Tommy Siddall

Alumni Leadership Mentoring Programme
BSc Medical Biochemistry
Mentored by Dr Sam Decombel


Tell us a bit about yourself, your mentorship and what you gained from taking part in the mentoring scheme.

I’m Tommy and I’m in my final year studying Medical Biochemistry here at Birmingham. This year I’ve been lucky to have Dr Sam Decombel, the founder of FitnessGenes as my mentor as part of the ALMP scheme. Having Sam as my mentor has been invaluable.

Sam has helped me progress careers applications successfully, given me the opportunity to carry out work experience in central London, and most importantly has helped me recognise my ability and strengths. Me and Sam usually meet once or twice a month, the frequency of our meetings depends on how much we have to discuss. 

Did you have any preconceptions about the
mentoring experience that were challenged as a result of your experience?

Initially I envisioned it as the ‘motivational mentorship’, like what you see the ‘business’ youtubers promoting, where you would chat to your mentor daily, they push you to do certain things to produce results, and they’d be your accountability partner.

The above isn’t real. The ALMP scheme is better.

The reality of the mentorship is building a professional-oriented relationship, which has awareness and respect for each other’s time and responsibilities, particularly when concerning communication. In this relationship, Sam has given me her expertise, wisdom, experience, and even support when I’ve needed it. In turn, I’ve maintained organisation, motivation, and respect to ensure when we meet, I’m not wasting Sam’s time, as well as having the opportunity to help her by contributing ideas which may help her business.

What is one piece of advice you learnt from your mentor you could share with other students/graduates?

In our first meeting, Sam communicated the importance of doing what you enjoy and what you’re passionate about in your life. Quite profoundly, she expressed this through a story about life not always being fair, there will be hard times, but ultimately success comes through being steadfast in difficult periods and maintaining a hard work ethic.

Quite a simple piece of advice that doesn’t require much context is success being much more about who you know than what you know. Your degree and textbooks you’ve read aren’t the be-all-end-all!

Can you share any top tips for making the most of the mentoring opportunity and how to be an effective mentee?

Being organised will set a foundation for the mentorship to be meaningful through frequent contact and maintaining thoughts you can take to your meetings.

Go into the mentorship with humility, ask questions and make the best use of your mentor’s wisdom and expertise. There may be times it sounds like they’re challenging you, but ultimately your mentor will be looking out for your best interest to help you succeed.

Remember your mentor isn’t somebody you’re obliged to answer to, or somebody just to use for information when you want or need it. At one time our mentors were in our position, they’re a person just like us, so my most important advice is to focus on building a relationship with your mentor and treat them as you would treat a friend, just that they are also there to support your university-professional transition.

Why would you recommend the scheme to other students?

I could list a few specific things that have happened throughout my mentorship that made me really think “Wow this has been invaluable”, but these opportunities will be contextual to your choice of mentor and your ability to facilitate them - opportunities are not given on a silver platter. Having written this, the number of potential opportunities available alone is enough for me to recommend the ALMP scheme.

An idea of the opportunities a mentor can present is potential work experience, help with job applications, careers advice and even extending as far as networking which opens up another load of opportunities!

Before this mentorship scheme, I had some figures in my life that were something of mentors, which I benefitted from. This mentorship scheme has confirmed the importance and impact a mentor can have at this stage of life when you’re still learning, maturing and building life experiences. It really is quite the way to prepare you to enter professional life, and at that enter professional life in the best possible position.


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