Since its launch in 2013, Aurora, Advance HE’s leadership development initiative for women, has helped develop the leadership skills of almost 10,000 women.
We spoke to Israt Kabir, lecturer in Mechanical (Materials) Engineering at the University of Hertfordshire, who was part of the 2020-21 cohort about her time on the programme and the impact it made on her.
How did Aurora help you develop as a leader?
Aurora helped me develop as a leader in developing leadership capabilities, clarifying what it means to be a leader for me. It made me aware of the values I have and the vision that I cherish. I wasn’t so sure about this before attending Aurora, that there were already things within me that could make me a leader.
How did Aurora impact your confidence and leadership ability?
Aurora impacted my confidence a lot. As an early career researcher, I didn’t have a lot of experience to share. I had a lack of confidence, wondering if I could make it far with my career, and with my life as a woman from a different background and from a different culture. But Aurora boosted my confidence a lot, both personally and professionally. I met hundreds of women virtually, and listening to them, as well as other wonderful speakers sharing their experiences, I saw that every woman is actually the same inside, and that boosted my confidence a lot. That’s probably the biggest thing I got from Aurora.
What were the major benefits of Aurora for you personally?
As well as it boosting my confidence, I would like to mention the action learning sets (ALS) where there would be a couple of women together, sharing their issues and hesitations, as well as any other barriers in their leadership journey. Having the support of that ALS team is very important in your leadership journey, it helps you understand that you can also engage in supporting others, which helps you grow further. That team spirit was an important lesson from Aurora.
What did you have to personally invest in the programme to make the learning as effective as possible for you?
I had to personally invest a few things, to commit myself to this course whilst working full time in a university. You have to commit the time, you have to make sure that on Aurora days, you don’t have anything else clashing. You have to negotiate with your line managers for that.
Also, the other fantastic thing I found from Aurora was it encouraged me to establish a mentoring relationship with a mentor in my university. It was a little bit challenging at the beginning because it was difficult to find the right person near me to actually establish mentoring with. Should you pick someone from your own university? Own organisation? Or someone from outside? You have to find an answer, collect the right information, and talk before finally finding someone. These sorts of challenges mean you have to work outside of your comfort zone.
I can remember the night I submitted my application for Aurora was the night before I got married, and I worked until 2am, finishing all the preparation; I just wanted to submit my application, even though I knew I could wait, I really wanted to submit it. So when I finally got selected, it was really nice.
Aurora participants are required to have a mentor to support and guide them throughout and after the end of the formal learning process. If you would like to assist in the process, learn more about our "Becoming an Aurora Mentor" workshops.