Meeting 1: A biochemist in the House of Lords

My first meeting with Baroness Massey was on Thursday 9 November 2017. We had originally arranged to meet on three occasions before this but she is a very busy lady. This year she is on a European council so is flying back and forth a lot. It made me appreciate her time even more!

I met her at the House of Lords which was an amazing experience. It’s like visiting a film set, but better. I had the opportunity to sit in on a debate which went completely over my head (I’m studying biochemistry, okay?). The Baroness gave me a short tour which consisted of many corridors with lots of grand paintings on the wall. I found it fascinating that she knew personally many of the people on the walls.

We drank tea at a table overlooking the Thames. I was struck by how friendly a lady with so much power and knowledge could be. Baroness Massey knew all the waitresses by name and they gave us an extra packet of biscuits. I was very relaxed and at ease despite being in the presence of so many influential people. We chatted for a while about my hobbies and interests. We even exchanged phone numbers for the future. This lady is 89 and she is better at technology than both of my parents!

The main thing I took away from my meeting with the Baroness is that I don’t need to make any big decisions about my future right now. I tend to get worried if I don’t have a 5 year plan in place at any given time, and she explained to me, using her own experiences, that people change all the time. In one year I might be somewhere I never expected to be. I know what I want to do when I graduate and I can take it one step at a time.

Our next meeting is planned for Thursday 11 January and we are going to go over my personal statement for the PGCE I am applying for (September 2018 entry). I am excited to hear more about her career path and her role in the upcoming Brexit negotiations!

Eleanor Lewis


A Phone Call with Rowan Hillson MBE

After completing my third year of medicine, I decided to apply for the ALMP programme. I had completed my first year of hospital placements, yet I had still not found a speciality that excited me. Although it is very early to be thinking about what speciality I may want to do in the future, I thought it would be an invaluable experience to be able to hear about and learn from the experiences of such a successful alumnus. I was absolutely delighted to be assigned Dr Rowan Hillson (MBE) as a mentor!

Rowan kindly rang me towards the end of October, after sending me a friendly and welcoming email to introduce herself. From the offset, it was clear that Rowan wanted to do all that she could to help me. We discussed what projects I am currently working on as part of the 4th year curriculum, what specialities I am interested in so far and what ideas I had for my elective at the time.

Rowan was extremely interested in finding out more about me. She advised me on where to find information in preparation for my elective and people I could contact to gain more experience in my areas of interest. Even just a phone call with Rowan was extremely helpful for me and already, Rowan has read my CV and advised me on how I can improve it. We have arranged to meet for dinner after the Christmas holidays and I am looking forward to hearing more about Dr Hillson’s incredible career and experiences.

Chaaya Agravat

Blog 3 – Working with Crew

My time working in the Crew Headquarters was incredibly valuable as it enabled me to gain a greater understanding of areas that I had no previous experience in. In the period I was there I spent time with the Menswear, Womenswear, Garment Technology and Marketing teams, and undertook a range of activities in those departments. My first task was to sort through and organise product samples of the upcoming season for Menswear, which helped me get a better insight into the brand and who Crew were marketing themselves to. I also learnt about the process that the clothes go through before being sent to stores to be sold; something much more complex than I would ever have imagined!

One of the highlights of working with Womenswear was the opportunity I had to attend a fitting session. This gave me the chance to ask lots of questions about the brand and about people’s roles within the business, and everyone involved in the fitting made sure that I had plenty to do and knew exactly what was happening. Following this I worked with the Garment Technology Team – I found this particularly interesting as I was not even aware that the roles existed prior to coming to Crew! The huge level of detail that went into the different stages of garment product development was eye-opening, and I learnt a significant amount about how this team managed various technical aspects.

My final day was spent with the Marketing team. I began by looking through the promotional material for the upcoming season in order to familiarise myself with the approach that the team were taking with promoting the next season. After this I worked with the head of the department who talked me through the deadlines they work to, how the team operates, and she also answered the many questions I had about the sector. I also had the chance to do some proof reading, and I discovered that this is something I’m randomly very good at and really enjoy doing! I was then tasked with researching food bloggers and unique leather companies who could feature in the next catalogue. This tested my knowledge of the brand and I appreciated the opportunity to directly contribute to the team’s work. I learnt so much by working with a variety of departments within the business, and I really appreciated everyone taking time to welcome me into their teams and give me the opportunity to work alongside them!

