Beyond Your Research Degree
Episode 17 - Katie Finning (Senior Research Officer, Health Analysis and Pandemic Insights, Office for National Statistics)

Episode 17 - Katie Finning (Senior Research Officer, Health Analysis and Pandemic Insights, Office for National Statistics)

July 26, 2021

Welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast from the University of Exeter Doctoral College! The podcast about careers and all the opportunities available to you... beyond your research degree!  In this episode Kelly Preece, Researcher Development Manager talks Dr. Katie Finning, who recently made the transition from a postdoc to a research role outside of academia. 

In the podcast Kaite mentions the Civil Service Job site and the Glassdoor repository of interview questions.

Music from https://filmmusic.io ’Cheery Monday’ by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com) License: CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses

 

Podcast transcript

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Hello and welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast by the University of Exeter College.

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Hi, it's Kelly Preece and welcome to the latest episode of Beyond Your Research Degree, continuing our series on getting jobs during covid.

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I'm really excited to be talking to Dr Katie Finning.

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So Katie was up until recently a postdoc at the University of Exeter and has during the pandemic made the transition into a non-academic role.

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So are you happy to introduce yourself? Sure. So I'm Katie Finning.

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I am. I'm currently working as a senior researcher at the Office for National Statistics, so I was in academia for about nine years before I left.

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I'm originally joined not long after I finished my undergraduate degree, I took a job as a research assistant to university.

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So I was working on a clinical trial of a behavioural therapy for adults with depression.

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And I kind of worked on that project from start to finish when I joined.

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And we were still kind of gaining all of our ethical approvals.

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And I stayed working in that job right up until the end where we published the results of the study.

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So that was a really great experience because I kind of saw the whole research lifecycle from start to finish.

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And in that job, my main job for most of that time was data collection and recruitment.

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So that was great. I spent most of my job kind of going out and meeting people and interviewing them and talking to them about their experiences,

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which was was a really interesting and fun job. And then I did my PhD.

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I moved over to child mental health, so I was still at Exeter university.

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So I'd always been kind of interested in mental health from a research perspective, but particularly child mental health.

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And a PhD opportunity came up just as my contract on that clinical trial was coming to an end.

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So it was kind of perfect timing. It was in a team I was really keen to kind of make my way into and the topic was really interesting.

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So it was advertised as a job rather than me kind of submitting my own PhD proposal.

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And my PhD was kind of epidemiological.

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So it looked at kind of patterns and trends in data, looking at the association between anxiety and depression in young people and school absenteeism.

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And so I used a variety of different research methods during my PhD, did a bit of systematic review, some quantitative work, some qualitative work.

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So it was a really kind of nice,

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well-rounded project that gave me experience and methods that I hadn't experienced when I was working as a research assistant.

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And I think it kind of the whole time that I was in academia, there were things I loved.

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I loved working on research. I loved working with data.

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And but I always kind of questioned whether academia was the right place for me.

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And the only reason really that I think I stayed for so long was just because the opportunities were there.

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And so I had no real reason to leave. I had it funded post for about five years, and then I had a great PhD opportunity for three years.

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And then I did a couple of years of postdoc work as well. And it was, to be honest, by complete luck that I was contacted about my job now.

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So towards the end of my PhD, I was starting to get a little bit anxious about kind of what was going to come next,

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whether I'd be able to get any funding for postdoc work. And I started quite seriously looking at jobs outside of academia.

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But there was never really anything that I saw that I felt was a good enough match for my skills and for what I was interested in.

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And and so I signed up for kind of hundreds of job alerts every week.

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I get all these alerts about various different jobs and I'd scroll through them and think,

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oh, I just don't I just don't think there are any jobs outside of academia for me.

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And kind of felt a little bit hopeless at that point because I was worried about my job security in academia,

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but also didn't feel like there was anything outside of academia for me.

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And so then I applied for some postdoc funding and was awarded postdoc funding.

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It was about a year and a half of funding. So I really stopped looking for alternative jobs.

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And then by complete coincidence,

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I was contacted by someone at the Office for National Statistics on LinkedIn about a job that they had and kind of encouraging me to apply.

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And I looked at this job description and I remember saying to my husband,

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I feel like this job's got my name on it and it just kind of ticked every box.

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It was a research role. It was a permanent job, which was really important.

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For me, it was a homeworking contract, which this was all happening during the pandemic,

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and I really benefited from homeworking, so I was quite eager to apply for jobs and that would be permanently home based.

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And yes, that's kind of how I got to where I am now. One thing led to another.

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I thought I'll just put in an application and see what happens. But I've got this postdoc funding, so it's no big deal if I don't get it.

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Let's just see what happens. And I had an interview, was offered the job.

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And so here I am. I've been in this job for about three and a half months now.

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Thank you so much for that. I think just a story that will really resonate with so many of our listeners about the

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the getting towards the end of the research degree in that kind of anxiety where,

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you know, where the hell am I going next? Is academia right for me?

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I can't see anything outside of it that really feels like it speaks to my interest or my knowledge or my skills.

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And I think it's really important just to. Acknowledge how normal that feeling is.

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Yeah, and and I think as well, we're not very good in academia about talking about that.

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So I always kind of felt like I wasn't I wasn't sure if academia was right for me,

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but no one ever really talked about, well, if not academia than what

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And I always kind of felt like everybody else in academia was so committed and so sure that this was where they wanted their careers to be.

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And actually now, on reflection, I don't know that that's true.

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I think that we just a lot of people have those doubts, but it's for whatever reason, it's not really talked about.

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And the trouble with that is that it means that it is difficult to know what else there is.

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And so I think it's really great that you do this podcast. And I think that needs to be more resources like this for, you know, pre docs,

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PhD students, postdocs, just to kind of get an understanding of what else is out there.

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Because I the thought of leaving academia was really quite scary for me because I felt like nobody was talking about what happens when you leave.

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You know if I hate it. Can I come back? Will I be seen as kind of an outsider or a traitor for leaving?

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And I found that really unsettling because I felt like I was the only the only one who.

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Wasn't completely sure that I wanted to stay on this career path and kind of aspire to become a professor,

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so I think it's really great that we're having this conversation and that you're kind of

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pushing forward these sorts of topics and conversations because I think they need to be had.

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They do. And I think, you know, you said it yourself.

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There's a real taboo around talking about even thinking is academia right for academia right for me, let alone leaving.

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Yeah. And and there's all sorts of really, really problematic narratives around it as well.

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You know, a lot of people have this misconception, but, you know, it's perpetuated that,

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you know, if you if you decide not to be an academic, you've in some sense failed.

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Failed. Yeah. And and it's really difficult to to push past that.

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Yeah. Especially when the narrative is so pervasive. It is.

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And I felt as well because I wasn't sure, you know, I really enjoyed academia in lots of ways.

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So it wasn't like I absolutely hated it and I knew I wanted out. It was like, OK, I quite like this, but there's also some stuff I'm not sure about.

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And and what I worried about was if I tell anyone that I'm thinking about jobs outside of academia.

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People might not consider me for jobs inside academia, and so I never told anybody,

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I never wanted to speak to my supervisors or those that I worked with because I thought,

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well, if a job comes up, they might think, well, she's not very committed, so let's not offer it to her.

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And so there was kind of this difficult dynamic where I felt like I needed to be speaking about what other options there were,

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but also didn't want to look like I wasn't committed enough to be able to do a good job if I did decide to stay.

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Yeah, exactly, and it's something I've heard so much over the past few years, at Exeter

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is that is a real fear of if I express that I might not be interested in staying in academia, what might the consequences be?

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How might that limit my opportunities?

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And like you say, if I go out and I decide actually I don't like it and I want to come back, you know, is that going to damage my chances?

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So I wanted to pick up on a couple of things.

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So, you know, you said not knowing what was out there, you signed up to loads of  job alerts, but nothing was coming up that really spoke to you.

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Can you talk a little bit about that and about the kind of things were coming up?

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And what what what about the most resonating with you?

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I found it very difficult, a lot of the jobs that were coming up.

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So I think I signed up for job alerts that were kind of, you know, based on keywords.

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So it was like research, research, data analysis, those kinds of things.

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But there was very little in the way of kind of well-rounded research.

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So there were tons and tons of kind of data scientist, data, analyst type roles.

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And as much as I really enjoy working with data and it was one of the things during my Ph.D. that I particularly enjoyed,

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I I'm still I'm not a data scientist. Right. And that's quite a specific set of skills.

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And so a lot of these jobs were coming up where I was thinking, well, that sounds really interesting,

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but I don't I don't think I've quite got the skill set in order to do that.

