I first met up with my mentor, Dr Andrew Vallance-Owen, in the Guild of Students the weekend before the autumn term began. He had got in touch via email over the summer and was keen to meet and get the ball rolling in terms on the mentorship. I was initially very nervous on our first meeting; as term hadn’t started I had yet to attend the Alumni Leadership Mentoring Programme (ALMP) training provided by the Careers Network and so I was worried about making a terrible first impression.
Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. We had a coffee in the Guild, so it was a very informal meeting, and we discussed what we hoped to get out of the partnership. Andrew was interested in what he could do to help me as the mentee; being a graduate of Medicine at the University of Birmingham, he had never mentored a student of Medical Science. I explained that while I thoroughly enjoy my science degree, I don’t see a career for myself in scientific research and I am keen to explore potential areas outside of research where I can apply the skills I have learned at university, particularly in the health care sector. During this discussion Andrew told me about his career, how he had graduated from medicine and became a surgeon, before having a career shift, moving into healthcare policy. We arranged to keep in touch via email, and he mentioned that there may be a few interesting events coming up that I may be able to attend.
Since the initial meeting, I have been to London as part of the scheme on two occasions. The first, in November, was to attend a conference hosted by the PharmaTimes on the measurement and use of clinical outcomes, where Andrew was a member of the panel. After the meeting, we stayed for lunch and I was introduced to organisers of the meeting, other attendees and panel members.
The second time I went to London was at the start of December, when I attended a conference on Horizon 2020, the new programme for research innovation in the EU. This time, Andrew was unable to attend, so I went to the event by myself. This was particularly daunting, but it gave me the opportunity to use and improve my networking skills. At this conference, I met Dr Joanna Hackett, who Andrew had put me in touch with. Joanne is the Programme Manager for Research at UCL Partners, and being from a science background herself, Andrew thought she would be a useful contact.
I am writing this blog on the train to London, where tomorrow I am meeting both Andrew and Joanne for lunch. I intend to ask them about my plans for next year, as I don’t want to start a PhD straight away and I would like their advice on what to do in the meantime. I also plan to ask for help with my CV.