We Brought #BUILTBYGIRLS Ambassadors to SXSW…and It’ll Never Be the Same

#BUILTBYGIRLS Ambassadors Anastasia Efremkina (left) and Jennifer Wang (right) with Shelley Zalis, The Girls’ Lounge Founder

When we decided to host an event at SXSW to help high school girls get the tech internships of their dreams, we knew we’d need a lot of reinforcements…an event planner, a social guru, an MC, panelists, photographers, a fulfillment team, and on-camera talent. So we recruited two of our #BUILTBYGIRLS Ambassadors, both college freshmen, and they did it all — in two days.

Anastasia Efremkina and Jennifer Wang took a quick break from computer science mid-terms at the University of Pennsylvania and New York University to join us in Austin on behalf of #BUILTBYGIRLS and AOL.

When more than 40 local high school girls arrived in The Girls’ Lounge on Saturday morning for our “Tech Boss 101” coaching session, Anastasia and Jennifer greeted them wearing sparkly #BUILTBYGIRLS swag and big smiles. They set the tone for an energized — and ridiculously fun event, designed to help the girls attending build key skills they’ll need to be rock-star interns at the best tech companies in the world.

Victoria Marlin leads a personal pitch workshop with Austin-area girls

We started with a panel-style discussion, asking Anastasia and Jennifer about their internship experience, then turned it over to them to share their insider tips for networking: Tip #4: Do your research, *non-creepy* stalking is OK. We then broke into small groups to practice personal pitches, where we learned that the girls in Austin are brilliant, hard-working, and creative — just like all the young women we meet! We ended the session by sending the Austin girls out to network with top-level professionals in The Girls’ Lounge.

“My favorite parts of this weekend were the small moments: when I saw the intrigue on the girls’ faces while answering their questions, or when I turned around to see that every girl was talking excitedly with new mentors,” Anastasia shared.

That said, it was probably hard to top their time after the session, when they were interviewed on-camera by Stacy London about mentorship, technology and what it’s like to be a millennial woman.

Stacy London interviews Jennifer (right), Anastasia (middle) and Austin attendee Eva Lynch (left)

“After the interview, Stacy London pulled us into a team huddle and fiercely vocalized four words that completely redefined my perspective and strengthened my mentality,” Jennifer said to me in an email. “From now on, I will ‘forget fear and shame’ when going after my dreams.”Stay tuned for footage of the interview!

Jennifer and Anastasia spent the day in The Girls’ Lounge, participating from the audience during a panel about the gender gap in technology and listening intently to AOL’s “Redefining Bravery: Diversity” panel. Of course, we spared a few minutes in downtown Austin for the best guacamole of our lives.

Our #BBG Ambassadors left the day with a new excitement for their place in the tech world, and A+ connections with professionals who were equally impressed by them both. As we packed to leave, they told me how rewarding it felt to turn the tables and share everything they’ve learned as #BUILTBYGIRLS interns at AOL with girls a few steps behind them. And their impact on those girls was profound.

“#BUILTBYGIRLS means building a community of strong and empowered women who can accomplish anything that they set their minds to,” wrote Angela Zhang, a Tech Boss 101 attendee. We were thrilled to have Jennifer and Anastasia lead this community in Austin.

After all, as attendee Gabby Gonzalez said, “#BUILTBYGIRLS means to me that you’re never too young to start thinking about what kind of career you want, and with a career in tech the possibilities are endless.”

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