By Courtney Yates
Before entering the animal research world, I had only heard very little about the industry and the opportunities that it held. I was so excited when I received the call from UT-Memphis saying that I was offered a position as an Animal Technician.
Nervousness, a bit of anxiety, a little overwhelmed-these were just a few of the feelings that I experienced my first day as an animal technician. I remember going into my first day thinking that I would try to learn and retain as much information as I possibly could. I also definitely remember receiving a decent portion of knowledge about animal research, what kind of research animals I would be working with, the veterinary and managerial staff, the LACU, the different areas of the LACU, orientation information, HR policies, and additional resources that would be beneficial to me in my career because I went home just about every day of my first week with a headache.
After my first month working and learning, I came to the realization that I knew that in order for me to be truly successful, to prosper, grow, and develop in this industry I would need help. In my first week as an animal technician it was instilled/encouraged that all LACU staff should achieve AALAS certification because that was the key to your success and growth in the animal research industry. That sounded all well and good; but, it was always a lingering thought in the back of my mind that I pondered “surely, just achieving AALAS certification can’t be it. There has to be more to “my success” than just achieving AALAS certifications.”
I made it my goal-a desire-to do more, to achieve more. In wanting to do more, I knew I had to establish goals and a timeline for myself. I knew that I needed a support system-individuals who possessed a bank of knowledge and expertise that I could use; I needed a mentor.
Dr. Mildred Randolph, DVM, Sherry Frazier, and Ernestine Hayes were instrumental in “showing me the ropes” of the animal research industry and helping me grow and develop. I contribute my success as an animal technician at UT-Memphis to these 3 individuals. They took time out of their schedules to help me and learn about technical skills, enhance my communication skills, strengthen my conceptual skills, become more of a professional, learn about the concept of leadership and how to be an effective leader. Even though it wasn’t verbalized-I could tell that Dr. Randolph, Sherry, and Ernestine cared about me and my future.
When I moved onto University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas, TX, I still kept in contact with my mentors in Tennessee. However, I needed to find and establish a connection with a new mentor a little closer to home (in Dallas). Julie Wood, ARC Program Manager has stepped into the role as my new mentor and is helping me continue on my path to bigger and better things.
Entering into this industry not knowing what was ahead of me and not knowing what to look forward to-was scary; it was overwhelming. Mentorship was/is the key to my success. I was able to grow and establish relationships with leaders in the industry; and, in due time, I became a mentor myself. Mentorship in laboratory animal science is essential because it allows for the development of future leaders and it enhances seasoned leaders in the field. Mentorship establishes a connection between the entry-level employee and a leader. The mentee engages in a fruitful, symbiotic relationship that will contribute to growth, development, and success. Even though it may not be verbalized, the mentee comes to know that their mentor cares about them and their future.