

It seems so easy when I recall now but at the time I had to conquer a lot of impostor syndrome within myself to make a good application. I decided to write this article to anyone trying to apply for the Techwomen program. I gathered some tips that helped me and hopefully it would help you too.

  1. Believe in yourself and your story. I know so many people (Africa, Middle East, South, and Central Asia) are applying for the program from professors, teachers, engineers, computer scientists, pilots, CEOs, managers, physicists, etc but whoever you are in the STEM profession, the Techwomen program is for you as long as you have met the requirements. So YOU matter. Your story matters make it stand out.
  2. Don't underestimate your achievements. Before starting your application, write down all your achievements no matter how small you think it is. You will need it in your application Even if you organized a mentorship program for 20 girls. I know we women are so afraid of talking about it but this is the time to blow your trumpet. Blow it as much as you can. If you can't figure out your achievements, ask someone you trust to tell you about it.
  3. Read and Read the questions well. Take your time in answering them. You can always save the draft and answer later as long as the deadline is not yet. It is also advisable that you copy the questions on a different document then finally paste the answers once you are done.
  4. Quantify your impact: Mention numbers in the work you have done. e.g I trained x number of kids on coding, x% of them were girls. We were able to achieve...
  5. Put links to your work. It could be posted with photos of your work on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Papers you have published, conferences you have attended or you have been speaking at, mentorships you have done, Awards you have gotten, websites to your organization.
  6. Research on Techwomen, it's values, goals. Put yourself in the shoes of whoever called for the applications. What do you think they are looking for and why would they choose you? Then sell that part of you that they will need or that relates to their work. Your work with women in STEM or the society. Your contribution to STEM or the industry you are in.
  7. Don't limit your age: As someone who happened to be one the youngest then, your age doesn't matter as long as you qualify the requirements. Techwomen selects based on your application not on age.
  8. Be on time. Don't let the deadline pass you. Techwomen sends reminders so be sure to be on time. I know there are many questions but start early. If you have any questions, through your application, ask through the email on the website
  9. Connect with former Techwomen fellows. Previous fellows get to nominate at least 2 people for the next cohort. But don't let that worry you even if you don't get nominated, your application sells itself. None of my country members was previously nominated but we still got it.
  10. Don't give up even if you don't get it this time. You can always do it next time. Continue helping women in STEM at whatever capacity you are at, continue contributing to your industry. There are other stages, after application, there is the first selection, then the second selection for interviews and finally final selection. No matter what stage you are at, sell yourself and don't give up. Be patient as well.

I wish you luck and success in your application.
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