Four lessons from Indra Nooyi’s Inspirational Journey

By Madhavi Bhasin, Senior Director of Technovation

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi poses for a portrait by products at the Tops SuperMarket in Batavia, New York, U.S. on June 3, 2013. REUTERS/Don HeupelI’ve always been inspired by Indra Nooyi’s professional journey. Maybe because I closely identify with her cultural and social challenges. But I strongly believe that her story reflects some mantras that can be helpful for many others around the globe.

Indra Nooyi grew up in India and went to college and business school there. She played cricket — and lead guitar in an all-girl rock band. In 1980, she came to the States and got a second master’s degree at the Yale School of Management. She worked for several years in management consulting, then in corporate strategy, and joined PepsiCo in 1994, as chief strategist. Twelve years later, she became its C.E.O., and now oversees 260,000 global employees and a snack empire that includes Frito-Lay chips, Tropicana juices, Gatorade, Quaker foods, and of course lots and lots of soda.

What’s so special about Indra’s journey?  Well, she is someone who managed to rise to the top despite all social, cultural and gender challenges. Here are four episodes in Indira’s journey that have impressed and inspired me.

1. Your social and cultural norms can’t limit you.

Indira was born in a conservative Indian family and the dream of becoming the CEO of a leading American brand would seem impossible to her. However, she pursued her education and career one step at a time and today she one of the most influential global CEOs.

2. Do what you believe in and give it your 100%.

Against her parents’ advice, she came to the United States in 1978 at age 23 to earn her M.B.A. in Public and Private Management at Yale where she worked as a dorm receptionist—opting for the graveyard shift because it paid an extra 50 cents per hour.

3. Some things you can change, others you can’t. Pick your battles and converse your energy.

(This is an excerpt from an interview with Indra Nooyi)

“I got home about 10, got into the garage, and my mother was waiting at the top of the stairs. And I said, “Mom, I’ve got great news for you.” She said, “let the news wait. Can you go out and get some milk?”

I looked in the garage and it looked like my husband was home. I said, “what time did he get home?” She said “8 o’clock.” I said, “Why didn’t you ask him to buy the milk?” “He’s tired.” Okay. We have a couple of help at home, “why didn’t you ask them to get the milk?” She said, “I forgot.” She said just get the milk. We need it for the morning. So like a dutiful daughter, I went out and got the milk and came back.

I banged it on the counter and I said, “I had great news for you. I’ve just been told that I’m going to be president on the Board of Directors. And all that you want me to do is go out and get the milk, what kind of a mom are you?”

And she said to me, “let me explain something to you. You might be president of PepsiCo. You might be on the board of directors. But when you enter this house, you’re the wife, you’re the daughter, you’re the daughter-in-law, you’re the mother. You’re all of that. Nobody else can take that place. So leave that damned crown in the garage. And don’t bring it into the house. You know I’ve never seen that crown.”

4. Stay connected to your value system even after being successful.

As CEO, she has continued to pursue her unusual, and tremendously ambitious, vision for reinventing PepsiCo. She is now focusing on taking the company from snack food to health food, from caffeine colas to fruit juices, and from shareholder value to sustainable enterprise. That is an ambitious goal which she plans to attain. In doing so, Nooyi is attempting to move beyond the historic trade-off between profits and people. Captured in her artful mantra—”Performance with purpose”—she wants to give Wall Street what it wants but also the planet what it needs.

About Indra Nooyi

Forbe’s 11th Most Powerful Women in 2017
“I Wasn’t Stupid Enough to Say This Could Be Done Overnight” via @freakonomics

Student Ambassador Spotlight: Nicole Meister

We recently had the chance to catch up with Nicole Meister, a 2015 and 2016 Technovation participant and now a Technovation Student Ambassador (SA). We talked about her Technovation experience, what she is up to now, and her advice for current and future participants. Nicole Meister was part of Mobile Meisters which developed the app “Mobile Profile” in 2015, and the Petfinder Co. which developed the app “Petfinder” in 2016.

