Interview with the mentor Dr. Roman Ovsyannikov

Interview with the season 1 mentor Roman Ovsyannikov

Interviewer: Olya Vvedenskaya

Olya: Why did you come to the program?

Roman: Well, this is an experience I have never had before, and I found it interesting to participate in the Sci.STEPS program. I wanted to understand what it's like to be a mentor, to see and try something new, a new way of interacting with people. I have known Zhenya [note - Evgenia Vorobyeva is one of the organizers of sci.STEPS] for a long time, and she gave me a brief outline of the program and it seemed to me that I would be interested in this experience. My previous experience is a little bit away from the traditional academic experience of a mentor in the program, and I decided that my participation in the program would be useful.

O: And what do you mean by saying your background not classical? Do you have an alternative career in science?

R: I have a [main] career not in academia at all. I finished a graduate school and after that I left academia and went on to work for chemical industry. The companies were to varying degrees related to technology, and my work was also to varying degrees related to industrial chemical technology.

O: Did you have any expectations from the program? If so, how did they coincide with reality?

R: I didn't have any specific expectations because it was my first experience of participating in a mentoring program. I thought: What will be there? What kind of training? Will there be an exchange of experience among the mentors? That exchange, by the way, was a little bit missing for me. Or, rather, I would have added more structure to the organization of experience sharing among mentors. It seemed to me that the discussions that were organized were a bit chaotic. Although, perhaps, I also missed something somewhere, did not communicate with some people, and missed the meetings that were held.

O: Thank you for sharing! What has this program given you?

R: Mostly, of course, it's the interaction with the mentee. I really, really enjoyed participating in the program. And the most important thing is that I became part of a very interesting community of very smart people who, I think, underestimate themselves a little bit. They're actually really freaking smart, they know a lot of things, they want a lot of things, they can do a lot of things. 

R: What really surprised me was the insecurity of our mentees. When I talked to both of my mentees, at the first meeting they would say, "I'm not doing good there, I don't know what I'm going to do, I'm not doing well, I can't find positions at all, I'm not going to find anything." And in the course of the conversation it turned out that in their years they had ten times more scientific articles and other achievements than I had back in the day. They had found everything themselves, had already talked to someone, met someone important through social networks and discussed everything the needed. I think that's really cool. It's great that there are such people, that there are many of them, that they unite into communities, that they know what they want to do and they do it. They're not standing still, and that's really nice to see. That's probably the most important thing for me.

O: Do you think you were able to give something to your mentee?

R: Well, according to the feedback from them, yes. In fact, what was my task? The most important thing is to listen and ask the right questions. Then the person gradually begins to understand what to do. I think that's roughly how it worked out with my mentees. Of course, I am not ready to estimate the share of my merits. From my side it seems that in general these people are very smart and know everything themselves.

R: I think it is important for them to have a person with other life experiences, with an outside perspective to suggest something. Maybe their supervisor doesn't have relevant acquaintances, or relevant experience, or their views and paradigm are not different from what our mentee has. And a person from the outside might see something different when they look at it, advise something and encourage them. From my point of view, it worked out well for me and my mentees.

About Sci.STEPS

Are you a scientist seeking to work on your education and career? Sci.STEPS scientific mentorship program offers valuable insights and guidance from experts all over the world in the form of long-term structured guidance or targeted short consultations. From refining your research skills to navigating the complex world of academia and industry, the program is designed to empower you with the knowledge and confidence needed to excel in your scientific journey.