In Celebration of #TechWomen18

#TechWomen18 at Northgate

Northgate celebrates our 8th year participating in TechWomen.

This fall, Northgate welcomed emerging women leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to join us in our Oakland office for four weeks of mentoring and professional exchange. Participating in the TechWomen program since its initial launch in 2011, Northgate closes out the year in celebration of our 8th year of mentoring with this dynamic and inspirational program.


TechWomen is an international exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State that empowers, connects, and supports early to mid-career leaders from Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East by providing them the access and opportunity needed to advance their careers, pursue their dreams, and inspire women and girls in their home communities. Northgate is among more than 30 leading tech and engineering companies in the San Francisco Bay Area that host 100 women from 20 countries for this intensive program.

NGEM group photo

This year Northgate had the privilege of mentoring two emerging leaders: Zanele Sifundza of South Africa and Zuleyha Achilova of Turkmenistan. Zanele and Zuleyha worked alongside Northgate staff and their professional mentors, Maile Smith, Nancy Hendrickson, and Elizabeth Nixon, on projects and professional development activities in line with their individual interests and goals.


Zanele is a Water Care Technician at the National Department of Public Works in Nelspruit, South Africa, where she manages operations of water and wastewater treatment works and plant optimization, water quality, and sample analysis and interpretation. She aspires to continue learning about new technologies in water and wastewater and educational tools around clean water. Zanele’s long-term goal is to bring sustainable and economical ways to provide clean water and sanitation to rural areas, while encouraging young South Africans in to get involved in the development and improvement of the South African water sector. While at Northgate, Zanele designed a public engagement program for solid waste management in rural South Africa, where the amount of waste is increasing, illegal dumping often occurs, and limited recycling exists. The plan included three steps: educating the public, enforcing waste pick up, and conducting a recycling program.


Zuleyha is passionate about biotechnology, database management, and environmental issues related to conserving water resources. She is currently a monitoring and evaluation specialist, where she has conducted analysis and assessment studies in support of governance support programs aimed to strengthen the accountability, effectiveness, and transparency of governance in Turkmenistan. Her long-term goal is to carry out technical training for civil servants, farmers, and entrepreneurs and other interested stakeholders in Turkmenistan and to further enhance her data management skills to support environmental issues. While at Northgate, Zuleyha developed an action plan to introduce biotechnologies, such as wetland treatment and bioremediation, to treat livestock wastewater. The plan included educating stakeholders, including livestock farmers, on the benefit of treating wastewater prior to discharging into streams, and conducting a pilot study to demonstrate the application.

Girls at Treatment Plant Lab

Outside of their professional mentorship, TechWomen participants attended workshops, seminars, facility tours, and cultural events. Over the course of four weeks, Northgate mentors and mentees:

  • Attended the Focused Remediation Seminars series in Oakland, where environmental professionals spoke on a myriad of remediation scenarios and technologies.
  • Toured the Codiga Resource Recovery Center at Stanford University, an accelerator testbed scaling facility for the testing of promising technologies for the recovery of resources (clean water, nutrients, energy, renewable materials) from wastes.
  • Toured the Molecular Foundry, Advanced Light Source, FLEXLAB, and National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.
  • Toured the Recology Zero Waste Center at Pier 96 in San Francisco.
  • Attended a UC Berkeley Environmental Engineering seminar by Dr. Khalid Kadir, titled “The Intersection of Sustainability, Social Justice and Higher Education.
  • Visited the Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) Shell Pond site, a 73-acre former wastewater treatment pond located in Bay Point, where PG&E is piloting natural recovery technologies to organically break-down contaminants found in the pond and related areas.
  • Visited wetland and upland restoration areas in San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood, where the EcoCenter at Heron’s Head Park demonstrates how environmental resources can be used to promote healthy people, vigorous ecosystems, and strong economies in local communities.

Each TechWomen country cohort also developed and pitched an action plan to address a socioeconomic challenge in their home country, and five teams received seed grants to help implement their project upon returning home.

Nancy and Girls

The program concluded with the delegation traveling to Washington, DC, where the group attended panels at the State Department. The panels covered Entrepreneurship, Women’s Leadership, and STEM and were chaired by ambassadors, directors, and subject matter experts from the State Department, National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Department of Energy. At the program’s farewell luncheon, TechWomen were treated to a presentation from Marie Royce, the assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs. The program closed with each TechWomen participant receiving a certificate from the State Department to the cheers of their new friends and colleagues from around the world.


Thank you, Zanele and Zuleyha, for a wonderful and rewarding #TechWomen18 at Northgate!

The application is now open for @TechWomen 2019!

Feel welcome to contact Maile Smith if you’d like to learn more about professional mentorship through the TechWomen program, and follow the success stories of #TWimpact at and @TechWomen on Twitter.