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And there was very little that seemed to be out there that was kind of like a well rounded researcher role that might involve,

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you know, a bit of research design, a bit of data collection, a bit of analysis, a bit of dissemination.

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There was just nothing really coming up. But I tell you what I saw, I think I searched on, you know, all the usual places,

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Glassdoor indeed, and LinkedIn, and set up loads of job alerts through those kinds of places.

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But the one thing I didn't do was look at civil service and I honestly never even crossed my mind.

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I just never, ever. And that's why I think these kinds of conversations are so important,

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because I didn't really even think about there being research posts in the civil service.

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There are tons of research jobs in the civil service, not just ONS there.

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But I mean, there are loads of jobs being advertised at ONS

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But, you know, departments, Education Department of Health and Social Care, Department for Transport,

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depending what your topic area or area of interest is, there are loads of research jobs in the civil service.

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And I had absolutely no idea. Yeah, and I, I think it's it's so common.

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It's you know, if you're interested in an academic career, I mean,

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I'm not saying it's easy because it's highly competitive, but you're surrounded by the people with the information.

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You're surrounded by the gatekeepers. Well, and, you know, you can you see very clearly in front of you what the options are.

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Yeah. Outside it. You know, it's it's such a big sort of open ended market of possibilities.

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And knowing where you might fit within that is really difficult.

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So. In thinking about what kind of didn't resonate with you.

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About those roles, what was it about this role that you're now in?

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that did speak to you. What is it that made you go at that?

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That sounds like it might be for me. It was the fact that the job description was so the job title was senior research officer,

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but the job description mentioned the whole life cycle of research.

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So it said something along the lines of, you know, roles might include.

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And it was everything from designing research, working with stakeholders, you know, managing a team of researchers, data analysis, dissemination.

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It was basically a postdoc researcher, but working for government.

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And I thought, well, that's exactly what I want.

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I don't want to be stuck into, you know, being a specialist data scientist that's a bit outside the realms of what I'm capable of.

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It's it's a bit of everything and everything that I've learnt along the last nine years of being academia.

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I've done all of that. So I literally looked at the job description and I thought, well, I can do that.

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I can do that. I can do that. There was nothing in it that made me go that's a bit outside of what I can really do.

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And it just felt like it fit

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My skills and probably the skill set of a lot of kind of early postdoc researchers, early career researchers, perfectly.

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But it had the benefit of being a permanent job, which I hadn't had, you know, at the age of thirty two, I'd never had a permanent job.

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And that was I felt like it was the time of my life where I was just a bit tired

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of being on fixed term contracts and always having to worry about what came next.

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And so to have a kind of well-rounded research job that was working from home and that was permanent was just I mean, it was a no brainer.

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Yeah. And I think, you know, we don't talk again.

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We don't talk enough about or we talk a lot about precarity in academia, but we don't talk enough about actually why that might be a reason to leave.

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Yeah. Yep, that's right. It's it's almost something that you just kind of expected to put up with.

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And it's like, well, that's just how it is, you know, and and all of the kind of more senior academics have been through that process as well.

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So all you see is, you know, even kind of the role models and the people that you aspire to,

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to be like eventually still have to go through that process.

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So it's kind of just like, well, that's if you want to be in academia, that is just what you have to put up with.

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And I think in you know, in the time of covid as well, I felt kind of.

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Like, it was extra precarious and I thought,

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I don't know what the landscape is going to be like over the next couple of years, and that was really scary.

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It is, and lots of people, for various reasons, it can be, you know,

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the fact that you just don't have the kind of life circumstances where you can work precariously.

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It can be, you know, that you are incredibly tied geographically for various reasons

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You know, there's lots of different reasons why.

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That kind of that kind of system doesn't really work for people, and therefore it can be a reason to leave academia,

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but that doesn't mean leaving behind research and the things that you're passionate about in terms of your subject area,

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but also in terms of your skills.

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Yeah, exactly.

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And I think one of the things I really was quite nervous about leaving and from the point where I accepted the job to the point where I left, I.

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Was anticipating that I was going to regret leaving from day one and I was going to wonder what I'd done and I don't know,

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I sort of feel like I'd maybe put academia up on a bit of a pedestal where I thought,

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you know, this is the best thing in the world and I'm not going to have that anymore.

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And one of the things that I particularly worried about so one of the things I love about academia is working with,

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like some of the brightest minds in the world. Right. Like, no exaggeration.

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And you get to sit in on conversations and be involved in conversations or it's like, you know, groundbreaking research, really smart people.

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And I just love that I found it really exciting.

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And I thought if I leave academia, I'm going to lose that, that actually there were tons of really bright people at ONS and there were tons of ex academics.

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I went as I didn't lose that at all.

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You know that there are things and we can talk about that, you know, there are things that I miss and things that I lost.

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But working with bright people definitely wasn't one of them.

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And I can honestly say that I haven't looked back for a second and I haven't had once I left,

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it was kind of the couple of months up to leaving that were horrible because I was so worried about whether I was going to regret it.

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As soon as I started my new job, I. I just knew I'd made the right decision and even in those first couple of months and starting a new job,

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which is always a bit unsettling and especially, you know, it was a big change going to civil service from academia.

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It's in some respects, it's totally different. And and there were moments where I felt quite unsettled.

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Even now, you know, three and a half months down the line, I still have moments of feeling a bit unsettled, but never for a second.

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I thought I wish I hadn't left. There's something really for me, this is something really to do with identity,

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and I experienced it myself when I stopped being an academic and I moved into professional services.

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I really felt like I was going to be leaving a huge part of myself behind and that I you know, I felt like it was going to be gut wrenching.

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Yes. To leave my leave my research topic. And I,

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I to the extent that I thought I would probably carry on with some of my research

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and it was only I've been in this job six years so about two years ago,

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that I finally had an exodus of books and research materials.

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When I realised it's been four years, it's probably not going to happen.

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Yeah. And because actually, you know, that it was so tied to my sense of identity that I thought it was going to be this massive,

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massive thing to stop doing it and to leave and to forge a different path.

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And, you know, like you, when I started it, I thought, oh, actually, this this feels right.

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It feels like the right environment for me. It feels like doing the right thing. And I'm not looked at once and I've never missed it.

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Yeah, that's really interesting. And I think I can really relate to that kind of sense of your identity being wrapped up in academia,

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because in academic research it's all about you, like it's about you, your research interests, your proposals.

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You know, it's so centred on you that that it does become part of your identity.

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And and I think it feels like it probably felt like one of the biggest life decisions I've ever made and probably still does to leave.

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It felt like this huge, huge decision, and especially because I'd just been awarded some postdoc funding.

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So I was like, I'm I'm literally like I'm walking away from a really good opportunity.

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And I guess as well, you know, it's always talked about how competitive research funding is.

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And, you know, if you've been awarded something, it's like, wow, that's amazing. Well done.

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You should be so pleased that like to walk away felt really difficult and almost like I was letting people down or letting myself down somehow.

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But yeah, it's funny how pretty much as soon as I did that,

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I kind of I saw things from a slightly different perspective and I realised how the culture

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of academia kind of perpetuates that way of thinking where it's all focussed on you.

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You're not letting anybody down if you decide to leave, like you're not letting anybody down, you're just not.

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And you know what? Your self identity will change and evolve, OK?

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It won't be wrapped up in, you know, this really kind of specific area of speciality that you've developed.

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But you'll have a new identity and you'll still have many of the aspects of your old identity, but it will just evolve and change.

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But that's just part of life, right? We change anyway. So nothing to fear.

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Yeah, I think that I think that's so, so important to acknowledge,

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and it was going to be one of my key questions for you was kind of what happens when you when you leave and what does that feel like?

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Because it is it's a huge source of anxiety for people because it feels like a complete unknown.

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And like you say, we don't talk about it, you know, so we fear it.

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That's right. And and, yeah, you know, academia, it's not just a job when you're in academic research, it is more than that it is wrapped up in your identity.

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So it's a big deal. But, you know, and I'm sure there are people who leave and find that transition really difficult.

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But for me, it wasn't difficult at all.

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And actually, you know, I've still got some old projects from my academic career kind of rolling on.

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And honestly, if anything, I've had moments of thinking, God, I just want to get those things done so that I can put it behind me and move on.

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And it's it's funny how quickly my loyalty has changed.

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And I felt like actually that was something from the past.

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And I'm ready to just move on and, you know, learn it, learn a new job and develop a new life.

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And and for my job to not be such a strong part of my identity anymore, I actually find that really refreshing.

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I did too. there's quite a burden. I think at the time I didn't realise because I thought it was cool.

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But, you know, my research was so important and then it was all wrapped up in me and my self identity.

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And and so I didn't realise it until I left. But actually, I think for me that felt like like a bit of a burden.

