Think about a job you love(d). Who was the first person to talk to you about it? Where did you find resources to help you? What are you doing now to pay it forward? Those questions rattled around in my head this past week while I was at the Boston Technovation Challenge Pitch Night at MIT.

The pitch was the culmination of an incredible ten weeks. The Technovation Challenge, an Iridescent program, aims to “promote women in technology by giving girls the skills and confidence they need to be successful in computer science and entrepreneurship“. Students are guided through the entire mobile app process, from conception to creating a marketing/business plan to building a prototype in Google App Inventor. The Boston winner will compete against regional winners from NYC, Berkeley, Mountain View, and San Francisco on May 3rd at Intel in Santa Clara, CA. Google will develop the app of the national winner. Amazing.

TC was founded in 2009, but 2012 was its first year in Boston. I came on as a mentor to a group of young women from New Mission High School. My team had started off with five girls, but due to various circumstances, by pitch night we were down to two: Isabel and Katelyn. Being the shy kids in their Chemistry class, they were inspired to build an app that gave students extra credit through Chemistry games while keeping teachers up to date with the student’s progress and building the student’s self esteem.

To say that I was proud of the girls would be an understatement. They’d always been thoughtful, but the young women I saw present in front of TC keynote Jean Hammond and the panel of VC judges (a great group made up of Elyse CherryGeraldine AliasRob Go, and Wayne Chang), were composed, sans notecards and armed with their love and knowledge of their app. They were inspiring.

It reminded me how important community can be in professional growth. This achievement was largely in part due to the girls themselves, but with the Technovation team and Boston director Tahani Zeid, their teacher Jennifer, their technical teaching assistant that helped them build their app, the speakers that took time week after week to come in, all helped elicit qualities the girls themselves had in them all along. As I watched all ten teams present, they showed me the beautiful reflection of what a mosaic of community support can provide.

Now back to the questions I started with.

  • Reach out to the people that have influenced your career and let them know how and what you’re up to. They took time to help you, let them know how beneficial they’ve been.
  • Be a resource. Get involved with your community, both professionally and civically. Attend an event, organize a panel, or chat with some up-and-comers in your industry and pass along best practices.
  • Become a mentor. There’s the National Mentoring Partnership site which we’ve mentioned before, but If you need some help jumping in, let me know. I’m trying to figure out a way people can get started that respects their time but also maximizes impact.

If we want to stop people from questioning where the women in tech are, we have to support girls in tech and youth in general, for that matter. We all should step up and let them know that there is opportunity and community closer than they might think.