Women in Nuclear UK


WiN Cumbria – Making the Most of Mentoring

WiN Cumbria – Making the Most of Mentoring

Although it only seems like yesterday, the WiN Cumbria Mentoring Programme was established in 2019. 24 mentees and mentors joined the first cohort of one-on-one peer mentoring from various organisations across Cumbria, including Jacobs, Balfour Beatty, Sellafield Ltd, NDA, Manchester University, Kaefer, NNL, Cyclife and AECOM. 

Since then, the programme has grown from strength to strength. Earlier in 2020, mentees from the first cohort shared their experiences of how their mentors have supported them in both personal and professional growth, giving them “a confidence boost”, providing a different perspective, sharing hints, tips, knowledge and experience, and challenging them to push themselves out of their comfort zone.

Many have stayed in touch and continue to engage and seek advice from their mentors today.

Philippa, with her mentor Jackie, celebrating Philippa’s 1st place position at the YGN Public Speaking Competition

A rewarding experience: Philippa Hawley, Quality Degree Apprentice at Sellafield Ltd, explains the benefits of the programme:

I was part of the first cohort of the WiN Cumbria mentoring programme and found it to be an incredibly valuable experience. It provided me with the opportunity to generate solutions with my mentor regarding my work/life balance as I was finding it tricky to balance working full time alongside studying for my Plant Engineering degree.

“My mentor would listen to me and offer advice to ensure that I was working to the best of my ability and achieving the grades I desired. Moreover, my mentor also helped me to develop professionally and supported my entry to the YGN Public Speaking Competition, enabling me to enhance my presentation skills and promote the value of the Quality profession. Being a member of the programme meant that, not only did I develop a strong relationship with my mentor, but I also connected with other nuclear professionals who wanted to develop their own skills and who were passionate about inclusion and diversity in our industry too. It was a privilege to be part of the first cohort and I know the 2020 cohort will have just as a rewarding experience as I did.



Claire Johnstone, from Atkins, said that her mentor was the perfect match for her, “she helped me through moving to a new role in waste management in a new company. I now have a 10-year plan for my career!

Karen and Lisa at the cohort 1 ‘finale’

The programme does not only benefit mentees. Lisa Maxwell, from Sellafield Ltd, is a mentor from the first cohort, and said “I was not expecting to learn so much about myself. Karen [Lisa’s mentee] made me reflect more and think about situations more. My colleagues have seen a difference.”

Other mentors from the programme have found that taking part in the programme has helped bring a different perspective, especially improving listening skills!

A great match: Karen and Lisa explained how they have both benefitted from the mentoring programme, as mentee and mentor. For them, it has been a journey, about sharing, reflecting, learning and always making time.


The first cohort enjoyed sharing their stories and setting the foundations for the mentoring programme Dawn Watson, who has taken the Lead for the programme, said: “It’s great to see that the mentoring programme has made such a difference.  It works!”.


Mentoring programme organising group (left to right):
Fiona Moore, Penny Rathbone, Anna Brown, Laura Mathieson, Catherine Eve and Dawn Watson.

Dawn explains: “We held review events for the first cohort to look at what had gone well and what could be improved; there was no question as to whether this was a good idea or not. It has all been very positive.  Some of the feedback was for more regular get togethers; this was taken into account for our second cohort, which we launched not long before lockdown.”

Craig and Vicki at the launch event for the second cohort.

Matching mentors and mentees can be a challenge. Participants bring various competencies, learning styles and needs. We tried to foster connections for the second cohort based on ‘wants’, ‘can offer’ and ‘expectations’, from career advice and work-life balance to working relationships and behaviours. 

Before the start of a cohort, a questionnaire is sent out to understand what people can offer and their area of work.  We then do a 'match-making' session where we look through all the applications and try to match people up appropriately – in almost all cases so far, we've managed to have successful matches.

At the launch event, mentors and mentees receive training on what they need to know about mentoring, their role and the programme, and are given some tips on how to make the most of the opportunity.

The second cohort is twice as big as the first one, with 25 mentor-mentee pairs, from around 12 organisations across Cumbria, providing more diversity. The cohort includes one of the WiN Cumbria business allies, Craig Hatch; WYG, Craig said:

“It’s great to be involved in this fantastic programme.”

Craig has been working with his mentee Vicki Jackson to make a difference.


Sustainable model: Flo Hanlon, Sellafield Ltd, said: “the programme made me realise you always need a sounding-board, no matter where you are in your career.”

Dawn said:

What has been really motivating is that everyone who has been part of this programme has been positive about the experience.

“We heard such energising stories from cohort 1, which we took forward into cohort 2. Mentors and mentees check in as a group regularly, so that learning can be used to keep improving the programme. We have continued the programme throughout recent difficult times.  We have had several online get-togethers. The last one we had was a bit more structured and we discussed communications and work-life balance and how the lockdown has impacted upon our lives. 

“As far as possible the relationships have continued, despite the difficulties with keeping in touch when people may not have access to their work contact addresses.

We now have a sustainable model for mentoring that other WiN UK branches could use for their own local mentoring schemes.   We are looking to have our next get-together (whether virtual or otherwise!) in September and will start working on the next cohort near to Christmas. Due to the COVID restrictions, we'll probably kick-off the next cohort in March 2021, rather than January to give this group a little more time and work out how we will make this work if restrictions are still in place.”

Dawn, the mentoring programme lead, and Catherine Eve, Centre for Leadership Performance, the driving forces behind the programme.

Sheena Taylor, Chair of WiN Cumbria, said:

“The mentoring programme is one of the key commitments we made to our members at our regional launch, and I am delighted that our team of volunteers has made it go from strength to strength. We are keen to showcase this programme as it has made a real difference. We’re continuing to work with organisations across Cumbria, such as the Centre for Leadership Performance, to start planning for cohort three!”