International Women's Day - The Power of Mentoring
In celebration of International Women’s Day, Multiverse’s Head of Community, Alice, caught up with Louise and Verity, two amazing women who were paired through the Multiverse Mentoring Programme, to explore their experiences and the role they think mentoring can play in enabling women to succeed.
Louise (mentor) is a Customer Success Manager at Multiverse. Her role is to delight clients and work with them to understand the impact of their apprenticeship programmes. Outside of work, she’s obsessed with all things food.
Verity (mentee) was, until very recently completing, a Multiverse Software Engineering apprentice at Sky and is now an Associate Android Developer working on the My Sky App. Verity is particularly interested in making apps accessible to those with visual, cognitive, hearing or motor impairments (such as being blind), and an advocate for diversity and inclusion in tech, in particular women in tech.
"Thank you both for taking the time to speak to me. To start off, I’d love to hear why you choose to explore mentoring in the first place?"
Verity: "I was first advised by a former head of department at Sky who really inspires me. She does a lot for women in tech and recommended looking for a mentor to help me in my career. With this, I particularly wanted to talk to someone with more experience, who would provide an alternative perspective, and who was not tied to my work. This meant that I could talk openly and honestly about all of the challenges I was facing within work without fear of it affecting my role or work relationships. I also really wanted to meet people from outside of my industry and expand my network - a difficult feat during the pandemic."
Louise: "I wanted to be able to help someone starting out on their career and to share advice on what has helped me so far. I’d never officially mentored somebody before but have been the friend and colleague who people go to when they’re stuck, so mentoring felt like a natural next step. I knew I’d be able to learn a lot from my mentee and gain a fresh perspective. Additionally, understanding an apprentice’s point of view would help me with my role with clients, as I’d be able to come from a position of empathy and in turn be able to understand clients’ goals better, having worked with an apprentice directly."
"And what did your mentoring experience look like?"
Verity: "Louise and I were matched via the Multiverse Mentoring Programme, where we both submitted short bios and statements around what we were looking to get out of the programme and were paired based on our mutual interests. From this point, we met up fortnightly; firstly exploring my values, and later my goals and future plans. We created a plan focused on the skills I had, and what I would need to work on to get to where I wanted to be. From there, I also created a 5-pronged star which highlighted some of my concerns or worries around my work which we could reflect on in each session, with Louise giving me valuable advice and guidance. This was really great as it gave each of our sessions a focus. During the sessions, I also made notes which I put into diagrams so I could go back to them and check that I was actioning the advice Louise shared."
Louise: "I applied through the Multiverse Mentoring Programme and was matched with Verity. All mentors met together for a really informative training session at the beginning so I felt really equipped to take on my new mentoring role. Verity and I then met fortnightly, taking each session to focus on a skill that either Verity was strong at and wanted to get even better, or a new skill. We’d run through what she’s doing now, and brainstorm ideas into how she could build on this. We had a celebration event after 6 months with all mentors and mentees. The Community team and group of mentors were also on hand through the Community Hub for ad hoc advice and support throughout which really helped, and gave me the chance to build my own network with the other mentors, alongside supporting Verity."
"From your experience, why do you think mentoring can be so impactful for women?"
Verity: "Firstly, I think mentorship is incredibly important for both men and women and would encourage both to get involved. That being said, I do think that women, especially in technology, and especially when first starting out in a new role, often lack confidence. Having a mentor who can reassure you and put your mind at rest is really important. For me, this was very much felt when asking the silly questions such as, ‘Is the way I present myself in meetings too casual?’ - an insecurity that I had that I couldn’t raise with my line manager as it seemed too insignificant but that I felt comfortable discussing with Louise. I also think that, as there are less women in my industry, it’s often hard to find role models that you can relate to. For me, I’m one of two female Android developers in my team and spend most of my days working with men. Therefore, having the opportunity to surround yourself with strong, successful, experienced women who give you a boost of confidence can really help motivate you and inspire you, as well as providing that vital support role that allows you to vocalise and work on some of the problems and insecurities you’re facing."
