One of the unique benefits HBA members have is the opportunity to participate in the mentoring programme. As part of our volunteer spotlight series, this month we would like to introduce you to Victoria Taylor, deputy director, mentoring programme.
She shared with us her experience, and why it is so important to have a mentor at some point in your career – not only for the purpose of developing skills for your day job, but also to help you take the next steps in your career by challenging you and encouraging your long-term career goals.
Victoria Taylor, deputy director mentoring
Tell us about yourself – why did you decide to be a volunteer for the mentoring programme committee?
I've been lucky enough to have very strong women and men who have been there to advise and support me throughout my studies and work life. They've helped me to shape what I want to do, who I want to become and they have empowered me to take bold steps in my career. I also know how hard it can be to ‘get a mentor’ beyond your own company – everyone says how important mentors are, but where do you find them?! When I heard about the HBA mentoring programme I thought that this was an amazing initiative that would connect women from across the globe. I jumped at the chance to be involved.
Something many people wonder is what the differences between coaching and mentoring are – do you there are any?
This is a question that comes up a lot, and I think that there isn’t necessarily a black and white definition because each coach or mentor’s style will be individual to them and often is a blend. For me, the important distinction is that a mentor can share their experiences and offer advice, whereas a coach could be from a completely different field but can help the coachee work through their issues and goals.
I think in both cases, it is key that the person being coached or mentored is in the driving seat. That is certainly what we expect from participants in the HBA programme.
Why do you think being mentored is so important?
When you ask senior leaders how they got to where they are, their response invariably includes mentoring. For me personally, I’ve benefited immensely from having a trusted advisor who can give a fresh perspective outside of your work bubble.
Mentors can see where there are areas of improvement where you often can’t, and this honesty can be really refreshing. I’ve found that my sessions with my mentors give me the headspace to think about the big picture and my own development, not just the day job.
Finally, it is a great way to expand your network and horizons. As I mentioned, this is one area of the HBA programme that we are keen to improve further so that more mentors and mentees can interact and meet each other even more, allowing strong professional and personal connections to be established from across the sector and globe. From the mentor’s perspective taking part is not only a way to give back, but it always can help with their growth as leaders. We are always really encouraged by the positive feedback that we get from mentors with how much they enjoy the experience and how they find it a positive challenge.
What does the mentoring programme offer that you cannot find elsewhere?
We are a dynamic programme that actively listens to feedback from past participants so that we can improve year on year. For example, we’ve heard loud and clear how our members appreciate the support that we offer throughout the programme from training sessions, online forums and communities etc. but that participants would like more face-to-face catch-ups. This is something that we are actively planning for by expanding our team to make sure we have enough volunteers on the ground. If there is anyone that is interested in volunteering, please do get in touch.
Who do you think would benefit from the mentoring programme?
Some of the key unique offerings of the HBA programme are the incredible diversity of participants from the life sciences industry and the personalised, in-depth matching process. This means that we have the ability to match a range of mentees; i.e. it is not just for people at the start of their careers. In fact we often have mentors signing up to be mentored in the next round. Key criteria for both mentees and mentors are that they are fully engaged and committed to participating in the programme.
The Mentoring Programme for 2018 will be opened for registration very soon. In the meantime, if you would like to get involved, you can reach out for more information.