Category Archives: News & Reviews

Delicious Food in Egypt

During the TechWomen Delegation to Egypt, we were very well fed.  It seemed like every one of the schools and organizations which hosted us generously provided at least a snack in addition to our regular meals. Days were very long so we were happy to be fed sweets and tea at regular intervals! Those of us who went to Alexandria before the Delegation began shared local desserts like Om Ali and Couscous with Nuts at El Shekh Wafik in the morning, and a great seafood feast at Ibn Hamido Seafood Restaurant on the waterfront at night. The next day, we had lunch at the Mena House next to Giza’s pyramids (our rice was in the shape of a pyramid to keep with the theme).

Two local dishes I definitely want to eat again are Kushari (noodles, rice, lentils, chickpeas and onion – pictured at the Abou El Sid restaurant in Cairo), and Halabessa (chickpeas in tomato broth- pictured at the Mahfouz Cafe in Cairo). Our most amusing snack was mathematical cupcakes (at the Girls in STEM Career Fair hosted by Mentor Graphics).




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Photos Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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Crafts and Souvenirs from Egypt

During the TechWomen Delegation to Egypt there was very little time for shopping but I did manage to find some presents and souvenirs.  Before our Professional Development Sessions with Alwan wa Awtar – AWA – Youth in Cairo, we bought bags, necklaces, and scarves from a young woman who started an embroidery craft and sewing business with her mother.  We also stopped by a Carrefour on the way to a meeting, where I found an excellent selection of lovely cotton scarves – not surprising in a country where colorful and well-designed scarves are worn by so many women.

We had time on the day we left to walk through Muizz Street and the shops of the old city in Cairo.  I was pleased to purchase a large black shawl with Egyptian hand embroidery, and a Ramadan tablecloth in a colorful primary color pattern we had seen many times as we traveled.  I even found some alabaster lamps which will be appreciated as presents, plus a pair of silver earrings for myself.  Thanks to 2015 Fellow Doaa ElEraqy of Egypt who was our patient guide and negotiator in the souq.

In addition to these treasures I bought, we Mentors received many kind gifts from the TechWomen Fellows of Egypt. I was also touched and honored to be given souvenirs from Palestine and Lebanon – presents from TechWomen mentees.






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Photos Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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TechWomen Delegation to Egypt

Katy Dickinson TechWomen Egypt Delegation 2018 

I was honored to join the TechWomen Delegation to Egypt: my tenth TechWomen Delegation. TechWomen is an Initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. We had an inspiring and enjoyable trip.  I got back to the USA a few days ago and am still getting used to California’s time zone (but am enjoying our clean air!).

Some of us mentors arrived in Egypt early so that we could acclimatize and see the sights.  I was part of a group that toured Alexandria on 24 February, the day before the Delegation officially started.  We had three flat tires on the road but were able to visit the Citadel of Qaitbay, a 15th-century fortress on the Mediterranean sea coast on the eastern point of the Pharos Island. It was erected on the exact site of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Some of the lighthouse stones were used to build the fort.  We also saw the remarkable 2002 Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Library of Alexandria) and the Montaza Palace.

Katy Dickinson at the Citadel, Alexandria Egypt Feb 2018 aty Dickinson at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria Egypt Feb 2018

The first day of the Delegation, we had a short tour of Giza and Cairo. The Great Pyramid is another of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. I was delighted to discover so many of us Mentors and Fellows from the inaugural 2011 class of TechWomen were part of the Delegation.  We also welcomed Fellows from Lebanon, Libya, South Africa, Palestine, Morocco, Jordan, and Kenya.  All three of the 2011 mentees who were hosted at my company were part of the Delegation: Sukaina Al-Nasrawi and Maha Akkari (Lebanon), and Reham Nasser (Egypt).  I was delighted to catch up with 2011 mentees Maysoun Ibrahim and Huda Alwahidi from Palestine, as well as Eman Ezzat, Ghada Bahig and others from Egypt. Sukaina and Maysoun and Reham have been on TechWomen Delegations before but I had not seen Maha for years.  The Delegation included mentees from all TechWomen years, although Lara Chikhani (from my Team Lebanon) was the only Fellow who came from 2017. I was very happy to see Sara Abdelhafez (Egypt) for the first time since she was hosted at my company in 2012 – and to meet her new son who came to our Farewell Dinner on a Nile river boat.

Giza, TechWomen Egypt Delegation 2018 Sphinx, TechWomen Egypt Delegation 2018
We were very busy during the Delegation, sometimes being on the bus as early at 7:30 am and getting back to our Cairo hotel in the Zamalek district at 10:30 pm.  Activities during which we interacted with hundreds of girls, women, entrepreneurs, and technologists included:

