Mentoring Spotlight: Preeti Buljhoo x Jonathan Paterson
London College of Communication (LCC) is home to makers, thinkers and innovators. Bringing inspiring ideas and ways of working to a range of diverse industries, we change the world around us and make a positive difference to society.
One of the ways in which we support our students to take the next step in their development is by offering vital support and insight through our Industry Mentoring Programme. This initiative connects current LCC postgraduates and recent alumni to professionals from the creative sectors, all of whom channel profound understanding, experience and insight through opportunities that shape and support the journeys of those at the beginning of their careers.
Together, mentors and mentees catch up regularly to explore ideas and aspirations that are tailored to specific goals - helping students to feel more confident, informed and engaged in the professional landscape while also enabling mentors to further develop their own skill sets and form new contacts across LCC's vibrant network.
We caught up with recent MA Publishing graduate, Preeti Buljhoo, and her mentor, editor, producer and journalist Jonathan Paterson, to discuss the value of collaboration between emerging creatives and established practitioners, the ways in which mentorship can grow students’ confidence, and the importance of embracing what most inspires you.
Preeti, how did you first become interested in publishing?
I studied BA (Hons) Media Communications for my undergraduate degree, and participated in various workshops where I learnt about the print production process. This sparked my interest in the field of publishing, and after I’d taken time out after graduation to really figure out what interests me and what I’m really passionate about, I realised that I was curious about the publishing world.
This led to me enrolling onto the MA Publishing course at LCC as I wanted to gain valuable insight into the publishing industry, and to find out about how content is commissioned, produced and designed.
Tell us about your creative practice – do you explore any particular areas, techniques or themes throughout your work?
Whilst academic writing is a big part of my creative practice, I also spend time engaging in the design side of things such as editorial, book and magazine design, UX design, and print and finishing. I really like the fact that my journey through publishing has given me the chance to experiment with paper, binding and printing.
I enjoy bringing stories from peers within the industry to life, and learning about their creative journeys through opportunities such as our MA Publishing Innovation Conference. I’ve also had the opportunity to work as production manager for the Media School Research and Public Engagement publication, and as copyeditor and proof-reader for the MA Publishing Innovation Conference blog and website.
As a part of my Final Major Project, I looked at cultural diversity in the manga publishing industry, and explored the barriers to diversifying manga content in Japan. This reflects some of the main themes I explore in my creative practice as a whole, which involves considering the experiences of under-represented cultural groups.
This project involved conducting visual analysis and open-ended questionnaires to gain insight into the thoughts of industry professionals, which enabled me to explore how the industry can take a step forward in creating actionable changes for marginalised audiences.
Why did you decide to take part in LCC's Industry Mentoring Programme?
I’d previously taken part in coaching sessions arranged by my course leader which had allowed me to make smart goals for myself. I then decided to take part in the Industry Mentoring Programme because I wanted to put myself out there even further and learn from someone who has experience within the creative industries.
I wanted to be able to make mistakes, make connections, be confident and accept new challenges - for example, I didn’t have much experience of networking, and taking part in the programme encouraged me to learn and gain valuable insights from my mentor.
It was a new step in my journey, and although it was nerve-wracking at first, I felt that it was a rewarding experience.
Jonathan, tell us a little bit about your creative journey so far.
I’m an editor, producer, and journalist with more than 2 decades of experience in frontline editorial roles. In April 2021, I left the BBC after a 20-year career, the last 5 of which I spent as Head of Video in the Digital News team. We pioneered new storytelling techniques and formats that brought BBC News journalism to a new generation of audiences on social and digital platforms.
Prior to that, I spent many years in international news, including a number of years running the bureaux in New York. It’s a journey that’s seen me move from the world’s hotspots to the frontlines of the digital revolution.
Why did you decide to volunteer your time to LCC's Industry Mentoring Programme?
With more than 20 years of experience in media, and with an acute awareness of the support needed for the next generation to progress in the wider industry, I volunteered to pass on my experience to LCC students. I passionately believe in the need to broaden the backgrounds that are represented in the creative industry, and recognised the same commitment to diversity in the College's mentorship initiative.
Additionally, in a rapidly changing media environment, I saw opportunities to learn from students about new perspectives and ways of working that could also benefit my own career.
