I have now been on the Alumni Leadership Mentor Programme (ALMP) for 6 months and it has been a very stimulating and rewarding experience. I applied in March 2013 hoping to be paired with a Mentor who could help guide me on how best to utilise the opportunities I have both within and outside the university. Following a written application form and a Skype interview over the Atlantic from Chicago (minutes before I was to sit the US medical license exam!) I was successful in being selected for this sought-after programme.
My mentor is Dr Rowan Hillson MBE, who last year retired from an exceptional career in healthcare and medicine. A Doctor by trade (graduating in Medicine at Birmingham in 1974), Dr Hillson worked as a Consultant in Endocrinology and Diabetes at the Hillingdon Hospital, but also published many books on Diabetes. Dr Hillson is most famous for her role as National Clinical Director for Diabetes – “the Diabetes Tsar” – making her responsible for the care of 2.4million people with Diabetes in England. With such an excellent record in many areas that I wish to pursue within my own career, I was ecstatic when I found out that I would be mentored by Dr Hillson.
I have had numerous interactions with Dr Hillson over phone, through email and I was extremely fortunate to being taken to a fine-dining restaurant in central London. The advice and guidance I have received has far exceeded my expectations – we have shared our experiences and passions – for travel, for Birmingham and for patient care! I have received advice about recent job applications as well as career guidance. I also never imagined receiving the opportunity to find myself in the glorious House of Lords talking with exceptional alumni and staff from the University of Birmingham – including Sir Charles George and Tim Smart.
Over the next few months, I am confident that Dr Hillson will help enable me to further develop myself as individual, by developing key skills and exposing me to further opportunities which will no doubt help catapult me into the working world.
My second meeting with Tim was at Kings College Hospital in London. I again arranged this meeting with Tim’s secretary, following Tim’s suggestions in previous emails.
The meeting was set for 9.30am on a Wednesday so in order to get to the hospital on time I had to leave my house in Oxford at 5.45am. Despite the early start I was excited to see where Tim worked and learn more about his role. The meeting was very interesting and informative. I asked if we could look over my CV and so he offered his advice for how I could improve it and he also showed me his CV- which I must say was very impressive and well written. Following the CV discussion Tim invited Rick Wilson, Kings College Hospital’s Head of Nutrition and Dietetics over to the meeting too. It was great to be able to ask him questions about his job and his role in the hospital and he was able to offer me advice for how best I could become a dietician. Tim, Rick and I had a really great discussion about new developments happening in the hospital and also about general health of the population. I really enjoyed being able to talk to Rick and Tim about these areas as they really interest me. I left Kings College Hospital with even more motivation to reach my career goals. I have since updated and modified my CV, and I have also since started to read more into new and upcoming hospital developments and treatments, as I found this part of the discussion really interesting. I am looking forward to my next meeting with Tim.
First Phone Call
My mentoring first started in early October when Valerie’s Personal Assistant Charlotte emailed me to introduce herself and arrange my first phone call with Valerie. I was a little nervous about the phone call but I had no need. We introduced each other and discussed what we both wanted to get out of the mentoring scheme. Valerie suggested that I do some research into the Dave Ulrich model, which they use at Amey Services and talked about me potentially visiting her office in Oxford.
The first time I met Valerie was in early November at the University of Birmingham, as she was due to give a talk to a group of MBA students. We met for coffee with Kerrie before hand and I was invited to join a round table panel, giving me the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about Valerie’s role and the Amey services. Afterwards, I attended the talk and learnt a lot about HR, for example, idea staff ratios, the key aims to providing a successful HR service and also the challenges that HR face. Valerie shared her personal experiences of how she got to her current position and explained that it will be hard work, but also worth it, and to take any opportunities that you are given.