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

My name is Nicole Meister and I am 17 years old. I go to high school in Maryland. A fun fact about me is that I am half German and half Chinese. In my spare time, I like to teach girls how to code.

What was your relationship or experience with tech before Technovation?

Before Technovation, I was mostly learning various coding languages such as Python and HTML/CSS with Code Academy.  Technovation got me into a real life project for the first time. It showed me how computer science can have a tangible impact on the community.

What made you decide to participate in Technovation?

I heard about Technovation from my school. I was interested in computer science and Technovation was a way I could learn more, and it was a cool avenue to pursue. I had never created an app before. My team was made up of girls with different interests (art, business) but we all did part of the coding.


Technovation Student Ambassador Spotlight: Jennifer John

By Jennifer John

Standing at the front of the classroom at Herbert Hoover Middle School, I opened my laptop and typed in the familiar URL, which auto filled after the first three characters from repeated use: As the site loaded, I watched the stream of girls, between eleven and fourteen years old, come through the door, filling the room with chatter. They spread through the room, sitting down at  the square cookie-cutter tables and starting up their San Francisco school district-issued Chromebooks.

As the chatter gradually faded, I rehearsed in my head the tutorial I was going teach that day: making a multiple-choice trivia app. Although the steps to build the app, which consisted of dragging colored puzzle-piece shaped blocks representing lines of Java code onto a canvas, were now instinctive to me after years of experience with programming, every lesson was a challenge to communicate clearly. I needed to make the process similarly intuitive for the students– so they could fully understand the why behind conditionals and if statements, leaving the class with an additional instrument in their toolkits that they could apply to their own apps in the coming months.

I first began volunteering with Technovation during the 2016-2017 season. After winning the competition in 2016 along with my sister, I was eager to help other girls gain the same life-changing experiences that I had. It was only after the competition that I fully realized just how valuable the skills that Technovation teaches are: coding with an audience in mind, conducting market research, public speaking, and overcoming the at times terrifying (but exhilarating!) aspects of entrepreneurship are all crucial abilities for a budding entrepreneur that are rarely taught in schools. The significance of Technovation’s impact is augmented by its focus on a demographic notoriously underrepresented in entrepreneurship and technology: girls. Particularly for its growing body of international participants, Technovation exposes girls to fields that may have seemed off-limits to their gender, with monumental results.

As a Student Ambassador at Technovation, I get to play a direct role in helping girls discover new possibilities for their futures, whether that’s through teaching at workshops in the San Francisco Bay Area or producing instructional YouTube videos to be seen by girls around the world. It’s profoundly rewarding to know that my work can impact how one person views her abilities, her strengths, and her potential.

It was because of my strong beliefs in Technovation’s mission and previous experiences as a Student Ambassador that I was delighted to be able to teach the Technovation curriculum to the class at Hoover Middle School. Unlike with workshops, as a regular teacher at a school, I have the incredible opportunity to watch first-hand as the girls develop their skills. This progress has been astounding. Since learning how to follow my steps to make a trivia app during my first lesson in October, they have gained enough confidence and practice to design and implement their own apps from scratch. It was a thrilling experience a few weeks ago when I gave the class a few coding challenges for apps, not knowing what to expect, and watched them take the initiative to successfully build them with little to no help from me. That’s how I know they’re learning by leaps and bounds.

Now in January, we’re onto the ideation process, and the girls are tasked with a challenge that would stump many adults: identifying and designing a novel technology-based solution to a problem in their communities. I can’t wait to see the innovative ideas that I know they’ll develop.

*A big thank-you to the Walmart Foundation for helping make this program possible in the San Francisco Bay Area*

Jennifer is a high school junior from the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the co-founder and CEO of Loc8Don8, which she began when she competed in Technovation in 2016. She loves all things entrepreneurship and computer science, and is particularly interested in the intersection of artificial intelligence and education. Check out her YouTube channel with programming tutorials here, and visit the Loc8Don8 website here to learn more and download the app.

