Why I am so excited about going to Silicon Valley (hint: it’s not about the technology)

I’m visiting Silicon Valley for the first time next week, as chaperone for a team of girls called ‘Reading Republic’. They’ve been students at Code Rangers for a while, and show curiosity, drive, and perseverance in spades, and their hard work has led them to take part in the Global Technovation Challenge. Along the way they’ve been a part of the Tech Girls are Superheroes Competition, and been introduced to amazing mentors, and competition’s amazing founder Jewella, aka Dr Jenine Beekhuyzen.

We’ve been given an agenda for the week ahead with visits to tech companies and opportunities to practice pitching in front of some of the best. But that’s not what has me excited. The thing that’s really making me count down the days is that I’m going to meet the future. By that I don’t mean driverless cars (don’t get me wrong, that’s going to be a great field trip.) I’m going to meet eighteen other teams of girls who, just like the Reading Republic girls love making stuff. They love collaborating. They’ve spent over a year of their short lives finding solutions to problems in their local communities, problems aligned to the United Nations sustainable development goals. And they’re all going to be in one place.

I’ve looked on the map at where they’re coming from, and it’s global - Asia, Europe, Africa, South America, Australia and North America. They’ve identified problems that matter to them - from female genital mutilation, to pre- and postnatal care, recycling and improving literacy. They’ve identified solutions, and now they’re coming together to refine those solutions, and meet experts who can help get these solutions off the ground. They’re going to learn about what life is like outside of their own bubbles and daily lives, and get a first hand glimpse at this global community we know we’re all a part of, but often struggle to really get a hold of.

Think about what that will look like. And sound like!  While it’s been a year of hard work for the girls to get this far, I really think next week’s summit is just the start for them. They’re going to come back from Technovation with a broader perspective of the world, and with encouragement and support to keep working on their projects.

The problems they’re working to solve are so varied, but Technovation also looks to solve one further problem - why do so many girls with spark and passion and smarts decide not to pursue science or technology studies at university (let alone choose these professions)?  Once all these girls return to their homes they’re going to be able to tell stories of the amazing work being done globally with tech to improve our communities. They’re going to shine as examples of the opportunities to excel in STEM, and they’ll be rockstars in their local communities, where other girls can see what they’ve done, and set out on their own journey of problem solving, creating and collaborating.

Now THAT’s what has me super excited. (I’m sure that Google HQ with it slides and dinosaur fossils is going to be really cool too.)