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And it's it's nice to feel like, although what I'm doing now is still really important and it's impactful, it's I can see it more as just a job.

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And I think I really appreciate that. Yeah.

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And I, I thought exactly the same about, you know, actually I don't think I necessarily felt it was a burden at the time.

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But when I realised the weight had been lifted. Yeah. I realised realise what a burden it was.

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But at the same time I always say, you know, it's not like that for everybody.

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It's it doesn't feel like it's not a burden for everybody. And, you know, that's an important thing to recognise, too.

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But if it is for you, then maybe this is it's not the environment.

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Yeah. And if your passion is research, there's plenty of things that you can go and do.

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So the thing that I wanted to talk about next was the application process for your job.

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at ONS cause again, it's something that feels in academia we sort of know a bit about if we're in the system,

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about how job adverts and applications and interviews and how all of those processes go.

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But it feels like a really huge unknown when we're talking about public service or industry, particularly the civil service.

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So I wondered if you could talk a little bit about what the application involved and what the interview process involved.

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Yeah, so it was a very different experience to jobs that I had applied for in academia, and the application form was fine.

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I actually um because like I said, I hadn't been looking out for civil service jobs.

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So I hadn't spotted this job until someone messaged me on LinkedIn.

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And I didn't get the message until the day before the closing day.

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So I literally had like one evening and a bit of the next day to put my application together.

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So it was very rushed and I think it involved a CV and a description of my previous work experience.

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And then I had to do a statement. So I think it was seven hundred and fifty words.

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And I had to discuss a piece of work,

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that I had led or a piece of research that I had led and there were specific criteria about what I needed to include.

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So it was how I had led a team, what the outcome was,

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and there were some other things that were specified in there that was pretty easy, to be completely honest.

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If you've got kind of post PhD level, you'll be able to talk about a piece of work that you've led.

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So that was more just kind of, you know, like a lot of job applications.

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It's a bit tedious having to put that together and because I didn't have much time to do it, but that was fine.

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And then I was contacted fairly soon afterwards inviting me to interview.

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And then I had to log on to Civil Service Jobs website.

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So it's worth mentioning for anyone listening to this,

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if you think you might be interested in a research job in civil service, they're all advertised by a civil service.

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Jobs, I think it's .co.uk

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So all civil service kind of government organisations will all be posted on there and the whole application process is managed on there as well.

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And so then I had to book myself an interview date

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So basically it's all done on an automated system and you got a choice of different dates and then you select one.

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The interview itself was hard. It was about an hour and a half long and it was broken down into three parts.

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The first part was a presentation. I think it was only a five minute presentation.

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And they sent me information about what I had to present on about a week before.

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And basically by the content of it was that they gave me a general topic area with a list of specific research questions.

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And I had to kind of a bit of a brief that some government department wanted this research and what they wanted it for.

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I had to pick a couple of the research questions to focus on, and then I had to design a study to address those questions.

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So the first part of my interview was presenting that. And then the panel asked me a bunch of questions about it.

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You know, why did you select those questions? Why did you pick this design?

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How could you do it differently? What the strengths and weaknesses.

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And then that was followed up with quite specific I think they call them research skills questions.

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If you had just come out of your undergraduate degree, particularly in something like psychology,

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which was what my degree was, it would probably be relatively easy.

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But if you're a few years or more, as in my case, kind of post undergrad, it was things like, you know, what is a normal distribution?

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How would you explain a P value to a lay audience and things like that, which, you know, if you work with day to kind of day to day, you know,

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those things, but actually being able to provide like a really neat definition for it in a high stress interview situation was really,

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really difficult. That's really tough. Yeah, it was hard.

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And there was about 20 minutes of those kinds of questions.

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But I was lucky that I had before my interview, I'd gone on to the Glassdoor website and I looked up.

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So on there this is a very big tip to anyone listening to this who's thinking of applying for other jobs.

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And there's a there's a tab on Glassdoor for interviews.

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So if you go to whatever the organisation is they search for, say,

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I want to go to the interviews tab and there will be people who have posted about their experiences of having an interview at the organisation,

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and it includes interview questions. And so I had seen on that, I think it was only, I don't know, a few days before my interview,

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my husband actually said, well, have you had a look on Glassdoor? And I didn't know this was a thing.

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So we stood and we stood there together. I was kind of over his shoulder. He was on his computer pull up these interviews.

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And I saw a few for the specific kind of job role that I had advertised for.

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And it said on there, you know, people were saying I was asked these kind of very specific research questions,

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statistics type questions with some examples of the kinds of questions that I remember standing there and saying to a husband,

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oh, my God, there is no way I'm going to be able to do that.

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And so I spent the next three days, like revising all my undergraduate stats and research methods.

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If I hadn't have done that, I think that interview process would have been a lot more stressful than it was and would have been really difficult.

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But thankfully, I was quite prepared for that. And then the third part of the interview was what they call civil service behaviours.

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So there are a bunch of kind of civil service behaviours, things like what was I assessed on?

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I can't remember. I think that's about 10 of them. And I was assessed on two.

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And so I think it was maybe leadership and effective decision making.

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I think those were the two that I was assessed on and that was those kinds of smart questions.

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So it's like, you know, tell us about a time when you did such and such,

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or they'll present you with a scenario and say, what would you do in this situation?

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And those are the kinds of questions where you have to say, OK, this is what the situation was.

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This is the action that I took. This was the outcome, et cetera. And that section of the interview specifically was really new to me,

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although I know that that's kind of quite typical in many organisations in academia.

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Certainly when the jobs that I applied for that that kind of interview process wasn't used at all.

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So I found that quite difficult. And if I'm honest, a little bit artificial.

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There were no questions like, you know, why do you want the job?

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What do you think you bring to the organisation? What relevant skills have you got?

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It was all very structured and it did feel a little bit artificial and a little bit like a tick box exercise.

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So I found that quite difficult. And it was a stark contrast to academic job interview processes.

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But, you know, I got through it and apparently I was I did a good enough job to be offered to be offered the post

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And I will say as well, actually, I've since been to the talks and not long after I joined,

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there was a civil service wide kind of talk about disability adjustments in job application processes.

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And I have long term health problems, but I hadn't mentioned that on my job application.

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I think like many people with disabilities or long term health issues,

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I worried about whether that would minimise my chances of being offered something.

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And so I didn't mention it. But actually, I now know that that absolutely wouldn't have been the case.

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And I would really encourage anybody listening who's got any kind of disability or needs any kind of adjustment

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in order to assist them with the interview process and make it fairer to absolutely put that down when you apply.

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And I know that ONS And I'm no doubt other government organisations as well.

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Take that. Very seriously.

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That's really helpful, just to reassure people that there is that support there on that accessing it isn't going to disadvantage you.

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Yeah, definitely. And all say that's one thing I've been really impressed with since I've joined is the support for people with disabilities.

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So actually, after I joined, there's a whole kind of official process. I would ask if you've got any kind of disability.

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It's called a disability, sorry. Now it's called a workplace adjustment passport.

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And it's basically a form that you that you fill out in collaboration with your line manager that says, you know, these are my difficulties.

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These are the kinds of adjustments I need. And they're agreed.

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And it's kind of formally attached to your records so that if you move around within

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the organisation that goes with you and it could be reviewed and changed as needed,

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but they are really brilliant at making any adjustments that are required the helpful for you as an individual in order to perform at your best.

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And I've been really impressed with that from ONS. That's that's really amazing.

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I was just going to say the other thing that I'm really valuing is work life balance and flexitime.

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So ONS has a flexitime system, and it was one of the things I was quite worried about.

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But having chronic health issues, one of the things I really valued in academia was that I could kind of manage my time myself.

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So, you know, if I was having a bad day, I could take the afternoon off and I didn't really even need to tell anybody.

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I didn't need to record it is sick leave necessarily I could You know, I was you're almost your own boss in in many respects.

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And you have a lot of flexibility over how you manage your time. And I really valued that.

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And I was very anxious about losing that. But, oh, there's a there's a flexitime system and it really is very flexible.

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So if you want to take an afternoon off, you know, as long as you don't have any really important meetings going on,

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you can just do it and you don't really even have to ask for permission. So that's a real bonus and something I've been really impressed with.

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And things like part time working is really common, even in very senior staff members.

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So several of the kind of the highest level directors are part time workers,

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there were lots of women in senior roles, you know, people with young children,

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people with caring responsibilities, people with disabilities are represented across the whole organisation at all different levels.

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And on reflection, I don't think that's done very well in academia.

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And I always found it difficult because I dropped to part time working.

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during my PhD because for health reasons and then in my postdoc work, I was always part time.

