As one of five South African emerging leaders on the TechWomen programme, an initiative of the United States Department of States’ Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, University of Cape Town (UCT) master’s student Wiebke Toussaint was invited to visit Silicon Valley, the tech mecca of the world.
Aimed at empowering the next generation of women leaders in science, technology and engineering, the programme offers women from 20 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia the opportunity to expand their networks, share their technical expertise and work towards professional career goals.
Toussaint received her BSc in Mechanical Engineering in 2011, and is registered for her master’s degree in the Centre for Artificial Intelligence Research at UCT’s School of Information Technology. She is also a data scientist at the Energy Research Centre in the Faculty of Engineering & the Built Environment.
The Silicon Valley segment of the programme, during which women spend three weeks on a professional mentorship placement, saw Toussaint embed herself in the valley’s start-up ecosystem in line with her research focus on artificial intelligence (AI), commitment to social impact and entrepreneurial aspirations.
“I went to Silicon Valley to learn how to imagine the unimaginable, and in many ways, I would say I discovered what I hoped to find,” said Toussaint, adding that imagining inclusive innovation remains a key question for technology creators such as herself there, as well as in South Africa.
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