Nicky Dunderdale - Director of Digital Pyson featured

Why having great mentors made all the difference to me | Nicky Dunderdale

Nicky Dunderdale - Director of Digital Pyson

Article provided by Nicky Dunderdale, Director of Digital at Psyon

Earlier this year, the government-commissioned Rose Review examined the barriers women in business face and what can be done to overcome them. One of their recommendations was to expand existing mentoring and networking opportunities.

A report by Kaggage, last year also highlighted that a mentor can be crucial especially in the early days of business. They conducted research with small business owners and found that the majority (92 per cent) of respondents that had had a mentor found them vital to success, in spite of the fact only 22 per cent were mentored when they were a start-up.

I’m a firm believer in the value of mentors. I’ve had a mentor for the last eight years and I know how important this has been in my career. Would I be the person I am today, personally and professionally, without the guidance and support of the mentors I have had throughout my career? Probably not.

I am very much of the opinion that if you want something, you have to go and get it yourself. This is an approach that sits across the whole of my life, not just work. However, it is important to remember you need a balanced view and working in splendid isolation is never a good thing. To me, the ability to reflect and debate with another as you develop your career is vital to keeping that balance.

All mentor relationships must be built on a strong foundation of trust. This is common sense really; it’s the same for any relationship you have, both at work and at home. It takes time to build trust with another and so the initial focus must be about getting to know each other, including your reasons for entering into a mentor relationship in the first place.

By working to understand each other you will nurture a far deeper level of openness and respect. This, alongside the trust you have developed, will create a winning combination for your mentoring journey.

These characteristics have been the most important for my own mentor experiences over the years. I worked with each of my mentors for a long time prior to formally seeking out their guidance. This is why I have had such positive experiences working with them. We already had well developed professional relationships built on those key pillars of trust, openness and respect.

Whilst all my mentors have been great, I think it’s important to note that life is life and not all relationships work, no matter how hard you try. If it isn’t working, you just need to be honest and walk away – this goes for mentor and mentee.

I have always ensured that my mentors are aware of my professional ambitions. In doing so we have worked together to identify short and long-term goals that will enable me to progress along my career journey. I have owned this and have not expected my mentor to turn up with a pre-formed list of nicely outlined goals. What I have done though in sharing my ambitions is open a debate as to the steps I need to take.

This is where openness and respect has been so key for me. In order to progress I have needed to understand and work on my weaknesses, without taking any constructive criticisms personally. It took me years to be able to deal with that without getting defensive and I still have to have a stern chat with myself every now and again.

My love of debate and problem solving has led to some very interesting discussions with my mentors, developing new exciting ideas and opportunities against the backdrop of my career aspirations. I have been able to not just develop myself in these debates, but have also influenced the direction of our business.

I would 100 per cent recommend seeking a mentor for anyone who is seriously looking to develop their career. For me it has made a significant difference and I very much doubt I would have been able to achieve what I have done so far without the guidance and support of my mentors.

TechUP industry mentors

Want to support others start their career in tech? TechUp needs mentors for its Skills Bootcamps

TechUP industry mentors

Do you want to support others start their career in tech? TechUp are looking for tech mentors to support their Skills Bootcamp learners.

The TechUP project, based Durham University, are offering two national Skills Bootcamps, as part of the Department for Education’s Plan for Jobs.

TechUP will be offering two industry-focussed, cohort customised 14 week Skills Bootcamps – one in data and the other on software development, with priority places going to learners from underserved and underrepresented groups.

The Skills Bootcamps will be led by Professor Sue Black and Professor Alexandra Cristea and will include weekly online lectures and workshops, drop-in support sessions, networking events, guest speakers from industry and one-to-one mentoring.

TechUp are now looking for individuals that can offer an average of 30mins of their time per week between October 2021 and February 2022 to mentor one of our learners. Mentors are required to have experience working in the tech sector, ideally with specific experience in either data or software development.

Full training will be provided.

Mentor/mentee contact can be via phone, email, messenger, video call or face to face, time, frequency and method of contact will be agreed with your assigned mentee as part of your first meeting so that it works for you both.

Join TechUp to support the next generation of data engineers and software developers!


For more information, email [email protected]

Durham University Master Logo_RGB

Paper Airplanes logo

Could you become an instructor or mentor for Paper Airplanes' Women in Tech programme?

Paper Airplanes Women in Tech Programme

Paper Airplanes' are looking for instructors and mentors for their Women in Tech Programme.

Paper Airplanes is a non-profit organisation that provides free, one-on-one language and skills learning for individuals whose lives and education have been interrupted due to conflict. They provide alternative pathways for our students to pursue their education by connecting them with personal tutors for 12 week sessions conducted through Skype. As of now, Paper Airplanes are running programs that teach English, coding to women, and Turkish to primarily Syrian refugees and Gazans. In the five years since their inception, they have served approximately 1,300 students with 90 per centof students reporting significant improvement within a semester.

Paper Airplanes' Women in Tech program works with conflict-affected women and non-binary people aged 18 - 35 who speak advanced English, have little to no coding experience, but are interested in learning coding. The program seeks to equip women and non-binary people with basic skills in coding languages such as CSS, JavaScript, and HTML.

