The Value of Mentoring: International Women’s Day


Published 7th March 24

By Elizabeth Akass, Content Marketing Manager at Ploughshare

I was keen to sign up for the Women in Defence Mentoring programme as it seemed like a great opportunity and an important initiative – nurturing diversity in the Defence sector in a meaningful way and creating a safe and supportive space for women building their careers. I felt this programme could be beneficial to me as I’m still only one year into working in the Defence sector, and I know I still have a lot to learn and familiarise myself with. In order to provide as much value as possible in my role, it is key to have a more in-depth understanding of this broad and complex industry we work in.

For my own personal development, I wanted to build confidence, assertiveness, and improve my public speaking abilities, which I felt a mentor could support with. I do believe that learning and development are vital for businesses to invest in and make space for, and structured programmes can be an effective way to engage and involve individuals.

I can honestly say that I feel privileged to have been matched with my mentor. He has been incredibly encouraging, helpful, and kind, and I’ve been surprised at how well-matched we seem to be. We have several overlapping elements to our perspectives and personalities, so it has been valuable to learn from his experience and advice, and I have appreciated the transparency in, and frequency of, our communication. There have been several ‘ah-ha!’ moments where I’ve received insights that have really resonated with me, and it is reassuring to hear from someone who has overcome some similar challenges. I leave our calls feeling more positive and equipped for the days to come, which has been a recurring highlight.

The group learning workshops through the mentoring programme have also been interesting and informative. The teachings and discussions we are privy to in these workshops come across as thoughtfully structured and based in a genuine drive to help women’s careers from a well-rounded perspective. It’s also been interesting to get the opportunity to speak with some fellow mentees and mentors on the programme in ‘breakaway’ discussions to hear about their experiences so far.

Personally, I’ve had to do some self-reflection around the fact that the most challenging aspect for me has been vocalising what I want to gain from the programme and talk about in each session. I’ve learned that I need to be more comfortable advocating for myself, and I’ve had to remind myself a few times that I’m on this programme to better myself and my learning first and foremost, and it is OK to ask for what I need to achieve this. I appreciate that this programme has given me the space to work on this and time to focus on my personal development, and my mentor has been great at supporting me in this area as well.

My experience so far has been very positive, and I look forward to continuing with the programme. I would encourage anyone with the opportunity to take part in the future to further their learning and development as an individual, provide more value in their role, and build lasting connections across the industry.