Infinite diversity in infinite combinations

This week I’ve been using spare seconds in the fringes of the day job to run the Civil Service LGBT+ mentoring programme.

This is the third time the programme has taken place. I designed the programme during the first Covid lockdown, built it up from scratch and now I manage it.

So far, it’s enabled more than 2500 LGBT+ civil servants to do mentoring: either as a mentor, a mentee or both. It’s difficult to quantify it exactly but, by the end of this third cohort, I think around 9,000 hours of mentoring will have taken place because of this programme.

Having rarely stopped to think about that number; it is pretty mind-blowing. Even more so considering the whole programme has been developed at zero financial cost.

You read that right. £0.

Using only free tools, a better-than-average grasp of computers and a lot of elbow grease, all this was possible.

And it was made substantially easier by the contributions of Jonathan Kerr. We’ve worked together to build a software package that can do the incredibly complex and time consuming task of doing the matching of mentees to mentors in a matter of minutes.

A screenshot of the mentor matching software.
The mentor matching software leverages open source software, and forks the GOV.UK design system.

To put this in context, in 2021 when I first ran the programme, I manually matched around 900 participants using a series of hacked together Excel formulae. It took me 3 solid days of work to do it.

Having listened to me tell him this, I recall Jonathan telling me that he didn’t know how I had managed to do it; largely because there were more possible matching combinations in this process than there were atoms in the known universe. (I don’t understand the math. You’ll have to ask him).

The point being that – thanks to this software – this incredibly complex job that took three full days of work to do manually was completed yesterday morning in…

Two minutes and three seconds.

Yes, you read that right too.

This all speaks to the power of doing things in the open: it makes things better. If I hadn’t worked in the the open, Jonathan would never have found me; and I’d still be drowning in spreadsheets right now. (Thanks Jonathan!)