Each month we are introducing the wonderful mentors that support the Big Ideas programme, in a feature we call ‘Meet the Mentor’. The programme and the students on it simply would not be the same if we didn’t have this mentor support from our business and community partners, and the mentors themselves get an awful lot out of it too. Find out more about the range of interesting and diverse mentors we work with on our Meet the Mentors page on the website!
Allow me to introduce one of our SGN mentors supporting in our South East region – Dan Brown.
Name: Dan Brown
Position: Communications Officer
· Please describe your role:
I’ve been working in the Communications team at gas distribution company SGN since April 2018. Our job is to communicate and promote the work our business is carrying out via our website and social media channels or via print and broadcast journalism when we are approached by local or national publications.
A big chunk of our work is to distribute information about gas network upgrades or emergency repairs taking place in the communities we serve. We liaise closely with local authorities and our project teams to distribute messages about any properties or roads which may be impacted by our work.
We’re also responsible for communicating any community involvement initiatives we’re a part of, like our partnership with Solutions for the Planet, as well as our innovation work to decarbonise the gas network for a greener and more sustainable future.
· Please describe your route to this role:
From a relatively young age, I always wanted to fulfil a career as a journalist or commentator. I love to connect with people and find out and share information. I love writing, but I’m not THAT Dan Brown.
At each stage of my education, I chose subjects that would help develop the skills needed for what I wanted to do. I finished school with decent grades and went to University of the Arts London to study Journalism. Attending university was one of the most challenging, but best, experiences in my life and has definitely enabled me to progress quickly in my career, given the multitude of transferable skills I gained from the type of course I studied.
It’s kind of strange that I’m now the one being asked the questions as part of the SGN Press Office, but I’m still using my journalistic background to investigate internally to find out the information before providing it to the journalists for their audiences.
If you’d have said to me as a teenager entering university that I’d be working for a gas company, I would’ve probably looked at you in a very puzzled manner. The dream still is, as it was back then, to move into the sports or entertainment industry later in my career, however, it’s amazing to be part of a business that impacts every area of the communities we serve and hold the key to communicating our positive messages.
· What advice do you have for young people interested in either following a similar route to you or in working for your business/sector?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a vision of the sort of thing I wanted to do for work. But if you haven’t, that’s not a problem.
The most important thing is to find something that you love doing. Find a topic or subject that you’re passionate about, study hard, and one day you might find the opportunity to get paid for it or something closely related to what you love.
It shouldn’t all be about study and top grades though. University lecturers and employers increasingly look at individual’s commitments and experiences outside of education. For example, don’t neglect sporting endeavours to focus on grades as competing shows employers that you’re motivated and capable of working in a team to achieve shared goals. Also, participating in schemes like the Duke of Edinburgh Award demonstrate that your willing to help others in your community. These traits are often shared by companies and employers will be quick to recognise this. Also, when it comes to CV writing and interviews, don’t be afraid to include these accomplishments – if you’re proud of something, tell them and let them know why.
· Why did you get involved in S4TP’s Big Ideas programme?
I wanted to get involved as a programme mentor shortly after hearing about our company’s partnership when I joined.
The programme gives young people a platform to develop and demonstrate ideas which could positively tackle key issues affecting local communities or the world over. I thoroughly enjoyed studying sustainability in Geography lessons at Sixth Form and I was keen to help pupils develop their innovative solutions at this crucial time in our planet’s history.
While science was never really my strength, I thought that my communication skills and passion for sustainability would benefit the young people taking part.
I expected to not only pass on any tips to the students I’d be supporting, but I’d also be learning a lot from their impressive, unique ideas as well as continuing to develop my own teamwork, management and communication skills by working with a new group of people.
· What involvement have you had so far?
I’ve been involved with the programme for approximately six months as a mentor and around nine months overall with my connection to the communications activity surrounding all Solutions for the Planet events.
As a mentor, I’ve been supporting students at Mayfield School in Portsmouth at their Big Ideas Day, subsequent development sessions and at the regional final for the shortlisted teams from their school.
· Has participating met your expectations?
I’ve enjoyed being involved as a mentor so far and it has exceeded my expectations.
I’ve been impressed with how determined the teams have worked to refine their ideas from their conception and how they’ve collaborated to present these to the judges in a fun and creative manner.
They’ve worked autonomously for big chunks of the programme to establish and develop some superb solutions, but it’s been fantastic to be there for guidance and to bounce suggestions off one another, when needed, to make their presentations and business plans as detailed and entertaining as possible.
· What has been the best part about participating in the programme?
The best part of participating in the programme is to see the journey of the students and their solutions from the Big Ideas Day up to the selected few who get to present them to judging panels.
At the first session, students were placed into teams where they were mixing with people from different years and friendship groups. While the students struggled initially to work as a team, they’re now working as fluid small organisations who delegate roles and take responsibility to help the team achieve its goals. This gives them an insight into the world of work where they will be in a few years’ time.
· What has been the most challenging part about participating in the programme?
As soon as I graduated from university, I got my first “proper job” working as a Data & Exams Administrator at the school I went to as a teenager. While working there, I got involved with some extra-curricular sports clubs and was asked to take charge of a football team that was vacated by a retiring teacher. Despite the regular interaction with 16 testosterone-charged Year 10 boys, the most challenging aspect I found at the start of the Solutions for the Planet programme was finding the confidence to communicate to an unfamiliar audience and use the right techniques to hit the appropriate level to motivate and engage the young people.
I’ve been extremely fortunate to mentor such a talented group of individuals that it soon became very natural and easy to discuss ideas with school pupils. The hardest part quickly became keeping up with their advanced scientific knowledge.
· Have you been able to take the skills learned and developed on this programme back into the workplace?
I’ve learnt that there is a genuine, meaningful approach to improving issues affecting our planet among young people and the programme’s partners. The students I have worked with have demonstrated that we can be optimistic about the future of the planet in the hands of younger generations.
Mentoring has reinforced some of the integral components of what makes a good team player. Interacting with the young people has made me consider how best to communicate with my colleagues and football club teammates.
· What would you say to others considering participating in the programme?
This programme offers young people and business mentors the opportunity to learn new and develop existing skills. We’re all busy people, but even with a limited amount of time, supporting Solutions for the Planet as a mentor has been beneficial to me and I hope I’ve been able to help and inspire the pupils I’ve met. I’d encourage anyone to get involved as you could be the person that inspires a child to generate an innovative solution that could benefit the community you live in or help save something important to you.
We are proud and grateful to have you on board Dan – thank you for all your help!
Answers written by: Dan Brown, Communications Officer, SGN
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solutions for the Planet Ltd.