Diversity Equity & Inclusion Career Growth Women At VMware

What Is Reverse Mentoring, And How Does It Work?

Marion Walker, Senior Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Program Manager

Have you heard of ‘reverse mentorship’? I recently started reverse mentoring a senior leader in Italy, and I have gained so much from this experience.  While you may think in terms of seniority and that I am the one being mentored, in fact, it is the ‘reverse’. I am the mentor.

What is Reverse Mentoring?

The purpose of reverse mentoring is to allow a VMware leader to gain insights on becoming a more inclusive leader through being mentored by those in a less senior position in the organization.  In addition, the leader receives first-hand insights into barriers and stereotypes experienced by their mentor.

Our feedback shows that reverse mentoring is one of many initiatives that drive positive outcomes relating to our diversity, equity, and inclusion goals (You can learn more about it in VMware’s FY21 DEI Annual Report).

My experience as a Reverse Mentor

I am a reverse mentor to one of our leaders in Italy, Giovanni Masala, Senior Director of the Dell Synergy Acceleration Team in EMEA.

Although I am in the early days with my reverse mentorship, I can already see the benefits it is bringing to my career and development. Respect, vulnerability, and commitment have been key to success for both Giovanni and I, and the success of others participating in the program.

Already I get the sense that my ideas and perspectives are valid outside of my business group. Giovanni and I have built significant trust through our conversations, which makes me feel like we are equals and peers engaged in a discussion rather than a junior employee with a senior leader. I’m not afraid to share issues I have faced in the past due to my age or gender, and I know I am being heard. From Giovanni’s side, he is not afraid to talk me through issues that he may be facing at work, and he values my ideas and alternative perspectives on how I would handle the same scenarios.

Improved communication skills, ability to deliver feedback, and more

From talking to my colleagues who are also engaged in this program, they have increased their self-confidence engaging one-on-one with a senior leader and talking openly about their ideas to drive change. It has also improved their communication skills and their ability to deliver feedback and ask good questions.

They can see opportunities for career growth too, as they get exposure to leaders and other business areas that they didn’t have insights into before, giving them perspective and the confidence to look at other areas for career development.

New perspectives on DEI for Leaders

For our leaders, they gain a new perspective on DEI as they are encouraged to be vulnerable and willing to step out of their comfort zones to establish trust with their mentors. They have also learned about historical barriers, stereotypes, or experiences that may have influenced their mentor’s entry into tech or impacted their career.

Overall, I highly recommend participating in this program, or introducing something similar in your organization if it currently does not exist. It has opened up areas of conversation that have been so interesting and rewarding, giving me new skills and the ability to deliver feedback while getting a glimpse into the practicalities of being a senior leader in VMware.

Learn more about DEI at VMware here.


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