In May I was incredibly proud of myself for making it onto the FastForward15 programme for 2019 - 2020. I had followed the programme since the year before during my masters and had set my sights on applying and being accepted onto it as I knew it was something I needed to help me get to where I wanted to be in my career.
FastForward15 is a mentoring program for women in the events, hospitality & travel industries founded and ran by Fay Sharpe. The program was created after Fay realised that despite the events industry being 75% women less than 20% of top roles are held by them. She wanted to create something that would help aspirational women fulfil their goals and climb the ladder that will lead to more women in top industry positions. FastForward15 program runs for 12 months from May- April each year and runs as a series of meetings, education sessions & organising a charity event. It works by helping you work out what it is you want to do/ achieve & break this down into goals and milestones that you can accomplish step by step. The program helps you understand yourself, helps you build your confidence to ask for what you want & gives you access and opportunities within the wider industry.
So how does it all work?
First you need to apply, there is only 15 spaces each year as you get paired with one of 15 mentors to help you achieve all those goals you have in your head that you have no idea how to implement. Applications are available here - they open on 16th December for 2021/22 programme. Below are top tips on what to think about before sending your application.
Once you have applied & the closing date is passed, all the applications are looked at and those shortlisted are passed onto different mentors to then decide who they believe would benefit the most from their guidance. This is done via a phone call for the mentor to get a better understanding about what you want out of the programme and how they could help you, that mentor then decides who they believe they can help the most & work with over the next 12 months.
If you are lucky enough to make it to the 15 chosen you start your journey at the graduation/ launch event. During this event the mentees from the previous year showcase their achievements over the last 12 months and you meet your mentor & the other mentees that will be on the program with you. After that it is down to you and your mentor to decide when to meet, following the guidance from program there are different stages to work on and complete each month as well as 2 education sessions spread over the year to help you work on confidence, focus, public speaking & to connect with all the other mentees and mentors. A big chunk of your time on the program is working with the other 14 mentees to put on a charity event, for this as a group you chose the charity & organise everything yourselves, with no budget available!
It is a big commitment, you will be meeting with your mentor either in person or over the phone/ Skype monthly and it comes around quickly every time. You also need to work on you goal setting and actions between meetings, having these meetings regularly is a great help to keep yourself accountable and make sure you are constantly working on your goals. After all thats why you applied! You also need to make sure you are able to take time off work or out of your day job to attend the 2 education days, your event & launch/ graduation. One of the questions you can be asked during the application process is whether your company are supportive of you being part of the program, if they are it makes it so much easier to juggle the two so its great if you can explain the program to your manager before you apply. A big part of FastForward15 is the charity event, its really important you are able to make this a priority. You are working in a team of 15 people all of who have jobs and commitments just as important as yours, understanding this and making yourself as available as possible to complete your allocated tasks/ attend meetings keeps the team harmonious & maintains a great relationship between all mentees.
Whats it like to be on the programme: My experience
I decided to apply for the programme months before applications opened as I had heard about it on social media. I decided it was one of my goals in 2019 to get accepted so I did everything I felt I could to put me in the best possible stance. I did A LOT of research into it, reading the website, following their social media, following current mentees on social media, attending the talk and speed mentoring at CONFEX and working on my application using the tips I picked up.
My mentor Lucy Anstie and I meet up every month, lucky for us we live very close to each other so it isn’t a struggle to find time to meet in person. As well as our goal setting meetings we have also got together to do fun activities like the slide at The Olympic Park, Lucy came to support me when I won a place on the Conference News CN30 under Thirty list 2019 & we stay in contact via WhatsApp. The education day we have had so far was great, we completed personality profiles and learnt a lot about ourselves and others. We also practised our public speaking receiving feedback on how to improve from mentors and coach Ishreen Bradley.
As our group of mentees are spread all over the country and some in Europe, it is difficult for us all to meet face to face when organising our charity event. So for us we have bi-weekly video chats & aim to meet as many of us as possible in person as and when we can, often around key meetings & education days.
For me FF15 has helped me massively, in some ways it kicked off a snowball effect of achieving all the goals I wanted too this year. I think the program can give you clarity and focus on what you want to achieve which then makes it easier to accomplish each step. Once you start seeing results your confidence builds and this makes you more confident in your ability to achieve the next one, then the next one & you don’t necessarily realise until you take time to reflect on what you have managed to do so far. Being part of FF15 also gives you opportunities to work your personal brand and expand your networks, there are often chances to be part of panel discussions at events like CONFEX & Event careers live, to sit in on board meetings for charities & to volunteer to help raise money for causes.
Top Tips before applying
Get to know yourself before you apply, if you haven’t already you can do a personality test like Myers Briggs. Also do a SWOT analysis on yourself, being able to identify your own strengths and weaknesses will help a mentor know how to help you.
Have a go at goal setting and visualisation on your own. There are lots of advice online on different ways to do this.
Spend time on your application, don’t rush it.
Be authentic, being open about your struggles and your motivations for applying.
Really think about what you want out of the programme, where do you see it taking you in 12 months.
Don’t be disheartened if you don’t make the programme, the mentors this year might not be the perfect fit for you, that doesn’t mean next year there won’t be someone who believes they can offer you the best out of the programme.
Have a look into the mentors for this year and learn a bit about each one of them.
Connect with previous mentors & mentees on social media, they all have their own journeys to share & the ways the programme has helped them. You never know they may give you some more tips.
Talk to your employer about applying, it is a lot easier for those mentees whose employers are on board with them taking part to get time out the office to attend events related to the programme.
Come and hear current mentees stories at our panel at Event Careers Live on 24th January.