  • Briefing from U.S. Embassy (Monday, Feb 26)
  • The Power of Mentorship at the American Center (Monday, Feb 26)
  • Meet & Greet with U.S. Embassy Colleagues (Monday, Feb 26)
  • Workshops with Women in Tech and Entrepreneurship at the GrEEK Campus (Tuesday, Feb 27)
  • Pitch Practice and Speed Geek Sessions at the GrEEK Campus (Tuesday, Feb 27)
  • Girls in STEM Career Fair at Mentor Graphics (Tuesday, Feb 27)
  • Networking Reception at the Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center – TIEK (Wednesday, Feb 28)
  • Discussions with Professionals in STEM at Vodafone (Wednesday, Feb 28)
  • Hands-on STEM Activities at High School (Thursday, March 1)
  • From Silicon Valley to the Nile: Soft Skills Workshops at the American University in Cairo – AUC (Thursday, March 1)
  • Reception with U.S. Embassy at INJAZ (Thursday, March 1)
  • Visit with Teenpreneurs at FabLab Egypt (Friday, March 2)
  • Professional Development Sessions with Alwan wa Awtar – AWA – Youth at Montessori Mokattam (Friday, March 2)

We were delighted to visit many projects started and supported by TechWomen Fellows in Egypt. Cairo traffic is as bad as that of the Silicon Valley so we spent about 1-1/2 hours on the bus to get from event to event. We enjoyed the time to catch up with dear friends and learn more about each other.  Unfortunately, over half of the delegation came down with a respiratory illness and fever so we had to swap speaking slots quite a bit. On Monday, I gave a TED-style talk about mentoring then lead a panel discussing mentoring at the US Embassy’s American Center. Later, I helped Jill Finlayson teach girls to brainstorm and develop solutions to community problems, lead another discussion at AUC with Mohna Dhomse on how to Find a Mentor, joined a panel about life challenges, and gave two talks with Rekha Pai-Kamath on self-branding.  All of us in the Delegation participated in speed geek sessions at several venues.

The day after the Delegation ended, groups of us Mentors and Fellows were able to tour the amazing Egyptian Museum and get some shopping done in the old city of Cairo – with 2015 Fellow Doaa ElEraqy of Egypt as our patient guide and negotiator.

TechWomen Egypt Delegation 2018 

TechWomen Egypt Delegation 2018 

TechWomen Egypt Delegation 2018 

TechWomen Egypt Delegation 2018 

TechWomen Egypt Delegation 2018 TechWomen Egypt Delegation 2018

 TechWomen Egypt Delegation 2018

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Photos Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson, TechWomen, and Lara Chikhani.


Filed under Mentoring & Other Business, Mentoring Standard, News & Reviews

Help Needed for Displaced in Congo

Bunia, Congo 18 Feb 2018 by Rev. Bisoke Balikenga

Violence has recently gotten worse in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I was on a call a few days ago during which we learned of tens of thousands of displaced people, about two thousand of whom are now seeking help near a hospital in Bunia. The Reverend Bisoke Balikenga sent us the photos you see here of families in Bunia in need of food, water, firewood, bedding, and schools for the children. We are coordinating our aid efforts through Episcopal Relief and Development.

Since 2015, I have been a part of the Congo Network group of the Episcopal Church. The group is chaired by the Rev. Canon Dr. Isaac Kawuki Mukasa (Africa Relations, Episcopal Church). I was nominated to join the Congo Network group by my Bishop, the Right Rev. Mary Gray-Reeves (of the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real, California).  We meet by phone and online about quarterly to share information and coordinate support work. I have been taking the Congo Network minutes.

Bunia, Congo 18 Feb 2018 by Rev. Bisoke Balikenga

There is small awareness in the United States about the size and severity of the Congo’s humanitarian crisis. Little news is published, mostly by non-US media and organizations:

However, if I did not know about it directly from the Congo Network, I may not have heard about this crisis at all. I have to go searching for news of the Congo – it does not appear in my regular news sources.  I have never been so aware of the limitations of the US media and how news is distributed.

Congo is about 70% Christian and many of the displaced people are seeking help from their churches. Pope Francis has raised awareness by holding a day of prayer and fasting on 23 February for those in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.

If you would like to help displaced people in the Congo, please donate to Episcopal Relief and Development (designate your donation to DRC).

Bunia, Congo 18 Feb 2018 by Rev. Bisoke Balikenga

Photos copyright 2018 by the Rev. Bisoke Balikenga – used with permission.
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Reading for Mentoring Month

TechWomen Team Lebanon Action Plan Workshop 30 Sep 2017, photo by Saul Bromberger for TechWomen

Every day I am online looking for interesting news and articles from around the world, especially about mentoring. Most days, I post what I find on my Twitter account, with summaries of the most interesting posted in batches to Mentoring Standard on LinkedIn. In honor of January being America’s National Mentoring Month, here is a selection recent notable articles on mentoring to inspire you. Please nominate mentoring gems I have missed!

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Postcast Interview

Katy Dickinson Sun Microsystems badge 398 in 2010

I very much enjoyed being interviewed by Akshay Birla for his “Life of the Mind” podcast last month. He just published the interview as “Episode 19 | Katy Dickinson on Technology, Mentoring, and Religion”.

Katy Dickinson has been around the tech-block. Hired by Eric Schmidt at Sun Microsystems, she literally wrote the book on the software development lifecycle that Sun used for release of almost 10,000 releases. She is a technologist, entrepreneur, mentor, and writer.

