Venturing into a male-dominated space can be challenging for women, but having a mentor can make it easier. The tech industry has been an unapologetically male industry where women have faced invisible barriers and glass ceilings. This isn't to say that women are not succeeding and doing extraordinary work there, but they face resistance that their male colleagues do not.
Mentorship can create a community of support and encouragement for women in tech careers. A more experienced person in the same field can help women to see opportunities and gain confidence while providing direction for greater success.
Related: Why We Need More Women in Tech
What is Mentorship?
Mentorship has been a tool for helping less experienced people to grow and progress in work for centuries. It is best described as a relationship between an experienced, more knowledgeable professional and a less experienced one. There may or may not be a marked difference in ages - older mentor/younger mentee or younger mentor/older mentee; it doesn't matter. Also, your mentorship can be a formal or informal arrangement.
In this context, you might think a female mentor would be best for a woman in tech. But this isn't necessarily so. You might feel more comfortable talking to a woman, and of course, another woman would better understand the challenges of being a female in tech. However, if another woman isn't available, a male mentor who is sensitive to the tech environment, is respectful of your experiences, and is encouraging and helpful, could be just as good.
A mentor takes an active interest in the career of their mentee. They're there to listen, distill wisdom, and challenge your thinking.
It may take you time to find the right mentor, regardless of gender, and of course, you can have more than one.
How to Find a Good Mentor
So, how do you get a good mentor? Here are some things to consider:
Figure Out What You Need
To find the right mentor, you should determine what you need. If you need guidance for your career trajectory, choose someone who has moved up the ladder successfully. After all, how can they show you a way that they haven't been? Be specific about why you want a mentor and what you expect from the relationship.
Finding the Right Person
Here are some things to look for when considering someone as your mentor:
- Will they be invested in your success?
- Are they a good listener?
- Are they motivating and encouraging?
- Will they be honest and respectful to you?
- Will they know how to challenge you to do more and go further?
- Are they trustworthy?
The person you choose should have skills you would like to develop or a professional style you admire.
Your new mentor should be prepared to:
- Provide guidance and support
- Help develop skills
- Aid in career advancement
- Be a role model
- Provide networking opportunities
Depending on your specific needs, you may consider a mentor in another field. They won't be able to walk you through tech-specific issues, but they may have other insights to offer.
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Since mentorship is all about the relationship, take the time to find the right opportunity. When you think you've found the right person, ask them directly so there is no confusion about your request. Give them time to think about it. Mentoring takes time out of your busy schedule. Remember, you don't have to arrange frequent meetings immediately that may burden both of you; consider a brief coffee or lunch. You can increase the frequency as you go along.
Evaluate How It's Going
Even if someone looks like the perfect mentor and seems pleasant, they may not be a good fit for you. Continue to evaluate the relationship after your initial meetings. After a while, you may find they aren't as supportive as you need, or they're pessimistic. How does your mentor make you feel about yourself and your future? It's vital that meeting with your mentor leaves you feeling energized and excited, not depressed.
The Benefits of Having a Mentor
Having individual encouragement and support can go a long way in helping you toward success. Here are just a few personal and professional benefits of having a mentor:
- Get exposed to new ideas and ways of thinking
- Develop new skills
- Develop strengths and overcome weaknesses
- Boost in confidence
- Find new contacts and networking opportunities
The Benefits of Being a Mentor
Mentorship doesn't just benefit the mentee; the mentor also reaps some benefits. If you invest your time developing and guiding a less experienced professional, here are just a few things to look forward to:
- Personal satisfaction and fulfillment
- Recognition as an expert in your field
- A sense of purpose
- Improved teaching and counseling skills
- Increased creativity and problem-solving
- Strengthen soft skills like interpersonal skills and communication
Benefits to the Tech Industry
If your tech company doesn't have a mentoring program, it's worth it to make a proposal. They should determine their most experienced and knowledgeable employees and pair them up with newer female employees.
The benefits to the company:
- Improves retention of new female professionals
- Shows new employees that the company is invested in developing them
- Boosts staff performance
- Develops leadership skills in new employees
- Creates a positive work culture
Related: Gender Bias: Where are the Women?
Mentorships Encourage More Women into Tech
As women peer into the possibility of a tech career, knowing they will have mentorship can make all the difference in their decision. Mentorship displays the possible success you could enjoy if you take a similar path. Being ambitious and hopeful isn't always enough; you need guidance, especially in a career with fewer women. Having someone you can relate to who is where you want to be can be very inspiring. So, don't sleep on mentorship - it could be your secret weapon.
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