On the power of magic behind the scenes - My experience from the Berlin Geekettes Mentorship program

A guest post by Ola Kohut, mentee of our current mentorship program.  

I feel like there is no better way to describe my experience in the Berlin Geekettes Mentorship Program than quoting a conversation I had with my mentor Johanna:

Me: "Johanna! You’re just figuring out my life!"

Johanna: "Nope... I’m just telling you to figure it out BY TOMORROW!"

Jo & I at the frestyl launch at FWTB. Photo credit -  Jesse Chan-Norris

Jo & I at the frestyl launch at FWTB. Photo credit - Jesse Chan-Norris

When I applied for the Mentorship Program, I had no idea what would await me. I was about to graduate from my master’s program and any prospects for starting a career in Berlin seemed quite bleak. But I didn’t want to leave!

I was really lucky to have Johanna as my mentor. Johanna Brewer is a co-founder of frestyl,  a brand new live-music discovery startup (with 3 women as co-founders). Before that she received a PhD in Information & Computer Sciences from the University of California Irvine (after a slight pivot from a degree in Philosophy), and she had been working on projects as exciting as an augmented Oyster Card holder and real-time 4D tumor tracking. Phew!

At Startup Weekend Poland

At Startup Weekend Poland

When I first met my mentor, I was still quite confused about my plans for after graduation. My previous experiences included internships at the UN and Google, and master thesis research on ICT for development. Although they were all very enriching, they did not seem coherent enough to place me on a definite career path. Johanna advised me to be more strategic about my future plans and take things into my own hands right away. One of the first tasks for me was to prepare a spreadsheet with all the possible jobs in the Berlin tech scene I would consider, given my skills and the requirements for the positions. The second task focused on preparation of a perfect pitch of my app idea at the Startup Weekend in Poland. Suddenly, I was relieved to have a “life” plan and deadlines again (as weird as it might seem). As soon as my plan was ready, everything started going smoothly.

Charlotte and I pitching Pythia

Charlotte and I pitching Pythia

Together with my friend Charlotte we pitched our app called Pythia - stay tuned ;) - at the Startup Weekend and were awarded for the best idea. Besides that, I’ve managed to get a job as a Founder in Residence at Startupbootcamp, where I am currently supporting an early stage startup called Achieved, and where I get inspired and energized by talented entrepreneurs and mentors every day. Finally, I’ve been learning Ruby on Rails with some awesome coaches at SoundCloud - big thanks to Mustafa & Oliver for having the patience to try turning me into a coder!

My RoR coaches

My RoR coaches

All of this would not have been possible without Johanna’s support and some behind-the-scenes magic she’s been working. Mentorship is an ongoing relationship of learning, dialogue and challenge... but Johanna and I prefer to call it “hanging out”. Talking to Johanna and hearing her advice has been way more useful than many other career sessions I’ve had at my universities before. It felt just like making friends - but with a special girl who could also push me to try harder, stand up for myself and chase after my dreams. Her belief in me gave me the confidence to act upon my goals. I’ve also received a healthy dose of life lessons such as that cats and heroes get special treatment : )

Apart from the awesome mentor, the program offered a series of inspiring events with women that I look up to, and I now even see as my role models. I’ve also made friends with other fellow geekettes. Overall, it’s been an unforgettable experience, and that’s why now I can truly recommend all the girls who wish to start a career in the tech sector to enroll in the next edition of the Berlin Geekettes Mentorship Program.

P.S. And this is what we think about sexism in tech.


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