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Insights of a ShadowTech Day Mentor
Eva Sherwood is an Account Executive at Oracle New Zealand, and serves on the Board of NZTech as a representative for major corporates. She began her career in I.T. in 2007, after studying degrees in Psychology and Business, then completing a post-grad diploma in Software Testing. Eva’s passionate about encouraging more young women to consider careers in the tech sector. She first became a ShadowTech Day mentor in 2016. Here, she shares a few of her experiences so far:
What is it really like being a mentor?
Last year was the first time I was a ShadowTech mentor, and I got really excited and even a little bit nervous to meet the student I was mentoring (my mentee). It’s an incredible honour to be able to spend time with someone who wants to grow and learn new things. Being a mentor is an extremely rewarding activity. You get to see an insight into this other person’s life and hopefully have an impact in some way. I also think a lot about the people in my life who put time and energy into my development and I feel like it’s an opportunity to pay it forward.
What is a typical ShadowTech Day like?
After picking up the students from the meeting point and listening to an inspirational speaker, we go to the office and spend some time educating the students on our organisation. This includes our vision and purpose and all the different types of roles that exist in our business. Typically students then have a tour of the office and meet a range of people, finding out what they do along the way.
We then try to get do an activity where the students can be hands on and get the opportunity to see the technology in action! I consider this practical step important to include as it gives students a sense of a typical working day. Not only that- it’s fun!
During the day the mentors will spend one on one time with the students talking about the students aspirations and goals, usually over a yummy lunch. This is the mentor’s opportunity to share any personal experiences with the students and their opportunity to ask questions of the mentor. At the end of the day we deliver the students back to the venue and sit in on de-briefing activities before saying goodbye.
What is the best thing about being a mentor?
Opening up someone’s point of view so they can look at something from a different perspective and seeing the penny drop when your mentee comes to their own understanding on a topic or decision, is extremely rewarding.
What is most challenging about being a mentor?
Trying not to bombard your mentee with too much information. I am passionate about business and technology and sometimes I can fire on too many topics at once. To counteract this, I think carefully about constructing a clear message, and take into consideration the impression I want to leave at the end of the day.
It’s useful to spend some time planning for your day, considering not only the timetable of activities you will do with your mentee, but also the key messages you want to share with them, which can help to inform your discussions.
What does it take to be a mentor? (I.e. Can any women in tech mentor or do you need to be a programmer/CEO etc?)
Anyone, at any stage in their career can be a mentor. Mentors are typically 2-3 phases ahead of the mentee in their career, but they may be people who do a similar role in a different industry, or work at an order of magnitude bigger scope of geography. Mentors may sometimes be younger than their mentee! Younger mentors may offer media or technology savvy advice and guidance to older generations.
In the case of ShadowTech Day, the students will be able to get different types of insights from mentors at various stages of their own careers, so any experience you can share with them will be valuable.
What qualities do I need to be an effective mentor?
Mentoring takes your time, your commitment to investing in others, and your willingness to share your own development journey. You will need to be able to listen and show interest in your mentee, give honest and constructive feedback and ask challenging questions.
What are your top three tips on being an approachable mentor?
- Build Trust – Be personal, in order to build trust and have your mentee share their aspirations with you, you should share yours!
- Really Listen – Mentors need to listen, to understand and engage in discussion, not just simply give replies.
- Encourage – Mentors are there to help the students pursue things they may not have thought were an option for them. It’s our job to motivate and push the boundaries of the students thinking.
What is the best way to share my experience?
Mentees need to know that you have faced similar cross roads or decisions before, be honest and most of all practical. If you are sharing something that went wrong, offer advice on how you would handle it differently if it happened again. If it was positive experience, discuss what actions you took to foster that positive outcome and how the mentee could use similar tactics.
Why is it so important to inspire girls into tech?
There is a heap of research on why diversity matters in the workplace. In summary, a workplace that values diversity and is free of discrimination is more productive:
- Greater employee satisfaction leads to improved productivity and profitability.
- Reduced employee turnover cuts the cost of having to replace skilled and experienced people.
- Harnessing employee skills and perspectives increases creativity and innovation.
In New Zealand, Women currently make up 47% workforce, but an NZTech published study identified only 23% of the people employed in the tech sector were female. Most concerning is that only 3% of 15-year-old girls in New Zealand were considering a career in computing professions, so it’s more likely this number will diminish over time, not improve. We have a lot of work to do to reach a diverse and productive Tech workforce.
When starting out in your career, did you work with a mentor?
Throughout my career I have attached myself to people I can learn from or have a different perspective, and who are willing to help me understand why they think that way. I have always surrounded myself with people I think are smarter than me. Because of this I have had a significant number of mentors throughout my career. These have been both formal and informal, managers and peers, friends and colleagues. These are people who care about me, and want to see me be successful. They put in their time and I put time into them, it has to go both ways. I am truly grateful to all of them who have helped me get where I am today, and now I do my best to offer the same type of guidance and assistance to the next generation of young women.