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Why reverse mentoring works for inclusivity: Insights from two project professionals

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Project management consultancy MI-GSO|PCUBED launched a reverse mentoring scheme in the UK in 2022. It aims to be a conduit for project management consultants to mentor leadership members using their lived experiences. Alberto Munoz Ciaurriz, Delivery Manager, is currently mentoring Mark Sorrell, Head of Public Sector:

MS: Why did you decide to take part on the reverse mentoring scheme?

AMC: To begin with, it is an initiative I had never come across. Being given the opportunity to mentor colleagues in senior leadership positions in aspects they may not have been exposed to was too good not to get involved in. Second, it is more valuable to share lived experiences and what impact they can have on our day-to-day activities than reading about them. Lastly, it has given me a view into the way our senior leadership works, their concerns and their willingness to continuously improve.

MS: I got involved from the pilot stage because I wanted to see career progression through different lenses. My route into project management leadership has been quite traditional – and I know this will not be everybody’s experience.

MS: Why do you think the reverse mentoring scheme is working so well?

AMC: I think there are two main reasons for it. First, you have a genuine interest in learning about my lived experiences, how my sexual orientation has shaped the person I am today and how it influences my day-to-day at work. I have an honest interest in sharing my journey so far with a willing listener, hopefully making you think things in a different way. Second, we have created a safe space in which we can have respectful and authentic conversations. We have shared our boundaries and they don’t get crossed.

MS: Our discussions so far have been really interesting, for example how we see London, where we both live and work, in different lights.

MS: Before we started the reverse mentoring process I was aware that you were instrumental in setting up the M|Proud LGBTQ+ Affinity Group. Tell me more?

AMC: There wasn’t a group in place, no visibility around the LGBTQ+ community. I felt this was a gap that needed to get rectified, so I took it upon myself to set it up. One of the immediate benefits of this has been bringing together members of the community and allies within M|P. It has also increased the visibility across the company, further than key dates such as Pride month. It has given us all a safe space in which discuss challenges we might face in project management engagements, how to overcome them.

MS: What do you see as benefits from having such a network?

AMC: It has allowed us to create a sense of community within M|P. This helps in fighting feeling isolated, something I have experienced in the past. Getting together within our network has allowed me to be able to bring my true self to the workplace; not having to act as a different person at work vs out of work. We will also connect with other LGBTQ+ networks from our clients, industry. We all go through very similar experiences; it will be great to have that connection and learn from each other as we grow as a network.

MS: Have you faced any challenges or discrimination in your professional life because of your sexual orientation, and how have you navigated those situations?

AMC: I can’t say I have felt discrimination, since I was not bringing my true self to work in previous roles and companies. The challenge I had was the impact of making it known I am a gay man, for fear of career repercussions especially in the early stages. It also depends on what type of industry you are working in; the stakeholders that you have - but I am hopeful that positive change is happening across the board!

MS: What are some of the key challenges or opportunities that you see for the project management field for members of the LGBTQ+ community?

AMC: One challenge is how to create the right environment for people to be able to bring their whole selves to the profession, how do you create and encourage an inclusive environment? This is becoming more important in these globalised times as we deal with different cultures, backgrounds, lived experiences daily. One opportunity is to enable the community to focus on their job and not be worried about colleagues/stakeholders finding out about their sexual orientation (if they still do!). It also gives the opportunity to adapt existing policies, where needed, to reflect the reality of the world we live in.

[Byline: Mark Sorrell and Alberto Munoz Ciaurriz]


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