The Data
Revolution

Building the Workforce of the Future

"There cannot be equity in society without equity in data collection, curation, and decisions."

Women in Big Data Founders

WiBD Russia One-to-One Mentorship Program

By Marina Alekseeva.

The One-to-One Mentorship program in Russia, called Mentor in Tech, started in Jan 2021 in collaboration with peer communities: Women in Tech – a global movement that gathers all people, networks, and organizations that are engaged in bridging the gender gap in the technology sector, and Women on Board of Directors – a professional community of top-leaders who support diversity in management at all levels.

The program offers mentoring opportunities for women in STEM along 5 tracks:

  • Entering IT
  • Career and leadership
  • Technology (Data Science, Quality Assurance, analytics, etc.)
  • Startups
  • Digital marketing

Our first thought was to utilize an already existing mentoring platform, where our mentors and mentees could find each other. That approach did not work out, as all platforms that we explored were either passive with little to no activities behind the scenes to find proper mentor-mentee matching, or were quite active but were clear that they were interested in gaining commercial benefit from the program, which was not an option for us.

So, we said “Ok, we have to do it ourselves manually” which means [1] involvement of volunteers to compose mentor-mentee pairs, [2] if we want to scale in the future, we have to think about some automation.

We were also concerned about how many people would apply, especially potential mentees. We’ve learned while exploring existing mentoring platforms that while typically there were enough mentors registered, mentees were reluctant to apply. So, our original goals were quite modest – 30 mentors and 50 mentees.

Our approach to address this concern was two-fold:

  1. Massive promotion via social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, VKontakte) and via companies, sponsors and partners of the organizing communities.
  2. Set time constraints and introduce a bit of competition through a contest to be accepted to the program, to encourage potential participants to apply more actively.

That approach worked out very effectively – to our surprise, we received nearly 1000 mentee applications and 200 mentor applications, from which we selected 257 mentees and 110 mentors – thus significantly exceeding our original goal.

Registration to the program and basic information about the program were implemented through our website http://mentorintech.tilda.ws.

Our requirements and selection criteria were:

  • Mentors – proven expertise in one of five areas, plus a commitment of time and energy for mentor sessions and supporting mentees between sessions.
  • Mentee – motivational questionnaire and resume.

The 110 mentors come with broad technical and management expertise from IT, marketing, finance and consulting, representing 60+ Russian and global companies (ABBY, Align Technology, Cherry Labs, CROC, Cyfra, Dell Technologies, FITMOST, IBM, Intel, Luxsoft, Meditivity, Microsoft, Semrush, Technology Center of Deutsche Bank, Vkontakte). The geography of our mentors goes beyond Russia and includes Austria, Canada, Cyprus, Hungary, UK, and US.

We did not collect demographic data from mentees, to respect their privacy.

Another challenge that we heard from our mentors and mentees was that they were not confident in how the mentoring process worked and what made effective mentor-mentee relationships. To address this challenge, we partnered with the National Federation of Professional Mentors and Coaches, who conducted four hours of training on mentor processes and competencies. In addition, we provided our mentors and mentees with reading materials and a checklist on how to get prepared for mentoring.

The program ran from March to May, 2021. Each mentor was matched with 1 to 5 mentees, and was expected to conduct at least 3 mentor sessions. In between sessions we offered several group events online:

  1. Masterminds in sub-teams
  2. Network event for mentors
  3. Webinars:
    1. My Imposter – an Enemy or a Friend?
    2. Personal Brand of IT- expert
    3. Life-long Learning
    4. 10 Secrets of an Effective Feedback

The National Federation of Professional Mentors and Coaches also offered support from professional coaches (for free) to mentors and mentees who were facing difficulties with the inquiry, lack of understanding and trust, or slow progress.

The pilot was formally closed on June 18th with a warm online graduate event, where we shared results of the program and plans for the next steps.

Out of 110 mentors, 104 stayed to the end (-5%), mentees – 219 out of 257 (-15%). Overall pilot results are quite encouraging. Below is what participants think about the program. (Note: these are preliminary results from the mid-pilot survey; a final survey is in progress and results will be available later.)

Question Mentors Mentees
Your expectations from the program? 18% – Exceeds expectations

77% – Meets expectations

5% – Below expectations

———————————————————–

21% – Exceeds expectations

69% – Meets expectations

10% – Below expectations

——————————————–

Would you recommend this program to your colleagues/continue participation? 82% – Yes

18% – Maybe

0% – No

———————————————————–

98% – Yes

2% – Maybe

0% – No

——————————————–

What do you like about the program? Opportunity to share my experience while developing myself

Networking

 

———————————————————–

Access to experts and their expertise

Community support

Additional activities (masterminds, webinars)

——————————————–

Areas for improvement More communication and sharing between mentors

More trainings in mentor competencies

———————————————————–

The program is too short!

 

——————————————–

Challenges

 

Lack of time

Lack of mentoring experience

Lack of self-confidence as an expert
———————————————————–

Lack of time

Lack of self-confidence

 

——————————————–

 

 

To summarize our key learnings from the pilot:

  • Partner with those who have the same challenge and those who know how to address the challenge.
  • Time constraints and a contest create a competitive spirit and encourage potential participants to apply.
  • Strong engagement and support from sponsors and partners of WiBD and WiT ensure access to mentor-experts and passionate mentees.
  • Basic training for both mentors and mentors in partnership with professional organizations (NFPMC) improves the quality of mentoring and builds participants’ confidence.
    • Lections (readings)
    • Checklists
  • Supporting mentors and mentees between sessions
    • Involvement of a coach if there are difficulties with the inquiry, lack of understanding and trust, or slow progress.
    • Experience sharing between mentors.
  • Program maintenance requires significant resources – The program would not have happened without invaluable support from volunteers.

Our plans

  • Network continues (chat, mastermind).
  • Offline network event in September, 2021 (if situation allows).
  • Second round in September 2021.
  •  Summer School ”Soft Skills” (in partnership with CROC).
  • Mentor program «Actionable Career Plan».

Leave a Reply