mentor (noun.): an experienced and trusted adviser or guide
I started volunteering as a mentor because I wanted to encourage girls and young women in technology. I try to inspire them, to get them excited, so they can see the possibilities of a career in tech.
I started working in tech in the mid-80s, and I feel very natural in that environment, but to this day women comprise less than 15 percent of computer science majors. And yet technology is growing so quickly, it’s hard to fill all the jobs that need doing. So, the world needs more women in the field.
One of the ways I mentor is by introducing my mentees to experts in the field. Working at IBM, I have access to people who know artificial intelligence, user experience design, how to build an app, and so on. I don’t know everything, but I have access to experts who are often delighted to talk to my mentees.
I also talk to students at U of T events such as the Next Steps Conference and Backpack to Briefcase (b2B).
There are three things I want them to take away: what they hear, what they see, and what they feel.
They may not remember what they hear, but I do have some key messages: for example, the speed of change and the importance of life-long learning. You know how fast you get an upgrade on your app? Well, that’s how fast things are changing in the tech world.
They’re going to see something when I speak with them. They’re going to see a woman—a woman who is diverse. I want them to see a woman who’s confident, and happy with her career and her life. I want them to know that they can have this too.
And the most important thing is what I want them to feel when they walk away. I want them to feel happy, energized, hopeful—that the future is bright, there are lots of options, and they can do it. I want them to take away a feeling of optimism and empowerment.
TOP: Julie Chan (BSc 1982) is a business development executive at IBM Canada.