Mentoring can positively impact two lives; the student’s and the mentor’s. Sarah Cox (BCom, 1988, pictured centre with mentees) has mentored 11 students since starting in 2012, and created a mutually supportive network of her current and past mentees, nicknamed ‘Cox’s Crew’. She explains her passion for the University of Birmingham and what she gains from being a mentor.
Family ties to Birmingham
'The University of Birmingham has always been important to me. My parents met studying medicine at Birmingham; I remember them driving me across campus when I was about eight years old and deciding I wanted to study here too. My mother believed in the value of education and was a real trailblazer – the first in her family to go to University, she fought to get into the boys' school to do science A levels as they weren't allowed to do them at the girls' grammar she attended. My brothers also graduated from Birmingham, as well as my nephew, so it's a really important place to multiple generations of my family.'
How to get to the top
'As a no-nonsense northerner, I've somehow always managed to cut through at a senior level and get my point across. It's been really interesting working in the Civil Service with five different Prime Ministers, getting their take on what really happens in the country and how it really operates. I've also led projects that have given me the inside view of the Olympics, and worked at the Bank of England, Ofgem and CGI, giving me key experience that the next generation can benefit from.'
What mentoring means to me
'I've always done quite a bit of mentoring in the workplace, and I think it's important to give of yourself, and pass on your experiences to the next generation. All my mentees have been so different; I always give them homework on the first meeting by asking them what they enjoy and what they don't. I really try to build up a picture of that person and their individual style.
'I see my role as encouraging the mentees to have confidence, find opportunities and think through their own solutions to problems. They live in a different world to the one I graduated into and so it makes me think about myself too. You are very driven when you are that age, and it helps me to get that mojo back. When you are a mentor you gain a lot more back in return.'
Taking mentoring a step further: Cox's Crew
'While I've done my best to support each of my mentees, I also realised how much they could learn from each other too, as we all work in similar areas. You have a different perspective and experience depending on whether you graduated 11 years ago or two years ago. We are all connected on a WhatsApp group called "Cox's Crew"; it's a friendship group and a networking space, that enables their careers to accelerate forwards. It means they can get instant advice on time-sensitive issues and shows that while they are still learning in some areas, they already have so much to give back in others.'
Looking to the future
'I had such a good time here and I met some great people. It's such an important time – you really grow up when you are at University. I really admire the values at Birmingham and found out more about their schemes to support less advantaged students. It prompted me to pledge something in my will to the medical school – my mum fought so hard against the odds to study medicine, I felt the gift would honour her and my whole family. I think it's what Mum and Dad would have wanted.'