Mentoring for female IT students – A field report

When Saxonia Systems (since 03/2020 ZEISS Digital Innovation) approached me with the idea of accompanying a young computer science student at the HTW Berlin for an academic year as a mentor in her personal development, I hesitated at first because many questions came up:

  • What does a mentor do and why is that good?
  • What skills and qualities does a mentor need and do I have them myself?
  • What is expected of me and can I meet the expectations?

The best way to answer these questions was to accept the offer and the challenge and to participate in the ProfIT Mentoring Program at the HTW Berlin. I have summarized my experiences in this field report.

Mentoring for female IT students with ProfIT

ProfIT is aimed at female students of computer science at the HTW Berlin and serves to support successful career entry and the advancement of women in IT. The program takes place annually and provides about 20 female students of computer science with an experienced mentor from practical experience for two semesters. The mentors come from all areas of computer science and usually have at least five years of professional experience.

The organization of the mentoring partnership is very individual but is accompanied by a supporting program. This includes workshops and thematic events such as the introductory and final workshop, events on the topic of “Women in Computer Science”, regulars’ tables for mentees and mentors and more.


The mentoring program was launched at the introductory event on October 10, 2017 on the campus of the HTW Berlin. At this event, the students who had decided to participate in the program met us mentors for the first time. The aim of the evening was tandem formation – i.e. the establishment of mentoring partnerships. At the beginning of the event, Viola Klein, member of the board of directors of Saxonia Systems, gave an inspiring speech as guest speaker. This put all participants in the right mood for constructive and cordial cooperation and was the prelude to the subsequent meeting and forging of the tandems.

“Forging tandems” means that each mentor is assigned to a student. At ProfIT, this assignment takes place within the matching process. On the basis of the first non-binding meeting, mentee and mentor can see whether they are personally suited to each other and then decide freely to cooperate.

After the first meeting, the mentees chose which mentor they wanted to form the tandem with and could imagine working together in the coming period. If both mentees agreed to cooperate, the tandem was formed and the foundation stone for the next period was laid. An exciting mentoring year could thus begin.

First milestone – introductory workshop

A first milestone for all tandems was the introduction workshop. It was designed to enable mentees and mentors to work out their roles and tasks in mentoring in order to lay the foundation for a trusting cooperation in the tandem. This was followed by the actual and very individual cooperation.

The first joint meeting and time in tandem

After the workshop my mentee and I arranged a first meeting together. Here we got to know each other again and exchanged our impressions of the introductory events. Here we also agreed on what we expected, which topics were important for our tandem and to which questions we wanted to find answers together.

This meeting was regularly followed by others in the following months. Over time, the topics changed, and the focus shifted to completely different things than we had originally identified. But that was all right. What was important to us was the regularity, that we maintained contact and that there was a trusting relationship between us. And we achieved that. Gradually, we got to know and appreciate each other better and better, and along the way, we also got to know some interesting new places in Berlin that we chose for our meetings.

Second milestone – Halftime: “Interim conclusion”

On this way of getting to know each other we were also accompanied by the superordinate framework program of ProfIT. There were several opportunities to meet and exchange ideas with the other tandems – for example at the “Zwischenfazit” event, which is an important part of the mentoring program. Similar to the introductory workshop, all the tandems meet here at one meeting. The event offers all participants space for reflection and new ideas. With this date the halfway point was reached and my mentee and I were happy to have completed this stage together. We took the opportunity to pause briefly, review our roles and tasks and make adjustments if necessary.

The second half

For the second half we had some plans, such as participating in Meetups, Usergroup meetings or similar events, together. But because both of our daily routines were already very busy, it was difficult to find common dates and the intervals between our meetings became longer. But we didn’t let this irritate us and tried to use the meetings as intensively as possible. It was also a valuable experience to notice that despite the longer intervals and difficulties in finding dates, our tandem worked well and held together.

Final Milestone – Closing Ceremony

Everything comes to an end – and so does my time as a mentor. At the end, all participants of the program were invited again to celebrate the successful completion of the mentoring year and to receive the Berlin Volunteer Pass. At this event, which took place on July 4, 2018 on the campus of the HTW Berlin, the focus was again on reflecting on the time spent in tandem. It was a nice evaluation of what we experienced and gave us another opportunity to express our mutual appreciation. But we were a bit sad that the program was over with this evening. But for my tandem partner and me it was clear that we wanted to keep in touch beyond that.

3 people stand side by side with flowers and certificates in their hands
An impression of the final event – a successful mentoring year is behind us

Conclusion on the experience report

This was my year as a mentor. But did that answer my questions? Yes! And not only that – I also received answers to questions that I had not even asked myself before:

What does a mentor actually do? What is expected of a mentor?

  • Mentoring includes: advising, participating and letting participate, encouraging, giving feedback, networking, imparting knowledge about structures and rules of the game in the professional world
  • Roles and tasks of a mentor: being a supporter, training partner, counsellor, career advisor and door opener
  • Goal and expectation: regular contact and exchange of information

Why is that good? What is mentoring for?

Mentoring is a reciprocal process of giving and taking. The process focuses on the learning and development process of the mentee – but the mentor can also learn for her personal and professional development.

What skills and qualities does a mentor need?

  • The prerequisites for successful mentoring are: Voluntariness, mutual goodwill, respect and trust
  • Skills and competences: being able to listen and ask questions, confirm and encourage, advise and assist, confront and give feedback

I am very grateful for my time as a mentor and it is clear to me that I will continue to participate in such a program in the future, if the opportunity arises. Without hesitation. It was a pleasure to pass on my knowledge and experience and to reflect on my professional career to date. I am also very grateful for the feedback I received from my mentee. It has given me the good feeling of having been a good contact person for her individual questions during this time.

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