My Journey as a Regional Head at GirlScript Foundation

Some of the most memorable journeys start in the most unexpected ways.

I am writing this blog as a tribute to my journey as a Regional Head at GirlScript Foundation, the experiences I had, the memories I made and the lessons that I learnt.

What is GirlScript?

For those of you who aren’t aware of what GirlScript is, it is a non-profit community that aims at empowering women and other underrepresented groups by providing them with awareness and education in tech. At GirlScript, we host numerous initiatives to ensure the spread of tech education and industry-worthy skills among all. It’s not just the core team, but different regions and chapters that organize some exciting and amazing events throughout the year to keep the knowledge quotient of the audience high.

Where it all started?

It was April 2020, right at the beginning of the lockdown, when my colleague at Google Developers’ Group Goa, Dikshita Desai asked me whether I was willing to lead a community called GirlScript in Goa. This wasn’t the first time I was hearing the name of the organization. As it hadn’t existed in Goa before, I had definitely not experienced the events first-hand, but I knew about it through social media. At once, I said yes and applied for the role. A few days later, I got a call from the Community Manager saying that my application had been selected and he further guided me with the roles and responsibilities. I was officially a GirlScriptian on 14th April 2020. On that day, I was thrilled at the prospect but had no clue where this journey was taking me.

Before GirlScript, I had been a part of numerous clubs and communities in Goa and I had always wished to lead one. For me, building a community from scratch was a totally new experience. Since I had only seen and been a part of offline communities, starting one online was a challenge in itself. I aimed at creating as much impact or even more than what would be created in offline mode.

To start off, I needed to build a team. Out of the many skills that I learned as a Regional Head, the most frustrating yet memorable experience was the first hiring process. I was tasked with hiring chapter leads to expand the community within Goa. I didn’t want to build a team straight out of friends or people who I knew. I wanted to build a community out of people who wanted to do this selflessly and aimed at improving themselves in the process.

Source: Workable Resources

At the time of hiring, there were hardly any people who knew about GirlScript in Goa. Some had a misconception that it was a community exclusively for girls. I decided to keep the hiring open and promoted the roles entirely through WhatsApp groups. Anyone who applied had to share why they wanted to do this and then complete a small task. Finding people to voluntarily apply for roles at the peak of the lockdown in a virtual world was tough. Getting to know them and analyzing whether they would be a good fit was equally exciting.

I always wished to have an entirely diverse team. GirlScript is not only for girls but it wasn’t as easy for people to accept it in the beginning due to its name. At a time when people weren’t willingly coming forward to join, we hired our first Chapter Lead, Rushabh Wadkar, who was my friend and colleague. Even as a male, he came forward to support this community and selflessly worked throughout by thinking of innovative ideas for events and initiatives to cause an impact. After putting a little more effort into promoting, a few days later, we had 4 chapters in the region, and we were all set to host our first event.

The team slowly expanded with a regional team that handled the social media. The best part about the team was that we had students from almost every college in Goa. This was a great achievement to me because I had literally no contacts in those colleges prior to this. The mission of a diverse team was accomplished. Soon we hired Campus heroes not only in Engineering Colleges but also in Science, Commerce and Art Colleges in Goa. And the promotion of role openings was mainly done through sharing the message on WhatsApp. Goa now had a new community that had to make a name virtually while other communities already had done wonders and gained a loyal audience in the physical world.

The Goa region had slightly different rules compared to the other regions due to its geography. The audience for different chapters overlapped due to which the frequency of events was slightly lesser than other regions, but the region was regular in social media content as well as events. We were fortunate enough to host some amazing speakers from renowned companies for our first event itself. There was no looking back since then.

Throughout the 1 year and 2 months that I was a part of this wonderful community, the Goa region and its chapters hosted numerous events, competitions and webinars empowering the audience in technical and non-technical domains. We tried to introduce some new technology and hosted a new kind of event each time. We also organized events that promote professional skills to build personality and awareness. We also collaborated with a startup for a project competition titled TechTrace and awarded the winners with a 3-month internship at the company. Hack Quest, a CTF hosted by the Ponda Chapter under the leadership of Rushabh Wadkar and Aditi Saxena was one of my favourite events by any chapter.

We even hosted a 6-week long internship at GirlScript Goa in the months of February-March 2021. Internship at a non-profit sound so cliché, where students are exploited. But we dared to do something different. As a community, we aim to help people build skills and benefit them out of everything that they do. Instead of hosting a Technical internship, where the projects of the students wouldn’t be put to much use, we hosted a Growth Internship program. Under this, we wanted the interns to experience 6 domains — Content Writing, Graphic Designing, Email Writing, Social Media Marketing, Podcasting and Micro Video Marketing. We hosted exclusive mentorship sessions for the interns from industry experts and then gave them a task which was then corrected by internal mentors who gave the interns feedback so that they could improve on the work. At the end of this internship, not only did the interns grow their skills, but they also helped to grow our community. A lot of them got further offers in these fields as an outcome of this internship.

