Gary Pekoe, Principal Medical Writer at MMS, has over 35 years of experience working professionally in the pharmaceutical industry. We’ve asked him to write an article on his mentoring experience over his career.
Looking back over my career in the pharmaceutical industry, and life in general, the most valuable and impactful relationships for me were those I had with a mentor.
A mentor is more than a teacher or trainer. Teachers and trainers are there to pass on knowledge. But a mentoring relationship is founded on a partnership between two people, where the mentor has made an emotional commitment to impart knowledge and guide the other person through an understanding of their experiences.
Mentoring is also a two-way street. When mentoring someone, I’ve learned not just to share my own knowledge and experiences but adapt myself to the specific needs of the other person, their situation, and personal make-up. This forces me to grow as well. This reciprocity makes mentoring an incredibly rewarding experience for both parties.
Mentoring can resemble life coaching, where the goal is to self-actualize and help the person get “unstuck” and grow through their own realizations. Thus, mentoring requires a commitment to the personal growth of the other person and not just their education. Often this comes through sharing relatable experiences that are more focused on the situation and how to navigate interactions with people rather than just telling them “what to do” in a situation.
Mentoring also fosters a sense of belonging, that the individual and their needs and growth are cared for – an intangible benefit that leads to higher employee retention.
I was fortunate to have an excellent mentor early in my career. I was a new Clinical Project Director, and my Medical Director did much more than train me in project management and the technical aspects of my job. His door was always open to me, and he mentored me so I understood why I did what I did, how to interact courteously and productively with teammates, the FDA, and clinicians in the field, how to problem-solve and communicate effectively verbally and in writing, and how to empathize with the people with whom I interacted.
His mentoring resulted in the filing of a successful New Drug Application a year ahead of schedule and shaped my entire career and personal life.
Traits of a Successful Mentor
- Commitment – you must emotionally commit to the success of the person you are mentoring; mentoring is not just a task or job. You must also have the time to prepare and act.
- External Awareness – you must realize you are always modeling behavior for the person, not just passing information. You are subtly or not so subtly shaping behavior.
- Patience – you must allow the mentee to go at their own achievable pace and patiently help them work through difficult situations/tasks.
- Self-Awareness – you will learn much about yourself, especially the areas where you need to grow. Mentoring is very much a mirrored experience.
- Self-Value – by knowing your strengths and weaknesses, you can recognize your worth, the value of that which you can pass on, and confidently do so.
- Humility – not everyone can check their ego at the door, and not everyone is wired to be a mentor. A mentor must be willing to be taught with humility by situations and people, even when unplanned.
When I am mentoring another medical writer, I try to do the following:
- Pass on a sense of how to interact with their team members
- Help them empathize with other team members
- Help them mold their team to work to achieve their goals
- Impart more than just how to schedule and run meetings, set deadlines, etc., operationall
Mentoring Should Be Enjoyable
Mentoring helps me immensely with life interactions, as my goal is to continue to learn and evolve as a person, not just as an employee.
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