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By Lisa Thibodeau

Managers and executives from several Kanata North companies have teamed up with global tech education nonprofit Technovation in an effort to get more young women interested in pursuing technology careers.

The program invites female high school students to participate in a three-month competition while being mentored by some of the top women in Ottawa tech. Teams are tasked with planning, designing and pitching a mobile app startup as a way to inspire
and teach girls about the industry.

Host companies also provide teaching material to the teams, with lectures on how to
debug code as a common theme. The program was brought to Ottawa in 2015 by Jennifer Francis, a principal at Cafe Noir Consulting who also sits onthe boards of both Invest Ottawa and the Capital Angels Network.
“Technovation gets girls engaged in the technology and development side in (an) … environment that makes it easier for them to ask questions, learn to code and gets them past the view that it is only for boys,” says Francis, adding that with the support from companies including Ericsson, Ciena, You.i TV, IBM, Shopify and L-Spark nearly 700 girls in the capital have taken part in the program.

Lucy Bojilova, a long time mentor at Technovation, introduced the program to Ericsson when she joined the company in 2017. PHOTO BY MARK HOLLERON

Lucy Bojilova is an R&D manager at Ericsson and has been a mentor for the program since its inception. She was introduced to Technovation while working at IBM, and loved the experience so much that she brought the initiative with her to Ericsson.
“We have a big pool of tech companies here in Kanata and we should be … bringing these girls here to showcase the opportunities that exist,” she says.

The well-documented underrepresentation of women in tech is something Bojilova says she has seen throughout her career, making efforts to inspire girls to pursue a career in
the sector something she finds easy to become passionate about.

“We are behind, but by fostering and creating excitement with programs like Technovation, we will be able to make a change,” she says. Ciena has also been a sponsor of Technovation for the last two years, hosting some of the events at its sprawling Kanata North labs. Marie Fiala, the company’s director of portfolio marketing, heard about the program from Francis and thought it was the perfect complement to the company’s diversity initiatives.

“Ciena really supports women in the workplace and the promotion of careers for young girls,” she says. “We were really impressed with the program and the amount of engagement and enthusiasm the young girls have.”

Fiala adds that being able to show girls that tech is a viable career path for women leaves all of those involved with an overwhelming sense of pride. She says she is looking forward to working closely with Technovation in the future, hoping to further Ciena’s involvement by joining the mentorship program and working with the groups
more one-on-one.

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