Saturday, 19 July 2014

Student to Stemette : Mentor matching

Deutsche Bank in London is a huge building which, when you take the right exit out of Liverpool Street station (I did not!), you can see in its full 9 storey glory.

After getting in the huge lift to the eighth floor, we waited in line to get our very snazzy badges and two sheets. The first was a list of mentors and  the second a rating sheet to fill in on how well matched we felt we were to the mentors we met.

Chief Operating Officer at Deutsche Bank, Henry Ritchotte, kicked off the evening by welcoming us both to the bank and to the Born to Be scheme (@dbborntobe ). He went on to tell us about how Deutsche bank is committed to improving female diversity in the work place, they find that "diversity brings us great results". Next he explained that the Born to Be scheme is the youth engagement programme run by the bank, which aims to change the fact that there are almost 1 million young people who are not in any form of training or education. They do this by running a range of different projects to enhance and develop skills that will engage young people and encourage them to do what they can to reach their full potential.

Next he introduced Kim Hammonds, Global Co-Head of Group Technology and Operations. She told us about her background, how she had role models and mentors throughout her degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan and hasn't always followed a straight career path as Anne-Marie mentioned in the first webinar. She worked in the automotive industry at Ford for 16 years, in the technology sector at Dell Corporation and Boeing in the aerospace industry before joining Deutsche where she has been for the past 8 months. She spoke a lots about problem solving as that is the way she uses her STEM background in her current job, a trait she first discovered she had when pushed by her maths professor and also when she moved into her calculus module at university. I thought Kim's talk was very inspiring and listening to her experiences was a great eye opener as to what roles are available and the skills you use in them day to day.

Jaz Rabadia (@JazRabadia) was the last lady to speak. Jaz is Energy Manager at Debenhams, she studied mechanical engineering at City University in London and worked in Sainsbury's as a part time job alongside, this is where her journey started. When it came to writing her dissertation, she was given a title and no idea what to talk about in so many she decided to link it up to her job, do a project on the energy side of Sainsbury's and get paid to write and research! This project was the first step in her career as she was invited to present her findings at the company and won an award for it, Jaz spoke about mentors that she had picked up, even when they didn't mean to be. She advised us to hang on to people that we meet, even in the most unlikely of places, as they can be incredibly useful for advice and guidance. Herself, she passed on some great advice about sharing our experiences on the programme, both good and bad as others will only benefit from hearing about them. She also said "It's not what you do, its how you think", the frame of mind and wanting to make a difference is a  huge part of realising your career. Next she told us to ask questions, you don't find out or progress if you don't ask for advice, and also do your own research -  never take anyone's word for it! Jaz was great and gave some brilliant advice for the position that I myself am currently in, later on I was able to talk more with her and the career advice she gave me was invaluable (and her selfie skills are golden!).

The floor was them opened up for both mentors and mentees to ask questions. The one that stuck with me was when they were asked about sexism, Kim responded that yes she had experienced it multiple times and how she got through it was to sit down and explain her position and that the attitude against her was not acceptable. She explained that sexism in the workplace is an educational experience, and changing the world was what she wanted...not to be afraid of facing these issues head on. Another question asked was about how STEM is used and how much of it in the jobs that the ladies are in now, Kim spoke about how she drives her team nuts with data, always checking and backing everything up with numbers and loves anything in equation form. The last question was about regrets, if they had any and what they would change or tell their student selves. Jaz said she wished she had been more proactive earlier, and planned or questioned what she wanted to do with her life, Kim advised us to enjoy the university experience and really make the most of our time there as she wished she had.

Now it was time for the part we had all been waiting for, time to meet the mentors. Mentees were asked to swivel their chairs 180° to face our potential mentors, we were to speak to each for 3 minutes and find out everything there is to know about their background, current job, how they could help us and tell them what stage we were at, what area of STEM we were interested in and what we were looking for in a mentor. I have no idea how an hour went by so quickly, but the women we spoke to were amazing. They were from a variety of different backgrounds such as engineering, IT, economics and one lady I spoke to had done languages as her degree, but they were all very interested in how they could help us and the opportunities they could offer. They were incredibly open and honest about what they could provide and explained their current roles such as software engineer on the trading floor, handling the data that the bank 'buys' for the traders to work with or managing the technology side of things using a variety of maths and engineering skills. The most valuable piece of advice I got from the evening was "Go for it! Don't look back and regret not doing something.". The hardest part was going through and ranking the mentors we met for suitability as they were all so great! 

After we had spoken to all of the mentors, it was time for the event to close. Anne-Marie, Head Stemette, wrapped things up by thanking both mentors and mentees for coming along and explaining the next steps of the programme. On our way out we were given a goodie bag and a Stemettes t-shirt, which I love so much!

The experience was so inspiring, I came away feeling on top of the world and ready to tackle anything. The next step is finding out who our mentor is and then starting our monthly meets alongside the webinars. 

Thank you to the Stemettes team for organising such a great event, the mentors for giving up their time to come along and volunteer to be part of the programme for the next 4 months and to the other mentees that I met and were so friendly, wishing you every success! I can't wait to see where this experience takes me...but I'm definitely going to work hard to get the most out of the ride!

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