Tips for finding a sponsorship programme

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Shalini Khemka CBE, Founder, Chief Executive Officer and Board Director, E2Echange (E2E), gives a rundown on what sponsors and sponsorship programmes are and how they can help you in your career path.

Shalini Khemka CBE is the founder, chief executive officer and board director of E2Exchange (E2E), an organisation which champions and connects entrepreneurs, creates business communities, matches SMEs with the right non-executive directors and helps businesses to scale through equity capital investments.

sponsorship programme

Shalini was a member of the Government UK Export Finance (UKEF) board, developing its strategy and overseeing its operations by providing advice, challenge, and assurance.

Shalini also sits on The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s Business Advisory Board to champion London’s economic growth.

Here Shalini gives a rundown on what sponsors and sponsorship programmes are and how they can help you in your career path.

What are sponsorship programmes?

Sponsorship programmes operate within organisations, connecting leaders with employees so they can advocate for them, to accelerate their career development.

Nowadays, with the growth of networking organisations like E2E, sponsorship programmes can exist outside of organisations too, which of course means that employees can find the right sponsor or programme from a much bigger pool.

Sponsors actively advocate for their ‘protégés’ and help to create opportunities for them. They use their own networks and influence to promote the career advancement of the person they are sponsoring.

Sponsorship programs are more structured than a mentorship between two people. Sponsorships are established with the core purpose of achieving career-oriented goals and results. They are a brilliant way for individuals to navigate their career with help from an experienced and connected individual.

Sponsorship programs can often be highly targeted, for example they can focus on helping people from underrepresented backgrounds such as women in technology.

As a woman’s career progresses, sponsors can become even more important, providing opportunities for growth and development, and helping to open opportunities and targeted introductions to advance that person’s career.

Why did Shalini set up E2E?

Shalini said: “I set up E2E 13 years ago, after a decade spent in banking and investment. Working in such a male dominated industry I learnt that women needed sponsors if they were to progress and thrive professionally.

“The motivation behind E2E was not based on financial desire; it was a heartfelt commitment to supporting UK entrepreneurship. I recognised a gap in support for scale-up founders and shifted the focus to the ‘who’s who’ of entrepreneurship, catering to growing scale-ups.”

“Often entrepreneurs have technical acumen in abundance but lack the experience of how to run and scale a business. Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely existence, and the stats about the businesses which survive are equally sobering. The ONS reports that between 2021 and 2022, the number of UK business births decreased from 364,000 to 337,000, whilst the number of UK business deaths increased from 328,000 to 345,000*.

“E2E is non-discriminatory, it supports all types of entrepreneurs, but what is unique about what we offer is the access to global business leaders and their combined expertise – access to the best sponsors in their fields.

“Sponsorship, mentorship, and networking are crucial in shaping entrepreneurial success. This realisation prompted the inspiration behind E2E, a platform designed to connect aspiring entrepreneurs with seasoned sponsors and business mentors, fast-tracking their learning curve.

What can women in technology do to find the right sponsorship programme?

Enquire to see if any programmes currently exist within your organisation, if they do not then you can look externally. Be clear on what you want from a sponsorship programme and a sponsor, so that you can find the right one that mirrors your needs and expectations.

Next, use your professional networks to see what is available externally. This could be through a professional body, or specific sector groups on social platforms such as LinkedIn, as well as specific networking organisations such as E2E.




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