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Case study: Her Tomorrow Begins Today

Mentoring programme delivers skills and career advice at crucial time

Dr Bhakti More, Associate Professor, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Dubai Campus, School of Design & Architecture

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Her Tomorrow Begins Today is a mentoring initiative specifically for young women graduates. We look at the personal and professional impact of the pilot programme on two of its first participants

Mentoring has long been used to catalyse and accelerate career development. A skilled mentor with decades of industry experience can impart a huge amount of hard-won knowledge to someone willing and ready to learn.

Typically, though, mentoring is a mid-career booster. An opportunity that comes along once someone has established a career path and put their professional skills into practice.

But for Dr Bhakti More, an associate professor at the Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Dubai Campus, School of Design & Architecture, that seemed like a missed opportunity.

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“I have always believed there is a gap between academic study and industry practice,” she says. “Finding a way to bridge that gap is important.”

Dr More decided a mentoring programme, with the Career Services team headed by Abdul Razzak Sohail, Head, Corporate Alliances,  specifically for young female graduates, would build those bridges between industry and academia, as well as encourage more women into traditionally male-dominated fields.

“I wanted our graduates to connect with industry leaders early,” says Dr More. “I also wanted something specifically for female students because we see far fewer of them entering the construction sector.”

Her Tomorrow Begins Today was the answer. The mentoring programme, developed by Dr More, matches young woman graduates just entering the workforce with experienced executives from their chosen industry. Graduates from 2019 have been the first to experience the benefits in the pilot programme. While the relationship between the mentor and mentee is intended to last nine months, participants may continue working together if they wish.

The pilot programme saw civil engineering graduate Tara Tom matched with Chris Seymour, Managing Director of Mott Macdonald Middle East.

"Chris has been an amazing mentor for Tara,” says Dr More. “I’ve seen how he is really guiding Tara to enhance her knowledge.

“It is clear mentoring is giving our graduates the confidence to approach their careers in a different way to what they would have done without the mentor’s influence,” she says. “A mentor can really make graduates think differently about what reading they should do, whom they should meet and what networking they can do to achieve their goals and plan their career.”

With feedback from participants in the pilot year pointing to success, Her Tomorrow Begins Today is set to expand for the next cohort of graduates, as well as being opened to students in the final years of study. The result will be more young women building bridges with their chosen industry at a crucially formative stage of their career.

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The graduate’s perspective

Tara Tom, Graduate Sustainability Consultant
KEO International Consultants

Her Tomorrow Begins Today has given me an opportunity to engage with industry professionals.

My mentor Christopher Seymour has helped me understand how executives view their employees. He has also helped me to see how I can stand out more and ensure people get to know me. Networking was something I wanted to work on, and Chris has shared tips and tricks he uses.

Another key work-on for me was presentation skills. This was something I considered a weakness. I was perplexed when Chris responded by arranging a presentation meeting. He just told me to go for it.

He asked me to present on two topics. One where I’m an expert and another where he's the expert. This gave me an insight into my strengths and my weakness. Chris made me understand the difference and where I need to improve to gain more confidence.

Something else I’ll be doing differently from now on is trying to build a professional portfolio across diverse fields. This was something Chris pointed out and I'm going to keep it in mind for a very long time.

Right now I'm working on building expertise in my field. I’ve also started working towards achieving Chartership through Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE). After a few years I’ll have a better idea of what area I want to move into next.

The programme has been a great platform for getting industry experience, networking and boosting my career development, but Chris’s insight into how I can be better throughout my career has been the most valuable outcome of the mentorship.

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The mentor’s perspective

Christopher Seymour, Managing Director
Mott MacDonald Middle East

I'm a big proponent of the way we learn. We learn through good experiences, and we learn through the bad experiences. In this way we are constantly building up a bank of knowledge that we use as tools to improve the future outcomes in our lives.

That’s why mentoring is something I feel passionate about. It doesn't seem fair that all the learning and experiences that I’ve had and that others can benefit from stays locked away and I just take them with me. It’s important that they are shared in a structured manner.

I don't necessarily want to instruct others, but I do want to talk to them about particular challenges I encountered and share how I tackled those challenges. I'm quite happy to admit that sometimes what I did didn’t have a great outcome all of the time. But as I look back, I can see better ways to deal with those situations. Mentoring is a matter of unlocking and sharing that kind of insight.

Often mentoring is talked about as a one-way process. For me, mentoring Tara has been a two-way process because undoubtedly – and Tara may be surprised by this – I've also learned from her.

Tara comes from a different generation and it's useful for me to learn how she sees the world. The perspective from a different gender is also invaluable. It’s useful to see how she understands things and, when I'm conveying ideas, I get to see whether she finds them interesting.

Mentoring is not something you can rush. It can seem time intensive, but I believe that time is available and I, along with many of my peers, am happy to give it.