Building a Community Through Mentoring

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In my Katysblog entry yesterday “Sheryl Sandberg, Leaning In on Mentoring“, I included a quote from Ms. Sandberg’s March 2013 book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead:

Many companies are starting to move from informal mentoring that relies on individual initiative to more formal programs. When taken seriously, these formal mentorship/sponsorship programs can be remarkably successful.

One of the sometimes-unexpected successes of formal mentoring programs is the development of a strong long-term community of mentors and mentees who have come to know and respect each other through the program.  These communities can continue far beyond the boundaries of the company or program that created them.

Some examples:

  • I have written frequently about the Sun Microsystems mentoring programs participated in by over 7,000 employees from 1996-2009. Over 630 of those who joined my Sun Engineering mentoring program (SEED) chose to join a private LinkedIn group to stay in communication after Sun was purchased by Oracle in 2009. I am sure more continue to work and learn with each other through through professional and private connections.  The initial match between one mentor and one mentee quickly becomes the base for more complex and lasting relationships: the mentor introduces the mentee to associates or recommends him for a position, the mentee becomes a mentor herself and introduces her new mentee to her own mentor, etc.  In 2010-2011, when I was the Process Architect for the U.S. State Department’s TechWomen mentoring program, many of the potential mentors I contacted to join the new program were former Sun mentoring program participants.
  • In July 2011, toward the end of the first TechWomen term, I wrote a Katysblog entry called “37 Sisters – TechWomen“. That feeling of family, of a strong and growing US-MENA-based sisterhood, has only increased since then. The photo above was taken after our Successful Panel at the October, 2012 Grace Hopper Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, when several dozen TechWomen mentors,  mentees, and staff from the 2011 and 2012 terms met to celebrate. Fifty of us gathered again in February 2013 to join the TechWomen delegation to Jordan.  The photo below shows us at Injaz, one of the many schools and programs we visited in Jordan to talk with local girls and young women about STEM, TechWomen, and TechGirls.

The worlds of STEM and the Silicon Valley in particular are small places.  Even though there are over seven million people in the San Francisco Bay Area, after a few years working here, it becomes hard to to go anywhere without meeting folks you know.  Professional trust and connections, such as those built and supported by formal mentoring programs, enhance both reputation and effectiveness.

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Images Copyright 2012-2013 by Katy Dickinson

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Filed under Hopper - Anita Borg Institute, Mentoring & Other Business

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