“It always seems impossible, until it’s done.” -Nelson Mandela
Twelve weeks, 100 high school girls, 22 teams, 13 high schools, 31 mentors, 8 instructor’s, 16 teachers…came to an end on April 30th at Carleton University.
Technovation is a global technology entrepreneurship and competition for young women that sets out to prove that there’s more than just coding in the technology sector. The program is designed to inspire and educate young women to pursue a career in technology by showing them all aspects of starting a technology business.
The end of Technovation 2016 marked the 2nd annual event in Ottawa. It’s hard to believe that it was just a year ago that we wrapped up Technovation 2015, with 50 high school girls. Fast forward to 2016, and double the number the high school girls! Because the Ottawa chapter doubled its numbers this year, we split up the teams between East end schools and West end schools. Hosting the weekly instructional and hands-on sessions could not have been possible without the generosity of sponsors like Pythian, L-Spark, Shopify and IBM. (we held our weekly sessions at the offices of our sponsors) And this year, the US Embassy in Ottawa provided a grant for supplies, like workbooks and laptops.
On April 30th, the 12 weeks of hard work ended with the teams nervously practicing their pitches, waiting for their turn to pitch their business idea and app prototype to a panel of judges. The girls were more than ready though and presented their app ideas.
So, what was the outcome for the 22 teams competing? We had four pools with three judges per pool. Each pool had a finalist. The four finalists then pitched again to all of the judges. The judges had a tough time deciding, but they managed to rank the final four…I nervously announced the pool winners and their rankings. (I was at the weekly sessions, so had a bond with many of the teams, which explains why I was just as nervous and anxious for the teams!)
1st place went to the team from Earl of March, team name Pentagen. Their business and app idea is to connect parents to babysitters, call “ConnecSitter”.
2nd place went to the team from Elmwood, team name Envisoners. Their business plan and app idea was built on the concept of ‘try before you buy’, called “CovaLend”, providing their customers with a network for trying sports equipment before buying it.
3rd place went to another team from Earl of March, team name APProved. Their business plan and app idea is to provide youth with a quick and easy way to find extracurricular activities for them, called “tuna”.
4th place went to the team from Notre Dame, team name “Grow it Forward”. Their business plan and app idea was built on the idea of car sharing for university students who need to go grocery shopping, called “GroShare”.
All teams proudly accepted their certificates from the judges, and their peers cheered for them. The 1st place team, Pentagen, received a $1000 Apple Store e-gift certificate (thanks to sponsor Shopify) and moved on to the global semi-finals. If they advance to the global finals (July in San Francisco) they will pitch again for a chance at $10,000 USD to invest in their business and app idea! (how great would that be for an Ottawa team)
The excitement on April 30th was topped off with a visit from the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna. “It’s really important that we have programs like this to give girls an exciting opportunity to do coding, develop business skills and find solutions,” said McKenna.
There’s more to IT than just coding …
Technovation is designed to inspire and educate young women to pursue a career in technology by showing them all aspects of starting a technology business. Is Technovation working? Are young women choosing to continue their education in computer science or engineering? We have some data from Technovation showing that 70% of participants are choosing to to continue with computer science courses and we have anecdotal data from Ottawa participants. Here are a couple of quotes from Ottawa students.
“My views of working in the technology sector have changed, since it feels like something anyone can be a part of, whereas it was a distant idea before,” said 18-year-old Doris, a student at Merivale High School and member of the team Women With Ambition. “I came in with the notion that we would be coding during the first week, but it turns out much of the development takes place off screen, with many hours dedicated to brainstorming, surveying users, drawing a paper prototype, and mulling over the ideas with team members.”
Spruha, a 15-year old Grade 9 participant admitted learning a lot about business during the program. “ I wanted to go into medicine, but now I’m thinking I will go into IT as a career.”
Why are women in technical roles important
Women hold less than 20% of technical roles in technology companies, and yet companies with higher ratios of women in aggregate are more successful. Diversity in the workplace (aka known as bro culture) are measurements some tech companies are now focused on. Pythian is an excellent example of a tech company actively reviewing and measuring their diversity, what they call thePythia project. Recently the CEO and Founder of Pythian, Paul Vallée, was namedDiversity Champion from Women in Communications and Technology. Give this article a read Women in Technology: why it’s good for everyone.
I will wrap up this post with another thank you to our sponsors and their onsite volunteers, Krista Shibata at IBM; Gehana Booth at Shopify; Jamie Keeley at L-Spark; and Lorraine Gardner at Pythian; and our 31 mentors.
And a special thanks to the Regional Ambassador, Jennifer Francis, who decided it was time for Ottawa to have a chapter of Technovation in 2015.
Technovation is a program designed to inspire women to pursue the entrepreneurial spirit in all of us! For more information on Technovation and starting your own local chapter go to Technovation. Globally, Technovation is sponsored by Adobe Foundation, Google, Verizon, CA Technologies, Intel and Oracle, in partnership with UN Women, UNESCO and MIT Media Lab.
Interested in working for Pythian? Check out our open positions.