On Saturday 24th November I had the privilege of meeting up with my mentor Tamsin Grieg at Enzo’s Kitchen on Panton Street, directly opposite the Harold Pinter Theatre where Tamsin was due on stage only a couple of hours later! We ordered a coffee each as well as a rather eccentric desert which Tamsin encouraged me to eat with my hands. This certainly gave the meeting a relaxed and informal feel!
We began by talking about my music degree and the specific modules I was taking this year. This was a lovely way to start the conversation as it allowed her to get a feel for my character without jumping straight in to the whole deal of: ‘what do you want to do with your life?’, ‘what motivates you?’ straightaway. The conversation then moved towards her, where she talked about what she did when she was my age. She told me about how she got on with her degree at UoB, what she got up to in the years after that, and how, interestingly, she underwent a period in which she felt the performing industry was not for her. On reflection, it was so valuable to gain that insight into the steps she took after she graduated, as it taught me that there is only so much you can plan for in terms of your career path. You must always expect the unexpected and be ready to take opportunities, which is especially crucial in this performing industry.
Following this, she began to offer some really helpful advice regarding the industry itself. She stressed the importance of staying true to yourself as a performer. Specifically, she advised me to hold on to my native Cheshire accent as she says it offers casting directors something different from the flurry of actors who naturally speak with received pronunciation. She also advised me to keep my cards close to my chest, as the industry is quick to label you which automatically limits your ability to find work; hence, it is always good to have something up your sleeve that you perhaps have not revealed before. This was all so refreshing to hear, as in my experience, you always perform better when you are not constantly looking to recreate a performance that you have seen from someone else, and relate it to yourself instead. The fact that Tamsin felt so strongly about this inspires me to always stay true to myself, and to not feel like I have to change for the industry.
Before Tamsin had to rush off to get in costume, she was able to offer further advice regarding performing through song, saying how it is vital that you let the character’s emotions drive the words you are singing, as opposed to just singing the words. Hearing an actor as successful as Tamsin stress the importance of carrying out this character work encourages me to put in these extra hours which will no doubt contribute to a better performance overall.
After the meeting I watched her in action at the Pinter Theatre – it is more than fair to say that I have a mentor who is greatly inspiring both off and on the stage!
I wrote my last blog post after only meeting my mentor, Alan Davey, once. Since then, I have been down to visit him at BBC Broadcasting House in London twice and have rearranged a third meeting because the impending doom of final year deadlines. These meetings have only gotten better and I feel privileged to be able to spend time and learn from such a knowledgeable and passionate person.
My second meeting with Alan was super exciting, I had heard from him the day before to let me know the plan and I was shocked but thrilled to learn that in addition to catching up and talking about my CV, I would be getting the chance to shadow the producers of the drive time show on Radio 3. After checking in and getting my visitors badge, Alan came down to pick me up from the reception and I’m pretty sure we found something to talk about from that moment until I left the building around 5 hours later. Alan was able to show me around Broadcasting House, taking me to see everything from his Radio 3 studios to the news room and Radio 1. Everywhere we went, Alan introduced me to anyone he could, explaining that I was his mentee and it was a great
chance to chat to other people working in radio, we talked about what I was doing in student radio and then I also got to learn about what they were doing in their day to day roles. Knowing my passion for Radio 1, Alan snuck me into their trendy playlist room, filled with signed records on the wall from artists likes Amy Winehouse, it all felt a bit surreal. Following this, we headed back to his office to talk through my CV. His feedback was invaluable and he was able to offer me an insight into what radio bosses like himself look for in a potential employee and a future leader.
Then came for the even more exciting bit where Alan introduced me to the team who produce In Tune on BBC Radio 3, their drive time show which has live classical music on every evening. The team were so welcoming and while Alan went off to get some of his work done, they looked after me, asking questions, answering all of mine and showing me all around the studios. As the show went live I had the opportunity to see how it all happened, chat to the producers and studio managers as well as learn more about how Radio 3 works. Being able to see how the team work under the pressure of having live music on air and still remain so calm was incredible.
