Meeting multiple mentors

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.

Aiman Tahir


The first meeting

There has been a lot going on this term academically, so having my first meeting with Barry was a great refresher and helped me to see the bigger picture – giving me an insight into life after uni, which can be hard to imagine when you’re in 5 days a week, most days being 9-5.

Quite soon after the alumni mentoring programme started we arranged our first meeting. Barry was very proactive, and even through the emails he seemed very approachable and friendly. We met in a coffee shop, Barry was there early and waiting when I arrived. I had turned up to the wrong coffee shop, an amateur mistake, but I was soon able to find Barry. I was quite nervous about the first meeting but it was such a friendly and comfortable environment. We discussed the qualities of being a leader, the discussion was interspersed with anecdotes from Barry’s career. It was at these points where I remembered just how much he has achieved throughout his career, and how lucky I am to be mentored by him through this programme. I was struck by his humble nature despite all his achievements. There were many questions I had about corporate dentistry which were answered in detail. In the meeting I also learnt more about Barry’s journey, this was interesting and I realised that there is a lot of work that he has done which isn’t as widely known about. Most importantly, discussing how his previous mentees had benefited from this programme was really useful and put everything into perspective. It was great to see that he is still in touch with his previous mentees.

To conclude the meeting we set targets to achieve in time for the next meeting and even decided on an approximate time for this next meeting. This was helpful as it has given both of us achievable targets and a timeline in which to complete them. Since then we have maintained communication, Barry has provided me with contacts whom I can meet up with and find out more about their work, this is an opportunity most students don’t get. This academic year we get the chance to do an elective project on a topic of our choice, the contacts Barry has provided work in the field that I want to do my project in so this will no doubt be a great experience.

I had deliberated a lot before applying, thinking that I probably wouldn’t be selected but as I learnt, it is always worth trying rather than doubting yourself. I am looking forward to the opportunities this programme will bring, my advice to other students would be to definitely apply for this programme especially if they are not sure about what to do after graduation- this programme won’t give you a definite answer but it will show you all the options available. During the meeting Barry made the statement ‘Have a plan but be willing to change direction’ and it is this simple quote that has impacted me the most.

Aiman Tahir


My mentoring experience comes to an end…

I am sad to see such a helpful scheme come to an end, reflecting on the year gone by I am glad to say the mentor Mentee scheme has given me the confidence and knowledge to embark on my dental career. Barry has not only been a guide and support system, he has been a great friend to me. I hope to continue engaging with mentors further down the career line as I have seen what a difference it can make to a student and now newly qualified dentist’s perspective of Dentistry. I hope to also act as a mentor and share my advice and knowledge with others as there are just some things you can’t learn from lectures!

Ashana Gupta

First Meeting (Blog 1)

I had my first meeting with my mentor, Barry Cockcroft, today. We met at a coffee shop in town where we introduced ourselves and got acquainted. Barry gave me an insight into his journey from being an Under Graduate at the University of Birmingham to reaching the peak of dentistry and retiring as Chief Dental Officer. Barry outlined key personality traits that got him through the difficult stages in his career and shared personal experiences where he utilised them. In addition to this, we discussed articles and papers that would give me a wider outlook on the changes going on in dentistry and that we would not necessarily have access to through the University staff. I was also able to share my experiences of Under Graduate teaching at the University. Barry took into account my previous diary entry for him where I discussed my lack of confidence on clinic in treating patients and he left me with a lovely quote by Nelson Mandela: ‘I succeed or I learn’ reassuring me that it is ok to make mistakes and this is the time to learn from them.

I look forward to our next meeting where we will discuss the various career paths that can be taken in dentistry.

Ashana Gupta, 5th Year Dentistry




The journey continues

IMG_3096I wrote in my first blog post how I felt Barry Cockcroft was an enthusiastic mentor on the programme who was keen to assist. As the scheme has unfolded, this first impression has certainly proven correct. Living just outside the Birmingham area hasn’t stopped Barry from making a dedicated train journey to meet with me for coffee. Upon meeting, we’ve spoken without silence each time. An insightful balance of answering my specific questions but also sharing miscellaneous advice and anecdotes.

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Flying Start (Blog 1)

My ALMP experience has begun with a flying start. I got an email from Barry Cockcroft very soon after the scheme commenced. It was clear that Barry was an enthusiastic mentor who was genuinely keen to assist. All participating mentees had a briefing session organised by Careers Network on how to get the most out of a mentoring relationship. Before this session was even scheduled, Barry and I had already had our first meeting!

We spoke at a New Street station coffee shop for over an hour. I felt privileged at this meeting as Barry had prepared a brief agenda and advice sheet on his train journey which I took away with me. It included recommended reading material and people I should get in contact with. I was really lucky to meet face to face as it was a great way to make our introductions. The atmosphere was professional yet relaxed so it was an opportunity for me to explain my past and future intentions as well as finding out some of Barry’s career highlights which aren’t so well known.

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Behind the scenes in the NHS (Blog 2)

March ’14

The last few months have been very busy, both with getting ready for finals, as well as trying to complete patients’ treatments and transfer others to other students. However I was able to meet with Barry in January when he invited me to the National Steering Group meeting at the Department of Health/NHS England in London. There have been many changes within the NHS in the last year, with numerous ‘local professional networks’ having been set up to provide feedback on local services. The National Steering Group communicates between these and NHS England, as well as monitoring the pilot sites for the new dental contract. These meetings are very important in determining the direction that NHS dentistry will take for many years to come and so it was great to be able to observe it. It also gave me the chance to meet other people playing important roles in these developments, such as Professor Jimmy Steele who led the independent review of NHS dentistry several years ago and is now helping the attempt to improve quality of care for patients without reducing access to dentistry.

Watching Barry in his daily life showed a very different side to the clinical aspects of dentistry that I’m familiar with. I was able to observe several other, some more informal, meetings that Barry had scheduled that day, and it made me appreciate the amount of communication and work that needs to take place within different departments/groups in order to be able to make changes and improve even one part of the NHS.

Since then I have kept Barry updated about my application and offer of a foundation training place in September and am now aiming to meet him again in June to catch up and for a meeting of the National Dental Commissioning Group. So far I have very much enjoyed the experience, and despite both being very busy it has been good to make time to see the ‘behind the scenes’ of the NHS and has helped develop my understanding of the profession I am entering.

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A Confidence Boost (Blog 1)

Within two weeks of the ALMP introduction meeting I received an email from Barry Cockcroft asking if I would be free to meet him when he was next in Birmingham several weeks later. This went as planned and so on my way back from the dental hospital I met Barry for coffee. We talked for about an hour, within which I learnt a lot about the work he does for the department of health and the particular joys and stresses that it entails. We also talked about my application for a foundation training post next year and Barry gave me some advice for interviews. I found it interesting to hear from an inside perspective on current NHS and dentistry changes. Barry also told me a bit about his career, in particularly his transition between clinical work and public health.

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