We sat down with Dr Golnaz Golnaraghi who in her 40s broke barriers and created Accelerate Her Future, a career accelerator for racialized women pursuing careers in business or technology. Read below to find out more about her story, her inspiration, and her advice for young women!
What inspired you to create Accelerate Her Future?
I started my career in marketing working with big multinational firms for 15 years. My experience was fantastic but when I became a mother, my priorities shifted. My employer was great, but I wanted more flexibility and freedom. So, I took a year and worked with a coach. I started teaching part time, and then transitioned into academia around 2006.
I got my doctorate in my early 40s and my research helped me understand that the experiences of racialized communities or that of young women can be very different. Once I finished my doctorate, I decided it was great to publish my work in academic journals, but I wanted to do something more meaningful at a grassroots community level. I worked with other young, racialized women and we created Accelerate Her Future!
Tell us more about Accelerate Her Future (AHF)
Accelerate Her Future is an accelerator for black, indigenous, and other woman of colour (BIWOC) who are in college/university pursuing careers in business and technology. We started with a pilot summit in 2019 and the feedback was very positive. But just as we started gaining traction, Covid hit. And then racial violence hit in the US. So, we had to re-evaluate everything. For us it was extremely important to not just release statements for the sake of optics. We decided to take time and work with our advisory group to offer something that was meaningful.
Our first offering was the Fellowship Circle which is a 10 week by-application program that addresses four key areas such as network gap, career development, bias gap, and access to opportunity. I was extremely thrilled when 3 students were placed at jobs through our career fair! We also received funding from the Government of Canada through the Investment Readiness Program.
What does a typical workday look like for you? How has this changed due to covid?
Being a mother, I juggle a lot of things. So, I always prefer a flexible lifestyle. At AHF, we have always worked through an online mechanism, so the pandemic has not really affected the infrastructure. But as a team, we are more thoughtful around people’s well-being, mental health, and work hours. For example, a typical workday for me involves working early in the morning and then late at night. Just because I am working and emailing at strange times, other people are not at all required to reply at such times. I believe the key is open communication and bringing our whole selves into the workplace. If someone is having an off day, we communicate and work through things together. Additionally, we also bring a spirit of fun and play into our meetings!
What have you learned from your experience as a Founder?
I started this process a lot older than most – I was already in my 40s! When I first approached various incubators, I felt invisible. I wasn’t a young tech entrepreneur and I felt that I didn’t fit into their box. It was difficult getting my foot in the door…
… How did you break this barrier?
I was never one to fit into a mold – it’s just not how I operate. So, I found communities that were more aligned with my vision like SheEO. I also ended up hiring coaches and mentors to work with me. Sadly, I had to pay for it, but I did what I needed to do. Then I learnt about university incubators like ICUBE, EDGE and Social Venture which were more inclusive and helpful.
Any advice for young women who are just about to enter the workforce or start their own business?
Know your “why”! Know your core values and know how they connect with the mission of what you’re trying to do. Your purpose is your anchor through all the ups and downs.
Know your strengths! Know your talents and gifts. Surround yourself with a team of people that make you work better.
Perseverance! Every time I hit a setback, I look for solutions and I keep going one step at a time. I also surrounded myself with great mentors and coaches.
What’s next for you and AHF?
My hope is to build momentum on the traction we have had. We have a strategic plan in the works and it’s just about moving forward and deepening our impact. Even if we have an impact on one woman, that will have immense ripple effects. Ultimately, I want to build forward a sustainable organisation with multiple revenue streams while rolling out innovative programs that meet the needs of the community.
Interested in knowing more about Accelerate Her Future? You can find more details about them, and the Fellowship Circle here.