I learned lots of ideas for how I could improve my work on Burn FM and also how those producers ended up working for the BBC and how I could work towards the same thing.
The next time I went down to London to visit Alan, we talked for a couple of hours all about the next steps, each putting forward ideas for how I can take the next steps towards working in the radio industry. As I was heading to a student radio conference, Alan also offered guidance on how to make the most of networking and we talked about who I should aim to speak to and what to talk about. Alan also gave me permission to drop his name in when chatting to certain BBC directors and it felt like a seal of approval. It gave me the confidence to really make the most of the opportunity.
I’m eager to submit my essays so that I can start working on the next part of my career journey, with Alan’s support and guidance.
In the past few months, I have really begun to understand how busy final year is, and as a result the majority of my time with Valerie has been spent over phone calls. However, this has allowed a flexible approach to what we do, and meant that any last-minute topics which come up we are able to accommodate. Valerie was still increasingly helpful, giving me advice on how to manage my dissertation, and what topics would be relevant from a business perspective to include.
Something else Valerie really helped me with was my graduate applications – we spent quite a lot of time talking about the different areas, what a long-term career plan in HR would ideally look like for me, and some tips about what experience I need to get there. Valerie’s advice has really helped me focus on what I want out of a career, and I have found some really interesting jobs which I wouldn’t have considered beforehand!
Overall, my time with Valerie has been really inspiring – she has given me a real insight into what a career looks like as a senior HR director, and has been extremely supportive over the last year. I am looking forward to my next meeting with Valerie, to go through my next steps.
I am extremely grateful for having been a part of the ALMP, as it has boosted my confidence, and allowed me to learn things which will be important for my career going forwards. I would totally recommend it to anyone, as even if you know what you want to do in the future, it’s always worth getting more experience and seeing other perspectives!
Business Management with a Year in Industry
I have had several meetings with Barry since the first blog, he has been very approachable throughout. In the most recent meeting we further discussed life after graduation, it was great to hear more about Barry’s incredible career and experiences. I think it is these anecdotes and the advice Barry gives along with them that have taught me the most about what makes a leader. Reflecting on my initial goals for this scheme, I now know the importance of having an action plan after graduation but also being prepared to change this as necessary.
I noticed something quite humbling, just before his meeting with me Barry had met up with his mentee from last year. This highlighted to me the fact that this scheme provides you with so much more than just a year of mentoring advice, it provides you with contacts and mentors for life.
Over the last few months my mentor has provided me with the contact details for several people in the field, so far I have met with two of these people. This has given me the opportunity to learn about different perspectives, their job roles and their journeys. The first was a meeting with the youngest dental public health consultant, Dr. Tomson. I made my way to the offices, feeling very out of place in the waiting room where everyone else, dressed up in suits, looked like they meant business. But once I was called in the friendly environment instantly made me feel comfortable, Dr Tomson told me about her career journey and the advice she would give at this stage of my career. I learnt more about her day to day work which was very interesting – this completely changed my perception of a career in dental public health.
I also got the opportunity to make a trip to London and attend a meeting at the Shard offices with Mr Rattan. I made my way down to London, it was a pleasant break during a busy week at uni. After entering the offices I went through security and was presented with the task of navigating my way to the right floor, after taking ending up on the wrong floor a few times I finally made it to the right office. The views from the waiting room kept me occupied while I waited to be called in. The meeting went really well, again we discussed career pathways as well as the current trends in dentistry. Making my way to the exit was just as hard as getting to the office but once out I then had the rest of the day to spend in London before getting back to Birmingham.
Everyone I have met so far has told me how lucky I am to have Barry as my mentor, they have nothing but praise for him and his work. And he has always told me that in a leadership role you will have to make unpopular decisions because of the role you are in but it depends on you whether people are able to dissociate the job role from you as an individual and give you that respect.
It’s first term of third year and my friends are telling me about Masters they want to do or have applied for, the grad jobs they have interviews for, it’s a weird environment to be in. I’ve known for a while now that I would like a career in the radio industry and from what I have learnt, it’s a world that isn’t so concrete with lots of graduate opportunities, but rather a place full of freelancers constantly building experience. So my first meeting with my mentor, Alan Davey, Programme Controller at BBC Radio 3, couldn’t have arrived at a better time.