During my work experience I met with Louise one evening to have a catch up about how my time with Crew was going, and also to discuss my career plans. Louise’s daughter joined us as she works for a recruitment company, so was able to give excellent advice about how to develop my CV and LinkedIn account. Louise was keen for me to develop my USP so that when I return from travelling I will be clear on how best to promote myself to companies, and have the confidence to sell myself as a great employee! Having Louise’s daughter there was also really useful because I could speak to her about the problems I was having with my dissertation, as she had recently graduated having gone through the same experiences. Speaking to both of these successful women was very valuable, and I came away from the ‘meeting’ feeling so much more confident about how best to approach my uni work along with a much clearer idea on how to create a strong CV and LinkedIn profile and how best to re-enter the working world!

Phoebe Mansfield

Blog 2 – Catch up Calls

With Louise and I both busy at work and University, we agreed that phone calls would be the best way to communicate for the time being. We had our first call at the end of November and the second was in early December. When we initially met in August, I mentioned to Louise that I was considering going travelling after I graduated, but was worried that it would hinder my chances of getting a job when I returned. By the time we spoke again at the end of November I had decided that I definitely wanted to travel, so we discussed the possible difficulties of entering the job market and how to best prepare for that before I go. Louise’s advice reassured me and made me more confident about securing a job in the future!

When we first met I was feeling positive about returning to uni and I was preparing effectively for my final year – in particular my dissertation. However, since coming back I found myself feeling more overwhelmed by my dissertation than I had expected. I was unsure whether to reveal this to Louise, because I was concerned that it would reflect badly on me. But after consideration I realised that our relationship was based on honesty as this would give her the greatest understanding of my true personality. Consequently, I explained to Louise how I was doing a huge amount of research for my dissertation, but the ominous ‘12,000 word’ word count was making it daunting and preventing me from actually starting to write! Immediately Louise offered me very helpful advice and told me about the experiences of other students she knew to have struggled with the same problem. Louise’s ability to draw on her own experiences of the academic and working worlds enabled her to give incredibly useful advice – something I am hugely grateful for!

As I mentioned in my pervious blog, Louise thought that doing some work experience at the Crew Headquarters would be beneficial for me in narrowing down my career options. So, when we spoke again in December we discussed this further. I thought about the specific elements of previous jobs that I enjoyed, whether graduate schemes would suit me and how I can be most successful in applying for jobs. I outlined the areas that I wanted to get experience in, and we confirmed the details for my upcoming work experience which I am really excited to do!

Phoebe Mansfield

Blog 1: Being a Small Fish in a Very Big Pond

What better way to plan out your post-graduate life than over dinner? Well perhaps a dinner sandwiched (pun not intended) between the final rehearsal and performance of the Verdi Requiem, under the direction of your personal mentor himself?

I have the very privileged position of being able to see my mentor on a regular basis as a member of the CBSO Chorus, of which Sir Simon Halsey happens to be the chorus master. And so there I was, sea bass before me, faced with that most foreboding of questions: ‘what do you want to do with your life?’. Much like the rather sizeable fish, I had to break the question down into bite-size chunks. Firstly, we discussed what I currently spend my time doing at University, and what I enjoy most among those, which from the extensive list of music ensembles, societies and bands I take part in, we narrowed down to jazz singing and arts management roles.

At that point I had already applied for the Royal Academy of Music for a jazz performance masters, lacking both the funds and emotional stamina to apply to any other colleges (an audition is around £100 a pop). Simon was of the somewhat brutal, yet regrettably accurate opinion that if performance is what I really want to do, unless I get into one of the top colleges of ­­music, I’m unlikely to make it any further. I find out the verdict from the academy in December, and depending on the result and my reaction to the news (if unfortunate) myself and Simon can plan an alternative route of attack. Simon made the very valid conclusion, that should I be rejected from the Academy, if I am utterly disappointed by the verdict then this is a good thing, and I can carry on my journey with even more determination.