Hour of Code: Technovation & Investing in Female Technology Leaders Across the Globe

By Madhavi Bhasin

For me, technology wasn’t an option. I never thought about doing something in technology. But [after Technovation], it’s totally in my mind to do something in the technology field.” – Technovation participant, 2013


This quote always makes me reflect on my professional journey and how profoundly some experiences have shaped my career trajectory and approach to life. As the first girl in my family to complete high school, college and finally earn my Ph.D., I am fully aware of how certain experiences in my formative years conditioned my thinking and gave me the courage to hang on and move ahead. Today, I am honored and humbled to be part of a movement that is offering one such experience to girls across the globe –  an experience to learn, fail, seek support and create something!

Technovation, offered by Iridescent, is the world’s largest technology entrepreneurship program for young girls (ages 10-18). This program offers young girls a unique experience to work in a team with an adult mentor to solve a problem in their community using technology. More than teaching technology or entrepreneurship, this program aims to inspire young girls to be lifelong learners, problem solvers, and community leaders. Irrespective of the career choices they make, Technovation seeks to provide an experience where young girls can develop a wide range of professional and personal skills and make informed education and career decisions.

How did the journey start?

Technovation, currently in its 8th year, started as an in-person mentoring program with 24 girls at Google in Silicon Valley. Coming out of a Startup Weekend, the idea was to provide a safe sandbox for young girls to have the experience of launching a technology start-up. Under the folds of Iridescent, the program expanded to select US locations in the second year. Finally, the need to offer the program beyond major cities prompted the need to offer a virtual curriculum and support network. Today, Technovation is in 103 countries and has impacted 15,000 girls.


New Award Structure

We’ve got a new award structure!

Starting in 2018, we’ll be using a new award structure to distribute scholarships to top-placing teams. We will be using this structure moving forward, and hope that this clarifies the judging process and how scholarships are distributed. What does this  mean for you, as a team, mentor, regional ambassador, or parent? Let’s get to it!

New Names & Scholarship Amounts

Beginning in 2018, we will refer to awards as scholarships, as this is a better description of the purpose of the money given to top-placing teams at World Pitch. We will be awarding a Gold Scholarship and Silver Scholarship to teams in each division, as well as Regional Winner Scholarships.

Technovation Gold Scholarship – This scholarship is awarded to the team that comes in first in their division at World Pitch.

Junior Technovation Gold Scholarship: $12,000
Senior Technovation Gold Scholarship: $15,000

Technovation Silver Scholarship – This scholarship is awarded to the team that comes in second in their division at World Pitch.

Junior Technovation Silver Scholarship: $10,000
Senior Technovation Silver Scholarship: $5,000

Regional Winner Scholarships – These smaller scholarships are awarded to 5 teams in each division, and awarded by region. Teams who receive these awards will NOT be invited to World Pitch

Junior Regional Scholarships: $1,000 awarded to each of 5 teams
Senior Regional Scholarships: $1,000 awarded to each of 5 teams

(Teams in each division are awarded by region: Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America)

How many teams will attend the World Pitch Summit?

12 teams in total will attend World Pitch as finalists. 6 teams from the junior division, and 6 teams from the senior division. Travel costs and World Pitch participation costs are covered for these teams.

Do the finalist teams who do not receive the Gold Scholarship or Silver Scholarship in their division receive any scholarships?

No. Finalist teams who do not receive Gold or Silver scholarships will not receive scholarships. Their prize is being flown in to attend the World Pitch Summit, field trips to tech companies in the Silicon Valley and tour of San Francisco.

Are Regional Pitch Event winners the same as Regional Winners?

No. Regional Pitch Events are judged separately from the judging process for scholarships.

Will teams who place first in in-person Regional Pitch Events be guaranteed a spot at World Pitch? Will they be guaranteed to receive the Bronze Scholarship for their division and region?

No. Regional Pitch Events are separate from the judging process for the scholarships. Top scoring team/s will qualify to move to second round of judging but are not guaranteed a spot at World Pitch or scholarships.