Louise: "So much in life, both professionally and personally comes down to confidence and women can lack this compared to their male counterparts. This doesn’t mean being the loudest person in the room, it means having confidence in your decisions and abilities, and to be able to face challenges head on. One way to build up someone’s confidence is to empower them to go outside their comfort zone, sharing experiences and perspectives in a supportive, trusted environment and this is where mentoring comes in."
"What impact has this mentoring experience had on you?"
Verity: "Taking with Louise every couple of weeks has definitely made me feel more confident in my role, and helped give me a logical structure to the way in which I can reflect on my worries, and work goals. I recognise I really am a people person and so talking through things really helps me. I’ve also gained so much wisdom and insight that I’ve taken away with me to help me improve in my role. One of the most useful things Louise taught me was to weigh up what to do when things get tough and I’m struggling to do my technical work. She told me that sometimes, right now just isn’t the right time, and therefore butting heads with a complex problem when you’re not in the right mindset isn’t valuable when that task could be pushed to another day when you can see the wood through the trees. On the other hand, she also taught me that sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and sit down to do some of the things you find most challenging. I still think about these pieces of advice often, and take it with me in my work life."
Louise: "Verity has inspired me to volunteer for more projects at work. She skillfully balances her apprenticeship and role at Sky with so many speaker opportunities and it made me realise I had no excuse to not step forward and do more! I had the usual reservations at the start of ‘will I be helpful?’ and ‘will we get on?’ and I’ve learnt that no matter the stage of your career, you can help someone through sharing your experience. The lightbulb moment for me was when Verity shared her screen and she’d made detailed notes of the tips I’d given her to try out - I wasn’t quite sure up until that point if I was helping, and that was a huge boost for me. This experience has made me want to continue being a mentor."
"If someone reading this is unsure about whether mentoring is for them (either as a mentor or mentee), what would you say to them?"
Verity: "I was really lucky in that I not only found a mentor, but a friend. It can sometimes be intimidating asking for help, but this scheme was a great way to get feedback and work on your career. I was worried that I was taking up Louise’s valuable time with my ramblings about my work, but we both clicked so well and it was great to hear that Louise also learnt things from me and enjoyed helping me in my career. So from both sides I’d of course encourage you to get involved. At the end of the day, if it doesn’t work out, even discovering who you don’t want to work with is a valuable lesson!"
Louise: "Try it out! I couldn’t recommend it more. There are so many advantages - it’s really useful to have someone external to share thoughts together and you’ll learn so much about yourself."
"And finally, this year’s International Women’s Day theme is #ChooseToChallenge (“a challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change. So let’s all choose to challenge”). How does that theme resonate with you?"
Verity: "One of the reasons I decided to retrain and apply for a role in software engineering was because, being a woman and being a politics graduate, I wanted to offer an alternative voice that is not always heard in technology and that challenges the status quo. With technology that affects our daily lives often being built by men, it is really important that we speak up to make sure womens needs and perspectives are also taken into account. Without challenging the norms we currently face and speaking up I worry we’ll continue, as in the past, to be forgotten about. This is part of the reason why we don’t yet have advanced technology to help female contraception, why air cons in offices have traditionally been set to a ‘male’ appropriate temperature and why car crash test dummies don’t account for female body types. We need to keep on challenging to make sure we’re heard and make sure we influence our future."
Louise: "This really resonates with me - we need to continue working together as a society to empower women and to ensure we’re heard and counted. This starts with challenging what isn’t working and taking action for change."
If you’re interested in having a mentor or becoming a mentor, check out the Multiverse Mentoring Programme and register your interest to be the first to know when applications again this Spring.
And we’d love to hear from you in the comments below; have you had a mentor or been a mentor? How has it impacted you?