THE “TECHWOMEN EXPERIENCE” SERIES: MEET MS. BRAUNHILDA NGUM ATTANGEUR
I love sharing amazing stories and especially anything that uplifts and empowers women. Introducing the “Techwomen Experience” series. A group of Ladies represented Cameroon at Techwomen 2013.
TechWomen is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) mission is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange that assist in the development of peaceful relations.
Meet with Ms. Braunhilda Ngum Attangeur.
1. How did you learn about the program?
A link to the The Techwomen program was forwarded to me by two fellow female alumni of polytechnique yaounde, who both insisted this was a program for me and I should represent them as they were not able to apply at the time (One was having a baby and the other didn’t meet the requirements of 2 yrs working experience)
2. What pushed you to apply?
When I went through the Techwomen and IIE websites, I realized as a budding entrepreneur I stood to gain a lot from this opportunity. I also didn’t want to let the ladies down by not applying so I went ahead and did it.
3. Please tell us about how you participated in the program. What, Where ?
I am a Computer Networks and Security Expert by profession and I was assigned to the Proof of Concept (POC) Labs of Global HQ of Juniper Networks , Sunnyvale, California, I had the following planned for my 3 weeks mentorship at Juniper Networks: 5 days, Juniper Sales Engineer Training, 3 days Juniper IOS Administrator training (I passed the JNCIA Certification Exams at the end. The only Techwoman out of 4 who attempted the exams) Work with the POC Lab team to Test specific Internet Properties of the MX104 ( One of Juniper`s new high-end routers for service provider networks) and present the results and analysis to One of Juniper` s Top clients in France.
4. What do you currently do in Cameroon?
I am a project Management Consultant for ITGStore Consulting. Also I am the Founder and CEO of Voreitter Consulting , a new consulting firm that provides Consulting Services,IT Training, Software Development and Security Audits. We just launched operations in June 2013. I also run a Mentorship Program that organizes Mentorship workshops for High School Girls in STEM in Bamenda
The aim is to provide Career Orientation, Plant the seed on entrepreneurship in the participants by defining projects that can help them create a livelihood for themselves and source funding for their projects. I have already organized 2 of such workshops with participation of students from 6 colleges in Bamenda, the Delegation of Post and Telecoms, NWR as well as the Delegation of Women`s Affairs, NWR.
5. What were your first impressions about America?
When I first traveled out of Cameroon, I landed in Beijing and no one knew what malaria was (I came in ill with a malaria attack) . Then I headed to school in Changchun and realized there were only 4 black women in a city of 20 million, chicken was sweet and they ate with chopsticks! The culture shock made me think I had flown to another planet! In the USA, I landed directly in San Francisco and was driven to Mountain View, California where I was to live for a month. My first impressions were those of Mountain View – Multiracial and multicultural and everyone wants to change the world. I didn’t feel like an outcast for once! People are generally very nice and helpful and they drive sanely. Everyone depends a lot technology to move around – especially GPS! Even when the GPS is not working very few of the mentors/friends we had will actually make an effort to find their way on their own. They would rather switch to the next technology: their Google maps or something else! I found that pretty weird. After a few interactions I realized many Americans are still, sadly, very ignorant about Africa as a continent and Cameroon as a country. We have a mission to put out more information on our cultural diversity on the international arena.
6. Did you work on any projects while on the program?
I worked with the POC Lab team to test the functionalities of the Juniper MX104. It’s a Service Provider Internet Router and we needed to showcase its rouging Capacities to a Juniper Client. (Due to signed NDA I can’t disclose client name). However, I worked with the team to test this new equipment`s BGP and VPN capacities, especially with regards to speed of route installation and volume of routes it can install. After the testing, I prepared the PowerPoint slides with the utilized schema used for the testing and my Juniper team mate inserted the graphs and we presented to the client- in French! It was a first for me and extremely rewarding experience, especially as I was the first and only woman working in the POC Lab.
7. What did you learn? Who did you meet?
For starters I learnt a whole new Networking technology in JUNOS.As a network engineer this will expan my horizons in the networking field. We also had numerous Leadership workshops lined up for the Techwomen In Juniper such as:
– Learning your Personality and that of your team. This will help in the recruitment of a more functional and effective team.
– Launching and marketing a new product, and Product management lifecycle.
