The power of mentoring!
Updated: Dec 7, 2021
Twana Barrett is a brilliant young woman from Jamaica who took part in the first cycle of the innovative EQUALS Tech4Girls e-Mentoring programme in March. Nicole Pitter-Patterson, Executive Director of Caribbean Girls Hack (an EQUALS partner), sat down with Twana to discuss the e-mentoring programme, how she benefitted from the programme and her goals for her future.
Nicole: I’m excited to be speaking with Twana, one of our Caribbean Girls Hack ambassadors, who has just completed her certificate with the GSMA EQUALS Tech4Girls e-Mentorship program. Twana, please tell us a little about yourself.
Twana: Hi Nicole, I’m Twana Barrett. I’m from Saint Catherine in Jamaica, and I’m completing the second half of my degree in Management and Marketing. In addition to being a Caribbean Girls Hack ambassador, I also advocate in my community.
Nicole: What motivated you to participate in the EQUALS Tech4Girls e-Mentorship programme?
Twana: I had been wanting to do a self-evaluation—where I am, where I want to go, what I have already accomplished, what other goals I have. I saw that the programme would pair me with a mentor, who would help me to think about things like this and other this like developing self-confidence. I was excited about connecting with someone who would help me to see where I was going and help me make some final decisions about my degree and my career path. When I engaged with my mentor, Johannah, it was an amazing experience!
Nicole: What did you learn by engaging with your mentor? And what did you most enjoy about the programme?
Twana: I learned about three important things: 1) teamwork, 2) leadership, and 3) self-confidence and strength. First, teamwork: I realised I had an issue allowing others to complete tasks and maintain their responsibilities. I wanted to do everything myself, to get the perfect grade or make the perfect presentation. Johannah taught me that when you’re on a team, you shouldn’t focus on others’ weaknesses, but on their strengths, their abilities, and build them up. Even if you think they’re not as strong as you, overall, other team members can teach you something. While considering teamwork, my mentor also helped me to see what kind of leader I am: a transformational leader. I’m able to give advice, to help others, and learn from others—which helps me and helps someone else at the same time. Finally, self-confidence, and developing my strengths: Johannah helped me to realize that the little things I enjoy doing are strengths. I enjoy editing a story, writing, taking photographs, watching a documentary and writing report about it—these things are my strengths.
"My mentor also helped me to see what kind of leader I am: a transformational leader."
What I most enjoyed is that my mentor and I didn’t know each other before the programme. She didn’t even know what I looked like, so I found it easy to tell her everything and anything—she had no fixed expectations of me and I didn’t feel self-conscious. I could trust her to be objective; I felt she didn’t have to worry about offending me when she gave me straightforward advice, like “this is what you need to do” or “you can apply this instead”. I really enjoyed having objective and constructive criticism.
Nicole: Can you tell us a little about your mentor, her background and career?
Twana: She’s from South Africa and she works in the finance industry. She’s a very hard worker and spends a lot of time at her desk. But she remembers to take breaks, put everything down, be with her family or go for a walk outdoors, which I love to do, too.
Nicole: How do you want to build on what you’ve learned in this programme?
Twana: Johannah taught me that you might learn something today and forget it tomorrow, so you should always try to remember and re-apply it. She said, “If you want a little pep talk, listen to someone’s motivational speech, read a book, or revisit something that you yourself have written. Or maybe watch your favourite documentary again. Then you’ll remember what you really want, and how to build yourself up.” Also, she taught me: never forget that everything you are good at is a strength. Every single thing! And you can always build on those strengths. You never know what a company may need. And, of course, your strengths contribute to your self-confidence!
"She taught me: never forget that everything you are good at is a strength. Every single thing!"
My mentor also taught me to try implement leadership strategy in my everyday life. So: motivate young ones and help them. You don’t have to wait for a big opportunity to be a leader. Start with the little opportunities.
As for what I want to develop more, I hope that in the next mentorship programme we can talk about public speaking, because I like to speak and motivate people, but I find speaking in front of large crowds a challenge. I stumble a little, worry about how I sound. So, I try to practice at home—with my nieces and nephews, with myself in the mirror. I know that my mentor would be great at helping me deal with public speaking.
Nicole: What are your goals and dreams for your future?
Twana: I have plenty, but the most prominent one is to be a digital marketing officer or director. I want to get my bachelor’s in Marketing and Human Resources and my master’s in Digital Marketing so I can be a great digital marketing director at Red Stripe Jamaica. I also want to remain involved with youth because what you do to help young people can go a long way. Lots of children have no confidence or motivation, no one to say, “You can do this, you know; you can really do this, and I will help you to get there.” I want to help children to see that they can achieve their goals and dreams.
Nicole: How do you foresee using technology, and your involvement in this programme and Tech4Girls, to help you achieve your goals?
Twana: With marketing, for example, I’ve seen that all the big companies in Jamaica interact with their customers online. They build their own platforms and make lively, interactive posts. A lot of small companies don’t do this. I’d like to develop my expertise in digital marketing and share it with smaller companies. I’ve learned from doing this programme and hackathons that you can use interactivity, you can use simple applications, simple messages, to create energizing posts and videos, that catch the attention of clients.
I want to use my digital skills to become Digital Marketing Director at Red Stripe and show that it’s more than just a company, rather it’s a family. I haven’t seen that done before. I want it to be known that we are a part of everybody’s everyday lives and we are going to carry on the tradition and carry on working well in the community. That’s my goal.
Nicole: Your passion and positivity, and the way you encourage others, make you a great role model. Can you tell us about some women who are your role models?
Twana: I have two main role models in my life so far. The first is my mum! I admire her for her hard work, her tenacity and generosity. When I was in high school, my dad had to stop farming for a while, but my mum said, “We’re going out there, we’re going to work hard and ensure that we get a big loan so we can send you guys to school.”
I also admire Tamela Mann, an amazing singer and actress. She embodies spirituality, and when she sings, I can feel how passionate she is. Everything she does is so positive. She has had health issues in the past, but she keeps going and encouraging other people: stay healthy, keep exercising, keep owning your body. Whatever your body shape, it doesn’t matter, as long as you feel good about yourself and know that you are doing all that you can to remain a healthy being. I love that about her.
Nicole: What would you tell other girls about the GSMA EQUALS Tech4Girls e-Mentorship programme?
Twana: I would tell them: it is such a positive experience! Just go into the programme and be real. A mentor is someone who doesn’t know you at first but cares about helping you. A mentor will listen to you, your stories, your passions, your goals. Tell your mentor the things you like, the things you don’t like, the things you think you need to improve. And your mentor will give you real, objective feedback and help you to develop your strengths.
"A mentor is someone who doesn't know you at first but cares about helping you. A mentor will listen to you."
At the end of the programme, you will feel successful. You will be motivated. Also: it is fun, learning from our mentors and from each other, and then being able to inspire and teach someone else. You can express yourself to people who will not be judgmental and will help you to become your true self and find your path.
Nicole: Is there anything you’d like to add?
Twana: I want to say thank you to EQUALS for giving me and other girls in the Caribbean an opportunity to meet a mentor and get to know someone who can be another role model in our lives. It has given me insights; it has helped me to explore my passions and decide what I want to do and how I want to get there. Johannah and the e-Mentorship programme helped me to overcome my fear of choosing this route and helped me to solidify my passions. I will forever appreciate that!
More info about EQUALS Tech4Girls: equalsintech.org/tech4girls