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“GEM gave me the confidence to go after the things I want”

Mathurah Ravigulan was one of the amazing GEMgirls in 2016-17 and one of the GEM Scholarship recipients. We interviewed her about her experience in The GEM Program.

Mentorship really makes a difference in a person’s life. I loved how GEM gave me the confidence to go after the things I want.

My favourite part of GEM were the GEMinars because they were at different companies in downtown Toronto and we learned essential skills such as interviewing, personal branding, and goal setting. I love how all the mentors involved in GEM are so fun, easy to approach and will do anything to help their mentees to reach their goals.

I have set and achieved goals I never thought would have been possible without the encouragement of my GEM mentor. She taught me to be bold, and take challenges head on, no matter my age or experience. Being in grade 10, I never would have thought I would get my first internship, or even win a GEM scholarship.

Last year I was feeling discouraged because I wanted to pursue a career in computer science. However, there aren’t that many girls in that industry. GEM has inspired me to break that glass ceiling. I learned how to code, and now I’m volunteering with an organization to encourage girls in technology.

I also got hired as an Outreach Intern at GEM, and that experience has allowed me to be a great candidate for positions in several industries. Now, I am not afraid to reach out to larger companies about internships because GEM taught me that I am capable of doing great things.

GEM helped me to accomplish so many things this year! I started my own company in the Junior Achievement Company Program where I was the Chief Technology Officer. I learned first-hand what it took to run a business, and I felt that I grew as a leader this year. I achieved top ten in my DECA Case study at the provincial competition.

When I learned that I was one of the GEM Scholarships Winners, I couldn’t believe it! I would have never imagined at grade 10 that I would be winning a scholarship. GEM is not only helping me achieve my goals through mentorship, but this award is helping me finance my aspirations. This scholarship is not only an investment in myself, but it’s an investment in the community as well!

I’m currently in the International Baccalaureate Program at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Collegiate Institute and I’m going into grade 11 next year. In the summer I’ll be attending a STEAM-based program called SHAD, and I’ll be staying in the University of Waterloo for a month. In August, I’m doing an internship at RBC for their digital communications department for RBC Connect. I know my journey will not stop here, and I’m so excited to see what’s in store in the future!

 

 

GEM’s Founder shared her career advice with BTNH

GEM’s Founder, Rochelle de Goias, was featured in Be The Next Her, a career blog for women. She was interviewed about her carrer path, why she founded GEM and what challenges women face when following their passion.

Here’s the full interview by Amanda Dipasquale:

-What is your morning routine?
-I’m pretty busy in the morning because I have two young kids. I’m up around 7:00 am to get my nine-month old changed and ready for breakfast. Then I get my two and a half year old ready. We all have breakfast together before things get too busy. Once my eldest is on his way to his programs I get ready for my day.

-Tell us about your career path
-I am the founder of Girls E-Mentorship (GEM), a charity that provides mentorship to girls facing multiple barriers. I studied International Relations and started my career researching international human rights violations, evaluating child labour reduction strategies, and terrorism. I later worked for a government relations firm in Toronto and then transitioned into the provincial government. I knew I wanted to help the youth in our city and give those with limited opportunities the best chance to succeed. So eventually, when the timing was right, I started GEM.

-What challenges do you or women face in your industry?
-I think women and mothers struggle with balancing a family and having a career. I don’t think it’s industry specific. Running an organization takes a lot of time and effort, as does taking care of a family and having a social life. I am constantly learning and trying new ways to make it all work!

-What advice would you give to young girls who want to be the NEXT you?
Follow your passion. When you do something you love it’s not work.
Find a mentor. Mentors are so important and can be helpful at different stages in your career.
Be patient. The path to your dream job can take time but stick with it. You will get there.
Show initiative. Be the person who works harder than everyone else. It’s a fast way to get promoted.
Be positive. Everyone wants to work with someone who is happy and easy to be around.
Never ever burn bridges.

-How do you separate work life from your personal life?
-I work at it every day and my friends and my husband tell me when I’m spending too much time at work or getting too stressed out. That’s when I know I have to take a step back.
I now try and disconnect from my phone and computer in the evenings. Sometimes that’s not possible but I do the best I can.

-What inspires you?
-Seeing GEM and the girls in GEM succeed brings me a huge amount of joy and inspires me to do more. Being a part of a community of women that is passionate about empowering girls is also an incredible source of inspiration.

-When you’re off the clock, what are your indulgences?
-I love spending time with my family. We drive up to the farm on weekends and spend a lot of time in nature. I also enjoy being active so yoga, tennis, and Pilates are all on my list of indulgences.

Photo by Stefania Sgambelluri

Source: Be The Next Her
Photo by: Stefania Sgambelluri

“Thanks to GEM I’m not afraid to think big”

Khalida Elsadati was one of the amazing GEMgirls in 2016-17 and one of the GEM Scholarship recipients. We interviewed her about her experience in The GEM Program.

