Having a mentor through the Aberdeen Young Professional’s Scheme is proving invaluable. What initially drew me to my now mentor, Murray Kerr – Managing Director SengS, was his enthusiasm, drive and passion for his work. I had read an interview; Press and Journal 2014: How I got where I am today, and knew that I had to speak with him. Although we both work in different industries, I share his outlook on career development and am confident he will be able to provide guidance and fuel my determination to meet my goals.
On the AYP Finalist night unfortunately, due to work commitments Murray was not able to attend. The night was still highly beneficial as I got to speak to many other inspirational finalists and individuals including Heather Sharkey – Commercial Director at EC_OG and Steve White – Subsea Operations Advisor at Apace North Sea, both whom I feel would be at the end of a phone if I ever needed advice.
I still wanted to speak with Murray so we arranged a call and sussed out whether the mentor relationship would be beneficial. Even from one phone call I could tell that Murray and I would get along, he was very open and honest and I could tell he wouldn’t be afraid to give me some home truths if needed. Sometimes, it is good just to have an outside perspective.
During out first face-to-face meeting, at the Return To Scene offices, I was able to show Murray exactly what my job entailed. Giving him demonstrations on the R2S Software and Services that I provide to the Forensic and Law Enforcement industries. Prior to our meeting Murray had provided me with questions so that he could gauge my career aspirations and worries, which we ran through. He was very supportive and honest about everything I told him and we put a plan of action into place for the coming weeks to help me hit those goals. This wasn’t by any means a one sided conversation and it provided me with a real insight into how Murray saw this relationship developing too.
We decided a good place to start would be personal branding and looking at the bigger picture. It was evident that what I had showed Murray during our meeting wasn’t being portrayed online, through outlets such as LinkedIn, so my first goal was to get more information out there so that people had a clearer understanding of what I do. I am now more conscious of my personal brand and aim to build it over time, alongside my goals, to progress my career.
Something I am passionate about is inspiring the next generation into careers such as Science and Technology and although I have done a little of this through guest lecturing at Robert Gordon University I felt that I could do more. I had read about STEMNET ambassadors, volunteers who engage children in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, but had never taken the next step to join them. I spoke to Murray about this and he said, just do it, if you are willing to do something you will find a way to get over any obstacles. This has stuck with me, as one of my personal obstacles is self-doubt through nerves, the only way to get past this is to do more, present more and speak about the things that I know inside out and with each time I will build my confidence. So I have taken my first steps and had my STEM induction, I am now just waiting for the final sign off before I can start volunteering – watch this space!
I have my next meeting with Murray coming up and I am looking forward to developing our relationship, which will hopefully be beneficial for both of us.
Murray Kerr: “In first reading Laura application for this program I was really impressed with Laura’s career path and wanted to know more on exactly what her job entailed, furthermore was impressed with her enthusiasm she had shown in the application for this program.
Over the last few months, I have set certain goals for Laura and on every occasion Laura has excelled in completing these tasks. Her ambition and enthusiasm for work is infectious and over the last few months I have noticed Laura is becoming more focused and confident.
I am looking forward to continuing this journey and see where it takes us.”
“I was unfortunately unable to attend the AYP Mentor event at the beginning, business called, new contract to tender. So luckily Heather Sharkey, our commercial director, did a sterling job of presenting my case as to why I should be chosen as a mentor. As the days, then weeks, passed no one had contacted me or chosen me as a mentor. Others had been paired up and I was feeling left out and really disappointed. Then, out of the blue, I get a message that Yekemi wants to meet me. Heather says she has met her at the event and she is energetic and intelligent, then proceeds to hand me her CV. When I read it, I’m not sure who is going to be mentoring who.
We meet and Yekemi explains what she wants to do, a new venture using her business, marketing and engineering skillsets all combined. She explains where she is in terms of the business and I realise I can offer some useful advice as she is just setting off on her journey. We have had 3 meetings face-to -face and social events as we increase her network. The face-to-face meetings have focused around her business plan, now after some refinement it is looking like a document which gives proper direction to the business. She has refined her target markets, worked her USP, created a realistic cash flow, realised where she was under (and over) selling and really begun to build a strategy on how to maintain her clients alongside growing the business. The great thing is that she is working this out for herself and that’s what it’s about, putting it out there, thinking it over, bouncing it around and making a plan to be executed.
I must admit I was a little nervous about mentoring someone when I still hadn’t really got my own business truly established. I then thought about the mentoring that I had been offered. For me, it had been great but most of the mentors were already very successful, money in the bank, pension pot filled, mortgage paid off, gone through the whole start up thing a long time ago, mostly remembering the rosy bits. My company and I are a long way off that. Yekemi is only 3 years behind where we currently are which means a lot of what she will go through will still be fresh in my mind. Her business may well surpass mine and at some point the roles will reverse but in the meantime I’m enjoying giving all the help and advice I can, even if it is sometimes is just saying, “things will work themselves out”. Yekemi is a great person to mentor, I think the next year is going to be a lot of fun.”
