Around six months ago, I attended an event organised by the Women’s Initiative Network, one of five recognised diversity networks here at Barclays.
Being able to go to these events and having the support network around me such as this is one of the reasons I love working at Barclays. One of the sessions was around mentoring: not just about being a mentor but being a mentee too. I hadn’t particularly thought about mentoring till then but during the session I thought it sounded like something that would benefit me. Having support from your line manager is great, but I feel sometimes they can be too close to you and what you do on a daily basis, so you also need support and encouragement from someone else you can trust.
At the end of the event, there was a register where you could put your name down to be a mentor as well as a mentee. I put my name down as both as I felt I could benefit from having someone to guide me and I could also share all the great experiences I’ve had during my 27 years at Barclays.
I was paired up with my mentor, Neil Pellow, who I’d known from before but don’t work with day to day, which is exactly what I wanted: someone objective. We met once face to face and got to know each other a little better. We then agreed to meet every six weeks. We both felt this was the right time frame to catch up on the things I have been doing. It allows me enough time to deliver on the objectives we speak about in our previous meeting.
Once I got thinking about the whole mentoring process, I realised that the difficulty of being a mentee is mostly that you know you need help and support to grow but don’t necessarily know which aspects to work on to achieve that growth and success. This is where Neil really steered me in the right direction to figure out exactly what I wanted.
Being a Branch Manager, I wanted to expose myself to other parts of the business and get more involved in project work. Neil, because of the role he is in, gets the opportunity to find out more about projects going on in the wider business. He helped me get involved and is now working with me to find other projects which I can be part of.
Networking is something that doesn’t come very easily to me and this is one of the objectives Neil and I have set for me to improve on. By nature I’m the kind of person who needs some time to digest a piece of information before replying. Networking and interacting with people is helping me think wider and more on my feet. It’s also making me work more towards being vocal which comes handy in our branch manager meetings where I am now able to voice any concerns or issues more effectively than I would have done before.
One of the things that having a mentor is really useful for is when you know what you want to do but don’t know how to do it; you know where you want to go but don’t know where to look. I was keen to start building a profile for myself at Barclays but I didn’t know how – and that’s exactly where a mentor is helpful. Neil has guided me through by introducing me to people and inviting me to events to start making myself known within the wider Barclays circle.
Having a mentor can benefit you in many ways and it’s up to you how you utilise that time to make the most it. From my experience, it’s all about figuring out what you want to do to grow, personally and professionally, and getting the support and feedback from someone you trust to get there.
Not all companies can provide you with the opportunity to access a mentor network in the way that Barclays does, which is why I’m grateful that the Women’s Initiative Network is there to support women like me.