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How becoming a mentor could benefit you too

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How becoming a mentor could benefit you too

Thursday 25 May 2017

For today's students and graduates, making the transition from education to employment can be challenging. Having a mentor to advise and encourage can help to develop critical thinking and broaden professional networks - ultimately opening up doors to advance their careers.

Of course, the benefits of a mentoring are not only limited to the mentee. Successful mentoring relationships result in both parties walking away from the experience having gained something invaluable, whether professional insight or a lifelong friendship — or in some cases, both.

We spoke to Abby Brazier, senior product designer at W’innovate Ltd, a design consultancy specialising in own brand, domestic and consumer-led everyday products for Wilko, about her experience mentoring third year BA product design student, Ellie-Beth Squires.

What projects are you currently working on at W’innovate?

I can’t go into too much detail, but I'm focusing on some evolution and innovation products to launch later this year. Evolution products tend to be existing things but done better, whether that be better quality, better aesthetic form, or easier to use and clean. Innovation products are brand new ideas, all still very much user focused.

You’re an alumna of Sheffield Hallam, how did you find your course and did you have a mentor while you were a student?

I didn’t have a mentor no, not officially. However I did have a lot of support from one of our tutors, Peter Kaye, in my first year as I lacked a lot of confidence in myself and my abilities. He was fantastic. He had so much patience and belief in me. I had a meeting with him every week! Then, during my final year I was really inspired by my tutor Tim Lovering. He had a brilliant balance between questioning and challenging my ideas while still being encouraging. I learnt a great deal from him. Our year group were the last to graduate from Psalter Lane Campus and that building was so special to me. It was from the old school of art and design where anything went! We were surrounded by classic, quality design in the architecture, fixtures and fittings that I especially found inspiring.

How did the mentor scheme work for you logistically?

Due to my work location and commitments, it was easy for Ellie and I to meet in Sheffield. Our mentoring sessions each took a different lead depending on what Ellie wanted. We discussed other options to design, as while Ellie is talented product designer, she’s also a fantastic and confident communicator and is keen to keep her options open. We reviewed her portfolio, CV and job applications and we discussed her project work and process. Our sessions were always very open and informal. I like to be completely honest with mentees, so I will happily share struggles I face in my life/career path to help them see that they can achieve what they want.

Why did you decide to sign-up for the mentor scheme at Hallam?

When I was a student I had zero female role models in design. Even now, my female design role models are colleagues I’ve met along the way. Design is always changing but when I entered the industry it was very male dominated. If I could have had someone like me to encourage me when I was younger, I’d have jumped at the chance. Don’t get me wrong, I have worked with and been mentored by some amazing and inspiring male designers, I credit John Elson at Jedco for giving me the ‘proper’ design skills I needed to start my career! But I do see time and time again young girls, very talented in design, who just lack the confidence to continue. The best design comes from collaboration, and therefore I think that all design teams should contain a diverse mix of people, with different experiences & opinions to allow for different perspectives.

How do you think Ellie-Beth benefited from your mentorship?

I hope that I gave her the reassurance, confidence and guidance at a time when she needed it. I thought she was very proactive, mature and professional in how she presented herself and her work. I have no doubt she will succeed in whatever field she chooses.

What would you say to others who are considering becoming a mentor?

I’d say 'do it!' Not only can you help a student who wants to be the best they can be, but it also makes you realise how far you’ve come in your own career, which is a nice, humbling feeling.

Becoming a mentor and helping a student as they make decisions about their future can be a fantastically rewarding and interesting experience.

If you'd like to become a mentor visit our mentoring website. Alternatively, if you have any questions, please contact Louise Harrison at careermentoring@shu.ac.uk.

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