From mentee to mentor

Sharing your experience and expertise can make a big difference to students and recent graduates. Sam Decombel (right in the top picture), 2018’s Alumna of the Year, explains why she became a mentor.

Bringing Biosciences to life

‘My love is genetics, so I chose one of the best courses in the country. Birmingham supported me at every stage of my journey, from undergraduate to PhD and beyond. I spent an extra year as a Medici Fellow at Birmingham to learn how to get cutting-edge science into the hands of those who could benefit from it.’

Me and my mentor

‘Shortly after I graduated, my father died from oesophageal cancer, and I realised that life is too short not to pursue your dreams wholeheartedly. I wanted to start my own science business, but I needed some serious advice…

Supported by the University, mentoring gave me the skills to make it happen, great guidance without dictating what I should do, and the confidence to throw everything I had into my business. The lessons my mentor taught me, I still use today.’

Continuing the chain of support

‘I leapt at the chance to become a mentor myself. Mentoring is often about learning from the mistakes of others! You can often help people avoid making the same ones you did. I believe mentees also need to learn to recognise when one idea isn’t working, so they can move onto the next. 

'My first business offered personalised DNA portraits, but customers didn’t know what to do with that knowledge. My second business now focuses on fitness, identifying genes for endurance, fat burning etc, then creating a tailored workout plan.’

What mentoring involves

‘There is no set way or schedule for it. Some students want regular meetings to explore ideas, others just get in touch when they have a specific question. It only takes about an hour a month. The personal reward of giving something back is incredibly uplifting.’

Becoming Alumna of the Year

‘It was a tremendous honour to be chosen for Alumna of the Year 2018, and it meant so much to receive it at the same ceremony where my current mentee Melissa graduated. I used my acceptance speech to share the three most important lessons I’ve learned; learn from your mistakes, stand up for what you believe in, and cherish and nurture your support networks.’

Beyond mentoring

‘If mentoring isn’t for you, there are lots of other ways to share your expertise. I’ve advised on student projects, provided internships that offered amazing support for my company, and much more. It’s a genuine pleasure to sit down with such bright students and hear their thoughts – I’ve got a lot of hope for the next generation.’

Win a genetically tailored workout and nutrition plan

To win one of the fitness plans developed by Sam, just answer this question:

What award did Sam receive from the University of Birmingham in 2018?

Send your answer with your name, address and telephone number by 31 January 2019.