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:
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  involvement of volunteers to compose mentor-mentee pairs,  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:
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:
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:
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.)
|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
Access to experts and their expertise
Additional activities (masterminds, webinars)
|Areas for improvement|
More communication and sharing between mentors
More trainings in mentor competencies
The program is too short!
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: