(photo courtesy of Microsoft)
DigiGirlz is an initiative organized by Microsoft to engage girls in technological education and careers. The initiative, which launched in 2000, consists of two main programs: DigiGirlz Day and High Tech Camp. This program has been a cornerstone of Microsoft's community engagement for more than 20 years, but this year the events were in jeopardy of being cancelled because of the pandemic. So, what do you do when your passion for helping others meets a challenge? You do what Microsoft does so well -- you innovate!
On Saturday, January 30, Microsoft held the first-ever global virtual Microsoft DigiGirlz Day for more than 200 passionate and determined young women interested in learning more about technology-focused careers. This day-long program took the best of DigiGirlz events and brought them online, so attendees could find out about a variety of positions available in tech, learn about social media safety, and get an introduction to AI from the comfort of their own homes.
I was proud to be invited by Microsoft to participate in the Career Panel with speakers from Giant Eagle and The Walt Disney Company. As a woman working in the Networks division at Akamai -- working in the field of Corporate Sustainability -- I have learned firsthand what power and promise a different voice and perspective can bring to the tech conversation.
As I spoke to the girls on Saturday, I told them my story of having never worked in the technology field before joining Akamai in March 2019. I shared with them how I started my career as a high school art teacher, passionate about connecting students to the impact art has on our world. I spoke of how that passion for connecting people to stories has accompanied me throughout my career -- down a meandering path of roles in marketing and corporate social responsibility, both nonprofit and corporate -- to my work in sustainability. Today, in my position at Akamai, I use storytelling, stakeholder engagement, interpersonal connections, creativity and imagination, and organizational abilities to bring together our people and company with our commitments to the environment.
When asked by the girls what advice I'd give them on their career development, my answers were as follows:
Be open to the journey. I started college thinking I knew exactly what I wanted to do in my career and some 20 years later, I am working in a position I never could have imagined... and loving it! Even for us adults, I think this is a good reminder -- that sometimes life takes us to wonderful places and gives us opportunities that can be more fulfilling than the plan we had in mind for ourselves.
Networking is everything! Whether you're entering college, at the beginning of your career, or even in a career transition, it's so important to stay active in connecting with others. Both in your field of choice and in a career you're just curious about, networking helps you to learn about different positions, companies, and industries and can give you insight into whether you're a good fit for a role.
Your voice matters. You may not have the same viewpoint as others on your team or even in your company, but your voice matters and adds to the diversity of a conversation. Don't be afraid to share your ideas and trust in the fact that some of the world's biggest innovations have blossomed from the partnership of differing perspectives.
I am so thankful I got the chance to talk with the attendees at DigiGirlz Day. Not only did I have the chance to hear and learn from some of my female colleagues in the tech space, but I was reminded how important we are as mentors for the next generation of women behind us -- those girls using the power of their differing voices to change the tech industry, and maybe one day the world.
To learn more about Akamai's sustainability commitments, visit akamai.com/sustainability
More than 54,000 students have attended the Microsoft DigiGirlz Technology Programs (both camps and one-day events) since they began in 2000. DigiGirlz gives girls the opportunity to meet with Microsoft executives, participate in workshops and product demonstrations, and be mentored by employees possessing similar interests. Through DigiGirlz Microsoft wants to show that they are bringing up a new generation of innovative women leaders and helping girls change their future through the use of technology.
"Microsoft's DigiGirlz strives to provide young women with the necessary expertise and direction to succeed in a world becoming more dependent on the latest technologies and innovations," said Anissa Battaglino, Northeast Region Community Engagement Manager at Microsoft. "We believe that this experience will help dismiss any stereotypes of the high-tech industry catering solely to males."