“GEM has been such a rewarding experience, and I’m so glad to have been a part of it. I’ve had the opportunity to network with young women from all over Toronto who are working in all types of fields.

The most important lesson that I’ve learned from GEM is to be flexible! Your career will lead you to different paths, and that’s ok. Seize every opportunity that comes your way!

My mentor has been a friend and major influence in my life the past year. Her support has been a factor in many my accomplishments the past year. We constantly check up on each other, chat about our lives, and encourage each other pursuits. My mentor taught me the importance of prioritizing in my academic and personal life. These important lessons have been incredibly powerful.

Before entering GEM, I had a very clear-cut idea of the next 20 years of my life. I’ve always been a huge planner, but GEM taught me to see future more fluidly. I learned to see my failures as lessons and opportunities to further prove myself. This realization made me more aware of my personal goals and allowed me to cherish the present.

Through GEM, I’ve become a more confident and determined individual. I’ve learned to embrace challenges with an open mind and to visualize every opportunity as a step towards a larger goal. Now entering post-secondary, these lessons will allow me to elevate myself and accomplish my goals.

I will be graduating this school year, and I’m extremely excited to be attending Western University to pursue my passion for business. When I learned that I was one of the GEM Scholarships Winners I was extremely excited! I was in the midst of writing an in-class essay and had to contain my joy. I hope to invest the GEM Scholarship into my university education. It would definitely help ease the financial burden.

As an aspiring social entrepreneur, I hope to pursue my masters in economics after I graduate. Having lived in Sudan until I was four, I’ve often pondered on what creates strong economies and how we can stimulate economic growth in developing nations. Despite being rich in the resource, third-world nations struggle to harness the resources they have available and thus, continue to struggle in competing in the global economy. If given the opportunity, I would choose to work with the World Bank to encourage global prosperity.

After pursuing my masters, I hope to them attend law school. Through attending pursuing this degree, I can develop my knowledge on judicial systems and work in family and refugee law. I hope to them transition from the private sector, to the public sector and work with global non-profits Through this, I hope to give back to society and bring opportunities to low-income neighbourhoods.”

McGill News featured GEM’s mentorship program

GEM’s Founder, Rochelle de Goias, was featured in McGill News Alumni Magazine. She was interview by Brenda Branswell about what inspired her to create GEM and how the organization has grown since 2012.

Here’s the full article Toronto mentors help girls facing multiple barriers by Brenda Branswell: 

 

Fresh out of graduate school and faced with two internship offers, Rochelle de Goias looked for a female mentor for advice. She discovered how hard it was to find one.

In the back of her mind, de Goias says, “I thought A) that was really unfair and B) at some point in my future that I would create something where there was more of a mentorship culture.”
That notion took shape in 2012 when de Goias founded Girls E-Mentorship (GEM), a Toronto-based charitable organization that provides mentoring for girls who are in grades 10 through 12.

One of her goals is to create a mentorship culture within the GTA, and eventually further afield, “so that it isn’t uncommon to have a female mentor at different points in your life and in your career,” says de Goias, BA’01. “And sort of have that old boys’ network transferred into an old girls’ network.”

The program targets girls who face multiple barriers and the schools it works with are in “neighbourhood improvement areas”, identified as such by the City of Toronto. “We had outreach into 42 different schools this year, so that just gives you an idea of how wide our reach is now,” says de Goias, a political analyst and consultant who previously worked for the Ontario government.

The program matches the high school girls with female professionals who act as mentors and work with them over a nine-month period. They stay in touch weekly, meet monthly and discuss curriculum topics. They also attend “GEMinars”, workshops on subjects like time management and interview skills.

“Each GEMinar has a topic and that’s in line with what they’re learning throughout the year,” says de Goias. A mentor and mentee might work on an elevator pitch and then refine it at the GEMinar on personal branding.

If you’re 15 or 16, looking to get a job and meeting someone for the first time, “phrasing that is very difficult for them,” she says. “We help them sort of craft what they’re thinking in their heads into something that they can convey to an adult. And then they practise it so they feel a little bit more comfortable.”

Many of the girls are newcomers to Canada or their parents are, she says. The program states that it mitigates the negative effects of poverty through the one-on-one mentorship.

They’ve discovered that sometimes the girls don’t necessarily believe that they can get out of their situation and may not have women immediately surrounding them who have been successful, says de Goias. “It’s very hard to achieve success if you can’t emulate it with someone or sort of follow what someone close to you has done.

“So that’s one way (to lessen the effects of poverty), by breaking that social divide between the mentor and the mentee and providing that guidance in order to change mentees’ self-perception.”

The program also provides paid internships to several girls, which helps them build their résumés, and offers small scholarships.

“We try and help them be able to either get into college or university through scholarships in order to get to the next level in their life so that employment opportunities are increased.”