My visit to Oxford
In mid-November I was able to go to Oxford to spend the day with Valerie and other members of the HR team. We had a mentoring session first thing in which Valerie showed me the Intranet system that all the employees use to request holidays and submit claim expenses etc. We also went over some of the company statistics that Valerie uses to identify areas that may need improvement or equally are working well. I then got to meet the general enquiry team and learn about the SAP system they use to log and take calls and emails. After lunch I met with the recruitment team who went over my CV for me and gave me interview and application tips. I was able to visit some of the other sectors within the HR team and learnt a lot about the different roles. Afterwards, I was invited to attend a CIPD conference at Oxford Brookes where Valerie was key note speaker. Valerie’s personal assistant is currently studying for her CIPD qualification and so I learnt a lot from her and from attending the event, such as the types of assignments and what the course entailed. At the end of the day I had a catch up session with Valerie on the train, as she was also coming back to Birmingham. She gave me some great advice on the types of questions I can ask to impress in an interview that would also help me to understand the HR system of other companies. I loved my day at Oxford and learnt so much, but also was able to help their recruitment team by informing them about ways that other companies were recruiting graduates and giving my opinion on the use of social media to recruit new employees. I will hopefully be returning to Oxford again soon.
Mitali meets Martin 15th October 2013
Being a final year student was always a daunting thought to me when I arrived back at Birmingham’s doors after my year in Industry. I had been on a whirlwind of learning and discovery; thrown into the world of business and now ready to come back and complete my degree at the University of Birmingham. As you can imagine, my head was brimming with questions on the outlook of the future. What should I consider in my career? What does it take to turn my degree into action in business? How do I achieve my dreams of becoming a business leader?
Lucky for me, the Alumni Leadership Mentoring Programme had given me a golden opportunity to connect with Martin Devenish, the Advisory Director of Goldman Sachs. For me this was a dream come true and for those of you who are thinking about whether to apply I cannot recommend this opportunity enough. You cannot put a price on experience and knowledge and you cannot learn it in the classroom either. I can only give you one tip – APPLY!
Our first meeting was in the newly built Bramall Music Building. After exchanging introductions and tucking into our coffees I learnt that Martin has had a very interesting and varied career. Being a fellow business student I shared many familiarities and thoroughly enjoyed the conversation on how much Birmingham campus had changed (and is still the same!!). I asked many questions around Martin’s general career path, the route to success and was fascinated by his experience at Goldman Sachs. From New York to Africa, Martin has done it all, and with the world of finance focusing heavily on the emerging markets Martin passionately shared his interests and I learnt so much about the future outlook of the global economy.
Martin asked what my goals of the programme were. I wanted to understand how to become a business leader and also to understand how I can improve my abilities. I am incredibly committed to my self-development and during the meeting Martin and I started to discuss career opportunities for the future. It is here Martin empathised, opened up about his graduate experiences and offered valuable help and advice.
Since our first meeting Martin has helped to revamp my CV, given me advice on firms and certainly improved my finance knowledge. It is incredible to know I have Martin to help if I need it and more importantly that he genuinely wants to help.
I arranged the first meeting with Tim Smart via email with his very helpful secretary. After a brief email conversation with her, an initial meeting was arranged at the University of Birmingham Medical School. This seemed ideal as Tim was due to deliver a talk to medical students about what it is like to be in management in a large hospital.
I was nervous before meeting Tim, but I had no reason to be. He was really friendly, laid back and welcoming. We only met briefly for a chat and it was really nice to get to ask questions about his career, and answer the array of questions that he asked me. We had a great discussion about the health of the public at the moment which I really enjoyed. I also asked for his advice about how best I should tackle my chosen career of becoming a dietician. He very truthfully told me that he knew little about the field, but was still able to give me very helpful advice, suggesting that I look for voluntary work experience over the Easter or summer breaks and also that I speak to dieticians in local hospitals or surgeries for their advice.
Further to this Tim gave me ideas for how I could broaden my career horizons and suggested that I look into public health communication as he thought that it may be something that not only would I be interested in but that I may also be good at. I really enjoyed my first meeting with Tim and although it was brief, I feel like I learnt a lot and went away motivated to work and find out about opportunities. I was also given Tim’s mobile number and personal email address so that I could call or email him if I had specific questions following the meeting.