With this pressure of what to do next building, I was keen to meet Alan, if anything for some reassurance that I had time and I was making the right decisions. We were fortunate enough to meet on campus as Alan was in the city for a meeting with Arts Council. We wondered around to find a suitable meeting spot and soon all the pressure and nerves of meeting such a successful person fell away. Alan was quick to put me at ease and ask me questions about my student life, how my studying was progressing and what I was doing in my spare time. I was then able to learn more about his time at Birmingham, where he studied English Language and Literature. He was intrigued to learn more about the research I was conducting for my essays and my dissertation as
I have managed to make that about my chosen career of radio too!
Alan wanted to know more about me and why I wanted a career in Radio. He was keen to listen to my plans and offer ideas on what steps to take next. It was great to get to know each other in a relaxed environment and it seemed a good idea to not dive straight into ‘this is how to get a job’. We were able to talk about my dissertation research and discuss interesting ideas about Radio and what types of radio we both enjoy. I was glad to have this time to talk and get to know each other as I feel more comfortable and my nerves have disappeared for my next meeting which we planned to be in London at Broadcasting House. It will certainly be a far cry from the small tour, I
gave Alan, of the Burn FM studios. Nonetheless, it was still great to show him what we were doing in our student radio so that he can understand my current commitments and plans.
I have already had the opportunity to send my CV to Alan and I am looking forward to hearing his feedback. We talked about how it was important to really demonstrate all the unique factors that reveal my passion for radio.
If anything, it was a relief to meet Alan and realise that I’m on track. I’m doing the things that are necessary and that passion will help in this industry. It was a reassuring meeting but also one that has made me feel excited for the future and less worried. I feel that at the end of this scheme I will be ready to face the next challenge, whatever that may be.
On 9th January, I spent the day work shadowing Sarah Cox, the Chief Operating Officer at ofgem. It was a jam packed day that gave me an honest reflection of the working environment in the organisation.
Walking into 10 S Colonnade in Canary Wharf was very intimidating but Sarah was very welcoming and instantly eased my nerves. Coincidently, the 9th was also when two new senior recruits were also starting and I was able to see their introduction to ofgem. Throughout the day, I was able to partake in or observe numerous meetings looking at a spectrum of areas including finance, HR and IT. Furthermore, I was able to sit in on a speech by ofgem Chairman, Martin Cave and Chief Executive Dermot Nolan on the future direction of the organisation. In one day I got a feel of the overall organisation and the work they do.
Most beneficial was seeing Sarah’s vibrant leadership style. Sarah was hardly at her desk for more than 15 minutes instead, with a Pepsi Max in her hand, she was running about to different meetings. It was really eye-opening to experience how diverse your role can be when you reach to Sarah’s seniority. And rather than her knowledge of the energy sector, it was her leadership, managerial, commercial skills which make her excellent at her job. Sarah knew what was going on in that office! Sarah’s favourite word was agile, the ability to move quickly and easily. That was her vision for ofgem and after spending the day with her, the word embodies what Sarah is.
After just one day of shadowing, I learnt so much about what a true leader looks like. I can’t wait to take what I learnt and apply it to my work.
It started with a Costa coffee on University Square. I had been called earlier in the week by Alan Boyd’s secretary and she asked if I would be free to meet with him in the coming week as he would be visiting Birmingham. Retrospectively, I know that I had no reason to be nervous, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t when I agreed to the meeting. It’s not everyday you meet someone who is so influential in the field that you would like to go into. My mentor studied biochemistry, and had his own consultancy company, which was my present degree and potential future career respectively. It was a rigorous process to even get an interview for the Alumni mentorship scheme, much less to get my first choice of mentor. So, needless to say, I was both ecstatic and anxious for our meeting. Would my questions be silly? Would his advice be applicable? Would I be inspired? The answer to all those questions is yes.
