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How This Founder is Preparing the Next Generation of STEM Leaders

by Kandia Johnson
Tsegga S Medhin

On the Next Generation of Leaders:

For any country, stimulating economic growth and maintaining stability means investing in youth for a sustainable future. “Engaged youths, especially females are key to achieving global prosperity and peace,” says Tsegga S Medhin, the founder of The Pearl Leadership Institute (TPLI). We want to create an inclusive conversation of empowerment for women and girls in STEM careers. Our mission is “Transforming women/girls and economies forward faster” through connecting, transforming and leading tools.
Beyond her passion for creating economic empowerment opportunities for women and girls in STEM-related careers, she is the President of United Nations Women North Carolina Chapter. She also coaches emerging leaders to leverage their powerful voices to connect, transform and lead for change.

With over twenty years of experience in various executive roles at IBM and the private sector, Medhin, shares the challenges and lessons learned that shaped her role as a leader and how women are breaking down barriers in business for young girls.

Tell us about the “AHA” moment that inspired you to start your organization.

I call my TPLI my “universal assignment” because in 2008 IBM selected me as one of the first one hundred from over 5000 applicants to do a pro bono consultancy work in Tanzania. Having enjoyed the overall assignment of six months: it also helped me realize that” I am needed in Africa” to help tell the story of prosperity.

What are your top 3 accomplishments in your career?

  • Managing the 1st cohort of IBM Leading to Africa Skills initiative. Placing and helping over three hundred top talent college students from Africa studying abroad, was by far an enlightening experience. Helping them turn challenges into opportunities and maintaining a connection with several of them for coaching and networking purposes is energizing.
  • Obama YALI (Young African Leadership Initiative) Mandela Fellows I serve as a candidate selecting committee and it has been powerful. Especially reading their whys and what are stories. I also had the pleasure of attending the final convention in DC and got to meet several hundred. Learning about their personal and professional achievements of becoming global shapers is even most gratifying.
  • Sharing my experience and institutional knowledge for the past three years with Universities, Including DUKE University MBA Africa Students as keynote speaker, mentor, and coach, gives me the utmost pleasure and hope to listen and learn about their brilliant and impactful ideas ready to take back to the continent as transactional fellows and change makers.

How did working for someone else prepare you for entrepreneurship?

Great companies prepare you with your emotional intelligence and problem-solving. I had the privilege of working in the Finance, and Technology sector. Both have been instrumental in achieving my needed acumen to be a resilient entrepreneur.

What has been your greatest challenge? How did you overcome it?

Funding seems to be one of the biggest challenges in the not for profit sector, but it is all about networking and telling the story of impact to change the no or maybe to a yes.

Tell me about a time you failed in your career. What did you learn from your mistake?

While we don’t learn about failure in our early childhood it is also a great character builder. I found the failure to be an unexpected teacher/guest but it taught me about resiliency and most of all hope.

What barriers do you feel are being broken or challenged by current women or other young leaders in business for future women in business?

I am proud of the many women that have broken the glass/bamboo/ebony door and created wealth and success for self and others, but there is still more work to be done, addressing the below might help us us achieve 50/50 by 2030.

  • Cultural norms and implicit bias owed to the way we raise our boy child and positively influence their mind set on the value of girls and women.
  • Leadership – be an intentional, compassionate servant leaders
  • Pay equity
  • Access to education and financial resources.

What’s your best 3 pieces advice for someone trying to start an organization?

  • Listen with the intent to learn – drop the “nay sayers”
  • Find good partner/s accountability partner
  • It is ok to fail — but come back again better, smarter and rejuvenated.

I believe everyone has a “secret sauce” that has defined his or her success. What are the top three ingredients that have enabled you to succeed?

  • Network and follow up intentionally
  • Be Inquisitive
  • #BeBold4Change

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