How This Millennial Founder Built A Global Mentorship Community For Women In Tech

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Powerful words from Sarena Bahad, an award-winning community builder, digital nomad, and founder of Women in Tech Inc — a platform advocating for gender diversity in the workplace that features inspiring career women on its Snapchat and Instagram channels. By galvanizing a global community, Women in Tech Inc. has been able to utilize social media storytelling to empower female voices in the tech industry, and in doing so, amass an incredible digital presence that led to their 2017 Shorty Award for “Snapchatter of the Year.

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Sarena Behad accepts an award onstage at the The 9th Annual Shorty Awards

Kate Talbot: How did Women in Tech Inc. get started and how many Takeovers have there been to date?

Sarena Bahad: The channel was started in May of 2016, to help create a more positive and inspiring dialogue to take place on social media apps where young girls and women are already spending hours of their week (if not hours of their days). Most of the content that is promoted to women on Instagram and Snapchat is typically fashion, make-up or celebrity gossip. This kind of content doesn’t lift women up – in fact, it typically does exactly the opposite: making women compare themselves to photoshopped levels of beauty and implicitly telling them that society mainly cares about their looks and not much else. We want women to redefine the power of social media and to embolden them to build a community where women learn from one another, inspire one another and can connect with one another from a place of heart.

Today, the channel has evolved into a source of guidance and professional career resources that women engage with to better their careers and give back what they’ve learned to other women looking for the right opportunity. We see today’s world with the view that all jobs are tech jobs and all professional women are women in tech! Since our launch, we have scaled our offering from individuals to firms and today we collaborate with firms looking to celebrate diversity and to connect with our community on a human level. The channel is live on Snapchat and Instagram on Monday through Friday, featuring one woman each weekday, giving us a view into her success, which we call a channel Takeover.

Talbot: What have been a few highlights thus far?

Bahad: Being nominated for and then winning Snapchat Account of The Year at The Shorty Awards! Having our logo up in bright lights in Times Square at the Nasdaq in New York!

Talbot: What is the process of finding the phenomenal women for Takeovers?

Bahad: The recruitment process for Takeover hosts is two-fold between outreach to high caliber candidates online to screening interested candidates who come to us through good old word-of-mouth. Once our hosts experience the power in lifting each other up, providing useful tips and resources to our community and how rewarding it can be, they loyally reach out to their network and tell their peers to join us! We have fortunately seen interest accelerate and have tripled our Instagram reach in one quarter! We couldn’t have asked for a better community! Interested women may also apply to be considered for a Takeover via the website.

Talbot: Which Takeover stood out to you most?

Bahad: All women are exceptional in their own unique way. If we had to choose a recent favorite, it would have to be our week-long Takeover series at this year’s CES 2018. Our followers got an inside pass into the largest and coolest technology conference there is. Our hosts spoke about topical issues such as women in tech policy, how to get onto a board of an organization and conducted rapid-fire interviews of CEOs of companies launching products for women, by women.

Talbot: What makes a successful Takeover?

Bahad: A successful Takeover is comprised of a woman introducing herself and her journey in tech, while also adding value to the community by sharing tips or advice she wishes she would’ve had on the onset of her career path in tech. As a follower, you can leave with actionable next steps to tackle your next career contemplation and have a warm connection to reach out to for follow up. We are the launching pad for new job opportunities, countless coffee chats, and lifelong professional relationships.

Snapchat and Instagram filters are a fun way to make the story more dynamic and also more casual. Yes, you are learning and gaining mentors, but it also feels like you are casually chatting with a close girlfriend as she tells you about her daily hustle.

Talbot: How have you seen mentorship thrive within the community?

Bahad: We keep the relationship with our community active via our social media pages. We encourage women who are eager to break into tech to follow our channel where they can discover open positions, learn about new trends in the industry and above all, learn from real women who are already working in and thriving in the tech industry. They can also scroll back to older posts to see past women that have been featured and connect with these women directly if their story inspires them.

Talbot: How is the content strategy structured?

Bahad: We have a content calendar for our individual hosts that are typically booked out several weeks out. We have different themes for different days: Mindfulness Mondays, Tech Tuesdays (where you meet a woman in a tech or product role), Throwback Thursdays (where you reconnect with a woman who’s done a Takeover on the channel in the past, and we get an update from her on where things may be at with her business now or if she has a new job, etc.) and Founder Fridays. We work with every host to ensure we are delivering her expertise to our followers in a way that is engaging and purposeful. Coinciding with our daily Takeovers, we have a content map for our upcoming firm partnerships. We curate them to introduce our community to their workplace cultures and values.

Talbot: Why did you start on Snapchat? How have the numbers shifted between Snapchat and Instagram Stories?

Bahad: We started on Snapchat because at the time of launch back in 2016, Instagram Stories wasn’t around yet as a product feature. With digital storytelling, we knew how powerful video can be and we liked that Snapchat served that need very well and it also is a social media platform where many young girls spend a lot of time. Since the introduction of Instagram Stories though, our focus has certainly shifted to Instagram and our engagement has followed suit. There’s more overall context to Instagram – you can tag people and accounts, you can be discovered via hashtags and there’s an open dialogue that the community can plug into. It’s also more transparent; you can see our numbers, our growth and what the community is saying.

That is becoming important to us as we build our corporate relationships and integrate into their social messaging and branding campaigns. We hold the title of Snapchat Account of The Year and we still certainly serve that community first, but we have been putting more efforts into growing our Instagram community as of late. We’re almost at 20K followers on Instagram.

My eBook “Oh Snap! You Can Use Snapchat For Business” can be found here. Check out my website to learn more about me!

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