Unlike many people working in technology, Danielle Graham didn’t take the traditional STEM route in University—she studied the arts. From growing up in Namibia and Ethiopia, studying philosophy at the University of Toronto, history at Dalhousie University, and an MBA at Wilfrid Laurier, Danielle has landed as the Women in Tech Program Manager at the Communitech innovation centre in Waterloo Region.
To her, technology is all about creating solutions and making an impact on the world. Danielle’s resume is extensive, from consulting overseas in South Africa and Ethiopia to co-founding a company, Crio Water, an award winning sustainable home drinking water treatment company.
Communitech, Danielle’s employer, is a part of Cisco’s Circle of Innovation, an internship program with Cisco, Communitech, and Business Development Bank of Canada. The program has partnered entrepreneurs across Canada with interns from the University of Waterloo to help grow companies digital presence, all while using Cisco technology to drive future growth, collaboration, and success. Communitech is one of the groups who help source the innovative entrepreneurs to match with the interns.
I first knew I wanted to get involved in tech because I wanted to work on and create solutions that could have a lasting and scalable impact.
Mentorship is important because you can learn the right lessons from someone else in a few minutes, which could take you a lifetime to learn on your own.
My proudest accomplishment is founding the first Fierce Founders bootcamp (called the Women Entrepreneurs Bootcamp) at Communitech. I created the program from scratch and turned 6 days of workshops into two 3-day sessions with a month in-between. The break allows companies to get customer validation and complete homework that is created by executives in residence, who support 25 women entrepreneurs in the community. The women who participate in this program create a network that continue to support other women in tech through community events.
I surprise people when I tell them I grew up in Africa. I lived in Namibia and Ethiopia throughout my school years and only returned to Canada when I graduated from high school at the International Community School of Addis Ababa.
My best advice to young people starting out in tech is learn as much as you can. The more you can learn at a younger age, the more you will reinforce your own confidence in your ability to learn about and create new tech.
Engaging young women in STEM is important because they are equally talented and capable of engaging in this field. We are losing half of the potential talent in STEM if we don’t include women, and that has a huge negative impact on the STEM ecosystem and within innovation in Canada. There are many competitive and lucrative career opportunities within the field that are currently underserved from a talent perspective that women have the potential to fill.
More women are getting involved in tech – to a certain extent – but overall we are seeing the numbers decrease in many STEM fields. The socio-cultural implications of tech being designated as predominantly male continues to deter many women. As less women participate in tech, there are less role models for younger women and the cycle perpetuates.
Technology means you can accomplish functions outside of your physical human limits. The significance of technology stretches from exciting new hardware meant solely for the purpose of entertainment or as the competitive advantage for a country at war. Whether it is highly significant or mundane, it is all technology and it stretches the potential for what humans are capable of.
If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know that I’ve been to 35 countries and counting! I love to travel and I just booked my next trip (to Puerto Rico).
The future excites me because I believe in the power of entrepreneurship to solve some of the world’s worst problems and I’m excited to see how the things will change when more women are involved in tech startups.
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