PWN Geneva-Lausanne: A Mentor's Journey

PWN Geneva-Lausanne launched its mentoring program in 2017 with Karin Harder, with a transition to co-leaders Natalie Wilkins and Chris Nassivera in February 2018. With three mentoring cohorts launched and a fourth in the works for a spring start, Natalie would like to share some of her own journey and learning as a mentor and program leader.

Natalie Wilkins Natalie Wilkins, Mentor, PWN Geneva-Lausanne


Mentoring works across cultures

The cities in Switzerland are a melting pot of culture and nationalities. Many of our mentoring pairs have very different cultural backgrounds, and what helps to create the right match, is providing everyone the opportunity to have a chemistry meeting before the partnership is confirmed. Many of the matches we have made, including my own, bring people from different cultures together and with it a diverse and rich range of perspectives and backgrounds.

Mentoring takes courage

It can be sometimes daunting for first time mentors to be themselves. Some feel the pressure to say the right thing and share only pearls of wisdom. They may feel afraid of saying the wrong thing or disappointing the mentee. From my own experience it is important to show the mentee that you too are human, and can be vulnerable with your own lessons, mistakes and don't have all the answers. My best advice is to ask open questions, stay curious and listen. These three things alone bring tremendous value to the relationship.

Blend technology and the human touch

When Chris and I took over the program, we deliberated the best ways to manage the onboarding of new mentors and mentees and the overall program experience. We both agreed that making it easy and fun should be a core theme for the program management approach. Tools such as Asana for project management, Typeform for providing an easy online form to receive and track applications, as well as Zoom for hosting cohort check in calls and mentoring calls have created efficiencies and positive user experiences.

The human touch is still paramount and key to to networking and long lasting relationships, and as such, we both take the time to interview all applications by phone or in person so as to make sure the best mentoring match is made. In addition, every new cohort is invited to a kick off event, a mid point check in and to a celebration gathering and dinner at the end of the 6-months.

Mentoring works remotely

I am acting as a mentor for Jola and Shivani, and due to my busy work schedule and location, most meetings take place virtually over Zoom. The mentoring video calls allowed high quality visuals and due to the fact we were able to do so from the comfort of our own homes, calls were easier to schedule, and enjoyed less distractions. 

Mentoring is fun

The turning point in my own mentor-mentee relationships are the discussions about ‘going out of your comfort zone’.  When a mentee comes back to the next call and says "I did it and it was so much easier than I thought", it’s a big reward to hear this.


Author: Natalie Wilkins, PWN Geneva-Lausanne
Date: Jan 2019

Has this article sparked in you a desire to mentor? If yes, please get in touch! We are always looking for dedicated volunteers around the world who wish to give back to the PWN Global community and support women who are in a situation that resonates with where you once were.... 


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