By Hasna Sabah
Morocco World News
Casablanca, July 18, 2013
When I applied for my passport last year, I was planning to enjoy my first vacation abroad in France, one of the classical destinations for Moroccans. But things went differently once I learnt that I got accepted in the Techwomen program (1), my destination suddenly became the United States of America.
Techwomen, a mentoring and exchange program, is an initiative of the US department of state. Its aim is to empower women emerging leaders in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). There were 41 participants from 8 countries of the MENA region, each one matched with one professional and one cultural mentor at Silicon Valley.
It was my first experience within such a huge cultural mix, as well as a priceless learning opportunity thanks to organizers at the Institute of International Education and all mentors from San Francisco Bay Area.
I was lucky to be paired with Suneeta Aggarwal as my cultural mentor. Suneeta is the director of technical publications at TIBCO Software and a woman of great insight. Not only she volunteered with her time, but also offered me two New York Times best sellers (2) that give great lessons on how to get ahead in life, how to succeed and how to lead. Now, she has graciously accepted to share with us some of her valuable opinions.
MWN: Hi Suneeta, thank you for accepting to give us this interview
Suneeta: It’s my pleasure.
MWN: First of all, technical writing (3) is rather an unknown profession in Morocco, can you give an overview about it?
Suneeta: The technical writing profession is, at its core, about providing information, whether it’s conceptual information about a product, or about how to use a product most effectively. Ultimately, the goal of technical writing is to write the information clearly so it’s easily understood.
It is an industry-neutral and a language-neutral profession; the skills are applicable in any domain, hardware or software, scientific or otherwise.
The role is universally understood but generally not labeled as technical writing. The title, technical writer, is best known in the IT industry. I’ve seen the title used in medical and scientific writing also.
MWN: We see Silicon Valley as a technology and science paradise, how do you see emerging markets, especially the MENA region? Is there any chance for them to become one day producers?
Suneeta: Absolutely! In fact, I manage a very global team with technical writers in emerging markets, such as India and China. In both locations, they are writing the content in English though they are native Indians and Chinese, respectively. In both locations, English is a second language but they are proficient enough to write technical manuals in English; this is quite admirable.
MWN: What is the importance of mentoring in connecting and filling the gap between these different parts of the world?
Suneeta: I strongly believe in paying it forward. That is, what goes around comes around. We all have to help each other, irrespective of any age- or geographical gaps. The world really does feel like it’s becoming smaller because we so easily connect with people across so many parts of the world and it’s truly wonderful! As a mother of two grown daughters, I am especially committed to helping the next generation, with an even deeper commitment to helping girls. Mentoring is a bidirectional relationship; it’s a continuous give-and-take where we learn from each other. When we understand each other better, we become more attached to each other and more deeply committed to helping each other.
MWN: What is your overall review of the techwomen program ?
Suneeta: It was a wonderful learning experience and I now feel a personal connection with the Middle East. The program is more about building relationships than the technology itself. Having visited Morocco (purely as a tourist), I considered myself fortunate in being matched with you, Hasna! Now whenever I hear news of Morocco and the home countries of the other Emerging Leaders, the news has a personal impact on me because the faces of the Emerging Leaders immediately appear before me. If the news isn’t favorable, I pray for everyone and their loved ones’ safety.
MWN: You have over 20 years of professional experience and certainly had to face many challenges. Can you share with us an inspiring example?
Suneeta: Surprisingly, it was harder for me to break into technical writing than software programming! At the time I chose to leave programming and switch careers to technical writing, English language proficiency was strongly preferred over technical skills. I couldn’t even get companies to give me an interview because they would insist I’m a programmer, and not a writer. I would do my best to convince them that my code was always very well commented but it wasn’t enough. I overcame their resistance by continuing to pursue a career in technical writing and was fortunate to eventually find a small company that favored my engineering education and experience over English and hired me as its first technical writer. Upon joining the company, the engineers were very surprised that I wanted to install the products myself and then write about them, as opposed to asking them to write the first drafts. Now it’s a standard in technical writing for the writers to be hands-on with the products. Ironically, today’s preference is for technical writers to be stronger technically over English language proficiency!
MWN: Is there any special message you want to convey to aspiring Moroccan youth?
Suneeta : For all youth, especially girls, I encourage you to choose a career that will enable you to be financially independent. Do not let yourself be financially dependent on anyone else, even if you are married. Marry for companionship, not for financial stability.
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(2) – Basic Black. By Cathie Black, former president of Hearst Magazines.
– The Corner Office. By Adam Bryant, author of the new york times’s “corner office” column