Monday, November 12, 2012

Roland Buresh, on mentoring

Last Tuesday, November 6, I attended the lunch organized for participants in this year's Mentoring Program at the International Rice Research Institute. The special guest during this lunch meeting was no other than Dr Roland Buresh, IRRI's nutrient management expert.

And just like while listening to Dr Bruce Tolentino in one of the earlier lunches, I took note of three points that Dr Buresh discussed over lunch:
1. Stop thinking about why something doesn't work; start thinking how to make it work. In a laboratory, young scientists who are eager to test new ideas may, at times, feel like they're butting heads with brick walls. The younger ones shouldn't take it personally, according to Dr Buresh, because the elder scientists may have had supervisors who didn't entertain their ideas either. Dr Abdelbagi Ismail, another mentor present over lunch,  also said that we also have to observe the way we present our ideas. The way we say our ideas and suggestions affects the way other people react to them. In the end, Dr Buresh advised us not to be discouraged; instead, find other people who are more open to our ideas (they provide a conducive environment for brainstorming).
2. Mentors need to know how to be the bearers of bad news. Dr Buresh shared a day in his life as a grad student and how important a mentor's way of correcting someone can influence the future of that person's career. Someday, when I'm a mentor myself, I have to remember this point.
3. Learn to see the big picture. Scientists are trained to break things and concepts down to their basic components, according to Dr Buresh. At some point, he said, scientists have to piece them back together because stakeholders look at problems as a whole, not at the details. Somehow, this is similar to what Erik Mathijs discussed with us on systems thinking during the leadership course I had attended months back.
Yet another lesson-filled lunch at the Mentoring Program! I appreciate being surrounded by people who have gone through what I am just beginning to experience AND being around people who are in the same boat as I am. I'm looking forward to the group's next lunch!