By then we had moved on to dessert, and discussed courses abroad. Should I apply to Berklee? I asked. ‘Well Berklee is the best, isn’t it? Of course you should!’. Faced with this daunting challenge, Simon vowed to put me in touch with a past graduate of Berklee to give me an insider’s guide to the course.

With coffee, came the question of arts management. Jobs in this sector usually published until Easter time, but I’d like to find a really good internship for summer. Simon offered a few options, the most tempting being a runner for the BBC Proms. Simon has since put me in touch with a contact at the BBC, and I am currently waiting for a reply.

So as we walked, rather hastily, back to Symphony Hall for our concert, I felt a lot more organised in my thinking. I had to prepare for my audition as best I could, and when the result came through, whether positive or negative, I would be able to make a decision as to whether I wanted to fight as hard as I can to go into the jazz world, or look further into arts management with the contacts Simon had provided me with.

The Requiem was spectacular. I can only begin to hope a similar outcome for my career prospects!

Becca Wilkins

Blog 1 – Always Check the Weather!

When I attended the information session to learn more about the mentoring programme I spoke to Ellie, the previous mentee of Louise Barnes, who was giving a talk on her experience. She told me that Louise likes to start the programme before it officially commences so that we get the most out of it, so when I found out I had been successful Ellie put us in touch. We arranged to meet in August, at Louise’s office in London. I did a lot of preparation prior to the meeting because I wanted to show Louise that I was passionate about the scheme and very grateful to have her as my mentor. Unfortunately, my preparation didn’t include checking the forecast for the day… typically it tipped it down with rain and I arrived at her office in plenty of time but absolutely soaking wet – not ideal considering I was trying to make a really good first impression! However, Louise was incredibly welcoming and we just laughed about it so I instantly felt more comfortable.

We discussed what I was hoping to get out of the scheme and why I had chosen Louise as my mentor. We also spoke about why Louise volunteered her time for the programme as I was keen to hear her motivations for doing so. Throughout the application process I had been clear that I was uncertain about my career path, but I was worried that Louise would see this as disorganised. This was not the case at all, and she was incredibly helpful in suggesting ways to start working out what I wanted to do. She suggested I read ‘The Essential Enneagram – The Definitive Personality Test and Self-Discovery Guide’ (which I later received as a gift in the post!) in order to better understand my own personality. Louise also thought it would be useful for me to do work experience at the Crew Headquarters in order to gain a better insight into the retail industry. Louise has already had an incredibly successful career, so I was keen to get as much advice from her as possible! We came up with a plan on how best to proceed for the rest of the year, and Louise gave me a few ‘targets’ for the next time we spoke / met.

Phoebe Mansfield

Blog 1 – A Meeting at the Beeb

Though it has only been a few months, I have already found my time on the Alumni Mentoring scheme to be very useful. I have a broad interest in the Arts, Marketing and Education sectors, and having general aspirations in these areas rather than a specific career pathway in mind can be quite intimidating as the end of your undergraduate degree draws ever nearer! I applied to the scheme because I thought it would be a great opportunity to expand my understanding of these areas and the roles and knowledge required to work successfully in them, as well as to gain a greater understanding of my own strengths and weaknesses. My first meeting with my mentor has gone a great way and more towards achieving these aims.

My mentor is Alan Davey, currently Radio Controller for BBC Radio 3, and who has previously worked with the Arts Council and the government. In December, I found myself on the way to the BBC Broadcasting House in London to meet my mentor for the first time, and after being escorted through the amazing building to a busy floor of Radio 3 related staff, any nerves I might have been were dispelled by an initial chat about my degree and my plans for the day. Alan and I discussed what we were currently doing, with me learning more about his role at Radio 3 and his ties to the Arts sector, and I talked about my experience as an editor for Redbrick’s Culture section and my plans to go to the theatre in the afternoon after our meeting. I explained that I am currently interested in roles in arts administration, PR/Marketing or education that would still allow me to use my love of the sector within a career, and that I had particular interests in theatrical history and the accessibility of the Arts to all.

We then discussed the specific topic of careers, and my future plans. I explained to Alan that I plan to pursue a part-time masters at UOB, and that I hoped this would give me the flexibility to pursue work and experience alongside this further study. Alan very usefully asked in detail about my degree and my hobbies, and how they relate to these potential roles and preparing myself for applying for them. Having discussed them with him, I am more confident that I would be able to discuss my own interest with them in an interview or work setting. Alan also made me aware that whilst I am able to explain what I have done in my degree and external that may be relevant to a particular role, I sometimes struggle to then explain why I have chosen to do certain things and what relevant skills I have learned from these experiences, which would be more effective in an interview setting.