The first thing I want to say is that he was really kind – I could tell that he genuinely just wanted to be as of much help as possible. He started by asking me what it was that I wanted to gain from his mentorship. That opening question allowed me to explain my concerns after graduating with a degree in biochemistry. I don’t want to go into research, which is the typical career route, and I would like to go into the business side of the pharmaceutical industry. However, going from science to business is seen by many as a risky and incomprehensible move. My mentor was able to give me incredible insight into the options I had and he essentially dampened my fears; biochem to business was so possible and I was in a great position as my degree makes me a great thinker. He also made it clear that he was willing to play an integral role in helping me to achieve my goals and get pivotal experience. I left the meeting feeling so encouraged!
I was also very interested in knowing what characteristics are important for a successful career. After listening to his career journey, where he was constantly finding ways to make bad situations better, it was made clear to me that an important characteristic is resilience. You are not defined by the obstacles you face, but rather how you overcome them. What can you do to rise from your situation? This is a vital characteristic that will not only set you up for an excellent and exciting career, but it will also usher you into positions of leadership as you can solve problems, which is what all businesses need. On a more personal note, I feel like I have someone who genuinely is in my corner and gets my concerns, you know? And as a soon-to-be graduate, that’s all you want to be honest – Someone who can give you applicable advice. Degrees are very unique experiences and having someone who has was once in my shoes to ask questions to is such a blessing.
Biochemistry with Professional Placement
I had really wanted a mentor as I felt the opportunity to discuss things on a 1-2-1 with someone who ‘understood’ many of the concerns I had as I approached my final year at UoB was going to help me get the best out of myself. Luckily for me I was allocated Sam Decombel to be my mentor. Sam graduated with a PhD in 2007 and became the Co-Founder and Chief Science Officer of FitnessGenes, a company in the fitness genomics industry. They are able to analyse peoples DNA to help individually tailor fitness programmes and diet plans to them. She also has a wealth of experience in start ups.
Our first meeting was set up for October at a coffee shop in Bicester, near to her offices and on my route home. I realised quickly that time is precious and getting dates in diaries was going to be very important. It was great to get the mentoring experience started early on as it has given us plenty of time to prepare and establish what we both want from the opportunity.
Although initially nervous, after a few minutes of conversation I felt completely at ease and started to really enjoy myself. I learnt a lot about Sam, including her university experience, general interests and career path, and began to feel really excited about what the mentoring scheme will offer over the coming year! We soon realised we had a lot in common, both having studied biological sciences and played for the women’s football team at UoB. As a result, we had a lot to talk about and the time really escaped us both! It was fascinating to see how driven she is and how many obstacles she has overcome in her career to become successful so quickly.
She then asked me about my time at Birmingham, my current plans and future goals. I explained about my year studying at Wilfred Laurier in Ontario and told her about my plan to return to Canada after I have graduated and she was really encouraging of the idea, emphasising how important it is to do the things you enjoy most, and to take time to work out what kind of job you are really suited to, before jumping into something without thought. This was very reassuring to hear! I also told her about wanting to work within sectors of health/ sports science/ nutrition and she gave me great advice on the importance of relevant work experience. Sam came across as a very down to earth person, which made me feel at ease and allowed me to be very open with her. I left the meeting feeling motivated.
Sam explained the importance of a well written CV and kindly offered to review mine. She gave me extremely useful feedback, pointing out aspects to alter/ add that I had not even considered before. She also gave great tips on tailoring my CV to specific job roles and positions in order to make it stronger and more direct.
Since our first meeting back in October, we have arranged a second one to fit in before the Christmas holidays. Conveniently, Sam is often in Birmingham and is very willing to find time to meet up. I will be meeting with her in a few days over a coffee to update her on my progress and to further discuss the direction of our mentoring relationship. I am really looking forward to hearing what she has been up to and filling her in on the past few weeks here in Birmingham!
Biological Sciences with International Year
I remember feeling a sudden wave of panic rush over me as I saw Andrew’s car pulling up at the university, where I was waiting to meet him for the first time. The seniority of my mentor hadn’t fully dawned on me until that moment; I found myself worrying that some of the ideas I wanted to discuss were too confused and contradictory. However, Andrew instantly put me at ease.
