Professor Rosalind Smyth CBE FMedSci, Director at the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, is one of the mentors on the Academy programme and has mentored nine postdoctoral researchers. We asked what motivates her to give her time as a mentor, for her experiences as a mentor and if she has any tips for those just starting a mentoring relationship.
What motivated you to be a mentor, and what makes you continue to accept new mentees?
I really care about academic training, and the need to support colleagues at an early stage in their career to navigate the difficult waters of combining clinical and academic training, developing independence, achieving academic success, bringing up a family and more! Too many highly talented people find it all too daunting and if I can encourage and support a few, that is more than enough motivation.
What do you see as the benefits of mentoring to mentors?
Personally, I find mentoring enjoyable, and it is a privilege to advise enthusiastic and able colleagues. One doesn’t have many other opportunities to work one-to-one with individuals over a reasonably long period, and it enhances my understanding of the academic environment. It is helpful to have a perspective on current hurdles and challenges which I can help address in my other roles.
How have you found the mentoring relationships you have had as a mentor?
My mentees have selected me and almost all have been women. I don’t consider myself at all exceptional, but I do think female role models are critically important. In spite of their fantastic achievements, my mentees often lack confidence and one needs to keep encouraging them to be as ambitious as they are entitled to be. To me, it is essential that the mentor and mentee are from different institutions, so that the mentor's views are objective. There are often major personal and family pressures (not just related to children), challenging colleagues etc. I often bring a fresh perspective which enables them to view the problem in a different way. My role is not to get too close to the detail, but to support mentees to bring their values and skills to solving these problems in a way which will work for them.
Do you have any tips for mentees and mentors starting out on their mentoring relationship?
- Set out the framework at the first meeting, so that your expectations match.
- Confidentiality and trust is essential.
- I expect the mentee to be proactive in setting up and summarising meetings.
- Be realistic about what can be achieved – mentorship should enhance training and be supportive, but be prepared to be challenged!