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And it really worried me that nobody senior seemed to work part time.

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And I always thought, I don't think I'll be physically capable of doing that job full time.

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So therefore that career path just isn't an option for me. But I guess it just doesn't matter.

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Your job, you can be part time. It doesn't matter how senior you are.

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You know, it's recognised that people have lives outside of their jobs and ONS are very good at accommodating that.

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Fabulous. Yeah. Isn't that nice to hear.

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Is it. Is. So I think to wrap up well what advice would you give to someone who is, you know,

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in the position that you were you're not really sure if working in academia is the right thing for you,

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but you you don't really know what's out there.

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What advice would you give them in hindsight? I would say.

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Join LinkedIn, I wasn't on LinkedIn for years, and I kind of always thought, oh, what's the point of it?

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I couldn't really see how it would benefit me if I wasn't on LinkedIn.

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I wouldn't have known about this job and I'd probably still be in academia, still having all those same concerns and,

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you know, keep your options open where I think where you feel comfortable doing so.

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Have those conversations with your managers and your colleagues. And I appreciate that.

356
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That's really difficult. And I guess if there are any managers listening to this, I would say,

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please have those conversations with your staff, with your junior researchers, you know,

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acknowledge that not everybody in academia wants to be a professor one day,

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you know, make it known that it's OK to be thinking about alternative careers.

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And I've actually been been invited by a professor at Oxford University who I worked with kind of came across during my PhD.

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She since approached me and has asked me to do a bit of a mini presentation to her research team.

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So she's a very senior professor at Oxford who wants me to come in and talk to

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her research group about my job and about civil service and leaving academia.

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And I just feel like that's like just such leadership there to to proactively get someone who's no longer in academia in to talk to her team.

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I really feel like more managers need to be doing that. But, you know, if you're in the position that I was in,

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try and seek out people who you do feel safe having those conversations with and that there was one particular person,

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quite senior person, who I who I worked with, who I did have these conversations with.

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And I really valued that. And I still chat to him now.

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So, yeah, I think, you know, find out, find out people who you feel safe having those kinds of conversations with and have those

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conversations and just keep your options open and know that there is research happening everywhere.

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And just because you don't know about it, it doesn't mean it's not happening. So just keep looking.

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Keep searching that there are lots of jobs out there.

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It's just about kind of finding them and knowing where to look. But look on civil service jobs because there are tons and I had no idea.

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Thank you so much to Katie for that really insightful and really in-depth discussion about that transition from Ph.D. to postdoc to leaving academia.

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I think it's really beneficial to have these really in-depth conversations about the process, what it involves,

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how it feels so that we can reassure our listeners that actually it's it's OK, it's going to be OK.

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And it was great to also hear about the support of access for the disabled employees

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and knowing that that that support is out there in industry as well as in academia.

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And that's it for this episode. Join us next time when we'll be talking to another researcher about their career beyond their research degree.

 

Episode 16 - Alexandra Smith (Public Health Research Support Officer at Devon County Council)

Episode 16 - Alexandra Smith (Public Health Research Support Officer at Devon County Council)

June 28, 2021

Welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast from the University of Exeter Doctoral College! The podcast about careers and all the opportunities available to you... beyond your research degree!  In this episode Kelly Preece, Researcher Development Manager talks Alexandra Smith, who is finishing up her PhD and has just started a job as Public Health Research Support Officer at Devon County Council.

 

Music from https://filmmusic.io ’Cheery Monday’ by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com) License: CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses

 

 

Podcast transcript

 

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Hello and welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast by the University of Exeter, Doctoral College

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Hello and welcome to the latest episode of Beyond Your Research Degree.

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I'm your host, Kelly Preece, and in this episode, we are continuing our series on securing jobs during covid-19.

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I'm speaking to another of our current PGRs who's not quite finished writing up, but has started a job in a local authority.

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So, Alexandra, you happy to introduce yourself? So my name is Alexandra Smith and I'm a student at the University of Exeter.

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I based in business school, but my PhD is on what I call the holistic health benefits of working groups.

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So essentially I'm looking at five different variables organisational landscape, physical health,

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mental health and social capital and their influence on working group participant motivation for joining, remaining and leaving.

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So at the moment, I am working with Devon County Council.

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I'm a public health research support officer and it's a role funded by the NIHR.

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That's the National Institute of Health Research, and it sits within the the CRN the Clinical Research Network.

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So essentially, NIHR is really interested in expanding its public health portfolio.

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So my role is to sort of link up researchers to populations to to get data from so I can

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do that through Connections that I have through the team within Devon County Council,

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but also to to create spaces for collaboration for public health.

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So I work across lots of different teams, so I will work with different individuals in D.C.C public health, but also broader DCC.

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So I'm also linking up with people in sort of who work more in the environment who are

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interested in working in transport and also working with sort of more partners as well.

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So community and voluntary sector NHS CCG Trust those different kind of partnerships, academics as well.

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And at the moment I'm working towards creating a webinar which DCC will be hosting on the 8th of July,

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and that's really a great collaborative forum to get academics and other partners together,

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to really talk through some of the pressing public health issues that we have in public health is such a huge area,

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really covers all aspects of life, really.

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It's very interconnected. So it's really important to have those collaborative spaces.

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And currently what I'm designing is a kind of like a platform.

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I'm looking to do this through sort of SharePoint and also through Microsoft teams to enable

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researchers and other collaborators to get together to put together grant applications.

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The role that I have public health research support of is a new role. And there are about 20 of me across the UK with this title.

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And next week I have my first meeting to meet the rest of the team on that.

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So I am new to a local authority.

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I'm new to public health, I'm new to NIHR, are very much started off like I did.

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I did a bachelor's in human psychology. I did a Masters in psychological well-being and mental health.

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And I worked as a research assistant to the University of Nottingham in the nursing, midwifery and physiotherapy department.

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And from there, I kind of thought clinical perhaps isn't quite for me, but I've got more.

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I really wanted more of a holistic perspective to individuals.

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So that's when I moved to Exeter to do my PhD. And then it just started shaping more into a kind of public health policy,

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kind of feel to it  then my supervisor suggested actually public health and maybe a local authority might work for you.

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And this really this is a fantastic opportunity because it kind of brings those two things together.

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It brings up public health interests and it brings that research element as well.

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So what I've been doing is engaging with different people. So I've been having one to ones with different members of the D.C.C public health

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team to understand their research about their area that they're working on.

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And these could be really broad themes, you know,

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that there could be children and young persons or it could be mental health or it could be planetary health.

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And they've been working on this for years.

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And I have to understand what it is that they're doing and what specific research element could be within that.

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So it's been a big learning curve if you don't if you don't know anything about that particular field to begin with.

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So it's very much you've gotta swap your

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head from learning about one topic and then something, you have to give somebody else an entirely different project and an entirely different topic,

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and it's just understanding those kind of connections that you can make to have like a broad you know,

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we need something researched into this or we need this really specific kind of population.

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So it's it's been a steep learning curve. I wouldn't have it any other way.

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Yeah. And I think that's a really important thing.

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to acknowledge that quite often when you're moving from research into any other sector, but particularly kind of,

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you know, the public policy kind of area that you're working in, it's going to be a steep learning curve.

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But that doesn't mean that you don't have valuable knowledge and skills and expertise to apply in those areas.

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Exactly.

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And it is really just about, you know, that that frame of mind when you start applying for jobs that are outside of academia because I don't know,

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certainly certainly I found that I perhaps didn't want to work in academia, although I did really still like research.

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But I wanted to get more into public health and understand that.

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But I don't have a public health master's, and that's just not something that I could go straight into, you know, to get a job.

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And I need to get some money. I can't just go study again.

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And it is really just about I found LinkedIn incredibly helpful for that process, actually,

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because you can follow different organisations and you can follow different people who are interesting to you.

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Interesting to you. And you can learn about opportunities that you never would have thought about.

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And that there is a learning to and where you have to understand and unpick some of that language.

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But some of it is just about immersing yourself in it.

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And for me, It's just constant exposure. The more exposure you get to it, over time, you pick it up.

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And I found that incredibly invaluable because then I broke out of my understanding the language

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of academia and the language of other organisations and therefore what they were looking for.

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And that actually I had those skills. I just needed to understand it in different words and they needed to sell it in different words.

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So I would say LinkedIn was actually invaluable for that it really was

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And then, you know, it's just about going through those applications.

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Give yourself enough time for it. So I suppose I take like I took two different strategies to it, like applying for loads of jobs,

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but also like I really want this one, or I think I could really get that one.

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And I would probably say if you have the time, try and do it more focussed.

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But also it can be really interesting to just apply more generally.

