What does life look like after that final PhD submission? It’s a weary time for students transitioning into their chosen industry and a gap clearly exists – Chelsea Cobb talks about her experience of mentoring and what drove her to become a mentor herself.
Like so many PhD students today, I too grappled with “what next?” and struggled to identify and understand what, if any, career options existed after a PhD. I thought the IMNIS program would be a great way for me to share my own experiences with students who have similar questions.
Going into the program, I hoped to be able to share my insights and experiences with students that could benefit from them. I also hoped the program would provide me with an opportunity to develop my own leadership capabilities and contribute to my personal development.
We sat down with Mentor, Chelsea Cobb – Senior Partnerships Officer at the University of Melbourne to talk about her mentoring experience as part of the Industry Mentoring Network in STEM (IMNIS) Mentoring Program, powered by Mentorloop.
Chelsea is responsible for managing some of the University’s x-faculty relationships with strategic industry and government partners and identifying and facilitating opportunities for multi-disciplinary engagement.
Prior to this role, I spent 12 years with PwC Australia in a variety of consulting roles across a range of business issues, including the Research & Development Tax Incentive and Sustainability & Climate Change. During my final three years at PwC, I was responsible for leading the firm’s national Corporate Responsibility strategy which was focused on improving Australia’s educational outcomes in STEM.
Her passion aligns with that of IMNIS – to break down barriers, foster a culture of mentoring and collaboration between industry and academia, extend professional networks, and help students strengthen their ‘soft skills’ to become more informed about the opportunities beyond academia.
The flagship initiative of PwC’s STEM strategy was the 21st Century Minds Accelerator Program, which leveraged the collective expertise and networks of PwC, its clients, the community and government, to support the growth of some of Australia’s best STEM education start-ups. It was through my role in leading this program that I really started to understand how important a career in STEM was to me, which then lead me to my current role at the University.
I believe the IMNIS program addresses a critical gap in the journey of a PhD student – that is, providing students with an opportunity to engage with industry, and to explore potential career opportunities, should that be their objective.
During a time when government funding for research is becoming harder to secure, I believe it’s imperative that early stage researchers have experience in, or at least an understanding of, how to engage with industry.
Chelsea shares with us a little about the people who have nurtured her in her career along the way, and her hopes for her mentees under her wing.
I have been fortunate enough to have had some great people help shape my career, from managers who have invested in my learning and development and supported my career decisions (even if this meant moving on from my current role or organisation), to a professional executive coach who helped me to identify my key strengths and explore opportunities for growth.
Over the course of the program, I think my mentee has developed a greater understanding of the industry and a greater appreciation of how her transferrable skills could be used to add value in a variety of different roles outside of academia. I hope she continues to leverage her networks to explore the endless possibilities available to her.
We asked Chelsea what her thoughts were on the ways mentoring contributes to supporting women in her industry.
Women in leadership often inspire other women to undertake leadership roles. Personally, as a professional working mother with young children, I’m often encouraged and inspired by the many females in leadership positions at the University and across the wider community, who clearly demonstrate that it is possible to have a successful career whilst also raising a family.
I personally think that mentoring is an important component of everyone’s career journey, no matter what gender you are. That being said, I think diversity (whether that be gender, race, age, skills, experience, etc.) is critical to ensure our country remains competitive in a global environment, and believe mentoring women is just one way we can achieve this.
Mentoring in its traditional sense can often be assumed to be a one-way, formal relationship. However, this is rarely the form we see it in. Now more than ever, mentoring is reciprocal and learning occurs for both people in the mentoring relationship.
Through my role as a mentor, I have really started to appreciate the importance of each step in my somewhat windy career path – the skills, expertise and networks created (and banked) in each role are stepping stones towards the next opportunity. Furthermore, I’m delighted (and if I’m honest), pleasantly surprised, that these experiences can also add value to someone else’s journey!
One more thing?
My advice to others thinking about participating in the program (as either a mentor or mentee) – just take a leap and do it! You’ll get to meet some amazing people along the way and open doors that you might never have considered.
International Women’s Day
With International Women’s Day fast approaching, now is the perfect time to think about how you could deploy a bespoke mentor program to better support your people. Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in hearing more about our special IWD package.Start a mentoring culture today