– Boundary Spanning
– Learning to work with and manage teams that span various physical, cultural boundaries etc,
– Intellectual Property and how to patent and protect your idea
– Public Speaking with a Toastmasters workshop
– Influencing People and gaining their trust.
– How to pitch your idea to Venture Capitalists.
At the Hackathon at LinkedIn I worked with a team to design an app and I learnt to code applications. This is technology I plan to pursue. We had several meetings with executives of Juniper such as Gerri Elliot: EVP Customer Support, Steven Rice:EVP HR, Bask Myar: CIO, Mitch Gaynor: EVP General Counsel . We also attended the Juniper Quarterly Company meeting where we met the CEO of Juniper, kevin Johnson and also listened to Pradeep,the Founder.
Outside of Juniper we met lots of influential people such as: – Dr Jill Biden, wife of USA Vice President Joe Biden – Sheryl Sandberg the COO of Facebook, – Dick Costolo the CEO of Twitter, – Rashmi Sinha, Co-founder of Slideshare I also met very inspiring Cameroonians in Sillicon Valley like Anselm Kia, from Bafmeng who is Manager of JTAC at Juniper!, Marie-Ange Eyoum, from Douala, a Product manager at McAfee, Dr Gwen Shang , etc who all have plans to bring forth change to Cameroon with all the knowledge they have acquired in the Sillicon Valley. They greatly inspired and encouraged us!
8. How will the program help you generate contacts and work on projects here?
This program exposed me to a new way of working. It gave my work a purpose and that inturn created a new drive and motivation. I just don’t work on my projects to earn a living but I am now guided by the notion of how my work affects my surroundings and the world. I am a new Vector for Change in the world. In Juniper we were told their aim is to Change the world by Connecting and Empowering people. I think that stuck with me.
9. What are your plans now that you are back? What are your ideas for applying what you learned to the business and tech environment in Cameroon?
I have already started working on my 2 apps that I plan to launch into the market. These apps I believe will greatly these apps will effect a great change in the education and agricultural sectors of Cameroon by helping the users access necessary information more readily and at minimum cost. With the information gained from my mentorship I have a better idea on how to structure my mentorship program to be most beneficial to the girls I mentor and hopefully they too will become leaders and mentors in future I also mentor male engineers who want to become Cisco certified network engineers and I have been doing this by helping them define a self-study strategy, assessment of their progress and techniques to use in the exams to ensure maximum success. I will henceforth organize Google Hangouts and invite other Experts who will help in mentoring and answering questions as well as brainstorm online with CCIE aspirants.
Putting Knowledge to Action..@ Entrepreneurship workshop
10. Some quotes would be great.
The quotes that struck me are the following:
i. There is no work-life balance. There is Work-life Integration. So Outsource Everything but Love. Felicia Mayo, Sr Director, Authenticity and Inclusion, Global Compliance and University Talent Programs, Juniper
ii. Life truly begins when you step outside your comfort zone. Barbara Williams, HR Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Oracle
iii. Limitations Live only in our minds. If we use our imagination, our possibilities become endless. Kevin Johnson, CEO Juniper.
iv. Until you bridge from “Possible” to “Doable”, nothing will happen to your ideas. Gerri Elliot, EVP Sale amd Customer Support , Juniper Networks
v. Dream success then wake up and work at it, using hope as your guide. Pam Isom, CEO of Get Ice Safety
vi. Dream, Globally. Act Locally
11. Any Last Words?
The difference this has made in your life After this experience I have a renewed outlook on life and clearer objectives. I am not afraid to lose or fail but know failure is part and parcel of success. I have learnt to create a quality network and exploit the opportunities in my network to the fullest. Finally I have embraced my successes and failures and learnt to give back to the community through empowerment of people, young and old.
Please check here for more pics of her Techwomen Experience
Thumbs up to Braun and the rest of the crew for representing and flying the Green-Red-Yellow flag high.Thanks for sharing this one in a lifetime experience. This is an inspiration for me and I am sure many others will be inspired by your experience.You are already putting your knowledge action!
Stay tuned for more on the “Techwomen Experience” from other participants. If you are a lady in STEM and/or have interests in Women & Entrepreneurship and how to use technology for innovation and development, Please request to join the “Techwomen Cameroon” group on Facebook.
OK people, have a nice week ahead. What a great way to start my week.