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Working with the WTS Mentorship scheme in summer 2020

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As a digital marketing agency based in Bristol, we’re always looking for ways to give back to the community. We do this partly through our ‘Iloominate’ initiative, which includes digital days within schools, work experience to students, digital masterclasses and mentoring with UWE.  

This year, the pandemic forced us to find ways to collaborate with our community remotely, and the WTS (Women in Tech SEO) mentorship program seemed like an ideal choice for me as the Loom SEO Manager. I explain more about the process and what I’ve learned.

What is the WTS mentorship scheme?

The WTS Mentorship scheme is run by Areej AbuAli and Naomi Sanderson from the Women in Technical SEO community group. It’s about sharing technical knowledge, as well as boosting women within the SEO community worldwide. This group was set up by Areej AbuAli and is a support network aimed at women in the Technical SEO field.

The mentorship program is for women in the digital marketing field to discuss, share and learn from each other in a one-to-one virtual environment. It’s about empowering each of the mentors and mentees that take part to both develop and share their awesome SEO knowledge.

In total, around 200 mentors and mentees were matched by Areej and Naomi in an ultimate SEO pairing, based on location worldwide, experience and skills. The program took place over two months between August and September of summer 2020, with a 30min-1hr mentoring session per week. 

Format of the mentoring sessions

With plenty of support from Areej and Naomi and the wider WTS community, we were all eager to get started. The emphasis of a mentoring session is on advice rather than teaching, so I tailored the first session around getting to know each other, outlining goals and making a plan for the coming weeks. 

I planned in some icebreakers, as well as being really open with my mentee about my career journey and how I found my way to SEO. It was important to me that we had a good rapport and created a trusting and open environment. Areej and Naomi did such a good job matching us, that it was easy and felt quite natural.

Over the coming weeks, me and my mentee Molly built on our sessions and a rewarding process evolved. Around the second week of the program the WTS community enlisted the help of Hannah Butcher, a freelance SEO and experienced mentor to provide additional support to the program. 

Hannah ran an online training session for mentors which helped me to refine and reframe my techniques. I learnt how it was better to talk more about my experiences in relation to a mentee discussion point and try to steer away from teaching. The overriding advice from Hannah and other mentors in the community was to focus on advice, ask leading questions and to summarise points, as well as challenge where needed. 

I went through a mini SWOT analysis with Molly which was helpful in finding out her core goals and challenges in her current role and where the emphasis was in the plans for her career. A SWOT analysis looks at core strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and can be applied to many different scenarios. Using this analysis technique, we were then able to look at steps to get there. 

We covered some core SEO topics over the course of the program, including SEO for E-commerce, technical SEO and how content can support SEO. We also discussed the pros and cons of working in-house versus an agency environment and I was able to share SEO resources and core places to go for industry news. 

In terms of the challenges that being a mentor brought, I think the main thing was the fine balance between giving advice and teaching. Where problems or issues were particularly tricky, I found it hard not to move into more of a teaching capacity.

Rewarding and motivational sessions

Overall, the sessions were very productive and rewarding. We got into a good routine where we discussed how the previous week had been, what new things were potentially cropping up and how project challenges could be resolved. We’d then look ahead to future sessions and give ourselves food for thought. 

As we moved towards the final sessions, it was clear that we were both able to get a lot from them. I was pleased to be able to share my knowledge and discover that it was easier than I thought to do so. Molly was able to talk quite easily about where she needed my support and what issues were important to her. I also found that the sessions motivated me even more in my role at Loom, consolidating my knowledge and cementing my experience. It added a layer of confidence to my role which has been invaluable.

By the time we reached the final session, we both felt that it had been rewarding and had passed by very quickly. We are keen to continue on more of an Adhoc basis and are grateful for the opportunity that the WTS Mentorship program had opened up. There are plans for another cohort to be rolled out in the coming months – so watch this space. 

I signed up for the WTS Mentor Programme in the hope to further my already existing SEO knowledge and how best to apply it in different scenarios. Since moving from agency life to in-house over 18 months ago, I felt as though I wasn’t able to keep up with all the new trends and technologies as easily so I really wanted to pick my mentors’ brains on the best places to find resources that they found useful.

It was great being matched with Claire as I felt we both had a similar start in the SEO world and an understanding of the differences between in-house and agency. Claire allowed me to talk through the current projects I’m working on and the goals I had for it and talked me through how she and her team would best work through it. Claire also provided me with an extensive list of resources including podcasts, webinars, newsletters and even people to follow on Twitter. The mentorship programme has really reignited my passion for SEO and I’m so grateful for all the support from Claire.

 Molly Cookson, Digital Marketing Executive at Booths

Find out more about Iloominate

Illoominate is an initiative that aims to deliver digital skills to the next generation of digital professionals in Bristol. It’s all about shining a light on what we do and why and sharing it with the next generation of digital marketers and other marketing professionals.

If you want to find out more about Loom’s Illoominate initiative and how you can be involved, get in touch with our team at hello@loomdigital.co.uk.

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