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The Biggest Thing Big Business Can Teach Non-Profits

August 18, 2017, 3:20 PM UTC

Most of what Jowita Michalska knows about business she taught herself.

“I grew up in a country where there is a lot of self-learning,” says Michalska, who is Polish. “It would be better that I learn more from other people.”

That’s in part what inspired Michalska to start Digital University, a foundation that teaches people how to find new job possibilities for themselves and for their kids. “Can you imagine that 65% of the students today, they will be working in jobs that do not exist yet,” she posits.

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Michalska, however, got the chance to absorb some business know-how from others as one of the 21 women leaders from around the world who traveled to the U.S. this spring as part of the Fortune/U.S. State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership. In its 12th year, the program matches women from countries ranging from Poland to Zimbabwe with some of the top female executives in the U.S. This year’s mentors hailed from companies including Fidelity, Mastercard (MA, +0.34%), IBM (IBM, +0.12%), Accenture, and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ, -0.89%).

“What happens on this program is quite frankly transformational,” says Alyse Nelson, CEO of Vital Voices. “This program provides them with the skills and the know-how and also the contacts and the network.” Nelson’s non-profit helps runs the orientation and debriefing piece of the programming and stays connected to alumnae when they return to their home countries.

Michalska was paired with Kasha Cacy, CEO of Universal McCann U.S., who connected her to executives at some of the biggest tech companies in the world.

Michalska’s “utter fearlessness about trying new things and doing new things” amazes her, Cacy says of her mentee. “It’s hard making change, it’s hard making change as a woman, it’s hard being a woman in some of the organizations and some of the worlds that we live in.”

Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we continue to highlight more of the program’s mentors and mentees. Click here to see the rest of the series.