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Technovation Montréal CEO Stéphanie Jecrois shares how building tech skills builds confidence

By Diane Amato

Published February 28, 2023 • 6 Min Read

For more than three decades, the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards have recognized and celebrated the strides of Canada’s most accomplished, influential and impactful women. The Awards, which are presented by Women of Influence, shine a spotlight on women who have been instrumental in driving business success in Canada. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we proudly recognize and promote their inspiring stories.

“A lot of people think that girls are not interested in science and technology,” says Stéphanie Jecrois, Co-Founder and CEO of Technovation Montréal in a recent conversation. “But that’s not the case. It’s that they’re not exposed. Our goal is to expose them as early as possible to all the possibilities that technology can offer.”

Jecrois was recognized as a 2022 Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Social Change Regional Finalist for the impact her organization is having in Montreal. She has successfully garnered extraordinary support from her community and is creating social change for women and girls in her hometown.

Structured as a competition, where teams of two to five participants develop an application idea that responds to a problem or need in their community, Technovation Montréal offers age-based technology programs as well as programs focused on gaming and AI. The organization also teaches participants how to develop a business plan and prototype, all with an aim of preparing young girls and women for the future of work.

With access to primarily female experts and mentors brought in to teach and present, participants benefit from learning new skills and meeting role models throughout the program. “Girls learn how to code with Python. They learn how to apply AI in specific situations. They learn how to create video games and how to launch a business using the skills they learn,” explains Jecrois. “We bring in experts who are primarily women, which also allows the girls to see themselves in a future career in technology.”

Created in Silicon Valley in the United States in 2009, the Technovation concept has existed in Montreal since 2014, when Jecrois was approached to launch a local chapter. “I really loved the idea of exposing young girls to different opportunities and looking at technology in a different way.” Although she doesn’t have a background in technology, Jecrois is passionate about empowering girls and women, and about her hometown of Montreal. Having worked with the City of Montreal for fifteen years, she has spent considerable time supporting and promoting her city – work that has also enabled her to leverage her local networks to build Technovation Montréal from the ground up.

“Technovation Montréal was primarily a volunteer-based organization for many years,” explains Jecrois, who shares that most people were working elsewhere, full-time, while growing the organization. Since obtaining funding from tech companies and the Government of Quebec, they have gained stability and the opportunity to expand their programming.

The power within: Skills lead to confidence

RBC’s 2023 theme for International Women’s Day is Celebrate the Power Within

When Jecrois first started the organization, she was driven by the prospect of helping young girls and women build tech skills. But then she realized the skill building was just the starting point. “After the program, a lot of the girls would say, ‘I feel more confident, I feel more empowered.’” She explains that after presenting something they built to potential investors, participants gained considerable confidence. “Every part of them evolves,” she says. “A lot of them are shy when they start and are trying to find their way. But by the end of the program, they’re standing in front of a jury or in front of friends, family and partners, and they can talk about their project with confidence. They are proud of what they accomplished. Even if they don’t go on to a career in technology, they will carry this with them.”

Jecrois further shares that by nature, many young girls and women tend to want everything to be perfect before starting something new. But for entrepreneurs, this isn’t generally possible. Trial and error are part of the journey, and she feels that gaining a comfort level with trying new things – and potentially failing – is an essential experience for the future. These lessons, which extend beyond coding classes, will stay with these girls for a lifetime and give them strength and power in years to come.

The power within, multiplied

Jecrois is quick to acknowledge that the success of Technovation Montréal – including the recognition she has been awarded through the Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards – is as a result of a larger group effort. Program mentors are often employees from the tech firms that are supporting her organization, and many people in the tech sector are eager to be ambassadors, compelled like she is to give back to the local community. She also explains that several participants, after finishing the program, come back to be mentors and ambassadors. “They tell us, ‘We’ve learned so much and got so much out of this experience, now we want to give back and support other girls.’”

By making a difference in the lives of girls, Jecrois and her team are in turn creating difference makers who are keen to give back. It’s the power within, multiplied.

Equity is… having a seat at the table

The global International Women’s Day theme is #EmbraceEquity, which to Jecrois, represents being heard and seen. “For me, the theme of Embrace Equity means having a seat at the table,” she says. “That’s the best way to make sure people have their voice heard. It’s nice to be profiled, but when you’re there when decisions are made, this is when you can make a huge difference because people can hear your perspective.”

She is a champion for having diverse voices at the board and advisory levels, sharing that this is where individuals can build influence. “Equity is about having the opportunity to be part of conversations about change – even though sometimes those conversations can be difficult,” she says.

By teaching girls valuable skills, building their confidence, providing exposure to role models and giving them a safe space to try and fail, Jecrois is preparing the young women of Montreal for the future of work. And, in nurturing a culture of mentorship and ambassadorship, she is further enabling girls and women to tap into their inner power and to share it with the next generation.

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