I soon found out that most of my assumptions regarding what the conversation would consist of had been wrong. I know that I want to start my own business in the future, so I had been expecting a bombardment of questions about when and how I was going to do that and what exactly my business model was. Instead, Andrew first tried to build up a general picture of who I was and what I was all about – from what my parents did to what I enjoyed the most about my degree subject. I had also expected to be persuaded to apply for established graduate schemes, and I worried that my motivations wouldn’t resonate with Andrew. In reality, he never questioned my intentions to start my career in a small business or start-up, and seemed to ‘get’ what I wanted in life pretty quickly.
As well as the inundation of useful advice from Andrew – interviews are all about having a conversation not about giving the ‘right’ answer; don’t look away from the interviewer when you’re thinking – I actually learnt a lot about myself over the course of this first meeting. Sure, I’d discussed my plans for after graduation with other people before, but having that conversation with Andrew was a completely new experience. I was taken aback by just how observant and good a listener my mentor was, to the extent that simply answering his on-point questions helped me to gain a lot of clarity.
There are two main things I have taken away from the experience as a whole so far. The first is that there is no big ‘secret’ to planning your career or making job applications that I’ve now been let in on – it sounds silly written down, but I think that previously a part of me actually believed that there was. Although Andrew’s guidance in rewriting my CV and carefully wording my emails has been invaluable, the best part of the experience has simply been gaining the courage to do things I could have done before. I had thought that sending out my CV directly to companies I liked the look of would be pointless and a waste of time, but with Andrew’s encouragement I did it. I was pleasantly surprised to get some form of response from almost half of them!
The second take away is that I had actually been on the right track with my ideas about where to take my career all along – I had just lacked the conviction. Although I have some work experience, it’s nowhere near extensive enough for me to feel that I have a full understanding of all the options that are out there, so a lot of my ideas come from my online research. The downside of this is feeling like my plans are not rooted in reality, so talking everything through with somebody who has the real-life experience I lack is a huge boost. Every chat with Andrew leaves me feeling ready to take on the world, so I’m looking forward to really taking advantage of his help next semester as I contact more companies.
Economics with Spanish
I am currently doing a Masters degree in Chemistry but realised after doing my year in industry placement that might not want to go into the Science sector. Therefore, I thought that the mentorship scheme would be a great way for me to learn more about other industries. I chose Sarah Fahy, the vice president of Sony’s Global Tax in Europe, to be my mentor as I thought that she would be able to provide me with an insight into the accountancy sector.
In October I travelled to London to meet with Sarah. Our first meeting was super helpful. We first discussed the positives of going into accountancy. On such example would be job flexibility as firms such as PwC allow employees to have a very flexible working arrangement. There is also the ability to progress into a diverse range of other industries and for me personally, the possibility to then work within the finance department at a Science based company. We also discussed the wide range of accountancy jobs that you can go into once you have done the ACA (Association of Chartered Accountants) qualification. We also discussed the negatives, such as having to do yet more exams!
We then discussed the importance of making the right career decision and not rushing into anything. Although it seems like the end of the world to not know what is going to happen after graduation, it is better to take some time and make the right choice than to regret a rushed decision! Sarah also highlighted to me the importance of considering what you want from a job and what you definitely don’t! We agreed that as “homework”, I would go away and write these things up into a list and that we would discuss the results at a subsequent meeting. She also suggested that I did a personality test as this can often be helpful in establishing what your key priorities and motivations are.
Overall our first meeting was very helpful in giving me an insight into wide range of applications that involve accountancy and the broad variety of jobs that accountants end up doing. I also found it reassuring to know that I am not the only person who feels that their future in unclear. The meeting also stimulated me to reflect on myself and my priorities within a job. Although I still do not have a clear path for the future, I feel that I now know what to do to make that path clearer.
For anyone who is considering the scheme or who feels unsure about the future I would strongly advise that you apply even if none of the mentors appear directly relevant to your degree subject. You never know where the scheme might lead you!
Chemistry with Industrial Experience