A diverse career spanning the events industry – from the Olympics and Bollywood to music festivals and motorsport – is certainly an advantage for experienced mentor Richard Bate CMIOSH.
Richard Bate, head of health and safety at Formula E World Championship, is passionate about many things – motorsport, sustainability and diversity all get his heart racing. And supporting the next generation of professionals by joining the IOSH Mentoring scheme is no different. For him, it’s not just a way to show gratitude to those who have helped him throughout his career, it’s mutually beneficial.
‘You get back 10 times what you put in,’ he says, talking from Berlin the day before the final race of the season. ‘You should never give with the expectation of receiving anything in return. But by supporting younger professionals coming through I can work on my continuing professional development while getting access to a solid group of professional friends in the industry. They’re a repository of information I can call upon.
‘There are crossover benefits with the IOSH competency framework too – the skills matrix with its 69 competencies helps me identify the areas my mentees and I need to work on. And it makes what you have learned quantifiable – so you can take it to employers and recruiters.’
Richard has supported 17 mentees through the IOSH scheme in five years, seven of whom went on to gain Chartered status. He’s keen to share the wealth of knowledge and experience he has gained over such a varied career.
Richard spent many years as a paramedic in the NHS before moving into health and safety. Since then, he has worked on events around the world, including three Olympic Games, a Rugby World Cup, the BBC’s Top Gear, three Bollywood movies and numerous motor racing championships. Prior to joining Formula E, he spent two years in offshore renewables. ‘If my diverse career gives me an advantage, it’s my communication skills and attention to detail,’ he says. ‘My medical knowledge helps in the events industry, and working at the Olympics was great for learning how different countries operate. My offshore construction skills have been useful in Formula E because we build all our racetracks in complex locations.
‘I began volunteering more than 40 years ago as a motorsport marshal and event official, which helped me build up a lifetime of knowledge. And while my mentees are interested in what I do, I try to take them away from what they perceive to be the glamorous world of motorsport and concentrate on core skills. The biggest resource available to you is your professional network, which you must work to develop. That’s sometimes forgotten.’
Top 5 benefits: Why be a mentor?
- Increased self-confidence, self-awareness and communication skills.
- Leadership skills development, remembering that listening is just as important as talking.
- Profile-raising among other IOSH members, opening new and unexpected opportunities.
- Exposure to new and different perspectives from fellow professionals.
- Professional development: use the IOSH competency framework to identify gaps in knowledge, and mentees can help to fill them.
What is mentoring?
Mentors are experienced and trusted advisers, offering guidance to mentees to maximise their development. While direction aims to improve on-the-job performance, mentoring is based on more holistic career development.
Advice for mentors
- Understand that you will learn as much, if not more from your mentees. There is a huge repository of information available – tap into this.
- Be disciplined. It’s a two-way commitment. Expect mentees to turn up to meetings, and by the same token you should avoid cancelling meetings with mentees.
- Set an agenda at every meeting so you don’t go off on a tangent.
Find out more about the IOSH Mentoring scheme at iosh.com/my-iosh/iosh-mentoring
Learning from mistakes
But Richard hasn’t always been the one giving advice. ‘After returning to university as a mature student, I made a real mess of my IPD [initial professional development] and prepared badly for the peer review interview. If it wasn’t for the help and mentoring of my branch chairman, I would have struggled. I wanted to share my experience and mistakes with fellow members. I started by putting together an irreverent and self-deprecating PowerPoint about how not to screw up your IPD and presented it to several IOSH branches. And to this day I still love supporting my colleagues.’
Today he is hugely proud of his mentees, who work across a broad range of industries. One of his mentees is now employed at Formula E. At 23, health, safety and environment consultant Alice Jones is the youngest female Chartered Member of IOSH. ‘I was talking to the North Wales board two years ago and Alice came to talk to me at the end about how she was working towards a professional qualification,’ recalls Richard. ‘I recognised she was talented and liked how she pushed back on some of my ideas. Now she’s my deputy!’
Inspiring more women into the industry is something Richard cares deeply about. While much has changed in the last 20 years, he says there’s still a lot more work to do. ‘The value of empowering women and others more generally cannot be overstated if we want to develop OSH as a viable career choice.
‘Mentoring should help to promote inclusivity – not just around gender and different cultures, but by thinking more widely too. We need to broaden the reach and understanding of what OSH is, and we have a duty to support our members’ professional development. I now have a dynamic, competent young team all in their 20s – and a huge smile on my face.’
IOSH competency framework
The IOSH competency framework has been designed to help OSH professionals build capability and keep pace with rapid change in the workplace. It’s a useful reference tool for recruiting and developing individuals or a team. To find out more, visit iosh.com/my-iosh/competency-framework