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Learn more about the new mentoring scheme from the GDS Women’s Network

Two people participating in the Speed Mentoring event. One's back is to the camera, the other is facing the camera and smilingThe Women's Network at the Government Digital Service (GDS) ran a training and mentoring working group last summer, where we asked our members how could we improve the offering at GDS.

We had a high volume of responses and spent some time thinking about what we wanted to achieve.

We decided to focus on mentoring, as we knew from our research there was a need for a mentoring scheme that could help everyone at GDS, not just the Women’s Network.

So we set up a working group with the goal of improving awareness of mentoring. We also looked at the best way for how people could be matched, the resources and training available for mentors and mentees and how the scheme could be evaluated.

How the scheme works

The scheme is open to anyone working at GDS. We aim to match people looking for mentors with someone who has the appropriate skills and experience.

If you’re looking for a mentor, you can fill out our signup form where we ask a few questions about your goals. If you’d like to be a mentor, you can also fill out the form and outline the types of skills you can offer.

The matching committee then meets monthly and looks through the anonymised profiles of mentors and mentees and puts them together, ‘Blind Date’ style!

After matching, we contact the mentor to check they’re still available. Priorities can change and it’s important the mentor can give a time commitment to the mentoring process.

Once they’ve confirmed, we introduce the mentor and mentee to each other via email and give them guidance on how to get started with the mentoring relationship.

We also want to offer ongoing support after the matching process has happened. So we’ve set up a Slack channel and a mailing list to better communicate with our mentors, and updated the guidance on GDS wiki.

Two members of the committee sit on the floor with lots of pieces of paper around them with Post It notes stuck to them. You cannot read what is on the papers
The matching committee at work

Should I become a mentor?

The role of a mentor is to encourage the personal and professional development of a mentee by sharing knowledge, expertise and experience.

Mentors can have a wide range of skill levels and backgrounds - your experiences will be valuable to somebody! Being a mentor can help develop coaching and listening skills, and allows you to get a fresh perspective outside your usual network.

It’s also great for people who want to get management experience and build their own confidence. It’s very satisfying to see your mentee progress over time and achieve their goals.

In December we ran an Agile coaching skills session to help support mentors. This included guidance on how to balance the mentor’s role as an advisor, with coaching techniques to help encourage the mentee to arrive at their own solutions.

Do I need a mentor?

Having a mentor is not just about career progression or getting a promotion. A mentor can help you improve technical skills and coach you through a specific problem you’re having, or can simply be an impartial listener.

The mentoring scheme also offers reverse mentoring, where someone is mentored by someone junior to them - this can be a great way to get feedback and get a broader perspective on the organisation.

Speed mentoring

The Women’s Network also ran a Speed Mentoring event in October 2018. A room full of enthusiastic prospective mentors and mentees gathered in the GDS Academy to learn about the benefits of mentoring and having a mentor, and to get some general tips.

Then we began mentoring in pairs, discussing each others’ goals and challenges, and swapping to another pair after 5 minutes in rotation.

This event was a great success, and we plan to run another later this year.

For more information, to find a mentor or volunteer as a mentor, visit the GDS wiki to sign up and get started.

You can also contact or for more information or if you’d like to get involved with running the scheme.

If you’re interested in working at GDS, have a look at our current vacancies.

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  1. Comment by Ciara Davey posted on

    Hi Heather,

    At the moment, we don't have any plans to make this a cross government initiative, as we're only a small team at GDS running this initiate outside our work commitments and many departments currently run their own internal mentoring schemes. But we'd be really happy to talk you through how we set up this scheme if you were interested in replicating it in your own department - just drop either of us an email and we'd be delighted to help you.

  2. Comment by Heather Edwards posted on

    Hi Katherine and Ciara
    I think this is great and wondered if there's any chance of you opening it out to women in other departments who work in digital?