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So I, I got an interview that was more about, you know, turning academic projects into, like the business ventures.

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I don't know if that's the direction that I want to go into.

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And it was really helpful to have that interview to understand maybe this wasn't something I wanted to pursue now,

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but I never would have got that experience had I not applied for something totally different.

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So it can be a really useful learning strategy to to apply for a variety of different things that perhaps in the

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first instance and I suppose something that I would say is you can be a bit overwhelmed with interviews suddenly,

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like I would have, like, I don't know, like for interviews.

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Four days in a row, that's exactly how it could happen, and you've got to do a presentation for it and you might have to do like a group work for it.

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So there is there is a big time commitment to it.

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Don't underestimate that because there's a lot of work you need to put in, particularly for my current job.

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Fortunately for my other interviews,

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I'd also I'd already been looking into public health things and obviously public health stuff has been going on for years.

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Public Health England has been around for a while now. So there's lots and lots of information and there's lots of changes.

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The language is very involved. So it does take time if you're moving into a new area.

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But it's just the fact that exposure, that commitment, trying different things.

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And yeah, it just got to the point where I know I knew enough and I knew how to kind of frame myself.

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I knew what my I knew the things that I was particularly strong in.

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And I would say I don't want to say like it's unique selling point, but.

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What is it that you have to offer and what is it that they have to offer?

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Like yeah ok, you need a job, but it's probably going to be way worse if you just have a job that you hate.

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It's much better to have a job where you're much more aligned with the values.

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So I would say I think it probably depends on you as an individual,

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but personally being involved in how it's like my values are really important to me.

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So my organisation, the organisation that I want to work with,

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I need to make sure that my values are aligned with those, because if it doesn't, then it's just not sustainable.

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I'm not going to do a good job. I'm going to get fired. Then I'm not going to get like a very good, you know, like a reference, that kind of thing.

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Is it really worth it? I think it's worth just thinking about what do you want?

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What do they have to offer? You know, it's very true that people say, you know, it's not just that you are being interviewed.

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You're also interviewing them. You know, do you just feel like maybe this is a bit of a toxic environment going on?

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Or do you feel like this this team really works as a team,

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that they really have this this combined overall sense of leadership in this respect for one another.

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And that's really what I found at DCC I couldn't be more happy.

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I really couldn't. I feel so much part of the team.

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And I love this this mutual respect that everybody has for everybody, you know, from the top down, everybody.

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feels you know, everybody has that combined sense of of feeling valued and heard, and I think that I really appreciate that personally.

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And something really important I want to pick up on there is that a lot of people are using things like LinkedIn as a kind of an awareness

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raising to see what's out there and what's possible and where your skills and experience could be highly valued or sought after.

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Don't don't underestimate your value as a researcher.

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You're trained to be creative in your thought.

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You're trained to look out for those little nuances and question everything.

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And I think that that's something that I found really interesting working at DCC

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because people are obviously trying to understand what is best practise,

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what is the literature so that we can understand how we can support our populations the best.

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But there's also this kind of practicality of like we need to do something now.

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And research works at a completely different time to local authorities who need to be helping the populations

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now that they don't need to know the findings of a randomised control trial 10 years in the future.

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So it's really trying to sort of bring those two things together. And that's that's something where I sort of really come in to help them with.

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And I suppose the thing about, you know,

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a local authorities that they're trying to they've got to sort of split their population

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up to understand how we can how can we support this population or that population,

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this geographical area or children and young persons or whatever.

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And research takes quite a can take quite a different approach. We will go.

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Don't make any assumptions and you know, where where are things that we can connect,

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where are the similarities, where are the differences I have a background in psychology

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So I'm sort of trying to understand more about how we can incorporate individual differences more into research.

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You know, it's this kind of within and between group differences.

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So this is kind of like this two is two different needs going on,

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and it's about understanding how we can pick those apart and come up with a strategy going forward.

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Can you talk a little bit about the process of finding this, the job that you're in at DCC and this opportunity?

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The job that I actually got now, I got off the back of an interview, so I'd applied for like like an intelligence analyst job DCC.

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So I'm I'm based in intelligence as well. That's just where I sit in the team.

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But I actually straddle so many different, like pretty much everything in public health.

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because research is so broad and public health is so interconnected.

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So that's what I applied for. And the because obviously I got that analysis background.

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I've got mixed methods, background so quant and qual and I didn't get it.

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And the feedback that I got was great is just that you didn't quite tick some of the public health boxes.

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So get more familiar with with public health language and, you know, the JSNA the joint strategic needs assessment, those kind of things.

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And then, yeah, then I got sent through the like the the job advert.

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I applied for it, I.

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Then had the interview and managed to secure the job and, you know, and you're always going to get feedback and feedback is incredibly valuable.

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This isn't something to shy away from embracing. It is really important and valuable things in there about values.

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And, you know, like you said earlier, about buzz words.

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And there are certain things that when we talk about careers, are buzzwords and and feel like like platitudes and like kind of management speak.

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And one of those is kind of the importance of knowing your values to finding the right career path for you.

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But actually in practise, it is it's cliche and it's it yeah.

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It feels like kind of business speak, but it is actually true. Yeah, exactly.

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And I suppose, you know, I fought it in the past and just gone like, oh, no business speak buzz words

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Same, oh, it just turns me off completely.

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It makes me feel like it totally goes against my values.

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But I look at I suppose I look at it more as a language tool that I use to communicate a concept to other people.

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And that message and that communication is more important than perhaps preconceptions I have about it.

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Yeah, absolutely. And then the other one, I think really comes up in what you're saying is also the hidden job market,

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which is another one of those kind of management speak things, Business speak things that you hear and you shudder.

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But it is so true in practise. Yeah, I know.

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I suppose what I would say about this is that it's it's totally different to what I thought that it was like.

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It's you know, it's not sort of like I mean, I don't know how it works.

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And other things like DCC has a structure and lots of other places do where, you know,

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you have like tick boxes and you score a value based on like, you know, they're looking for a topic or a theme or something.

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And they will judge your answer, you know, I mean, this is how I understand it to be, you know, give you a score on your answer for that topic.

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You know, that particular thing that they're asking you about during the interview. And whoever gets the most points gets the job.

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So, you know, it was totally different from what I understood to be that kind of hidden job market,

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because I suppose the hidden job market, I assumed it was sort of like, oh, here's this job and you should just go for it.

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And I would, you know, you. But it doesn't it doesn't work like that.

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Every job's going to be advertised. You know, legally, this has got to happen.

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And in terms of fairness.

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But if if somebody sees something in you and goes, actually, I think that this could be really useful to you, then you will know about it.

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You'll know about it in advance. And you might not you know you know, you might know about it a couple of days.

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You might know about it a week or something. And that can give you a bit of lead time to think about, is this what I want to give that person?

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Thanks. Do some research into it. So, yeah, it's completely different to what I thought I was that it was some sneaky thing.

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It's not. It's not. It's more about somebody seeing something in you and going, actually, this might interest you.

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I suppose, to begin with, I found this idea of networking quite scary and I felt quite awkward with it.

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But actually, if I just bring it back to what my values were,

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my values are helping people and helping the broader theme of of helping people generally with, you know, with physical activity or whatever.

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And so in that respect, that's why it immediately struck me.

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Oh I'll send this person, you know, that paper or that link to that grant funding because I'm helping somebody.

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Exactly. And I think, again, you know, you hear networking and again, you think management people and speak.

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But actually, you know, it doesn't let you say about the hidden job market.

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It's not necessarily your perception of it as a term. It's not necessarily how it works in practise.

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I think we've we've uncovered so much in this about kind of like actually the importance of your values to driving you and thinking

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about how you investigate and look at different jobs and be a bit more targeted than just using those kind of a big job site,

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then the kind of hidden job market actually in applying for jobs.

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It creates new opportunities for you because you might not be right for the particular position that you've applied for,

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but there might be something else coming up that they go, oh, actually,

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we spoke to Alexandra and although she wasn't right for that job, she'd be perfect for this job.

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And also the kind of, you know, networking doesn't have to be clinical. It's about, you know,

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being collegiate and having conversations with people and kind of helping basically some advice that I got about networking was about.

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Sort of keeping a contact and that sort of stuff.

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I mean, there was just too much to do in a day, you know, and I don't know that all of that would be completely genuine if you had to.

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I mean, nobody can do that. That's just too much. If something just happens to crop up and it seems relevant to that person, then I'd send it.

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If it's kind of general like chit chat, I just don't know that's that valuable to anybody.

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But it depends on who you are, depends on who the other person is,

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depends on and sort of what stage they're at before we kind of bring and bring this to a close.

