Professor Gary Entrican is an Honorary Professor at the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine at the The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh.
Gary was one of the original mentors in the BSI scheme back in 2017 and in 2021 was paired with Dr Ryan Thwaites.
Where did you first hear about the BSI mentoring scheme and what drew you to it?
My involvement with the scheme was partly by chance and partly from an interest in how mentoring supports personal development. A last-minute place became available at the first BSI training session for mentors and mentees at which was being held pre-Congress in Brighton in 2017. I took the place, really enjoyed the workshop, learned a lot and decided to join the scheme as a mentor.
How has the BSI mentoring scheme helped you gain an insight into the contemporary difficulties that early career researchers face?
I’ve mentored three early career researchers so far, and while each have been very different, a common difficulty is identifying the route to long-term funding and career stability. I think there are more decisions to be made now with regard to building up a CV and what to focus on. We are much more metric-orientated and financially-driven now, which means that everything needs to be recorded. I think this has increased the pressure on early career researchers to maximise their chances of success in a very competitive environment.
During the scheme what level of frequency of contact did you have with your mentee and what level do you think works best?
At the first meeting I establish the mentee’s expectations and then let them decide on the frequency of the meetings depending on the input they would like from me. Everyone is different, flexible approaches based on individual needs work well in my experience. On average, I have telecon meetings every two months with my mentees, but this is not hard-and-fast. The meetings are interspersed with bi-directional emails, so I always feel well-connected and informed of developments.
Could you discuss what level of expectation mentees should have regarding mentors and what is an appropriate level of support?
As I’ve said, I establish individual expectations at the first meeting, but I’d like to re-iterate that flexibility is important because circumstances can unexpectedly change and mentoring is a constantly-evolving process. If there were expectations that I couldn’t meet, I’d be upfront about them, so for me the appropriate level of support is making sure that I do what I can to meet the agreed expectations.
Can you discuss a particular highlight of the scheme that you feel best exemplifies your mentoring experience?
The best thing for me has been the verbal feedback I’ve had from my mentees that I’ve been able to offer a perspective that they might otherwise not have had and that has helped them with their own decision-making. That has been so rewarding.
Finally, would you recommend to your peers and colleagues to join a mentoring scheme as a mentor?
One of the reasons I joined the scheme was that I felt that I could (and should) give something back to early career researchers at this stage in my own career. I quickly realised that I’m also learning and getting many positives back from mentoring people that I otherwise would not have interacted with in this way. I would definitely recommend it!