“I had nearly given up on the idea of an ideal mentor. That was until I met Rob Cowman through the AYP Mentor Scheme earlier this year.
My first meeting with Rob was at the engineering company he co-founded, East Coast Oil & Gas. Rob is the Engineering Director. The fact that Rob is an engineer who founded his own company makes an ideal combination that came together by chance. You see, I am an engineer who has moved across several commerical roles in business development and strategic marketing with companies like Schlumberger, GE Oil & Gas and Lloyd’s Register. I have recently started my own strategic marketing consultancy, YO! Marketing, working with engineering, manufacturing and technology companies to strengthening the use of digital technology and marketing data in achieving business goals.
In our first meeting, Rob came across as genuine, and friendly. We discussed my plans for my business, my target market and how I might refine my solution to be most attractive to engineering firms. I found Rob to be easy to talk to and I had a sense that he will always be honest with me, whether it was what I wanted to hear or not.
True enough, Rob offered his honesty to me when I turned up at our second meeting with my business plan. For me, it was the first time I was allowing someone to sense-check my ideas. The first draft of my business plan felt like the birth of something I had carried for a long time. Showing it to Rob was nerve-wrecking, and a relief at the same time.
The discussion with Rob that day was the most valuable one I had about my business. He pointed out areas I needed to give more thought, and he offered advice about what I might prioritise in the early stages of my business. He helped me develop a punchier message for my target audience by asking me challenging questions that I couldn’t have asked myself. Rob being is an engineer has proven to be a gift. He is my target audience so his perspective has been very valuable in honing my solution to my target market. On the financial side, Rob is able to look at my cash flow forecast and tell to me multiply a line item by 1.5 to be more realistic. Which brings me to another reason I have the ideal mentor. Rob knows what it takes to start a company in Aberdeen. His insight on what things will cost me and mistakes I could avoid have really helped me get off to a promising start.
In our most recent meeting, I expressed concern to Rob about the new insights I was getting from meetings with potential clients. These insights suggested a slight tweak to my offering and being a perfectionist, I felt uneasy about making changes to my “perfect” solution. Rob assured me that it was exactly what starting a business was about. He gave me examples from when he started and the changes he made as new market intelligence became available. “It’s all about hearing out the market and changing,” he said. Even though I knew this as a marketer, somehow, I needed to hear it. Now I feel confident to take the necessary steps to move forward with my company.”
Daunting. Seems like an appropriate word to describe walking into the AYP Mentor Scheme finalist evening. In the grandiose setting of the Trinity Hall on Holburn Street and with a few other nervous candidates I was first called across to do a video interview (the first time I’ve ever been illuminated in front of a camera) and then to interview with my selected mentor, Alan Blacklaw. Thankfully the nerves settled and the interview went well. Alan was my manager as a fresh-faced graduate in 2009 for a couple of months but we had a lot to catch up on.
Since being paired together Alan and I have had two face-to-face meetings and a teleconference which have served to guide me during a turbulent time in my career and personal life. BG Group, who I have worked for since 2009, is currently being taken over by Shell and the transition is proving somewhat stressful. It has been great to have an opportunity to discuss this with someone impartial. We’ve also touched on a few non-work issues which has been a pleasant surprise.
During our first meeting we focussed on getting to know each other’s backgrounds through a series of questions that Alan had sent to me a few days previously and three questions that I selected to ask him. We discussed managing expectations and how best to allocate time to the ‘personal stakeholders’ in life using a three tiered bronze, silver and gold model. We also discussed career aspirations and the need to broaden experiences though potentially branching out into new companies and industries.
One of the most interesting conversations of this meeting was around telling stories. I was asked if I consider myself to be a good story teller, answered in the affirmative and was then challenged to tell a story of a recent success. Suffice to say it wasn’t the best put together narrative in the world and this proved the point that all good stories need a beginning, middle and an end. This is something that I will be focusing on in my day-to-day work as each update provided is, in some ways, a story.
Our second meeting was built around behaviours and personalities – specifically using the Insights tool to discuss management styles. Both Alan and I are ‘red/yellow’ personalities according to the Insights questionnaire so we were able to discuss methods to interact with other personality types. We had a good session on incentivising people and one of my actions was to take the time to personally thank at least four people for a job well done during my next trip offshore.
Alan has also provided me with a selection of ‘sound bites’ to consider which include:
We are due to meet again in mid-August when we will be discussing recognition (as mentioned above) and focussing on setting some long term career goals. I will also be looking for some assistance with generating new goals as part of my Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) Continuing Professional Development. One of the questions that I have had a chance to ask is “what’s in it for you?” The answer surprised me a little in that it seems that discussions with me are thought provoking and cause Alan to be a little more introspective and questioning. I’m glad that the sessions are proving mutually beneficial and would like to thank Alan for giving up his time to meet with me. I’d also like to thank the AYP for setting up the scheme and hope that the other mentors and mentees are getting as much from it as I am.
Chris Tayler – Mechanical Engineer – July 2016.