Last week, we held our first Women in IP event, which was attended by scores of women (and a few men!). The event featured an interactive panel discussion on The power of networking and mentoring in developing your career”, followed by a chance to put newly-acquired tips on networking into practice. Some people attended the panel discussion only, some came to the networking session, while others enjoyed the whole event.  Cathy Mack, Practice Manager at TLIP Ltd, writes about the event and some of the interesting points raised during the panel discussion.

Cathy writes:

Under the umbrella of the IP Inclusive initiative, the first Women in IP event was held on 2nd November 2016, hosted by IP Inclusive Charter signatory Norton Rose Fulbright.  Feeling a bit daunted on arrival at the rapidly filling room confirmed that one of the topics of the event – networking – was going to be a very useful one.

After introductions, the event began with Andrea Brewster outlining the aims of IP Inclusive, and explaining how the Women in IP committee aims to facilitate the building of a network of women across the IP professions that will enable challenges to be recognised, shared and overcome.  I haven’t attended many of these events, but it felt welcoming from the outset as Andrea explained in her introduction that it was open to all members of the IP profession including patent and trade mark attorneys, solicitors, barristers, trainees, administrators, UK IPO staff and searchers.  In fact, as Andrea pointed out, just seeing the number of women together in one room gave a sense that “prevalence is confidence”.  ​

PictureA packed room during the panel discussion. © Sarah Brearley, Mewburn Ellis LLP

PictureLook closely and you’ll spot some men in the audience too! © Parminder Lally, TLIP Ltd

The first part of the event then got underway as the panel drew upon their differing experiences of mentoring and networking.  The range of experience of the panel members was inspiring, and the discussion highlighted that mentoring and networking have always been necessary skills, but the means to mentor and network have changed and continue to change. (Meeting people for coffee and a chat wasn’t always possible, and LinkedIn® hasn’t always existed!)

Picture© Sarah Brearley, Mewburn Ellis LLP

Panel chair, Carol Arnold, defined a mentor as being someone who “talks to you about you”, and as someone having the skills and experience to facilitate learning and career progression.  A mentor is someone who can give you the benefit of their hindsight. The definition helped highlight that mentoring is not necessarily a formal process, and can often take the form of what may feel like informal chats (with or without cake!)  Having different mentors for different skills or career stages can also be valuable. So, how to go about looking for a mentor if you do not have one already?  You’ll need to:

  • Determine what you need from a mentor – what skills do you need to develop, what advice do you want?
  • Work out if someone has got the information/experience you are looking for, and if so
  • Ask them to be your mentor!

The panel talked about not only benefitting from having mentors themselves but also from mentoring others within their firms and organisations, via the CIPA Informals, and via university societies, outreach programs, and via the Law Society.

PictureJoey Conway kicking-off the Women in IP event. © Sarah Brearley, Mewburn Ellis LLP

On the topic of networking, the panellists offered advice and practical tips for building and maintaining a network.  The panel stressed that networking is just a way of building relationships and this is not limited to potential clients, but applies to colleagues and other members of the profession too, all of whom could be useful for your career development.  Attending events may seem nerve-wracking or even terrifying if you are shy and/or just starting out in the profession, but the panellists reminded us that, in general, everyone is in the same boat!  Choosing an event where you have something in common to speak about – maybe a university event or a lecture which has a social element afterwards – can be a good way to build your confidence.  Taking a friend along to events can also help you feel less nervous.  Don’t forget to talk about yourself when meeting new people – this gives them something to remember you by when following-up afterwards. The audience asked the panel for advice on how to follow-up with people after a networking event.  They suggested:

  • Following-up selectively and personally – don’t feel obliged to follow-up with everyone you meet, and don’t send the same generic message to everyone!
  • Follow up promptly – this could be via LinkedIn®, email, or if the connections are within your organisation, dropping by their desk/office.
  • Connecting via LinkedIn® – this can provide an easy way to find out about your contacts’ new qualifications, new ventures/jobs, and interests, and provides you with something to talk about when you follow-up or see them again.
  • Keeping in regular contact, not just when you want something!

And then it was time for drinks!  After listening to the discussions on networking, it felt more comfortable than usual to both catch-up with people I know and meet new people at the reception. I chatted with representatives of the UK IPO, which was interesting and gave me some insight into the other side of the patent prosecution process.  As the reception went on well past the scheduled end time, it seems that many of the attendees also enjoyed the opportunity to connect and reconnect. 

I thought the event was expertly organised and enjoyable, and it provided much food for thought and many practical suggestions for building and maintaining a network.  I’d recommend future events to all, and it would especially be nice to meet other paralegals, administrators and practice managers at the next event.

Cathy Mack

Thank you Cathy for this great report!  

There is clearly an appetite among women in IP for more events of this type, so we look forward to the next Women in IP event.  If you have any thoughts about event types or topics for discussion, please get in touch with us via the comment box below or via the Women in IP LinkedIn® Group.  The committee hope to have webinar-based events and regional events too – if you are interested in organising a Women in IP event in your region, the committee would like to hear from you!

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