I also wanted to mention that I was fortunate enough to have been able to attend the University of Birmingham’s annual alumni event in The House of Lords. This event which is run for alumni and people who have given gifts to the University of Birmingham was a really great experience that I would fully recommend anyone to attend next year if you get the chance. The event was an excellent way of meeting people at the top of their careers and networking with them. I also learnt some interesting things about the university’s past and also heard about the developments that are planned for the university in the following years. I also got to go on a tour around the House of Commons and the House of Lords, which was really exciting. Overall I really enjoyed the evening!
My main reason for applying to the Alumni Leadership Mentorship Programme was as a source of advice to help me make informed decisions about the career path that I wanted to take. Jane Lodge, having a lot of experience in the UK manufacturing industry, was to me an excellent choice for a mentor as at this point I had already decided I wanted a career as a manufacturing/mechanical engineer.
After connecting with Jane through email, we arranged to meet at the Costa Coffee in the Bramall Music Building at the University of Birmingham in the middle of term 1. Before the meeting I had a list of bullet points on topics which I wanted to cover in the first meeting:
1. Guidance when applying/what to apply to
2. Interview Preparation
3. General Career Advice
During our meeting, Jane and I initially talked about our experiences so far, especially of the manufacturing industry. I explained about the year in industry I had undertaken in Ireland and she explained about companies and sectors she had been involved in. I explained to Jane about some of the companies that I had applied to and what stage of the application process I was in. Jane was able to suggest a few other graduate schemes/companies to apply for that I had never heard of. More importantly I explained about a few interviews (including a video interview) that I had coming up and tried to seek her advice on how to prepare, especially as I was quite nervous as some of them included a technical interview. One crucial bit of advice she gave me was to practise whilst looking in the mirror, trying to make eye contact with myself in it and another was to never underestimate the amount of company research you need to do. During our meeting there were a few awkward silences, however Jane was able to encourage me to open up and I was able to ask more questions and talk about what I felt I was going to do after I graduate.
After our meeting, I was pleased with how it went. My topics had all been covered and I put the advice Jane gave me about how to prepare for an interview to immediate use. I’m looking forward to our next meeting and feel that Jane has a lot of knowledge in UK manufacturing that I can take advantage of.
When I first received an email from my mentor, I was in the middle of reading a very dense law case. The email was a welcome relief from a long day of studying, and it made me feel both nervous and excited! I was worried about writing too much back (waffle syndrome), so kept my email short and polite. Over the next few emails, I arranged with Luciana’s assistant to meet her the following month.
The meeting was to take place in London. I made sure I prepared beforehand as I had never travelled to London alone before. On the train to London, I went over all the things I wanted to ask Luciana. I got on the tube to Westminster with plenty of time before the meeting. I reported to reception and I was greeted by Jason, who works with Luciana. We sat in the cafeteria and Luciana soon joined us, at which point Jason left. She had had a busy day as I expected, but was welcoming and friendly. I was very nervous though and all my preparation seemed useless when sitting there in front of a successful female politician. Luciana did most of the talking and emphasised the importance of having practical work experience in this climate. I told her that I work at a small high street immigration law firm, and she was very encouraging – it was this sort of experience which I needed to keep building up. At times I struggled to think of specific questions, but Luciana kept the flow of conversation going. I had brought my CV with me and asked her to take a look. She glanced over my CV and told me what worked and what didn’t work – e.g. “why don’t you put your twitter on here?” to which I meekly responded “I didn’t know I could” “Yes, put it on, why not?!” Her enthusiasm was infectious and I left the meeting feeling motivated for the future. However, I also felt disappointed in myself for becoming so shy suddenly and forgetting half of my questions. This was actually a positive I guess – this is the first time I had sat with a professional and seen my CV through the critical lens of a potential employer.
A day after the meeting, I began to make changes to my CV which Luciana had suggested. Reading it again I realised how weak I sounded – I was underselling my achievements; employers can’t read modesty after all, they will just see a weak CV. I emailed Luciana with my amendments and she replied swiftly. She said my CV looked stronger and that there were a few further additional changes I could make if I wished to. I was grateful for her time and I made a promise to myself to be more confident the next time I was to meet/contact her.