What support have you both been able to access and offer through taking part in our mentoring initiative?
Preeti: My mentor was positive and encouraging, and helped to guide me throughout the early stages of my professional journey.
One of our key activities was to identify my skillset, including the skills I’m currently developing. The idea behind this process was to build a list of areas that I feel confident in, and in doing so, to help me shape my skills in order to fit the roles and areas that interest me while identifying the areas that I'm most passionate about.
Jonathan also helped me to understand the importance of articulating the experiences that I have rather than simply amassing more of them. One of the most meaningful things I learned from the programme was that no one can take away your experiences, and the most important thing is learning how to express them in a clear way.
Jonathan: Despite the limitations of lockdown, Preeti and I were able to have monthly conversations via Zoom, and our regular meet-ups gave us a useful framework to make progress.
Preeti has an excellent CV that, from an early age, tells a good story about her interest in and commitment to the editorial and publishing industry; however, at times, she might be the first to admit that she lacked confidence.
We worked on identifying her key skills and the real-world applications that she has already developed, with an idea to to equip her with the building blocks that would enable her to engage with applications, interviews, and networking conversations with confidence. We used this as a prelude to developing Preeti’s own CV and story, which will equip her for the next stage of her career.
Preeti, how has taking part in the Industry Mentoring Programme helped you to develop your employability skills?
I believe that it’s allowed me to understand myself better, and to gain confidence in myself and my abilities. I’ve also gained insight into the creative industries through my interactions with Jonathan, who was there to help me throughout.
The programme allowed me to focus on my journey and the path that I wanted to take with my career and practice. Over time, I became able to identify the places where I wanted to go and how to get there, and I now feel more confident in making connections and learning from other creatives within the publishing industry.
After completing the programme, I felt like I had a clear plan and clear goals in my mind that could help me to establish myself in the creative world.
Jonathan, what have been the highlights of your time as an LCC industry mentor?
At one stage, Preeti and I were discussing topics for her final dissertation. This included a number of ‘run-of-the-mill’ ideas when the conversation moved to her interest in Japanese manga comics – her eyes lit up and she came more animated than before. I’m a great believer in encouraging people to follow their passions, and here was her passion, her interest, so we talked about this becoming the focus of her work.
I have no doubt that Preeti’s passion for the subject will carry her through, but I also took some pride in noting that this renewed confidence had enabled her to choose a key interest as the basis for her Final Major Project.
Preeti, what are your top tips for other students on how to make the most of mentorship?
- Be open and willing to learn from your mentor. They’re there to help you and guide you through the process, so listen to their advice, and share your thoughts and ideas. Both you and your mentor are learning and gaining insights from each other, so it’s important to approach things with an open mind.
- It’s helpful to create a list of smart goals so that you can go to your sessions prepared, and with an aim in mind of what you want to achieve.
- It’s beneficial to make time every day to go through the tasks that you and your mentor have set out for you. Really, I found that it’s all about trusting the process: everyone’s journey is different, and spending just a few minutes a day to focus on the tasks at hand can be helpful with your career and practice.
- One of the most incredible pieces of advice from my mentor was to follow your passion and follow your interests. The things that you’re animated about are the things that will drive you throughout your career, and it’s important to hold onto them.
Jonathan, why would you encourage other creative practitioners to sign up as mentors?
It’s a cliché to say that the programme is an opportunity to ‘give back’, but like all good clichés, there’s an element of truth in that. Anyone who has made the journey themselves and understands the difficulties of progressing in the creative industries will have something to pass on.
Now, more than ever, when we’re trying to encourage greater diversity in creative professions, helping students to navigate choices and difficult decisions is really important. Seeing them develop, and knowing that you’ve played a part in that development, however small, is just an incredibly rewarding experience.
I’d also recommend that mentors consider the programme as a learning opportunity for them too. Younger generations and people in different industries to your own think differently. Taking time to absorb that insight can only be to the benefit of your own ideas and thinking. The mentoring programme is an investment in your own career as well as that of your mentee.
LCC's Industry Mentoring Programme is currently offered as part of our Upgrade Your Future Path initiative, which supports postgraduate students to explore potential careers in the creative industries. Applications for both mentors and mentees will reopen in 2022.