Editor’s Note: Today’s post is from Adrian Stanley, Vice President, Global Development at Digital Science, as well as the President-Elect for the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP); an Associate Editor for Learned Publishing; a Non-Executive Director with Bioscientifica a society-based organization that supports biomedical research, and a Board Member of STEM Fellowship. He has held numerous volunteer committee/Chair roles with SSP, ALPSP and the Council for Science Editors over the last 20+ years working within scholarly communications and academic publishing.
I wonder how many of you recall and truly appreciate the old craft days of publishing and printing — days when the making of a book was a collective work of art completed only by seasoned, well-trained professionals coming together with their unique skill sets to create a masterpiece of coordinated aesthetic delight. From the copy editors and proof readers, to the compositors, illustrators, and printers, all left their marks, in subtle detail, perfect harmony, and resting only when the smell of fresh print left the shop.
Why, might you ask, am I referring to the past and the journey of a book, when writing a post about Mentorship and Fellowship Programs at the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP)? Well, like the book analogy, and the journey it takes to greatness, colleagues and newer entrants into the scholarly publishing and communications world also go through their own journeys to become masters, individual works of art, (second, third and fourth editions), to develop attributes and answer their calling in this constantly changing ecosystem. With the help and support of industry members like you, and the newly launched SSP Mentorship Program, they too can learn, grow, and develop into the best and ideal versions of themselves. We find ways to assist and support them on their own career journey. I should note I’m writing this post as the SSP President-Elect, and an active member of the SSP Career Development Committee that has been entrenched in developing these programs, with an amazing team of committed volunteers.
There’s an excellent Harvard Business Review article that explains more eloquently, how some of the best mentors approach mentoring. The concept that the article’s authors Smith and Johnson put across, is that mentors should try to think like Michelangelo who ‘approached the craft of sculpting with the humble conviction that a unique and beautiful piece of art already existed within the stone, and his job was only to release it.’
I believe, just like the traditional creation of a fine book or a Michelangelo masterpiece, that we have a historic opportunity to help shape and define our community; to help our up-and-coming colleagues be the best and fullest versions of themselves via mentoring and the peer-to-peer support SSP now offers. We truly have an excellent opportunity to create a new story and narrative together, today, for the future ahead.
Now, please don’t get me wrong, mentoring is definitely not a one-way street of giving, or only for the young. Having served as a mentor for a number of years, and also having benefited from others’ wisdom, I see from all sides that the process of mentoring provides the opportunity for the mentor to openly share, support, and express their experiences in the context of the challenges their mentee faces, but to also learn and grow while doing so. In many cases the mentees and mentors receive very valuable insights and perspectives that can provide real worth and much-needed support. From my own experience as a mentor, and working with start-up companies, I know it is vital to stay in tune to what new researchers are thinking (think younger colleagues), and what new technologies are being used as a matter of course. I learned my lesson a few years back, when in an early discussion with one mentee, he said, ‘no one uses email these days to communicate in his university, between peers.’ Talk about differences between Generation X and the Millennials! From this feedback, we initiated ‘coffee time’ style, WhatsApp quick and brief mentoring sessions, along with our planned hour long catch ups.
Other benefits I have seen, from a mentor’s perspective include:, being asked to judge competitions and join advisory boards that my mentees have been associated with, has been another valuable source of learning for me. Events such as the STEM Fellowship Big Data Challenge have been not only enjoyable, but enlightening and rewarding, connecting me to key professionals outside my immediate scope and network circle. Mentoring goes way beyond the two-person relationship. In order to have a successful mentor-mentee experience, it’s equally important to reach out and connect your mentee to your own network of friends, colleagues, and peers that could also be pivotal in helping cultivate the mentee’s interests and ambitions. One thing I have always known is that people want to help but many don’t know how and just want the right opportunity. While time is precious for all of us, making connections always seems beneficial no matter the extent of the commitment, (and for the SSP program, the minimum commitment is only one hour a month). I’ve introduced mentees to colleagues at ORCID and CrossRef and those mentees have gone on to become Ambassadors in programs. Encouraging and recommending mentees for speaking and moderating opportunities within industry meetings has also been a source of paternal pride. As I see the mentees grow in confidence and experience, I am also aware of the value they bring to others with their ideas and viewpoints.
So please remember not to underestimate the value of a ‘warm’ introduction to your network of connections – or to accept that introduction from a peer to talk to their mentee.
I am very excited to be a part of SSP and get to work with our amazing volunteer committee members; especially now we have recently launched our full Mentorship Program, which follows an extensive 6-month pilot program with 40+ volunteer mentor and mentees. We have learned from the pilot how to refine the process of matching, of central support, and guidelines for the mentors and mentees to get the very best from the program. From the results of the pilot survey, and through separate discussions, we have witnessed first-hand the value and positive impact this program can have. This ranges from helping colleagues apply for internal jobs to helping people elevate their voices and opinions in meetings, or learning new industry knowledge and experience. You can find more details about the SSP Mentorship Program here. We plan to run two cohorts a year, each lasting 6 months. Our goal is to connect members who value access to a mentor with experienced colleagues and members of SSP. Applications for the first cohort have just closed, with over 70 people registering. Please know that people of all ages, career levels, and backgrounds can apply to the SSP Mentorship Program. There are many articles that recommend the benefits of mentorship programs to organizations, it’s definitely helpful for us all to have trusted mentors (formal or informal) we can turn to at all ages and stages of our careers.
Survey results, SSP Mentorship Pilot, 94% of applicants would recommend the program to peers.
Tangential to the Mentorship Program, is the SSP Fellowship Program, which is open to early-career professionals in their first four years of work in the publishing and information profession and current students in a dedicated publishing or library and information science program. The program offers a free SSP annual membership, financial assistance to attend the SSP Annual Meeting, as well as an assigned year-long mentor. Applications are judged on the strength of answers to three key questions, with twelve winners selected. The deadline for entries is 1st March 2018.
Both of the above programs are offered at no-cost to participants, albeit the SSP Development Committee would welcome hearing from organizations who are interested in sponsoring these valuable and engaging programs.
From the SSP President-Elect’s perspective, I see these two programs noted above, as well as the development of more regional SSP meetings, the active dialogue with all industry stakeholders, and our important work on industry wide diversity task forces, as being the life-blood of having an open and actively engaged community of colleagues — sculpted in the eyes of Michelangelo himself — and creating our own, well-crafted history book that we can all be proud of.
Please do consider volunteering and signing up for these programs, and a huge hearty thanks to all the volunteers who have made these initiatives possible. And one final side note, SSP encourages and congratulates all the industry-wide mentorship programs, not just the ones noted above.