The mentors and girls develop a very strong connection in many cases, she says. “The mentors find it extremely rewarding.” And the girls feel so confident by the end of the program, she adds.

“They have said to us that it’s really helping and changing their lives and providing them with opportunities. So it’s pretty cool.”

De Goias, who obtained a master of arts in international relations from the University of London, is married to fellow McGill graduate Duncan Jackman, BA’89.

She says there is interest at GEM in expanding the program and mentions “immense pride” when asked how the experience has been for her.

“It’s hard to describe because you feel wonderful, but it’s more than that. It has sort of taken on a life of its own. It’s my vision, but it’s bigger than me now. And it’s a lot of other people’s vision and they have improved it and made it better. So it’s incredible to be a part of this.”

Source: McGill News Alumni Magazine

Rochelle de Goias

How to launch a charity while being a mom

Rochelle de Goias, GEM’s Founder, was interviewed by Love, Mom on how to lead a charity that is changing the lives of high school girls in Toronto while being the mom of two little ones.  Read her full interview below.

LM: What’s a secret power you count on to keep it together?
R: “Determination. At work, I’m always thinking about a goal, for example right now, growth is top of mind. I’m singularly focused and know the team can make our charity better and bigger so we can help more people. I’m that person who to call if you have any self-doubt or if you’re having a bad day and I’ll say, ‘you can do this; you can do it with your eyes closed’. This level of motivation and intensity has allowed me to grow GEM from an idea into a reality.
I know I bring that intensity home too. I have this desire to ensure that my kids have this incredible childhood and create as many special moments as possible for them. Like so many moms, I would love them to look back on their lives and think they had the best mom. I know I stress myself out about it though. I’m really working on accepting that I can’t do everything and I have to be okay with doing what I can. I’m still getting the hang of it; I’ll stay up at night and send emails and take care some of online errands, then I’ll catch myself and shut it all down. I’m slowly figuring out the difference between being determined and doing too much.”

LM: Is launching a non-profit similar to growing a business?
R: “From the beginning, we wanted to create a charity that thought like a business. Our clients are our mentors and mentees and our investors are our donors. We’re intent on running GEM efficiently and at a low cost. For example, we have a large team of volunteers that help us reach our goals and we moved our office to the Centre for Social Innovation, a shared office space that keeps our nuts and bolts costs down.
We’re also growing the program strategically. We’ve invested a lot of time and effort on design thinking. Instead of taking a top-down approach where a goal is determined and then the steps towards that goal are created, I wanted to do it in reverse. We designed a program that began with our mentees to help us determine the goal. We spent six months consulting with local girls to discover what they needed. We also created a mentor advisory committee and asked them how we could make it easier for them to volunteer as busy working women who want to help. Then we did a pilot run, got feedback, and redesigned our approach based on what we heard. Every year we get new insights and then we tweak the program to make it better. Like any business, we have to be nimble and we can’t get stuck in one way of thinking.
The biggest difference with a traditional business, however, is that if we’re not profitable, we’re not reaching our goal of helping people. A charity relies on kindness, a compelling story and on donors and volunteers who want to make their cities and countries better. If people stopped having open hearts, a non-profit like us wouldn’t survive.”

LM: Describe a challenge you’ve had to overcome at GEM.
R: “We’re growing faster than I anticipated. It’s a good problem, but also stressful. With that growth, comes pressure to fundraise. There are a lot of girls requesting mentorship and we can only provide it for 1 in 4 girls, so we need more funding to support our programs. There are also so many areas that we want to be involved with beyond Toronto. There’s a huge need and we’re only a drop in the bucket. A part of me thought this was going to be a grass roots organization forever, and now I’m thinking about what growth looks like every day I go to work. This expansion is so exciting and the best outcome I could’ve hoped for, but naturally I wonder how am I going to manage all this while finding time to enjoy my young family?”

LM: Name a leap of faith you’ve had to take recently.
R: “Letting other people help me. When I started this, I was doing everything, then I brought in a bigger team and expanded the board.  Once I became pregnant with my second baby, my load became impossible to manage. We’ve grown to two full-time consultants (a project manager and a communications lead), a graphic designer and seven board members. Of course, I had an initial reaction to taking less of a hand’s on role. Relinquishing that kind of control took adjusting, and now I love it. I’m running the organization with women who are incredible while giving myself more time with my family.”

LM: What’s an a-ha moment that has surprised you most? 
R: “Deep down I trusted that GEM was going to help girls and I knew those girls would get to where they wanted to go. What I didn’t expect was that the community of mentors we have established would become so strong. They are incredible and like-minded women who want to hang out and create deep relationships with each other. The program gives us a chance to find out our interests, backgrounds and passions and it’s proving as valuable to the mentors as it is to the mentees.”

Interview taken from: Love, Mom.