Talented women talk mentors and math at Phoenix Girl Geek Dinner

Geek girls unite

Mentorship. Wikipedia defines it as “a personal developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person.” I had a mentor once — I moved to LA after working as a nanny for years in the Pacific Northwest and decided to brave the corporate world. What I found interesting is that the only woman in management there at the time saw me as an interloper and competitor. I was fortunate to have Ron take me under his wing and teach me the business.

What brings all this to mind? Mentorship was a centerpoint of conversation at the first-ever Phoenix Girl Geek Dinner, which was sponsored by GoDaddy and attended by women and men from the company and throughout the Phoenix area. GoDaddy Executive VP and General Council Nima Kelly moderated a panel comprised of five accomplished women:

  • Irana Wasti, Director of Product Management — Productivity
  • Jen Grondin, Director of Program Management — Hosting
  • Benah Parker, Ph.D., Manager of Professional Development and Instructional Design
  • Amber Christensen, Software Developer
  • Jolean DeKort, Unified Communications Manager

Their discussion focused on mentorship and mathematics.

Looking for answers

Math? What?! Regardless of their current roles at work and home, a common theme among members of the panel was their simple desire to understand how the world worked. It was a shared motivational factor for their success on both the personal and professional fronts. And, for several of the speakers, that meant pursuing knowledge under the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) umbrella.

Jolean was only 10 when her dad brought home a Trash 80 (for you youngsters out there, that’s a TRS-80 from Tandy/Radio Shack). She just started playing with it and was soon programming it on her own. Amber was fortunate; her father was an electrical engineer at Motorola so every year she went to a summer camp run by the company, where she had the opportunity to work on amazing projects like Iridium satellites.

Do you see a theme here? These are women who weren’t told they had limitations based on their gender. They were encouraged to explore their intellectual curiosity.

Technology, communication and mentorship

“Technology always provides the right answer, and what you can do with it helps people achieve their dreams.” ~ Irana Wasti

Irana said she finds inspiration in the solutions that technology so often offers. That starts with kids. Jen loves to watch young people use technology to tap into their creative sides, allowing them to achieve their full potential. She said it’s especially fun for her to mentor high school students because they don’t realize that the Internet, texting, and the games they play on their phones and tablets ARE technology.

In addition to math and tech smarts, successful people need to communicate effectively. This is a skill that Benah, who has a doctoral degree in social psychology, has observed from her niche in the technology world. Strong women in technology continue to move up the corporate ladder, in part, by becoming excellent communicators for their own departments. Amazing — another stereotype crushed in one fell swoop. Being geeky does not mean being socially awkward. Young women don’t have to choose to either bury themselves behind computer monitors or to be social butterflies. We can have it all.

“If you have a desire to learn and people willing to mentor you along the way, you can end up a girl geek.” ~ Nima Kelly

Both being mentored and mentoring others play an important role in helping us to grow as individuals and professionals. Benah said, and the panel agreed, that what matters most is to choose a mentor who can relate to where we are in our lives. As for serving as mentors? Great, as long we don’t make mentoring just another task.

A reminder from Danica  

Danica Patrick and Nancy KingNinety-nine percent of the time, I forget about inequality. But then someone calls me “bossy” when all I’m doing is taking charge of a situation, and I remember that it may be 2014, but we still have a long way to go. When I shook Danica Patrick’s hand and looked her in the eye (HUGE fangirl moment for me), I realized why she was such a force to be reckoned with: she isn’t just strong physically. An example to all of us, Danica is a small business owner and race car driver — excelling in a predominantly man’s world.

All in all, it was an enjoyable evening of conversation, fun, tiny tomato soups with elfin toasted cheese sandwiches, and free wine. I left feeling more empowered as a girl geek than I have in a long time. It made me think back to my early days and how competitive it was for me as a woman. Now is the time for us celebrate each woman’s achievement, even the ones that may make us feel that tiny pang of envy. Their success is a success for all of us.

Having relocated recently, Nancy King is now freelance writing and training in Southern California. Passionate about educating small business owners, she enjoys helping them promote themselves online. In her free time, she can be found taking long walks on the beach or curling up with a book and a cup of tea.