Apart from being the Regional Head at GirlScript Goa, I also volunteered as a Mentor for the Education Outreach Bach-5 in May 2021 where I mentored 250+ students in Data Structures and Algorithms. This event not only helped me network with people, but I also enhanced my DSA skills while teaching them to students. I have also been fortunate enough to host numerous workshops in DSA, Professional Skills and #IamRemarkable workshops for various chapters helping students all over the country gain more knowledge and uplift themselves. I was also awarded the Mentor of the Year Award at GirlScript’s International Women’s Day Celebration for the impact that I created during the year.

Awarded as the Best Regional Head in GirlScript Cup

GirlScript Foundation had also organized the GirlScript Cup during 2020–2021. I participated in both phases and received numerous awards for my performance. In the end, I received the titles of Best Regional Head (1st Place), Community Champ Female (3rd Place) and Star Contributor Female (1st Place). GirlScript Cup is a wonderful initiative that motivates individuals to contribute more. It was a great experience participating in this one and I am already excited for the one coming up next.

What are some of the lessons/skills that I learnt as a Regional Head at GirlScript Foundation?

Source: LaunchPath
  • Event Management — While people think that hosting and managing events is a cup of tea, it isn’t. I have seen a lot of people failing at it. There are a lot of things that go into hosting a successful event, starting from pulling in a speaker (if one is needed) to making a plan for the event, hosting one and taking care of the post-event duties. And, you just get better with time, learning from mistakes and being perfect with it. I don’t need a lot of time to host events now and that’s all because of the practice I have got from hosting so many events.
  • Leadership — One lesson that I have learnt from my experience is that each one of us is a leader in our own little ways. As a leader, we can either be a friendly one or a strict one. I’d say be little of both. Too friendly => no work, all play. A mixture of both helps you get tasks done while building relationships at the same time. As a leader, I tried my best to be there for my team and listen to their worries when they needed help. I also supported them in their victories and encouraged them to win and achieve more wherever possible. Even as a Regional Head, I tried to participate in as many events by other chapters and regions as possible. Only a leader who continuously improves can set an example for their team.
  • Incident Management — When you are a part of any organization and are tasked with responsibilities, incidents are deemed to happen. While in a community, your speaker might back off last moment or you might get abusive emails. Panicking doesn’t help. It’s time to work as a team and make a decision which is the best for your community.
  • User Experience and Marketing — This is the age where User Experience means everything. As a customer/user, you won’t want to be a part of something that doesn’t benefit you. So, we continuously look out at the audience and analyze their background, interests and needs. Once this is figured out, we aim at improving their experience as much as we can. Only then, can we build loyalty towards the community!
  • Mentoring — You wanna grow? Mentor. You are a beginner? First, get a mentor and then be a mentor. We are all continuous learners. You’ll grow as you teach. You aren’t less than anyone. All you got to do is take the first step. Another hidden advantage of mentoring is networking. People remember you much easily when you help them.
  • Problem Solving — Problem-solving isn’t just needed in aptitude tests. You’ll have a lot of scenarios where you need to solve problems. At GirlScript, one of the problems we faced was keeping the community active in months when most of the students had exams. You can’t host events in such months, so maintaining consistency is another problem that we solved by not letting our social media die.
  • Networking — When you are a part of such a huge community, use it to your benefit. Any community, tbh. Talk to people at higher positions, find mentors, be mentors. Grab every opportunity that comes your way. Network with people. There is so much that you can do here. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way.
  • Entrepreneurial Mindset — As a Community Leader, you keep innovating and thinking of ideas to keep your community running. Innovation and audience experience is the soul of your community. Apart from this, you end up doing and learning every little bit that makes you a great entrepreneur. Apart from communication, human resources, networking, negotiation and management, you also learn and enhance skills like Graphic Designing, Social Media Marketing and Content Writing which are so essential in today’s world. You also learn how to connect with sponsors and companies for collaboration which again adds to your skill base.

Why Community?

Source: Elegant Themes

Many people ask me why one should spend so much time in a community where you are unpaid. Payment isn’t all through money. Some opportunities give you life-changing experiences and memories which are priceless. GirlScript is one such organization that has and always will have a special place in my life. I haven’t just learnt a lot through this community in the time that I was a part of it, but also made so many friends for life here.

In a year, we impacted over 4500 students from the state through numerous opportunities and built a strong presence on social media too. And the numbers aren’t it. The personal messages, notes and feedback from participants made our days. From relentlessly searching for new team members, to getting our inbox filled with applications, we made it!

Conclusion

Moving on doesn’t mean I have left the community or the community has left me. I will always be a part of it, and will always be there come what may. As we move ahead in life, there is a time when we have to hand over the mantle to someone else who can take over and do justice to the role. It’s time for another person to learn, grow and impact.

In the end, I would take this opportunity to thank Dikshita Desai for introducing me to GirlScript, Anubha Maneshwar and Mohit Varu for giving me this opportunity, Milind Kale for helping me at every step, Rushabh Wadkar for being by my side and supporting me from Day 1 of GirlScript and my wonderful team for helping take GirlScript to newer heights.

Cheers to GirlScript Foundation as it celebrates 4 years of existence, and GirlScript Goa as it completes its 1st. Many more milestones to go!

Writes about Trysts with Life, Technology and Product | Incoming ARR Engineer @Microsoft | Content Writer @InterviewBit | Product Management Enthusiast