At the end of our meeting, Alan gave me links to several websites that advertise similar roles to those we had discussed, and also mentioned a possibility of shadowing people at the BBC whose roles would be similar to those I am interested in. Alan also encouraged me to look at my CV again, and tailor a few examples for prospective roles I had discussed with him, meaning I would be thinking about them and the requirements I may need but would also have them ready for when I needed them in the future.

I left my first meeting having had a very useful and interesting discussion, and feeling much more positive about potential pathways and careers I could pursue, as well as having clear goals in mind before our next meeting. Alan’s generosity in providing me so much advice, as well as pointing out alternative options I hadn’t considered, has already been invaluable, and reaffirming of my interest in pursuing a career in the Arts sector.

Olivia Boyce

First meeting with Sam

I was so delighted when I heard the news that I had got my first choice – Sam as my mentor. Having done the exact same degree as me, and successfully having founded her own business (an aspiration of mine), I knew she would have a wealth of knowledge and advice to give about the biotechnology sector. After my first meeting, I have to say I was not disappointed.  

We arranged to meet on campus at the University. I immediately felt comfortable around Sam, her positive demeanour instantly put any nerves I felt at ease. First of all she asked me about myself, what my interests were, why I chose to do the mentoring scheme. She then told me how she got to the position she was in today, what she would do differently, and what she did well. We spoke about the differences between Managers and Leaders, and what skills it takes to run a business. I left excited for the rest of the mentor scheme, and feel there is a lot I can learn from Sam!  

Since meeting, Sam has offered her advice on my career decisions and further education. As someone who has done the exact same degree, from the same University as me, so her insight is unique and something I really value.

Melissa Tindall


Why a mentor? This is a question many people have asked me, and my answer is always, why not? Being a great advocate of self-development, mentoring provides the foundation to help me bridge the gap between who I am and who I want to be.

Having had two meetings with my mentor, Jane Lodge, thus far, I have already learnt so much about myself as well as life. Hearing Jane’s background and stories of her successes has been truly inspiring. It is often difficult for me to fully assess whether my current academic situation and values are in alignment with my goals. However, Jane has provided excellent insight into situations from many perspectives, in turn enabling me to fully thrive and flourish throughout the mentoring process.

A definite highlight for me is posing academic challenges to Jane that I occasionally struggle with, one of which is how to conquer lack of self-belief. This is often my downfall and a hindrance to harnessing my full potential. When asking my mentor how she conquered any limiting beliefs in her own life she answered, “sheer determination”. This sentiment further echoes my belief that with hard work and a willingness to succeed, anything is possible.

Marcella Cilia

Standing on the shoulders of giants

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” — Isaac Newton


Perhaps one of the most overquoted statements made by Newton is “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”. However, I believe there is none more apt for education or in particular mentoring.

Certainly this is how I certainly felt when I met my mentor Prof Boyd. Hearing all of his wonderful achievements made me feel honoured that such an individual would take an interest in my education and my career.

I had approached my initial meeting with mixed nerves and excitement. Prof Boyd opened our meeting by telling me about all he had achieved and what his work commitments were. I must confess, when he asked me what I was going I felt embarrassed that what I had done paled into nothingness compared to him. These temporary feelings of embarrassment went, when Prof Boyd explained to me what he had previously done for his mentees. I was over the moon when he encouraged me to sit with him at the Royal College of Physicians meeting and for me to speak to people in the pharmaceutical industry.

Meeting Prof Boyd highlighted to me the importance of choosing the right mentor. Both of us have medical backgrounds but see an importance in genomic science underpinning the future of therapeutics. As such I believe he is a perfect mentor for me as I am able to be guided by Prof Boyd in how I want to develop my ideas.

Therefore, I think it is apt to think to the quote mentioned above, any achievements that I myself make in pharmacology, will be aided by Prof Boyd, and now that I am standing on the shoulders of giants, hopefully one day I too, can see further.

Jamie D’Costa