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I wondered if we could talk a little bit about what you think. So one of the anxieties people, a research degree students have tends to be about.

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But what skills do I have that are relevant to, you know, relevant to industry or relevant to public policy or the public sector and.

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The answer is so, so many. I wondered if you could talk about your specific role and what are the what's the knowledge,

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what the skills that you use from your day most in your in your work life?

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I think perhaps the reason why PhD students struggle with understanding the values that they have and the how do you say those broader skill sets

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It's because you're doing a PhD

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these things are very the environment is is completely different to other environments and it's kind of like very much your project.

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And it can get quite intense and quite lonely sometimes.

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Even if you are attending a seminar or you're collaborating with somebody else, it's still your project at the end of the day.

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And I think when you're that close to something over time.

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It can start to just feel like everything it can just feel like it's the entire world and you don't know where you finish and the PhD begins.

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And I kind of feel like I mean, I don't know it might happen to other people it certainly happened to me.

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And it's it's there that those kind of that value or those, you know, those flexible skills,

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I think get lost because you don't understand how to advertise it because it's just one.

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You know what I mean, you are the PhD are just one. And I think probably the the biggest thing.

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for me that I use every day is collaboration, I mean, my PhD was very much just,

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you know, me sat at my desk, you know, and occasionally I would attend seminars.

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But they were I mean, there's really not very many people studying the area that I do this,

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like one main person that I know in the world who's studying it.

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So, you know, it can feel very lonely. But I've had different opportunities for collaboration and I've worked on different projects,

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different things that have come up within the university.

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I kind of grasp those opportunities and made the full use out of them as much as you can so that you can demonstrate that you have those skills.

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And don't forget, it's not just about putting it on the paper.

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You know, in your cover letter or in your CV is then demonstrating that you have that at the interview.

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You know, if you want to if you're trying to say, I have great listening skills,

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then listen, I really make sure that you're having those active listening skills.

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You're really listening to what those questions are. You're picking them apart and then you're answering those questions specifically.

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So I would say my interpersonal skills are the biggest thing that I use.

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And so I definitely would say.

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It can be it's the same with like talking to other people and using people as sounding boards, they can help you pick apart what your skills are.

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I mean, yes, there were those kind of hard skills that you have. I've learnt this bit of software.

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I taught myself that if you've taught yourself something, say it.

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That's really important because it shows that you're able to to learn and to adapt and to

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identify a need and fulfil it to be that reflective like to have that self reflection and to go,

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OK, this is like a gap or like, OK, I'm going to call it a gap rather than a weakness.

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And to be able to sort of fill that. I mean, you're trained so highly in teaching yourself.

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That's really what a PhD is it's teaching yourself to teach yourself and teaching yourself to learn.

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So that's kind of the biggest thing. And that can really take you places.

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Thank you so much to Alexandra for a really fascinating and deep,

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and involved discussion about how she came to her role working in public health

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and the kind of career journey that she's been on the application process.

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And you know what she's doing now and she's how she's applying her experience from her PhD.

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And that's it for this episode. Join us next time when we'll be talking to another researcher about their career beyond their research degree.

 

Episode 15 - Dr. Joanna Alfaro (Director of Pro Delphinus)

Episode 15 - Dr. Joanna Alfaro (Director of Pro Delphinus)

April 26, 2021

Welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast from the University of Exeter Doctoral College! The podcast about careers and all the opportunities available to you... beyond your research degree!  In this episode Kelly Preece, Researcher Development Manager talks Dr. Joanna Alfaro, a University of Exeter doctoral graduate who is now the Director of the Peruvian conservation organisation Pro Delphinus.

 

Music from https://filmmusic.io ’Cheery Monday’ by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com) License: CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses

 

Podcast transcript

 

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Hello and welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast by the University of Exeter, Doctoral College

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Hello and welcome to the latest episode of Beyond Your Research Degree. I'm your host, Kelly Preece

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And for this episode, I'm delighted to be talking to Dr Joanna Alfaro,

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who is the president and director of the Peruvian conservation organisation Pro Delphinus

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So, Joanna. Are you happy to introduce yourself? Yeah.

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Well, my name is Joanna Alfaro and I am Peruvian.

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I work in Pro Delphinus and Universidad Científica del Sur. So in 2008 I joined in the programme for PhD

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My advisor was Brendan Godley and Annette Broderick at Exeter

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And I was. That's probably my favourite years as being back a student in the U.K., a dream that I was able to fulfil.

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And for my the theme of my PhD was ecology and conservation of marine turtles.

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And that was also great because it allowed me to to apply the knowledge and the

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experience that I got to working with sea turtles in Peru towards my PhD.

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It's brilliant. Thank you. And what are you doing now?

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So when did you graduate? So the though after the PhD, the I was able to to be back at home and and keep working.

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And what I love, which is marine conservation. So the projects we we have right now are focus.

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It was a very interesting transition because we started our careers being a species oriented.

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And by that I mean that I was I love dolphins and whales and sea turtles.

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So that was my interest. But we learnt over time.

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And and my PhD was a big lesson learnt that is not only about the animals that we were,

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that we're when we're working with animals, we should also look at the people that is related to the animals.

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So in my case, these people were fishermen. And mostly small-scale fishermen.

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And so the the the current work we do now is trying to support fishermen, to keep fishing.

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But in a more clean way, in a sustainable way, in a way that they can keep fishing for the for many,

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many years to come, but also in a way that we are helping animals.

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And in this case, it'll be the ones that we have this passion for the dolphins, the whales, the sea turtles.

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So it's it's a very good combination to be able to to be in the middle between biodiversity

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and economic activities as fisheries and also communities and engaging the main users,

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which are fishermen. That's great and really interesting how, like you say, that you've moved from thinking about particular species to.

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To fishermen. And that sort of shift in focus. So can you tell me a little bit about when you were doing your PhD?

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Did you know that you want to move on to this kind of role? Oh, yes.

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Well, that's a great question. And that's a question that I mention when when I have the chance.

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When we started the PhD, we had no idea that we will end up working with fisheries and with people.

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And I think that's an idea that a lot of young people start with.

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I mean, you go with with with this love for the ocean and the creatures, but then it's it's important to realise that it's.

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It will give you have to become useful. It's a bad way to say it, but you have to become useful for society.

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And and it's great if you can, because, well, that's a role we all have.

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But but it and in a way, our careers as  researchers and biologists are key to to to make this transition

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between nature and wildlife and maintain the livelihoods of of people like fishermen,

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in my case, for example. So can you tell me a bit more about.

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The conservation organisation you work for. And what kind of what sort of work that you're doing and how you're drawing on

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your experience as a as a researcher and and particularly during your PhD

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Yes, sure. So my PhD was on sea turtles and most of my chapters had to be on sea turtles.

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And I did my PhD with my husband, which is which it was a great challenge.

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At some point, we were we were sharing the same.

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Stress, and it's but we made it through somehow.

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And the we are we can we evolve from being a species oriented.

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So my my focus was marine turtles

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workingwith Brendan and and my husband  was working on seabirds and marine mammals.

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So we shifted a little bit once being back at home in Pery to work to to apply what we learnt and

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apply it to improve fisheries and support fishermen to continue to be able to continue fishing.

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So that has changed just slightly or like I don't know.

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And the thing is, that is it continues changing, especially now with COVID

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Some of our work at Pro Delphinus has changed dramatically.

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We can no longer go to the field. We do most of the stuff by phone call or Zoom or Whatsapp

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So we are where we see changes in our work during the the latest circumstances of of health worldwide.

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And that's the fun part of it. I think the to be constant changing.

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I think it it brings challenges is not always the same.

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Every day there is something new that we are learning, but it's is where we are enjoying this.

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Right. Really. And Pro Delphinus there is we have perhaps over 20 people on the staff and we keep growing, which is very good.

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And each of them have an interest and that's the that's what it reaches the the environment

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we work in because somebody else may be interested in the social side of the work we do.

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Somebody else could be interested in the economics of it. So it's it's I'm enjoying it.

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It sounds amazing.

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And not only kind of really rewarding work, but also incredibly diverse in the different things that you're gonna be doing, especially.

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And, you know, as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic and the impact that that's had on all, you know, the ways, everybody's way of working.

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So you won an award. Last October.

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Did you not Peru's highest award for conservation? Can you tell us a little bit about that.

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Oh, man, that was fun. That was that was unexpected. So they they sent me an email saying, the name of the award is Carlos Ponce

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Premio para la Conservacion which is a very renown prize

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And for Peru, for people working in conservation in Peru. The organisers is a group a consortium is Conservation International.

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WCS, Pronaturaleza  these organisations have worked for a long time in Peru.

