Eight dynamic women share leadership stories at the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby — The Ismaili story

Panelists share their thoughts at the Techovation Challenge launch hosted by the Aga Khan Education Board for Canada. From left to right: Kimberly Voll, Shaherose Charania, Louise Turner, Frenny Bawa, Alexandra Fedorova, Karimah Es Sabar, and Cybele Negris. Photo: Sultan Baloo
Panelists share their thoughts at the Techovation Challenge launch hosted by the Aga Khan Education Board for Canada. From left to right: Kimberly Voll, Shaherose Charania, Louise Turner, Frenny Bawa, Alexandra Fedorova, Karimah Es Sabar, and Cybele Negris. Photo: Sultan Baloo

“My advice to all the women out there is to rehearse your script,” began Louise Turner. “Actors are impressive in movies because they have a script, and in life, we should always have a script that lets us be the leader we want to be.” The President of the Premier’s Technology Council, Turner was one of eight panellists at the Leadership Stories event held at the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby.

Organised by the Aga Khan Education Board for Canada, the event launched the national Technovation Challenge, a programme designed to inspire teenage girls to explore studies and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

The Technovation Challenge is an applied Computer Science / Entrepreneurship programme where high school girls create and pitch their own mobile apps. Teams of five girls partner with a female mentor who guides them through lessons for 12 weeks. The teams then pitch their app and a business plan to a panel of experts. Regional winners travel to the San Francisco Bay Area to compete at the Technovation World Pitch event for a chance to have their app promoted for the mobile market.

Leadership Stories brought together eight prominent female entrepreneurs, business leaders, policy makers, and academics to share their experiences, challenges, and opportunities, as well as the lessons they had learned along the way. Samira Alibhai, President of the Ismaili Council for British Columbia, welcomed the panellists and audience to the Ismaili Centre, remarking that it existed to facilitate the kind of dialogue and distinctive exchanges of ideas and experience that the panel represented.

Anar Simpson shares her experience as a Technovation Challenge mentor. Photo: Sultan Baloo
Anar Simpson shares her experience as a Technovation Challenge mentor. Photo: Sultan Baloo 

Anar Simpson, a founder of Parallel Earth, and the leader who brought the Technovation Challenge to Canada, spoke of her experience as a mentor with the programme, and the impact that she had witnessed on young girls who previously had only a limited interested in STEM, and no prior programming or coding skills. Moderated by Zaylin Lalji, a member of the Aga Khan Education Board for Canada, the panellists then challenged, provoked and inspired the audience for two hours.

“I realised that it’s better to be a leader than to be a follower, because then you get to work on the things which interest you the most,” said Alexandra Fedorova, Associate Professor from the School of Computing Science at Simon Fraser University. Shaherose Charania, the CEO and Co-Founder of Women 2.0, suggested that leaders were those people with the, “tenacity and courage to continue where others will stop or hold back.”

As the panel discussions progressed, the conversations evolved from leadership to entrepreneurship.

Frenny Bawa, a Board member of SFU’s Beedie School of Business, remarked that she had turned her “restlessness and inability to sit still” into a personal commitment to seek out new opportunities — often in new fields — which have taken her on professional adventures across the globe. Kimberly Voll, a Senior Faculty Member at the Centre for Digital Media, drew laughs with George Barnard Shaw’s quotation: “People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” The panellists also outlined opportunities that lay ahead for women entrepreneurs.

Cybele Negris, the President and Co-Founder of Webnames.ca, encouraged the women in the audience to think of male-dominated fields, like technology, as an opportunity. “After all, when I walk into a conference with a hundred IT leaders, and I’m one of five women, no one wants to talk to my partner — everyone wants to talk to me. It’s an opportunity and a gift, not a disadvantage.”

The audience takes notes as panelists share stories and offer words of wisdom at the Technovation launch, held at the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby in December 2012. Photo: Sultan Baloo
The audience takes notes as panelists share stories and offer words of wisdom at the Technovation launch, held at the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby in December 2012. Photo: Sultan Baloo

Finally, Karimah Es Sabar, the President and CEO of the Centre for Drug Research and Development, reminded the audience to build on the foundation that has already been laid. She underlined the leadership role that BC plays in the biotechnology and life sciences industries — a fact, she said, which should give us pride but also remind us of the responsibility and opportunity to continue to build on this phenomenal track record.

Salimah Addetia, the Program Manager for the Technovation Challenge, briefed potential mentors and participants in the audience on the new initiative. The programme is being held weekly at the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby.

In his closing remarks, Karim Thomas, Chairman of the Aga Khan Education Board for Canada, explained that the Technovation Challenge, while sponsored by the Board, would be open to students from across the Lower Mainland. “This is part of our commitment to bring distinctive programming to the broader community in which we live, a commitment which is enabled by the wonderful facilities we are able to share at the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby.”

More information on the Technovation Challenge can be found at www.technovationchallenge.org

Source: The Ismili org

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