To kickstart the start of Gousto’s first-ever Celebrating Women Month, Shaun Pearce, CTO, and Frances Miele, Junior Delivery Manager, share their Reverse Mentoring experience.
It was April 2020 and, like the rest of the world, my identity was in a state of flux. The National Lockdown brought new norms, one of which was an alternate work environment defined by “the virtual meeting”.
The “virtual” world brought many benefits; it also created a new sense of alienation for individuals, particularly for those of an underrepresented group. For me, I increasingly felt that women were not speaking up on calls or given a voice. Cognisant that Gousto is grounded by a mission of making a positive difference, I suggested to Shaun to pilot Reverse Mentoring.
The goal of reverse mentoring is to connect individuals who are different and who may not otherwise come together in one way or another. The more junior mentor provides their lived experience, especially their perception of the challenges and opportunities facing Gousto at the moment. The mentee is someone more experienced or senior within the business who listens and learns from a junior colleague.
Fast forward six months, and I can genuinely say that Reverse Mentoring has reduced my sense of alienation. I have had the opportunity to share my lived experience and made suggestions to improve Shaun’s understanding — and subsequently, the team’s — of the issues faced by junior, female members of the Tech team.
Shaun and I have built a trusting relationship, and I am incredibly proud that Gousto leaders are prepared to listen to a more diverse view and take action on it. The benefit has, therefore, been mutual.
Gousto has grown quickly since it was founded in 2012. A few years ago we were a tiny team, working shoulder to shoulder to invent a new way to plan, shop, cook, and eat at home. Fast forward to today and we’re now a team of a 1000+ talented and passionate individuals all working together to make Gousto the best it can be.
And we’ll continue to grow significantly in the years to come, especially in technology and data which is at the heart of what we do. Between now and 2024 we’ll make further, big investments in people, scaling GoustoTech from 200 to 500. This all means we have an amazing opportunity to build one of the most capable and diverse tech teams in the UK.
We want to build a diverse team and an inclusive culture for two reasons:
Firstly, our growth gives us an opportunity to make a difference. To do the right thing by addressing some of the institutional biases we have in the tech industry from education and hiring to career progression.
Secondly, because we believe it will make us more successful. We want everyone to feel they can be themselves because when we feel comfortable in our job we will be happier and we’ll do our very best work. We want us all to feel a sense of belonging whatever our race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion or sexual orientation.
Finally, we know that great minds don’t think alike. Diversity brings multiple perspectives to problem-solving, boosting our creativity and breadth of thinking.
In short, we will be a better, happier team for it.
That said, we still have a long way to go, we have a lack of representation in senior technology positions and although we will address this through promotion and hiring over time, it’s important this current imbalance does not create unconscious bias and we instead create an environment where everyone can thrive.
And so I was really excited when Frances first suggested we pilot a reverse mentoring scheme together. Reverse mentoring wasn’t something I’d participated in before, but intuitively it felt that increasing communication between individuals from underrepresented groups and senior leaders could be powerful.
Frances and I are now 6 months into the process, we meet every 6 weeks and it’s one of the most valuable meetings in my calendar. Frances has done a fantastic job of bringing topics to my attention that I may have otherwise been blind to. But most importantly she shares her lived experience of the environment we both work in, giving me an invaluable perspective that I haven’t had before.
Many decisions that I have thought of as sensible, logical or obvious in fact have an impact on people I wouldn’t have foreseen. In some cases, this insight has allowed me to change direction, and in others, it has helped me to understand how to better listen and propose change in a way that better works for all.
I’m really excited to see the reverse mentoring programme roll out further throughout Gousto meaning more leaders and more individuals from underrepresented groups can benefit from increased listening, understanding, and better decision-making.
Our Top Tips for reverse mentoring:
This initiative is something that can be initiated in all teams, or any network, therefore below are our 5 top tips for making this a successful reality:
- The Matching: Connect with someone to who you do not directly report. This will ensure that there is little conflict of interest or implication on any examples shared.
- The Chemistry meeting: use this to learn about one another, focusing on commonalities and how you differ.
- The Ground Rules: agree to a meeting cadence and time of day that works for you both. Ensure that you allow enough time for reflections and actions between meetings.
- The Content: accept that some conversations may feel uncomfortable but acknowledge that avoiding discomfort rarely leads to meaningful change.
- The Roles: be mindful of who’s insights are the most important and give credit to both individuals when due.