Building leadership through knowledge sharing and support – Reverse Mentoring

Karolina Gruszczyk

 · 09/15/2022  · 09/15/2022

This summer we introduced the Reverse Mentoring Programme at Revolut. For the programme, we paired Senior Mentors (people in director roles or higher) with Reverse Mentors (women in senior or lead roles). These one-to-one mentorships offered Revoluters a chance to share knowledge, experience, and ideas – all that supports developing leadership skills.

This project holds a special place in our hearts: we hope it can help us bring women into our senior management. But that wasn’t the only outcome. We sat down with James Taylor, Revolut’s Diversity and Inclusion Specialist, to discuss it further.

“People understand Reverse Mentoring in different ways, but we’ve defined it as the sharing of knowledge to support the development of both individuals – in our case, the Reverse and Senior Mentor,” James says. “We chose to aim our programme at increasing female representation in senior management roles, while strengthening inclusive styles of leadership among our senior leaders. It would therefore directly support our new organisation target of 30% of women in senior management roles by the end of 2025.”

16 pairs (32 Revoluters) took part in the first edition of the Reverse Mentoring Programme. At the time of writing, we’re just wrapping it up, and 87.5% of participants felt they were making progress towards their individual goals. 91.7% said they would participate in the programme again.

We’ll now be following the career development of our Reverse Mentors over the next 12 months to see how far they go. And with all this positive feedback, we plan to launch a second edition this coming autumn.

“The programme was a real learning curve for everyone involved. Even for me,” says James. “I’d never designed and executed a Reverse Mentoring programme before, and the prospect of some of our most senior leaders getting involved in the programme was daunting. The pressure was really on – at Revolut there are no half measures, we truly deliver ground breaking initiatives.”

Some of our Reverse and Senior Mentors shared their thoughts about the programme. Let’s just say the outcome of this project went way beyond our expectations. Take a look:

“The Reverse Mentoring programme has been a fantastic approach to career development with a fresh spin, this programme has not only benefited me, but also my direct reports. It has given me better knowledge and confidence to operate outside of my core responsibilities. Networking with different colleagues globally, and better understanding each of their business remits.

The most inspiring insight? The beauty of disruption is innovative thinking.”

“It’s an exchange programme where both participants are truly learning from each other. I’ve found it as a humbling experience where the impact might not always be where we think it is. As a senior person, it’s my responsibility to support and push Diversity & Inclusion across the organisation. It requires a better understanding of current challenges and opportunities. My Reverse Mentor has really helped me understand how I can best help from my position by fighting unconscious bias and status quo.

My objective for this programme was to create an environment within my department that would promote and celebrate diversity. I believe I've got clearer ideas on where improvements can be made and I’m currently working on an action plan. Ultimately, my goal is to help the overall organisation. I’m hoping I can transfer some learnings from my department to the rest of the organisation and vice versa.

Small things can have a big impact, both negative or positive. Just keeping an eye on the bigger picture is not enough. It’s not about checking boxes, it’s about consistency in our actions and messaging to promote Diversity and Inclusion.”

“It was great to be in contact with a more senior colleague within Revolut and exchange perceptions, advice, and experiences on career and diversity.

David Tirado, my Senior Mentor, helped me with my challenges on diversity and I gave him insights from a woman’s point of view and from the women in his team (who I've contacted as part of the programme). So I’ve benefited both from having a male colleague supporting me and giving me honest feedback on how I was working to achieve my goals and also from the contact with all the women I met. Connecting with them and learning about their challenges and opinions was incredibly enriching as well, and opened my eyes even more to the topic.

An output I’m going to remember is the importance of not only doing a good job, but also being great at showing how good it was to others. As women, we tend to be more humble about our achievements, and to under sell it. But if we want recognition, we need to show our achievements proudly, and ourselves, too.”

“It was truly enjoyable, interesting, and rewarding! I learned a lot from the person I was paired with and in fact it's been such a worthwhile experience that we've agreed to keep catching up every four to six weeks to check in and see how the other is doing.

We each set out some key skills or issues we wanted to to address at the beginning of our sessions and we spent each of our sessions discussing those. The topics involved stakeholder management, career development/progression, and building technical expertise. I'm pleased to say we really dug deep into these areas and we both felt better off after those discussions.

I think we agreed that just sitting on a problem is not the healthiest exercise. Looking to solve a matter with someone requires patience, preparation, and a proactive approach – that's a great way to enable change in your career.

The Reverse Mentoring Programme is a great chance to see problems people are facing that you may not be aware of, and have an open dialogue about how to solve those problems. It really helps to put you in the shoes of someone else and appreciate a new point of view. At times, we're all guilty of working in our own silos. This has really helped to break free from that.”

A massive thank you to all the mentors for participating. We’re happy to see so many positive results from this programme and look forward to what a second edition will bring!