Help us spread the word – talk to your team, your mentor, your regional ambassador and other participants to make sure they’re aware of the award structure.

Is There Room For Innovation In Diversity & Inclusion? A “Shared Value” Approach Can Bring It to Fruition

By Tara Chklovski

We’re so excited to share that Salesforce is partnering with Technovation for 2017-2018! We’ve been working with Salesforce for years, and are proud to partner with them for the upcoming season, expand the program, and inspire young women to see their power as creators and entrepreneurs. Check out the announcement from Salesforce, and read on for our CEO Tara’s perspective on our ongoing work with Salesforce.

Diversity and Inclusion wasn’t a term a few years ago as you can see from the Google Trends depiction of interest in this term from 2004 to now.

It is exciting to see the growing attention around engaging and supporting underrepresented groups in engineering and technology. And we can and should aim really high in these efforts. But there is also room for innovation here. The idea of Shared Value” developed by Michael Porter (the leading authority on business strategy and competitiveness) is an intriguing challenge to explore here. What are the most innovative ways in which corporations can integrate social responsibility into their value chain? My favorite example is that of the Toyota Prius. Through the Prius, Toyota was able to move ahead as an environmentally conscious corporation, while also launching a hugely successful, innovative product.

Another notable example is that of CVS and its strategy to stop the sale of all tobacco products in 2014, foregoing $2 billion in sales revenue. Instead they launched a comprehensive smoking cessation program in stores and established themselves as thought leaders among health retailers.

Porter says that businesses acting as businesses (not just as charitable givers or compliance to corporate citizenship), opens up strategic opportunities to create competitive advantage, while driving the next wave of innovation, productivity, and economic growth.

That’s why I am drawn to the problem of how best to create “Shared Value” while thinking about Diversity and Inclusion — especially for the technology industry, where the value chain is focused mostly around human capital. One notable example has been Salesforce and their integrated 1-1-1 commitment to communities. We started working with Salesforce employees in 2014, engaging them as mentors in our 100-hour technology entrepreneurship program for girls – Technovation. Salesforce mentors supported teams of middle and high school girls to identify a problem in their community, develop a mobile app and launch a startup. 58% of mentors increased their technical skills around mobile computing, design thinking and product development, 67% increased their knowledge about entrepreneurship and 73% learned to be effective mentors.


Mentor Story: Alma Maria Rinasz

When I first told my QA engineer friend, Gilda, that I wanted to learn how to program in C, she couldn’t understand why an English teacher would want  to learn to code. Yet, a couple of weeks later, Gilda was tutoring me on my CS50 homework, and we set the foundations for our social enterprise, C Girls Code.

Two years later, we’ve brought Technovation Challenge to Central Mexico. Gilda convinced me of the importance of sharing our knowledge and teaching other women and girls about entrepreneurship and programming with Technovation Challenge. And just like she was willing to help me when I first sat down to learn about conditionals and loops, I understood that I had to do the same for young women.

Gilda and I have helped get the word out and assemble a team of mentors who are working with twenty girls from a halfway house. We have encountered challenges along the way, but we’ve also found so much support and willingness from our community, our friends and family. We’ve had to take baby steps with our girls, many of whom don’t get to use a computer regularly. So when our girls learned to test their very first app using the App Inventor, we couldn’t have been prouder. We even have a non-girl team (I’m mentoring my son and three of his friends).

Technovation Challenge has allowed me to live something that not only is important but in alignment with my own interests and life-long goals. I believe that I must be a part of the positive change by setting a positive example and giving back to my community. As a mother, I want my children to see me doing just that and to understand why it is important for us to be the change we want to see in the world. During the time that I’ve been volunteering with Technovation Challenge, I became unemployed. I decided to use my time to bring to together my writing skills, online experience, and digital media know-how to author a book for Mexican immigrants living in the United States. Deported: A Survival Guide for Natural Born Mexicans is a culmination of what I try to do every day (be of service and create value) and how I want to be remembered in this world: as someone who was a woman for a change.

