Preview: Anar Simpson: You are invited to…

by Anar Simpson, Founder Parallel Earth

…a great event coming up next week with a fabulous panel of women in technology and their leadership. Plus there will be a lot of great women to network with. Also the group putting this event on, Iridescent Learning, is looking for female mentors for their Technovation Challenge program. It’s a program to get high school girls excited about technology, product development, and entrepreneurship.  – Nov. 2011

Anar Simpson

Anar Simpson

As a founder of Parallel Earth, a social media startup in Silicon valley, this invitation to a Leadership Stories panel event at the offices of the Andreessen Horowitz on Sand Hill Road sounded intriguing!

In a packed conference room we heard how the women on the panel including the luminaries of Silicon Valley – Padmasree Warrior, Marissa Mayer, Freada Kapor-Klein and others got their start in technology and an insight in their career journeys. The event was amazing – we rubbed shoulders with women who are featured regularly on Most Influential Women on the Forbes and Fortune lists and also learned about the Technovation Challenge program. Of course I was hooked and signed on as a mentor for the program. Having started off as a computer scientist and then embraced a broad spectrum of technology processes over the span of my career, this program seemed like the perfect next step for me to join the community of women leaders here in Silicon Valley.

The Technovation Challenge teaches high-school girls how to make an app for an Android phone using AppInventor ( a program from MIT). Technovation provided curriculum and structure which made this something I could do as a side project. The group that wins the competition gets resources to develop their app for the market; something that I would have loved as a student! The timing was right and the basic tenet of the program spoke to me.

As one of many mentors, I was assigned five high school girls from Mountain View High School to guide through the program. We met once a week for 12 weeks with five other groups of girls (some from Sequoia High School) and their mentors in a small conference room on the Google campus. We worked our way through the curriculum which weaved in the whole entrepreneurship syllabus around the idea of creating an app for a mobile phone. So not only were the girls getting familiar with the idea creating an app, they were also challenged to think about whether there would be a market for the app, could they make a profit, could their idea scale, what was the size of the market etc. so basically they were exposed to the whole business development life cycle, at the end of which they had to pitch their idea to a panel of judges comprised of VCs and angel funders.

My experience with the program was phenomenal – my team won the regional competition and placed third in the finals. But what really amazed me about 12-week course was how the girls grew – they literally blossomed in front of my eyes! They did not know each other or me when they first entered the program but over the course of time each one of them took an active an important role in the challenge and really stepped up to be the best. They grew in confidence, in knowing that the tech field does not mean just coding – that there are a plethora of areas in the tech world that they could excel in like design, quality assurance, project management, business acumen etc. Ideas that hopefully will last with them through their careers!

What happened next was this idea in the back my mind that kept saying “every high school girl should have a chance to get the experience of this program” and the realization that in fact I could take this idea to fruition using my network, experience and most importantly, my voice.

Fast forward to today – I devote a substantial chunk of my time as the Global Ambassador for the Technovation Challenge program. This means lead generation and extensive contact/networking on the world scale so that we can take this program global. To date we have reached more than 1300 girls in 19 countries. With our online curriculum which allows us to scale easily, the plan is to double the numbers for next year and my personal goal is to be in every country in the world that’s about 254 countries give or take a few!

I do hope you will join me in this journey, to change the world by encouraging and supporting others in this very technology pervasive world, whether with the Technovation Challenge or other programs that speak to you, and be a part of the global community of women supporting tomorrow’s women.

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