AUA Mentoring: My experience

Phil Rowsby
Senior Governance Officer,
Heriot-Watt University

Mentee – Phil Rowsby, Senior Governance Office, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh

Mentor – Rachel Gerry, Director of Planning, Open University

Since becoming an AUA member, although I have benefited greatly from a variety of member benefits, including fantastic networking opportunities, the Mentoring Programme has proven to be the most valuable to my own development.

Prior to participating in the AUA Mentoring programme I had been a guinea pig for a colleague who was training to become a Coach at Heriot-Watt, which is similar but different.

As I’ve not worked in HE for very long, having spent more time on a secondment than my original role, and after a restructuring of professional services (which I was managing), I ended up in a different role, team and directorate. This being the case, I thought having a mentor might be beneficial. I also recognised the benefits of a mentor as I transitioned into an increasingly mechanical role – clerking 48 high-level University Committees, Boards and Executives per academic year.

I had the option of a few mentors to select from, but I felt Rachel’s experience in HE and elsewhere was comparable to mine and was pleased when she agreed to be my mentor.

Our interactions mainly consisted of online meetings, and we met 6 or 7 times over the period of February to November 2022. When we started the mentor programme, my main thoughts and objectives were along the lines of:

• I need a new job, ASAP

• …Specifically, a job where:
o I’m more appreciated.
o I’m paid more.
o My skills and knowledge are recognised.
o The skills and knowledge I have of the University can be better used.

• I’ll never get promoted at Heriot-Watt and I’m stuck.

Rachel suggested a range of different activities based around job searching. These included:

• Setting up alerts on
This helped me assess my current role against what else was out there. It gave me the opportunity to really assess both my job, what I was looking for and whether I’d be prepared to move for the right opportunity. I’d moved during lock-down and now have 7-minute commute by car or bike.

• Asking senior colleagues about key skills recruiters of different jobs are looking for.

• Asking senior colleagues about what they perceived as my 3 top qualities.

Things Rachel and I worked together on included:

• Turning top qualities into aspects which would fit into job applications more appropriately – to form my USP.

• Looking at how good leaders conduct meetings/events, etc.

• Develop a set of STAR(R)* examples for use in job interviews (*Situation, Task, Action, Result, Reflection).

• Recommendations on the type of university documents to review before an interview.

After working on the above with Rachel, I saw a job in Scotland which looked interesting and met my criteria, which I applied for. Although I was invited for an interview, I wasn’t successful. However, I wouldn’t have even seen the job if I’d not been speaking to my AUA Mentor!

During our mentor discussions, some things that came up were:

• Although not ideal, my current job is OK. It works for me now as I currently do a compressed week which makes the more mundane aspects of the role better.

• My salary is OK and comparable to other institutions – if not slightly better paid when comparing responsibilities.

• I’m in a more positive mindset about my career situation and feel prepared for the right opportunity when it comes along.

Thanks again Rachel!

Find out more about AUA Mentoring here