Alma Maria Rinasz is the author of Deported: A Survival Guide for Natural Born Mexicans, and a 2017 Technovation Mentor. 

Open Letter to Technovation Students: Kate Strong

This is the first in a series of open letters written to Technovation students by their supporters. People around the world are impressed by the young women who participate in Technovation and want to cheer you all on and offer some advice and words of encouragement!

Hi ladies,

You’re more than half way through your program with Iridescent Learning. 

I’ve been following your stories and ideas that you’re bringing to life. What you are doing is incredible: You are taking a stand for your own future and learning valuable skills in how to create the change you want to see in your life, your family, community and the world.

I am sure you’ve come across challenges and there have been times when you wanted to quit – maybe your team wasn’t communicating or working together, or your MVP (prototype) failed, or maybe you’re behind on deadlines. But, you didn’t quit and that shows me how dedicated you are to the project and to bettering yourself.

You have invested in the greatest thing ever: YOU!

Everything you are learning will be with you for the rest of your life. You are growing from the challenges, mistakes and the success you achieve.

Keep moving forward and persevering with your project because you are becoming a person who others see as driven, determined and an inspiration to help others to create something in their own lives.

Kate Strong
Ethical Entrepreneur & Global Adventurer (more…)

Alumni Spotlight: Briana Berger

We recently had the chance to catch up with Briana Berger, who participated in Technovation in 2016 and was named a semi-finalist for her app SleepBeep. Read on to hear about her early experiences with technology, the challenges she’s faced in tech, and her advice to young women who are interested in technology and entrepreneurship. 

Tell us about yourself!

My name is Briana Berger.  I’m a seventeen year-old Technovation Alumni from Gainesville, FL.  I love to understand the ins and outs of everything. I always ask questions, and I think that my love for code grew out of that. It also probably explains why my toddler-self “researched” why baked cookies taste good by eating the cookie dough. As my yearning to learn grew, I have become a leader in my community for events and in coding.

I founded my own non-profit called SeniorTechNet to encourage seniors to use technology and some I have even taught to code. I also founded a club at my school called coderGirls, where I teach Python and we compete in Verizon’s Innovation Challenge. Under the club, I have created coderKids, a community outreach, to teach young kids to code, and I founded the yearly Florida Hackathons for Floridian high school students to innovate and learn. (Ed note: since we talked to Briana, coderGirls has launched as a national nonprofit organization!)


Alumni Spotlight: Soumya Tejam

Technovation recently had the chance to reconnect with Soumya who is a 2015 Alumna and hear about her experience with tech, what she’s working on now, and what advice she has to girls interested in technology and entrepreneurship.

My name is Soumya Tejam and I participated in the Technovation Challenge in the 2015 season. My world pitch experience has in the most cliched manner changed my life. In the past two years, I’ve gone from zero coding experience to teaching a group of underprivileged girls in my community how to code, starting my own company and developing my app Cappable.

The app that I built for Technovation is called Cappable and it acts as a bridge connecting physically challenged job aspirants with corporations willing to hire them and NGO’s aiming to help them. It will be available for Android and iOS very soon and through the process of programming it, I’ve enriched my programming skills which I hope to implement in other projects. I’ve got positive feedback from the people who I hope will use this app and I can’t wait to see it in action.

Since World Pitch, I have also founded a business venture — BookBite. Founded in the summer of 2016, BookBite is a subscription box service thats sends out a curated package containing a Young Adult novel, short stories by budding novelists, bookish goodies, and an exciting online experience which gives you access to discussion forums and online downloadables. I started BookBite because I noticed the lack of passionate readers in our community and sought to change that attitude among my peers. Through the process I’ve learnt a good load about running a business, from customer acquisition to engagement and retainment. Through BookBite, I’ve run competitions, BookTalks, donation drives, and reading sessions. I’ve also gotten the opportunity to present my venture to Sandy Carter and speak at the IBM India Onward conference with Vanitha Narayanan in Delhi about the work that I’ve been doing.