Breaking barriers: CTBTO completes 2nd edition of Mentoring Programme

The second edition of the CTBTO Mentoring Programme for early-career women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) has concluded after a series of one-on-one guidance sessions, tailored workshops, learning activities, and role-play simulations.

Mentorship to advance CTBTO’s mandate

Launched in 2022 by Executive Secretary Robert Floyd, an International Gender Champion (IGC), this initiative aligns with the Organization's broader efforts to increase the pipeline of women in the technical fields that are crucial to the work of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).

In a virtual meeting with participants, Floyd said, "You have just embarked on a journey - a lifetime of learning and growth, and I hope to witness your careers unfold, your spheres of influence grow, and see you flourish, making this world a better place."

The programme kicked off on 16 May 2023, following the selection of 13 candidates with an emphasis on those from under-represented geographical regions out of a pool of 136 applications.

The participants were paired with staff members from CTBTO's technical Divisions, the International Monitoring System (IMS), the International Data Centre (IDC), and On-Site Inspection (OSI). The one-on-one mentor-mentee meetings focused on strengthening and building the confidence of the mentees, empowering them to showcase their skills, and preparing them for future professional opportunities.

Some of the mentees from the group - hailing from Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, and Zambia – also had the opportunity to take part in the Organization's capacity-building sessions. Five of them participated in an OSI Introductory Course, held from 30 October to 5 November. The attendance of these women was supported by their respective Permanent Missions based in Vienna, who are signatories to the CTBT.

Mentee Hanna Yasmine of Indonesia during OSI Linear Training Programme

Mentee Nagibe Maroun González of Mexico (left) with teammates at OSI training

Flora Mbouyom Tchudjeu, a nuclear engineering student from Cameroon, noted the improvement in her interpersonal skills and an expanded network. She said, “As an introverted person, my main challenge was communication. My mentor helped me tackle this by sharing her experiences, and I can confidently say it worked.”

For Darling Andrea Moreno Solano, an environmental engineering student from Colombia, the intercultural dimension of the initiative proved highly beneficial. “It helped broaden our perspectives and provided a first-hand experience of collaborating with STEM peers from different countries,” said the 23-year-old.

A programme designed for growth

Mentors, for their part, found the initiative rewarding as they shared their experience and knowledge with the young professionals. James Cooke, a documentation officer in the OSI Division, highlighted, “Mentees can acquire insights that are not publicly accessible. I tried to share knowledge that I lacked at the start of my own career.”

In addition to one-on-one mentoring, mentees participated in a series of thematic workshops and seminars led by CTBTO staff members who are working to end nuclear testing. The sessions included a “Deep Dive” case study based on a suspected nuclear test over the course of three briefings provided by the technical Divisions.

To prepare for the sessions, the group of early-career women were assigned monthly skill boosters based on articles, videos and hands-on exercises designed to develop and enhance their competencies.

The 2023 CTBTO Mentoring Programme concluded on 12 December with a Recruitment Boot Camp facilitated by the Organization's Recruitment and Staff Development Unit in Human Resources Services (HRS).

The five-hour session guided mentees through every stage of the CTBTO recruitment process, covering various contract types and offering strategies to stay informed about employment opportunities in their field of expertise. Participants also received valuable tips on crafting compelling cover letters and ways to make their applications stand out in a competitive landscape of applying for jobs at international organizations.

Additionally, the young women gained practical experience with asynchronous interviews, refined their preparation for e-tests, and practiced Competency-Based Interviews (CBI), a systematic approach commonly used by the CTBTO and other international organizations in the United Nations common system.

Marta Fernandez De Mazarambroz, head of CTBTO’s Recruitment and Staff Development Unit in HRS, emphasised, “The purpose of this session was to equip mentees with the tools to strengthen their skills when participating in recruitment processes and to support this important initiative dedicated to fostering a diverse, equal, and inclusive workforce for years to come."

Mentee Hannah Yasmine, a junior nuclear officer from Indonesia, said, “This boot camp highlighted that a successful job application goes beyond the CV, focusing on effectively presenting past contributions, achievements, and aspirations aligned with the Organization’s mission and values.”

Creating future opportunities

Building on the success of the first two editions, the CTBTO Mentoring Programme has evolved into an annual programme. Former participants are demonstrating success in their careers and serving as role models for other young people. Notably, Alinne O. Martínez, an alumna from the pilot round, has been appointed as a Global Focal Point in the UN's Major Group for Children and Youth. Another compelling story of achievement comes from Valeria Cerpa Salas, a software engineer from Peru, who secured a scholarship to attend COP28 in the United Arab Emirates.

CTBTO Executive Secretary Robert Floyd speaking about Mentoring Programme at International Gender Champions (IGC) event

Mentor Marcela Villarroel, lead analyst, International Data Centre (IDC) Division

Public information officers Sanam Shantyaei and Eugenia Coman delivering Communication Workshop

Mentoring Programme alumna Alinne O. Martínez delivering statement at 2023 Science and Technology Conference (SnT)