Mentoring, does it work? Is the security sector good at it?
Chair: Martin Gill
Yolanda Hamblen – Head of Security Operations, Virgin Media O2
Claire Humble – Director, Nuology
John Sephton – Key Account Director, Bidvest Noonan
Claire Humble notes that mentoring can produce both good and poor results. It is important to have a strong mentor, not someone who is too busy, lacks interest in the task, and not competent because that can be worse than no mentoring at all. Successful people do not necessarily make successful mentors. You will hear Claire list the qualities of a good mentor, the characteristics mentioned includes being good at: listening, providing challenging feedback, being able to network, acting as a role model, showing empathy, being approachable, having emotional intelligence, many of which she argues are difficult to teach. Highlighting the importance of the setting in which mentoring takes place, she discusses the need for the two parties to agree a pathway and an outcome; of men being key to helping women (not least as the sector is dominated by males); using mentoring to attract people to the industry; and the benefits of collective mentoring.
Yoyo Hamblen reflects on her own experience of being mentored, which was positive (‘super grateful’) and something she wishes she had engaged with earlier in her career, although clearly helped by finding the right individual to guide her. In preparation for being a panellist she conducted a Linked-In poll, and 4 in 10 reported never having been mentored suggesting a big gap and opportunity. For Yoyo good mentoring is about effectively managing careers and helping the organisation to develop too while helping to create a positive culture; there is more to mentoring than benefits to one person. Associations offer a source of advice on how to find the right mentor. Certainly, matching the right people is key. Yoyo recommends recruits do their homework and ask for advice if they wish to take this into their own hands. Good mentors are recognisable, they have charisma and good organisations are effective at identifying and supporting these people. She advocates getting a mentoring agreement to guide the partnership, that way there is a reference point for measuring satisfaction and progress.
John Sephton stresses the importance of good mentoring in helping people adjust and develop. Noting he made progress in security without such help he is keen to help others in security follow a more supportive pathway. He too stresses the need for care, not all mentors are effective, for some engaging is a tick box exercise, or too much effort to take seriously, some see the process as threatening. On the other side some people who would benefit from being a mentee can be reluctant to reach out although he calls on people to reach out and to do so as soon as possible. Associations are a good reference point for advice although there is merit in reaching outside the sector; that can have enormous benefits too. John notes that as a mentor there is a chance to help others but it is an opportunity to learn too, including about yourself.
This lively discussion highlights once again the value of offering support to people pursuing careers. It is not just about individuals giving and receiving help, it impacts to on how organisations are perceived (not least by workers), what makes them attractive to recruits, and in that way it matters for the security sector generally. That though depends on mentoring being done well and the panellists are clear, as you will see, on ways that can be best managed.
17th February 2022