Last fall I started volunteering as a mentor for the Technovation Challenge, a competition hosted by the non-profit organization Iridescent. In this competition high school girls build Android apps and learn the values of entrepreneurship. In an effort to provide networking opportunities to San Francisco and East Bay mentors, there is a series of mixers, each with its own theme that draws from the volunteer and career experience of the mentors. On Wednesday, February 20, kicked off the first mentor mixer with the theme “managing teams.”

I’m fortunate to work in an environment where individual contributors are encouraged to take the lead on their teams. Furthermore, they are encouraged and supported by their managers. Since I have many talented colleagues, our panel consisted of four women in different stages of their careers: new hire Astha, scrum master Divya, customer research coordinator Noël, and director of quality engineering Josie to share their experiences with the mentors. It turns out, as you may have already known, that running a team at work has many parallels to mentoring a team of high school students.

Here’s the key list I compiled from the panel and mentors:

  • Good leaders don’t have all the answers but they ask insightful questions.
  • Failure is OK! Learn from mistakes and communicate with each other.
  • Don’t ignore your own career because you’re busy supporting others!
  • Engage teammates in problem-solving to build their confidence.
  • Wherever you are in your career, explore and take risks. Don’t forget to do the same for your personal life.

Overall the mixer reconfirmed that whether volunteering at a school or working at a company, it’s easier to pursue goals when there is a support network. For me, being a engineer and a Technovation mentor makes me twice as thankful to know such inspiring women.

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