Case Study: Paloma Siles

Science communications enthusiast and chemistry major student, Paloma Siles, embarked on the new U&I Mentoring Program in 2016 and was able to have regular meet-ups with Rory Costello, a Client Technology Advisor from IBM, to discuss her career aspirations and skills development. We caught up with Paloma to hear about the ongoing benefits of being on the program and what it was like to have a mentor.

How were you matched with your mentor and how did you arrange meetings with them?

I was paired with my mentor, Rory, from IBM by the industry partnerships team in UNSW Science who paired up each of the students on the program with a unique mentor. After receiving a training session with the industry team, I was introduced on email to Rory. We then got in touch with each other to find a time I could visit IBM to see him there and see the space he worked in. We continued to coordinate to arrange later meetings which were spread out over Semester 2. The program ran for 3 months.

Did you have “homework” you had to do between meetings?

It sounds funny, but kind of! We discussed lots of soft skills building such as the EQ model of leadership and I was able to go away from our meetings and read up about different aspects of it to discuss the next time we met.

Did you find that even though you are specialists in different areas there were positive aspects to the interactions?

Coming into the program from different areas of Science pushed us more down the soft skills path and we definitely talked less about technical skills and more about skills that I have been developing at uni that can be applied in all sectors. 

Did the experience open your eyes to other career options that you hadn’t thought of before that you might not have considered in the past?

It made me realise that the tech world looks at and employs such a range of students. I was able to meet his interns at IBM who came from really varied backgrounds – from Engineering, Science and Tech. But more than that, our conversations made me more self-aware about what I want to do. It made me narrow my focus on some goals that I had been a bit softer on before, which was hugely beneficial to me.

What was the one big lesson you learned from the experience?

There were two big takeaways for me:

  1. Meaningful networking – you see so many uni students at events networking with great contacts, but unable to follow up. Rory spoke with me about creating a meaningful flow on from those encounters and making it valuable for you!
  2. More self-awareness – ways to reflect on my own behaviour that might actually be self-sabotaging. I found that after we had met up on the train home, I would be madly trying to scribble down what we had discussed and digest it all!

How has being on the program better prepared you for being a graduate and job seeker?

It had given me the confidence to approach potential employers to seek out opportunities as I now know that many roles are filled through connections and networks and not necessarily a job advert. It has refined my search for jobs and intensified it in certain areas that I want to excel in.

What would you say to students who are thinking about applying for the program?

I would say go in knowing what you want from the program, but keep an open mind and be organised and flexible, because plans can change! You need to take an active role in it, as the mentors will be thinking “What do you want from me?”

So, what’s next for Paloma?

I am finishing my degree in six months (June 2017) and taking a year off from honours to decide if I want to do a Masters in Science Communication or work full time instead!