Twelve people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are to be mentored by Microsoft to help them start their careers.
The group, aged between 18 and 25 and from across the UK, are all currently involved in or just left education and are looking at which company they would like to join in the near future.
They will spend a year talking to a member of staff at the technology firm, either in person or online, who will give them guidance when they apply for roles, build their confidence, shape their CV and help them develop skills.
Paul Benjamin, Chief Financial Officer at Microsoft UK, told the mentees at an event at the company’s London office that he has four mentors who help him.
“Mentors are hugely important throughout your career,” he said. “Their experiences can help shape your experiences, so when you encounter a difficult situation, you have a better idea of how to handle it. I have no doubt that giving these 12 young people access to a mentor at Microsoft will be incredibly rewarding for them. A mentor can help in all aspects of a person’s life, so I hope it will show them what they can achieve in their career, as well in their personal life, too.”
The mentors are male and female, are a range of ages and are employed across Microsoft’s business – from marketing and operations to services.
The mentees, who were chosen after a product design competition run by Microsoft and SEO London, will also spend two days shadowing their mentor in their job to learn more about employment and what a role in the technology sector is like.
Yasir El Alaoui, 18, is studying economics and politics at the University of Warwick. He said the opportunity to have a mentor was “potentially career changing”.
“Having someone who can help me with career progression will be really valuable,” he said. “I’m excited; it’s a brilliant opportunity. I will be nice to talk to someone with experience when I’m lacking motivation, I need help with cover letters or to question why I want to go into a specific career.
“I want to get a consultancy job, preferably in international relations, and I’m sure my mentor’s advice will help.”
Asha Hirsi, 21, is studying international business management at Coventry University. She said she hadn’t had a mentor before but was keen to get started.
“I hope my mentor is in human resources so they can give me some good advice on how I can improve my employability and give me tips on job searches,” she said. “I want to go into marketing and customer service, so I want someone to talk to about that sector, and help me identify a career path.”
Benjamin said he hoped some of the mentees would consider a career in technology. According to research from Inclusive Boards, only 8.5% of senior leaders in the sector were from a BAME background.
“The only way to get more people with BAME backgrounds into the technology sector is to show them they have a future here and that this is where they can fulfil their potential,” Benjamin said. “Everyone in society needs to work harder to reduce their unconscious biases and see the talent in all young people. Only then will companies get a more diverse workforce, which will help individuals, the teams they work in and the business as a whole.”