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And when with with the e-mail when I answered, I said yes, but I haven't applied to this award and I had no idea.

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And then the lady. Well, when I was notified, it was a big surprise.

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I enjoyed it a lot. The ceremony was by Zoom and that was that was very different.

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But it was very moving. And for me personally was very moving.

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And for Pro Delphinus, I think the staff really enjoy it because it's not an award for a person.

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But to, in my opinion, is an award for an organisation that has over two decades working.

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So it was it was a very nice recognition for our work.

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Absolutely. Could you tell me a bit more about how Pro Delphinus started?

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Yes. Well, Pro Delphinus started to  so.

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The father, the mother of Pro Delphinus, called Sipek whi is a

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a private organisation,

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a group of biologists and veterinarians living in Pucusana and working in marine mammals back in 1990s and towards the end of the 90s.

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They decided to to be more inclusive for for students and volunteers.

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And that was the start of Pro Delphinus and for for their early years.

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We didn't do much. But in 2003, we started strong.

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It was the year that we applied for a few grants and we got them all, which was a very nice surprise and a great challenge.

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We we started growing slowly. We have been growing organically.

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I want to say over the years, right now, I think we probably have.

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Ten projects and two are big.

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One is to focus on sustainable fisheries.

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The small scale and the although the other one is for leatherback turtles.

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Conservation. And and I want to take the chance to to mention that the population of Eastern leatherback pacific turtles are doing very bad.

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So there's a bunch of countries from Mexico to Chile working on improve the conservation of this species to avoid extinction.

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This is one of the species that is highly impacted and nesting sites and at sea.

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So this project is all about Leatherbacks and working with to reduce bycatch and the water.

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And is this work with turtles that led you to become involved in Pro Delphinus or

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Was it the fisheries work? It was my my work at Pro Delphinus started with marine mammals, and it started with dolphins because.

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Because then when I was a student in the 90's, dolphins were brought to shore and my.

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But if you ask me what I thought. My thoughts about a young student I wanted so badly to work with dolphins.

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It was my dream. So this group that accepted me as a volunteer, Sipek, they worked with dolphins.

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So I went there and started volunteer and.

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But I had no idea that all the dolphins were going to be dead because they brought them from the fisheries interactions to shore and.

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So it started with dolphins and then they evolved and move on to turtles.

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Because as I was observing dolphins, it was the same issue with turtles.

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One day we went to a port and there was leatherback turtle laying on this Scarapas

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And that was a pretty shocking image. Luckily, we don't see that anymore these days.

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But that was the start of my interest on sea turtles.

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And I was had had been very rewarding. In fact, the project we have that I just mentioned on leatherback turtles is trying to.

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distribute LED light which have proved to help reduce the bycatch of sea turtles.

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And with this project, we can hand them, the fishermen, to have them in their nets to avoid

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The entanglement of the turtles. And reduce mortality, hopefully.

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You're currently the director at Pro Delphinus. Did you.

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Did you go straight into that position after your you completed your PhD

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No. No. I started volunteering and my volunteer was cleaning floors, dusting bones, picking up buckets of guts of Dolphin.

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My volutneer was pretty rough, and I think it was good.

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I'm very grateful that it was a rough start because there was a test in my mind was a test and probably in the mind of my my bosses on that time.

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So I started as a volunteer cleaning, mostly helping in everything.

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And then I became a junior researcher.

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And then from there, an assistant researcher. And then now I'm the director of Pro Delphinus, which is very different.

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But I still clean. So really a case of sort of getting involved with the organisation from the ground up.

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Yes. Yes. And that has been good. I am I'm happy that it was started that way, because now I can I can place myself in the shoes of the volunteers.

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And and and I, I work my way up, which which was has been a rewarding feel is.

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So could you tell me kind of like what your typical day is like?

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I know the answer is going to be there isn't one Yeah, sure.

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My typical day has changed now.

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And there were a lot of sitting. A lot of computer time.

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But before that. And that's because of COVID then because the office is partially closed, we are starting to go but not many hours and et cetera.

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But my normal day before COVID was a little bit more fun.

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Most of my days will be meetings with government officers or in some occasions I also

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go to fishing ports because I don't want to lose the connection of with the field.

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If somebody asked me in my job, I want to be able to tell them from experience what I have been observing and respond with the experience.

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So the contact with the field and fishermen, it's important to me.

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So I will go I will combine meetings, office time with some travelling and.

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And some and phone calls, a lot of phone calls, too. We write a lot of papers.

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We we work on that. That's our most precious.

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Give give back to society and to academia and to the country that has this has been the focus.

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Last year we did over 20 papers, the year before I think 18.

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So we're we're good. The staff is great about that.

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They're really into research and publishing.

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And that sounds such a varied day and a varied kind of type of work in terms of advocacy and being in the field, writing papers and, you know,

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still having that really important kind of academic research contribution,

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as well as the wider kind of contribution that you're making to conservation.

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Sounds like a fantastic kind of combination. I wonder if we can sort of.

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To finish up what advice you have for anyone who is currently doing PhD

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Who wants to. Pursue a career in the kind of conservation organisation that you're working in.

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Mm hmm. Yeah, well, the advice in general will be if you have a topic that is of your interest.

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That's great. But if you don't, it will come up.

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It will come up at some point and you will identify something that is really interesting for you.

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So don't worry if you don't have that passion that that some people do at early age and take

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opportunities as they come to experiment and try different things within your career and out of your career,

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because sometimes you can combine things that are not specifically related to biology or research.

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And if you're thinking about working in an NGO is this is great.

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I mean, for us has been great. I know it's challenging because you have to look for your own funds.

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But the early years are difficult. And then it becomes smoother as your expertise, as you develop your expertise.

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And combining that with PhD had been for us a great step in our careers, in our lives.

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We still collaborate with Brendan So we build a little network in Exeter and that I hope it continues over time.

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And and and and I'm looking forward for what's coming in the future.

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Thank you so much to Joanna for taking the time out to talk about the really exciting and important work that she's doing.

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And that's it for this episode. Join us next time when we'll be talking to another researcher about their career beyond their research degree.

 

Episode 14 - Dr, Heather Hind and Dr. Philippa Earle (Digital Learning Developers at the University of Exeter)

Episode 14 - Dr, Heather Hind and Dr. Philippa Earle (Digital Learning Developers at the University of Exeter)

March 29, 2021

Welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast from the University of Exeter Doctoral College! The podcast about careers and all the opportunities available to you... beyond your research degree!  In this episode Kelly Preece, Researcher Development Manager talks Dr. Heather Hind and Dr. Philippa Earle, who are doctoral graduates from English currently work as Digital Learning Developers in the College of Medicine and Health at the University of Exeter. 

 

Music from https://filmmusic.io ’Cheery Monday’ by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com) License: CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses

 

Podcast transcript

 

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Hello and welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast by the University of Exeter Doctoral College

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Hello, and a warm welcome to another episode of Beyond Your Research Degree.

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I'm Kelly Preece, the research development manager in the Doctoral College,

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and I'm continuing episodes on the theme of getting jobs and moving forward with your career.

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During COVID 19, by talking to actually in this episode, two of our doctoral graduates.

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So Dr Philippa Earle and Dr Heather Huind both of whom did their PhDs in English but are now working in professional

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services roles at the University of Exeter in roles that were created in response to the COVID 19 pandemic.

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So Heather and Philippa, are you happy to introduce yourselves? I'm Dr Heather Hind

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I did my PhD in English literature, specifically Victorian literature and things that the Victorians made out of human hair.

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And I finished in while I handed in in March 2020, just before the first lockdown's started and had my viva last year.

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And since then, I've been working for the university as a digital learning developer for the College of Medicine and Health.

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So I'm Dr Philippa Earle I finished my PhD at Exeter in.

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Summer of 2018. It seems a long time ago now. And my thesis was on John Milton.

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And I'm really interested in his material philosophy, which is commonly called monism.

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And so I've kind of been floating around since then, doing various things.

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I'd really like to get into academia. I really enjoy teaching.

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I have done some casual teaching since then to different roles at different universities,

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and I then came into doing this digital learning development role kind of last September.

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So I was kind of last minute recruits and it kind of slotted in working with Heather.

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That's fabulous. Like you say, probably it's useful just to start with, kind of back it up, back a little bit.

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What a digital learning developer is. And I think particularly as well how these roles have.

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It evolved because of the situation with the current pandemic.

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And so when they were first advertised, I think I applied last June,

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I think I started my application the week before my viva, and then I had the interview the week after my viva.

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Wow. Yes, it was the time. It was honestly really fortuitous for me as it worked out.

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But they were advertised as roles to support the shift to online teaching during the pandemic.

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And to think what the job description said.

