For those not historically included in the tech industry – specifically, women and people of color – mentors that look like them are important factors for individual success. Seeing people who look like you have successful careers in your field can be remarkable and inspiring – it’s proof that success in the tech industry is possible for all women.
A mentorship allows women to truly understand their passion and how technology can have an impact,”says Diane Taylor, of the Michigan Council of Women in Technology (MCWT). “There are so many different areas of technology that many people may not think about like application development, total user experience, communication, project management, and more. By having someone in the field of technology mentor a woman interested in this field, it can open doors to different things that many have not considered.”
MCWT’s vision is simple and bold: to make Michigan the leading state for women in technology. Grand Circus partnered with the MCWT, connecting two cohorts of women students from the DEVELOP(her) bootcamps with mentors through the MCWT’s Ignite! Mentorship program. Ignite! is a mentoring program designed for women in the early stages of their tech careers, or in a mid-career transition into the technology field.
John Rumery, the Grand Circus Grand Rapids Campus Director, has worked closely with MCWT’s team and GC students to build these relationships and empower our grads as they enter new careers.
“Nothing really compares to Ignite!,” says Rumery. “What really makes it special is that it connects successful, senior-level women in tech with junior-level developers on a one-on-one basis. The other thing that makes it special is that it’s an extended program. Nothing else really comes close to what Ignite! offers.”
For the DEVELOP(her) students, the mentors are a insights and connections into a new career field. This transition into a junior developer role can be intimidating; having someone who’s walked that path before and is invested in their success can make all the difference.
“There are very intelligent women that work in Michigan that want more women in tech. Having my mentor be so excited and helpful made my transition into an IT career feel so much more welcoming,” says DEVELOP(her) program graduate Karina López. “Having a mentor also helped me see what opportunities and career paths available, and that there’s not just one path in IT. There are different opportunities to explore, so to do what excites you!”
Julie Klausing, a member of the MCWT and mentor to a DEVELOP(her) student believes that because technology careers have traditionally been male dominated, it’s even more important for women in the field to have a female mentor.
“When mentoring someone, it’s important to meet them ‘where they are.’” says Klausing. “Perhaps there’s something burning they need to run by you, or there’s something they need your advice on. [Meeting them where they’re at] allows the mentoring to be more meaningful to the mentee.”
This is the key to a successful, meaningful mentorship: honesty, vulnerability and a shared desire to learn and grow. Taking time out of one’s schedule to focus on development can be challenging, so focused time in this area is a “game changer.”
“A mentorship can positively impact the career development trajectory because it allows for the needed time to plan out a career which is something many people don’t take enough time planning,” says Taylor.
“Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable when you’re developing your goals and hold yourself accountable,” advises Kate DiLorenzo, a MCWT mentor.
DiLorenzo, who has also benefited from being mentored, knows that building a meaningful relationship with a woman of a different background made for mutual development, and was a rewarding experience for both parties.
“Even though the focus was on developing skills, we both grew, expanded our knowledge and had fun getting to know one another! Identifying where we each want to grow our knowledge has become the foundation of my future mentoring relationships,” says DiLorenzo
“There is one thing that I tell so many people in their career, which is to utilize the networking and training opportunities available,” says Taylor. “Both MCWT and Grand Circus are fabulous organizations that put training and networking to the forefront. These companies understand the need for skilled IT employees and how important it is to stay current with the ever-changing field of technology.”