Women in Digital: the Magic of Mentoring — advice from the women of Zone

In the final instalment of our Magic of Mentoring series, our marketing executive Martha Green asks some of our women at Zone to share inspiring anecdotes from their careers…

This week we’ve been celebrating the female mentees and mentors of Zone and the power of sharing knowledge. We’ve heard from Lucy Griffiths and Jess Carver, the pioneers of our mentorship scheme. And we listened to experiences of mentoring from Rebecca Glassby, Cheyenne Clarke and Florence Buswell at our Roundtable on Wednesday.

As the digital and technology sectors strive to become more inclusive, we aim to champion this through representation. Representation enables us to challenge and combat bias.

Here, we continue to shine a light on the women of Zone, as I open up the floor to designers, directors, developers, strategists and more. Representing women at all levels is key and the knowledge they have to share is invaluable.

On values and Value…

A million years ago, I interned with a ballet company in their development office, and my supervisor there gave me this piece of advice: “Always thank a donor seven times.” I’ve taken this to heart, but the key, I’ve discovered, is you have to mean it. Coming from a place of sincere gratitude has helped me develop the empathy I need as a designer for my audience, certainly, but also for my colleagues, clients and the wider world, which is no bad thing.

Turi Henderson Palmer, Content designer

Isabel Taylor: Senior product designer
Isabel Taylor: Senior product designer

One thing I had hammered home to me very recently by a friend and coach was to recognise and stand up for your value! It can be very easy as a young professional — particularly female — to feel like you have no right to charge X, or market yourself as Y due to lack of experience, training and other things like that. Your whole career, life and all the lessons you’ve learnt have got you to where you are now and that in itself is priceless. Never feel like an imposter or as if you’re not worthy of going for that role, asking for that pay rise or charging that day rate. Stand up for your value and believe in your own worth as a young professional and the rest will fall into place.

Isabel Taylor, Senior product designer

Victoria Stevenson: Senior content strategist
Victoria Stevenson: Senior content strategist

There’s a Maya Angelou quote that gets bandied about so much that it’s become a cliche, but I think for a very good reason. “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” For me this is closely linked to watching how people treat those more junior to them or waiting staff or even random people in the street — people reveal a lot about themselves in these instances, and I don’t forget how people treated me when I was starting out, good OR bad. You can tell a lot about how trustworthy someone is, how genuine, how ethical their motivations, from observing these sorts of interactions.

Victoria Stevenson, Senior content strategist

On expectations at work…

Hannah Thornton: Head of commercial ops
Hannah Thornton: Head of commercial ops

I was once given the advice to “never live the same year twice”. I think it applies really well in life, but especially in my work. I’ve found that if I’ve ever felt I’m stagnating and repeating myself, that’s when it’s time to change it up. I’ve been at Zone for seven years, but every single year has been a different experience.

Hannah Thornton, head of commercial ops

The rule that I live by in my work is being open and honest. As a project manager, many of my projects have lots of stakeholders to communicate with and manage. By being transparent with realistic timelines and communicating honestly if something isn’t going according to plan, it helps me set and manage expectations, making me more efficient in my role and still able to deliver a quality standard.

Lauren Conen, Producer

On your practice…

Bobbie Hardwick: Experience director
Bobbie Hardwick: Experience director

One of my mantras is “giving feedback is a sign of caring”. Living with the known, making assumptions and being in your head is not good for you. And you’ll only really know how you’re doing if you ask. Feedback is only uncomfortable if you are not used to receiving or giving it. Practise the art of asking and giving candid feedback. Only then will you really unlock your full potential.

Bobbie Hardwick, Experience director

“The best advice I’ve been given is: if you need help, ask for it! Don’t suffer in silence. There will be tasks or projects that you might not fully understand, and if this is the case then don’t be afraid to ask questions. You need to be comfortable asking others for support; relying on your team is much more productive than working in a silo. Trust me, it’ll save you time in the long run by preventing unnecessary mistakes.

Chloe Eaton, Senior UI designer

Zara Powell: Delivery director
Zara Powell: Delivery director

Some of the best advice I’ve heard was in a talk from Vanessa Vallely: ask for help, but be specific. Rather than asking someone to simply be your mentor, think about how you could reframe this to be less vague. Instead, say that you’ve seen this individual demonstrate a specific skill really well and would they be able to spend X amount of time, over a specific timeframe, to help develop in this space.

This makes the request feel much more manageable for those who may be time poor, as you are being clear in what you are asking and your expectations upfront. By being specific on what you have seen them do well allows the person to understand the value and support they can give you. I’ve used this technique and can confirm — it works!

Zara Powell, Delivery director

From our female developers…

Ashleigh Sutton: Front end developer
Ashleigh Sutton: Front end developer

A bit of advice I was once given which I think will always be valuable: put yourself forward for things. Step up, take on responsibility even if you think it’s a bit beyond you, take every opportunity to learn. It will help you build your self-confidence and you will surprise yourself!

Ashleigh Sutton, Front-end developer

Some advice I was given by a mentor to me as a junior was to share my way of thinking. That my opinion on how to solve a problem is just as valid as any senior/lead. It helped me build confidence and knowledge and benefit those I shared it with. We are all always learning and one of the best ways is from each other.

Julia Lax, Senior front end developer

Fran Haines: Front end developer
Fran Haines: Front end developer

In recent years I’ve realised that if we want to start to see change in the industry, we need to become the change we want to see. I wanted to start seeing diversity in all its forms represented within the tech industry, so I began sharing the experiences I’ve had as a woman in tech and as someone from a working-class background.

Fran Haines, front end developer

Silvia Rebelo, who is an incredibly talented senior front-end developer at Zone, taught me an important lesson about the use of kindness.
When we were reviewing applicants for development roles I struggled with the idea of saying no and making a decision that could impact someone’s career. Silvia reminded me that we weren’t making a judgement about that person, but whether they and our team at Zone had the right tools to allow them to succeed right now. Offering a role to someone who we cannot give the right support to isn’t kind to either the applicant or my co-workers. I reflect on this difference often when making hard decisions — am I being nice in the short term, or am I being kind in the long term?

Kayleigh Ridd, Senior front end developer

Sofia Lara Preyet, Front end developer
Sofia Lara Preyet, Front end developer

In my experience, communication is key. If you are an introvert or feel like you lack a bit of confidence, speak up to someone who you feel comfortable talking to and go from there. Voicing issues you are facing is the one thing that can get you out of the problem. Communication is so important in every stage of our lives and your career doesn’t have to be different.

Sofia Lara Preyet, Front end developer

We write about design, content, strategy & technology to share our knowledge with the wider community.