The mission of the Technovation Challenge is to promote women in tech- nology by giving girls the skills and confidence they need to be successful in computer science and entrepreneurship. We aim to inspire girls to see themselves not just as users of technology, but as inventors, designers, builders and entrepreneurs.
-The people I have met through Technovation have helped me more than they know. They were living proof that it was possible for women to have successful careers in science and technology. They reinforced the message Technovation is trying to send; if you work hard you can do anything. Now I know I can do anything too.
–Teija Ahlfors, 2011 Technovation mentor
"The mission of the Technovation Challenge" Not alone in viewing volunteerism as a career asset. Many of my colleagues and fellow current and past board members of "The mission of the Technovation Challenge" share my sentiments. I’ve summarized our collective thoughts on the unexpected perks of volunteering with the hope of inspiring more professionals to lend a hand and do well (for themselves) by doing good (for others):
1 Explore new careers. Interested in becoming an event planner? Think you might be a great CFO? Want to change from finance to marketing? Volunteering can provide a “safe harbor” for trying your hand in new areas to gauge whether it’s something you really do want to pursue – and expose you to other professionals in that field that have the connections to help make your transition a reality.
2 Elevate your current skill set and showcase your talent. Volunteering enabled me to apply my “technical” (aka finance and marketing) and transferrable (communications, project management, people management) skills in new ways. For one organization, I leveraged my finance skills to create a new financial model. For another, I applied my marketing skills to refine how they were using social media.
3 Expand your network and raise your visibility. Volunteering is a great way to meet people from outside your company and field, which adds important depth and breadth to your professional network. (Remember the old adage: don’t put all your eggs in one basket). Serving as a committee chair or board member, co-chairing an event, speaking on a panel and contributing to the organization’s blog are all great ways to build name recognition and establish your presence. The connections I’ve made through volunteer service have proved invaluable professionally, from gaining fresh insights to identifying fabulous job candidates to uncovering new business opportunities.
4 Enhance your ability to influence. The staff and boards of nonprofit organizations tend to be from diverse backgrounds, so being able to communicate and influence effectively to such a diverse audience can be a challenge. For me, it was a tremendous opportunity to focus on how to craft a message that is meaningful and relevant to both the board member who’s an accomplished CEO and to the executive director who has little finance background, and so forth. Those are valuable skills in a company like Citi with such diverse businesses.
5 Experience leadership. Rising through the leadership ranks in today’s increasingly flat organizational structures can be a challenge. Fortunately, many nonprofit organizations are hungry for energetic volunteers who are willing to step up and take a leadership role on a committee or board. Take advantage of those opportunities to build and flex your leadership muscle. A few other points to consider. First, don’t ever say “yes” simply to enhance your resume or because someone you respect asked you to get involved. I only got involved with organizations whose missions aligned with my passions and values. Second, before signing on, I always did my homework to make sure the organization was credible and to understand the various ways they engaged with volunteers. And, last but not least, if you decide to serve on a board, remember that board members have important legal and fiduciary responsibilities that require a commitment of time, skill and resources. In other words, it’s not something to entertain lightly.
Chair member United Finnish Kaleva Brothers & Sisters Berkeley, CA
Finnish Radio Broadcasting KUSF 90.3, San Francisco, CA
Boy Scouts of America; Troop 251 San Jose, CA
Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) San Jose, CA
Three years leading an Art program for mentally challenged adults Art program for mentally challenged adults, Helsinki, Finland
Project Open Hand, San Francisco, CA
Suurella Sydämmella Lauttasaaren Kirkkokahvila, Tähdellinen tiimi Opettajat Ilman Rajoja, Helsinki, Finland
Teija Ahlfors - Kirjoittaja opiskelee parhaillaan vapaaehtoistoiminnan johtamista Humanistisen ammattikorkeakoulun avoimessa ammattikorkeakoulussa.