Each student is matched with an instructor, who dedicates four to six hours of their week to preparing and presenting the course content, and a personal mentor, who meets with them once a week to help with assignments and answer questions! At the end of the course, each student has three weeks to create their own small project to showcase their learning to potential employers. Paper Airplanes' focus on working with marginalised women and non-binary people to empower them and give them access to jobs in the programmer market, including the ability to work remotely.

Become a Women in Tech instructor:

As a Women in Tech instructor, you would be responsible for teaching the Women in Tech program alongside the other instructors and the Women in Tech Program Manager. This is a volunteer position, with an expected time commitment of four-six hours per week (typically up to two hours of planning and up to two hours of instructing).

Find out more and apply here

Become a Women in Tech mentor:

As a Women in Tech mentor, you would be responsible for meeting with your mentee(s) on a weekly basis over a channel like Skype, helping them complete homework assignments and their final project. This is a volunteer position, with an expected time commitment of two hours per week.

Find out more and apply here

TechFuture Women’s Network launched to find female mentor and role models in IT

Charity Apps for Good, employer organisation the Tech Partnership, and the consultancy and service provider Capgemini have joined forces to launch the TechFuture Women’s Network.

Tech Partnership is a network of employers that aims to create the skills needed to grow the global digital economy. Founding members include Cisco, BT, Capgemini, Tata Consultancy Services, Telefonica/O2, Accenture, Hewlett-Packard (HP), IBM and National Grid.

The TechFuture Women’s Network aims to address the gender imbalance within the technology sector, through a network of role models and mentors.

lcr3cr / Pixabay

Women of all levels, working within digital and technology, are being encouraged to sign up for the network to join a community of individuals who are promoting technology in schools. The community aims to change the way young people learn about technology and to highlight the range of careers on offer to them.

As part of the TechFuture Women’s Network members will be encouraged to join the Apps for Good Expert Community, which shares its skills and knowledge with enthusiastic student teams as they develop ideas for apps for the annual Apps for Good Awards.

Members will also have the opportunity to mentor young women as part of TechFuture Girls clubs, which run after school and at lunchtime for girls aged 10-14.

TechFuture Girls clubs offers activities, games and projects designed to build on girls’ skills and confidence in technology. Mentors are invited to visit the clubs, to support the girls with new perspectives on leaning.

Michelle Perkins, Director, Schools Outreach Programme at Capgemini, said: “If we’re to attract talented young people into tech careers, we need to start early, so working with school age children is vital.

“We know that nothing is more powerful for young people than seeing real-life success – people who are clearly having enjoyable and worthwhile careers – so we hope that female tech specialists will jump at the chance to act as role models. Both boys and girls need to hear and be influenced by women already working in the industry.”

Debbie Forster, co-CEO of Apps for Good, said: “School students really value their interaction with business people, and the positive modelling they provide adds an extra dimension to the Apps for Good programme. We’re delighted to be working with Capgemini, and the other employers of the Tech Partnership, to encourage mentors to join us in schools.”

Rackspace tech lawyer speaks of invaluable mentors and risk taking

Technology lawyer Tiffany Lathe, VP & General Counsel International of cloud services provider Rackspace, says she owes her career to her mentors.

Lathe is a seasoned legal advisor and General Counsel with experience in guiding both public and private companies worldwide.Tiffany_APPROVED

Speaking to WeAreTheCity recently she explained how she was unsure of which direction to take after studying History and the History of Art at the University of York, when a mentor opened her eyes to the world of law.

“At the time I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do. When I was working in several sales and marketing roles I had a mentor that was a contract lawyer and he encouraged me to consider a career in law. I later decided to go to the College of Law in Birmingham to take my LPC Distinction,” she said.

After Lathe graduated she joined her first law firm where she met another mentor who inspired her to move into technology: “When I got to the firm I met an amazing partner who blew me away. He was so good at what he did and encouraged me to get involved in more training. He really inspired me in intellectual property and IT.

“The firm law firm I joined was very forward thinking in diversity. I had a six month old daughter then and they took me on and retrained me. I moved into the tech team at this company and never looked back.”

Lathe said having mentors throughout her career has helped her to get to where she is today: “My mentors probably don’t realise how much they’ve done for me and for women in IT in general.

“Careers advice from someone you trust and who knows what you’re good at is invaluable. Ultimately you have to still have the drive yourself.”

Lathe now makes a point of mentoring women inside and outside of Rackspace, because she realises the benefits that this guidance can have.

Lathe said enjoys her job as a tech lawyer because it is so varied: “In tech law you don’t just have to know law such as IP law, but you need to know how to write a good contract.

“If you find a job you love you never have to work another day in your life – this was suddenly true for me and now I feel like I get paid to do my hobby.”

She later made a move to Rackspace and made her way up through the ranks. Lathe was later offered a role as Vice president legal and HR, which she said was a challenge but a risk she is pleased to have taken.

“I took over the HR department which was a real challenge. I took a risk trying HR but I ended up really loving it, so I’m please I stretch myself at that point. I was then asked onto the leadership team. I was the first woman on this team and I felt like things were really moving forward,” she added.

Lathe is now encouraging her own 13 year old to learn skills in technology, such as coding, as she sees the value of understanding IT.