I’ve always wanted a mentor and having gained one in the last year I’m really pleased. I know many women still wish they had one. It’s no surprise, then, that the women in the room understood just how special what was about to take place at the Stemette’s Mentor Matching event was, as soon-to-be STEM-enthusiast mentees and Deutsche Bank women in STEM mentors filled the room.
As the girls and women settled, it was clear that our prospective mentees also had a sense of the uniqueness of this situation. Chatting, sharing excitement, smiling and relieving their nerves in frenzied unison. Readily silenced, however – for a little while at least – as our Deutsche Bank supporters took to the stage to welcome, inspire and express their delight in equal measure. Chief Operating Officer for Deutsche Bank, Henry Ritchotte, brought us into the Deutsche Bank diversity and equality mind-set, talking openly about his commitment to female diversity: “diversity brings us great results”. The Student to Stemette programme was to provide a new side to the Deutsche Bank “Born to Be” programme – an initiative aimed at marginalised youth without training or education opportunities, to link them up with opportunities.
It felt entirely apt; this day, and the next four months of mentoring for our Student to Stemette girls, was certainly all about opportunity. Kim Hammond, Global CIO and Global Co-Head of Technology and Operations at Deutsche Bank, revealed another side to the mentoring programme as she swept us up and took us along on her own personal journey. Standing before this group of STEM-savvy girls and women, it was with great sincerity she told us that she would love to be a “catalyst”. To be remembered as the “Deutsche Bank lady” who inspired and kick-started change amongst the audience of girls. Here before us we had one woman who understood the power of being a role model. I looked around; we had a whole room full of powerful female role models, ready to be “catalysts”.
Jaz Rabadia was here to bring this all together and dive down into just how important a mentoring relationship can be. An Energy Manager for Debenhams, she started her journey into STEM working on the checkouts at Sainsbury’s, before researching and presenting an energy report to senior management through some savvy negotiating and positioning. It was with seeming ease that she had picked up mentors along the way – but “sometimes the person didn’t know they were my mentor” and sometimes she had to “cling onto them”. It was with this in mind, and our girls ready with an iron-tight mentor-catching grip, that we approached the matching part of the day.
Feeling suitably inspired, speakers stood down, girls took out notepads and mentor scoring sheets, chairs were flipped round to bring girls face-to-face with their mentors-to-be. Mentor matching was underway! “It’s a bit like speed-dating” Anne-Marie, Head Stemette, had told us at the start; questions and answers were to fly back and forth between potential pairings before rotating to another mentor. What do you do in STEM? What do you enjoy most? What have been some of your biggest challenges? “If being in a room of speed-daters felt this good”, I thought, “we’d all be doing it”. We often talk of “buzz” at events, but this Student to Stemette “buzz” trumps most others I’ve experienced: the room was alive with chatter, intense glances ping-ponged back and forth and the exciting electricity of searching for, finding, and creating, new bonds was unignorable. The girls moved round the room and mentors with such ease, it was admirable. Our mentees meant business, and they sat down to quiz and be quizzed with all the professionalism and presence of graduates taking on their first interviews.
There had to come a tough bit. I didn’t envy the girls and women as they had to rank each of the mentors/mentees they had talked to that afternoon. “We just seemed to click”, “she’s in exactly the area which I want to go into”, “I felt like she understood me”, “it was so much fun chatting to her!” and “oh, I can’t decide!” were some of the mentee comments we heard. As for mentors, one Deutsche Bank lady placed all of the girls she met in first place because she simply couldn’t decide, while others couldn’t believe what a fantastic group of girls had signed up to the programme. It felt like an opportunity embraced by mentors and mentees alike.
As we packed up, I was excited for our Stemettes. I know what a mentor has brought me: focus, inspiration, invaluable techniques and skills, confidence and – most importantly – something to strive for, all delivered via someone I really respect. Through the eyes of someone who is where you one day hope to be, so much can be learnt and understood. We can’t wait to see the results for our girls in STEM.
Our Student to Stemette mentors and mentees have been matched! A huge thank you to our sponsors, Deutsche Bank. We’re excited for the first meet-ups, and we will be keeping you updated all the way up until October, when we’ll be flying some of them out to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing event in the States. Stay up-to-date with the action by following @StudentStemette and #sts14 on Twitter.