Mentoring week: Dr Alla Yankouskaya shares her experience of mentoring

Dr Alla Yankouskaya is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology in the Faculty of Science and Technology. Her research focuses on social cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging and she investigates the cognitive and brain mechanisms of human perceptions and attention. In this blog post, she discusses her experience of mentorship at Bournemouth University.

Having a wealth of experience to draw from in terms of prior mentor-mentee relationships at the current stage of my career, I looked for a more senior mentor who has a wealth of experience and could reflect on where I am in my research career. When I met Hana, I felt straight away that she is the person who could guide me through the forest of different research pathways. It’s hard not to impose your own ideas and what you think would be right for yourself onto the situation, but Hana has the ability to listening to my thoughts and tailor my goals and objectives to my current situation. In my opinion, being an active listener is the first step of creating trust and openness between people. And this is what Hana did at the very first meeting.

The second important thing that Hana did is making herself accessible and available for me to talk. After a couple of meetings, I had the feeling that Hana grasped my potential strengths and limitations as a researcher without me explicitly telling that. This was a great starting point in our mentor-mentee relationship, as I felt comfortable talking to her about my research plans and professional development. Hana created ‘the safe environment’ in our meetings. Her advice, guidance, encouragement and examples from her research career put my mind in the right way – how to avoid mistakes, where to spend time and resources on things that matter instead of trying to do everything, helping to have balance and moving on.

Reflecting on the impact Hana had on my research career so far, I have got more precise ideas of the next step in my progression, how to use research resources, and how to make my strengths work for me. The benefits that I gained by having Hana as my mentor are difficult to overestimate. But as a small example, Hana’s comments about focusing on brain networks instead of localising brain areas of specific functions helped me change the main point of my study. The results were amazing – my paper was published in a high impact journal, and I plan my next study.