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Articles > Customer Showcases > Making matches: Mentoring at the Francis Crick Institute

Making matches: Mentoring at the Francis Crick Institute

Kickstarting mentoring at your organisation & how to make the most of mentoring relationships

The Francis Crick Institute is the largest biomedical institute in Europe, and with over 1,000 staff, students and alumni from undergraduates to post-doctorates signed up to their ToucanTech online platform Crick Connect, there's a lot to learn from one another. As many junior researchers stay for between 2-6 years and then move onto new institutes, it has been vital to keep in touch using an online platform so that alumni can share their knowledge with others wherever they are in the world. Over the two last two years, they have launched their mentoring programme to provide members of the Crick community with everything they need to succeed and have matched over 100 people to date, with 200 mentors signed up to their Crick Connect platform. 

Who is the mentoring programme for?

What makes the mentoring programme at the Crick so unique is that it is for everyone in their community, as they believe everyone has something to learn and something to offer to another person. That means that anyone, whether they are an undergraduate student, a laboratory leader or an operations professional, can sign up as a mentor or a mentee. Rather than focus on matching up people based on their narrow research interest, they instead choose to make great matches based on soft skills such as communication or relationship building, or life situations such as moving to a foreign country. Some matches are fairly short, set up to guide them through a particular challenge, while others have gone on for years with a much more general set of goals. 

Training is the key to success

One of the key aspects that sets aside the Francis Crick mentoring programme is the formal training that both mentees and mentors undertake before they start their relationship. This training takes place twice a year, and is advertised on their Crick Connect website as well as through talks. Over the two years that the programme has been running, over 200 people have been through the mentoring training, with great feedback. The training is a half-day workshop that helps anyone to understand what they might want to get out of a mentoring relationship, as well as what they could offer to a mentee.

“Often, mentees realise that they could share their own skills with another, while mentors find they could benefit from advice themselves.”

George Prygos, Alumni Manager, Francis Crick Institute

Getting mentoring relationships off on the right foot

Often the most difficult part of mentoring is getting the foundation right; once a match has been made, it’s in the hands of the mentee to organise meetings and work with the mentor to achieve their goals. Mentoring pairs can message each other, share resources and send feedback using the ToucanTech platform, and admins have full visibility of messages and activity. Handing ownership of the partnership to the participants early on has led to strong relationships and great progress towards the mentee’s goals. Advice given to participants at the Crick is to discuss in the first meeting how long the relationship should last for, how often & in which format they might want to meet, and to be clear on the goals that they want to achieve with the partnership. They are also encouraged to meet outside of the institute to be in a different environment for their meetings, though some mentoring has taken place on Zoom over the last year! 

Feeding back on what has worked

The team at Francis Crick collect regular feedback from mentors and mentees using the built-in forms on their ToucanTech platform, and the overall consensus has been overwhelmingly positive. They check in at one month, three months and nine months; in the first form they check in on whether they have had their first meeting, and if they have any questions. At three months, they are checking in on progress and how the relationship is going, and at the final check-in they hand over responsibility to the mentor/mentee pair to manage the relationship ongoing, should they wish to - some mentoring relationships have lasted over two years and they continue to have a positive impact on the career of the mentees!

In the future, the team at Francis Crick are planning to continue their mentoring training programme regularly and are aiming to empower more people to search and contact mentors whenever they feel that they would like advice. 

The Francis Crick Institute facilitates their mentoring programme through their ToucanTech platform. To find out more about how members of your community can connect online and learn from each other, contact a member of the ToucanTech team

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