In our conversation Katy talks about her work as a technologist on creating processes:
A process has to not assume that you have world-class people working on it. A process assumes that that not everybody — while they are good-intentioned and competent — [is] perfect. You have to have a system that allows for lack of perfection but can work if you have the best that there is.

and the futility of only having excellent coders:
A good coder is a wonderful thing to have but you have to create something that the customer wants and feels comfortable with. Good coding and user experience are sometimes at odds.

But we spend the most of our conversation talking about mentoring programs that deliver high return-on-investment, and the intersection of religion and technology.

On the importance of example and networking provided by the Grace Hopper Celebration:
While they may be the only women in the room – which has certainly been my experience in 30+ years in the Silicon Valley – there are a lot of rooms.

Listening to your own recorded voice is always surprising – it sounds so different from the inside!

Happy New Year!

Sun Microsystems gate Menlo Park California in 2010

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What is Bad About Jail, What is Good About Jail

2017 Vanderbilt University Coursera Justice Mercy Mass Incarceration 1 Dec 2017

I recently finished a fascinating six week Vanderbilt University class called “Justice, Mercy and Mass Incarceration” presented through Coursera online.  The course goals were “to discover alternatives to the current systems of crime and punishment in order to imagine a more inclusive, just and moral society”.  It was taught by Graham Reside, Assistant Professor, Vanderbilt University Divinity School.  This is my second online class in the area of justice and criminology, the first being “Crime, Justice and Society” by The University of Sheffield, presented online by FutureLearn.  I am both interested in the topic and in the MOOC (massive open online course) method in which these classes are presented.

Since 2015, I have developed and led a seminar at Elmwood Jail in Milpitas, California, in the Silicon Valley. Our seminar curriculum and books are from the Education for Ministry (EfM) program of the University of the South – School of Theology. EfM is a four year college-level certification program, started in 1975. So far as we know, ours is the only jail-based EfM program, although there are two dozen prison-based programs in the USA. In addition to covering the official EfM material, in the seminar we also work on listening, respectful group interactions, study skills, and basic leadership skills – like how to open and close a class with prayer.

This jail-based EfM program is supported by the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy, Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (Saratoga, California), and the University of the South – School of Theology. I worked with a group of volunteers from St. Andrew’s to start our first weekly seminar in a medium security dorm, and we have recently added a second weekly seminar in a minimum security dorm. Two of the EfM students at Elmwood are in Year 3 (Church History), two are in Year 2 (New Testament), with the remaining students in Year 1 (Hebrew Bible). The EfM year is only nine months long but my Co-Mentors and I run the jail-based seminars back-to-back (since inmates do not get summer vacations).  About two thirds of the inmate students in our EfM seminar are men of color – mostly Latino – and the rest are white.  We conduct discussions in English (and Spanglish) but provide Bibles, Books of Common Prayer, and Dictionaries in both English and Spanish.

In leading this EfM seminar, I have observed many consequences of incarceration. One of my reasons for taking “Justice Mercy and Mass Incarceration” was to understand more of the context of what I am observing when I am teaching in jail. Last month, I told the seminar students about the “Justice, Mercy, and Mass Incarceration” class and asked them to tell me one good thing and one bad thing about being in jail. Here is what six of them said:

What is Bad About Jail

  • I don’t see my family.
  • Some innocent people are punished (but not many).
  • I am not there for my kids.
  • I can’t be there to help my wife when she needs me.
  • Not being there for loved ones: I am frozen, unable to do anything.
  • Being a number – losing who you are.
  • I never get the time back.
  • I have no say. I am less of a citizen.
  • I am treated as low in the hierarchy.
  • There is no mercy, no leniency.
  • I can’t be there for my babies, my wife. I am hurting.
  • I am missing my family.
  • I lose my job, my apartment, my wife and kids, my paycheck, everything.

What is Good About Jail

  • Takes evil off the street.
  • Families are safe from bad people.
  • I have a clear mind. I am closer to God.
  • I have more belief, more faith, more spirituality. I am more close to God.
  • I have free time to spend on prayer, sobriety, like the worst-ever vacation. We can be with ourselves without a phone or Facebook.
  • If I stay clean, I have a clear mind, can reflect and prepare for becoming a better person out there.
  • I can clear my mind, rethink decisions on things I have done (and things I did not get caught for).
  • I can stay off drugs, not putting poison into my system.
  • It has made me think, be a better person. Reflection, closer to God. I am learning a lot.
  • There is free medication (health care).

There are connections and discrepancies between what “Justice, Mercy, and Mass Incarceration” teaches and what the EfM student inmates say. They agree on the benefit of taking violent, evil, bad people off the street. They also agree that imprisonment has the potential for supporting personal reform – inmates rethinking who they have been and who they want to become. “Justice, Mercy, and Mass Incarceration” does not spend a great deal of time on effective reform but in the recommended 1998 documentary film “The Farm: Angola Prison”, several of the long-term inmates had clearly over time become very different people, positive forces in the prison community.  My hope for my EfM students is whether they are inside or outside, they can make a positive difference in the world.

2017 FutureLearn University of Sheffield Crime Justice and Society certificate July 2017

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