June is a traditional time to recognize the accomplishments of graduates. With that in mind, we’d like to congratulate the 16 participants who completed their work in Cohort 1 of the Silicon Valley Chapter Peer Mentoring Program.
The program kicked off in March and met bi-weekly for six one-hour long sessions concluding in early June. The program, co-led by facilitator-mentors Deborah Sgro and Erika Lunceford, provided a structured opportunity for participants to assess their current professional situation, envision their future direction, perform a skill / attribute analysis, and create a strategy for execution to achieve a future objective.
In support of this goal-based activity, which is the heart of the program, a supportive community was created allowing members to exchange information and ideas, encourage each other, and act as an accountability group.
Activities included discussions on topics of common interest, small group “breakouts” for goal accountability, and solicitation for feedback in the large group setting.
A curated panel discussion was held with experts in the field addressing concerns of the cohort in topics such as Job Searching, Technical Skill Preparedness, Career Paths, and Business Strategy. On another occasion, we had a guest speaker who discussed her journey from hardware engineer to data scientist.
Between sessions the participants completed weekly homework assignments reading articles, logging goal progress, and discussing obstacles encountered / solved while receiving feedback from the facilitator-mentors.
Results of the program evaluation completed by the participants, who achieved a 95% average attendance, reported the activities and approach created value for them. The average points scored were between 3.8 and 4.3 for each value item. The highest rating was for the program approach structured on a goal-based model. Interestingly, one of the lower scores was on presenting their plan to the group for feedback (3.8), however they all valued listening to and providing feedback to those who presented their plan (4.2).
This second chart provides details of the above chart further defining where the value was created for the cohort through the program’s activities. Most people were neutral on having Weekly Status Assignments although 88% of the assignments were completed, suggesting an area for improvement. The cohort valued collaborating in smaller groups for accountability, and providing feedback in the larger group setting.
In addition to understanding the value gained, we also wanted to understand what could improve the program. This third chart shows suggested improvements. The data was collected through a multi-select mechanism allowing participants to choose more than one response.
All of the participants wanted to know each other’s goals earlier in the program, not just through the curated presentations at the sessions. A majority of the cohort also wanted more connection with each other and the facilitators. These results are in strong alignment with the core tenets of peer mentoring for connecting and collaborating with others. The participants valued the connections established, and suggested opportunities to further expand the connections and community.
The final evaluation question asked the participants to express what they gained from the program. Given below is a WORDCLOUD with the participant’s free form inputs. The top cited expressions related to focus and support from the community through understanding, motivation and encouragement.
One of the hoped for results of the program was for members of the cohort to form an ongoing community to support each other. We are happy to see the members of Cohort 1 created a SLACK channel just days after our final session and have begun sharing their work for feedback, and are looking to create joint projects to work on.
We would like to express our thanks to the Silicon Valley Core Leadership supporting us in this effort, and look forward to launching Cohort 2 of this program which will start in mid-September. Feel free to register if you are interested.
Deborah Sgro coaches women in technology to create and execute a strategy that hones the skills needed for career advancement and job searching. She is the founding owner of Beyond The Glass Ceiling, LLC, a private practice specializing in assisting women who are entering, returning to, or advancing their technical careers.
Deborah, who is a pioneer from the financial technology profession, advanced from programmer to senior program technologist. She worked on Wall Street for forty years at both the New York Stock Exchange and then BNY Mellon. Because Deborah is solidly grounded in computational science, and technology management, having received two Master of Science degrees from Stevens Institute of Technology, is certified by Project Management Institute as a Project Manager, and an Agile Career Professional, she is uniquely capable of supporting her clients in the advancement of their technical skills, career choices, and job searching techniques.
Through her business, Beyond The Glass Ceiling, LLC, she sees clients individually, or in peer-mentoring and job club groups. She has appeared as a guest speaker for numerous Women Employee Resource Groups. She also currently participates in the Silicon Valley Chapter of Women in Big Data.
Erika Lunceford has over 25 years of financial services and technology experience, ranging from small start-ups to large financial enterprises such as BNY Mellon. She is currently the Head of Solutions Engineering at PeerNova, a firm that is focused on bringing transparency to businesses through the monitoring of data quality. She currently participates in the Silicon Valley Chapter of Women in Big Data.
Erika’s most recent role, prior to PeerNova, was as BNY Mellon’s Head of the Silicon Valley Innovation Center, connecting business problems, people, clients, and solutions globally. These solutions included legacy integrations with APIs, Scaled Data Solutions, and Machine Learning and Data Science.
During her time at BNY Mellon, she advocated for ways of working differently by connecting and curating teams earlier in the process and using tools like a well defined Business Architecture. Part of working differently was also advocating for women where she was an active member of BNY Mellon’s Women in Technology and co-chaired the Sponsorship Program. Her marquee project was the Tri-Party Repo Infrastructure Reform as the Technology Program Manager, working across the organization and participating in the Operating Committee with the regulator, clients, investors, and consultants to create a new settlement model.