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It said, you know, supporting teaching staff, troubleshooting online issues, helping to develop the virtual learning environment.

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ELE at Exeter. But it was it was relatively vague.

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I don't know if Philippa would agree, but it was, you know, relatively, you know, job speak sort of.

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These are all of the possible things that you might be asked to do. Vague.

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But as the role has gone on and we've been able to shape it to a certain extent to what sort of support our college needs.

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It's been a lot more about kind of project management, checking over modules and quality,

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assuring them for the online side of things to make sure that the students are properly supported.

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Have all the information they need,

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online seminars and lectures and things are running smoothly and that we're continually trying to make things better, innovate, use new digital tools.

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Yeah, I think I hadn't kind of anticipated quite how much I would learn, I suppose, because I was sort of thinking, well,

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we were both kind of chucked into the online teaching through the kind of teaching roles we were doing at the time last March.

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And I kind of needed something more stable. And these were full time roles, even though they're fixed term.

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And yeah, I think Heather and I kind of came at this from a very similar angle, really.

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We're both English PhD graduates. Both interested in it and going into academia and.

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Yeah. I suppose we kind of thought of this as a way of being sort of resourceful with the kind of options that are out there,

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but also having a bit more kind of job security. So, you know, I came to this role thinking, well,

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I can bring a little bit of my experience that I've had just from having to sort of fumble your way through and shove everything online last minute,

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but actually have just learnt so much. And yeah, as has Heather was saying, about kind of quality assurance, different digital tools and the options.

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And so actually, I'm I'm really pleased that I've managed to kind of get loads out of this and

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not just for kind of improving the quality of the teaching and the college,

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but also kind of my own understanding of pedagogy and the way that you can kind of support your own teaching with digital tools and what works.

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It's just been brilliant, really. Yeah, I think it's really interesting to hear you talk about it that way and also the you know,

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the the fact that it's fitting into a kind of an aim for an academic career path.

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And because it's it's giving you obviously it's giving you some job stability in the interim, but also,

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you know, a real a range of really specialist skills that as a result of the pandemic are going to be.

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You know, the way that education is going to change in that inevitably is going to be so highly valued.

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Moving forward. And I think also, yeah.

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Because there is just so much uncertainty. These were advertised as fixed term roles.

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And, you know, the university hasn't quite decided what direction they're going in yet, whether they're going to be renewed.

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So I think we're both trying to keep an open mind and think, well, this is kind of plan A.

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But equally, you know, we're quite happy doing these roles and then they're very valuable.

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So it's a good stepping stone, really. And, you know, it's always good to have a backup plan is knowing the market as it is.

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So it's giving us a really good insight into professional services and just the other side of things at the university.

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The university structure working within kind of lots of different teams, different, introduced to different kinds of management there.

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So, yeah, really good insight. And, you know, opening up kind of alternative possibilities, you know, if Plan A doesn't work out as well.

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Yeah, I think that's that's a really, really fantastic way of looking at it and kind of,

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you know, all of the various skills that you're going to be developing.

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I wondered if you could talk a little bit about. So you both did your PhDs in English and now you're working in medicine.

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And I wondered if you could talk a little bit about what that experience is like

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and what it's like working in a different college and supporting teaching,

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learning in a discipline, you know,

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relatively far removed from your own and and what that's like and kind of what you're taking across almost from one subject to another.

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And so I think we both applied for this role, but put down our preference for working in humanities.

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I guess I had I's envisioned it, as, you know, being able to have a hand in the sorts of courses that I would be able to teach or,

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you know, captioning the sorts of lectures that I would one day give.

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And so I really had it in my mind while I was applying that I really wanted this job in the College of Humanities.

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And so when they offered it for the College of Medicine and Health, I was a little bit unsure of what that would involve.

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And to what extent I would need some sort of knowledge base for supporting medicine courses,

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but actually because we we support the postgraduate taught programmes and the continuing professional development programmes.

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What we've really been able to carry across is our experience of being in postgraduates.

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Well, postgraduates, I mean researchers now. But, you know, people that have been through master's courses and know what it's like to go through

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that very intense year where you move into an even more independent source of learning.

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So there's definitely been that that we've been able to carry across.

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We haven't needed too much subject specialist knowledge.

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Occasionally when we're captioning, we will have to Google some, you know, drug names or some bones or something.

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But it's really been about our knowledge of teaching and supporting

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Learners, that has really helped us to, for example, look at an ELE module page and say, oh,

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actually this assessment brief is not very clear or it's missing some really key information about this or the prereading for this course is,

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you know, not in the most, you know, obvious, clear place for people coming to it.

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So so it's those sorts of universal things that I think we've been able to carry across.

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Yeah, I think I would just add to that the sum of the parts I've particularly enjoyed

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have been the opportunity to actually collaborate with academics as well.

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So we have the opportunity to have one to one meetings with them to really

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discuss kind of what they ideally would like to do or the kinds of activities.

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They've usually done in the past and and kind of help them come up with something that's really going to work in an online format.

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So there's been a lot of trial and error, a few kind of failings along the way with, you know, synchronous sessions and what works best and.

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Well, you know, all sorts of things trying to put people into breakout rooms,

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reassigning on Zoom and just kind of, you know, coming across different pitfalls.

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But we've actually managed to kind of develop our own kind of ways of working and solutions and kind of recommended methods,

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which is really quite exciting. And, yeah,

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I just I particularly enjoy kind of talking through what the academic wants to achieve and then being able to kind of

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draw on my knowledge that I've gained in this role of the digital tools how ELE works the best kind of format for,

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you know,

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contact days or synchronous sessions and just really be sort of part of that and feel very much the our experience and knowledge is kind of valued.

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And I think, as Heather was saying, the fact that we do actually have some teaching experience ourselves, we can kind of, you know,

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get our minds into that that gear to really think about how it's going to work

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and what's what's really gonna be best for the students learning as well.

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And just to add to that that we've actually been given a lot of responsibility in that sense, more than I was kind of expecting really in this role.

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And, yeah. Of our kind of we've been sort of trusted to input our thoughts and in terms of kind

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of evaluating the strategy in the college and really kind of working at high levels,

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talking with the programme directors. The Dean for Education, Project enhance leadership team meetings.

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So it's it's really great, actually, that we've been trusted and given the responsibility that we've had and that we've

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actually had the opportunity to kind of shape how we do things at a higher level as well,

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as well as kind of working with individuals. That's something I really appreciated. Yeah.

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And I think there's a couple of things, really brilliant things to pick out of that.

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The first of which is, you know, there were a lot of these roles across the institution and some of them have,

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you know, gone to so they;re what, the University of Exeter call graduate business partner roles.

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Is that right? Yes. Yeah. GBPs. So some some people in these roles will be having just come out of undergraduate or postgraduate taught degrees.

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And so their experience will be will be useful and certainly kind of, you know, people with the same level, you know,

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really good digital skills, but also, you know, what you're talking about in terms of that student perspective.

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But like you're saying, what you bring that to that as a doctoral

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Graduate is that extra dimension of understanding, research, but understanding, teaching and pedagogy in a different way.

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And I think, you know, quite often when we see things like GBPs or graduate schemes,

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we assume that they're aimed at undergraduates and perhaps some of the language.

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And then the way in which they're written does kind of reinforce that.

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But actually, it doesn't mean they're not applicable to PGRs and that actually PGRs, you know.

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Or doctoral graduates will potentially have the opportunity and the roles to to do more and to go further.

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Because because of how that much further along they are in their academic career.

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The other thing that I wanted to pick up on is why I was be interested in what you're

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saying about kind of the management side and the strategy side of being involved in that.

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And I wondered if you could say something about kind of what a bit more about what you valued, about learning, I guess,

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about the more administrative or managerial side of the university,

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which you don't get as much of an exposure to what you're doing, a research degree.

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Yeah, I. So for me, as I say, it's it's great to have the insight into kind of the structure of the institution,

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obviously, to meet these different people as well and to learn from them and their expertise.

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And it's yeah, it's really kind of opened up so many opportunities that we we just hadn't anticipated.

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Lots of professional development opportunities.

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And I think it's worth noting that that is something that, first of all, you just don't really have time for when you're doing a casual teaching post,

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because as anybody who has done that will know, even if you're only doing about four.

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hours teaching a week as an early career academic or researcher.

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You're coming into that institution from outside. You're basically going to have a lot of work dumped on you.

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And because you're kind of coming in and you probably don't have much notice when you start the role.

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For me, it was essentially a full time job, even though I was only teaching about four hours a week each time.

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Because if you're producing lectures, etc., it's just an enormous amount of work.

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And so you don't really have time to kind of engage in any professional opportunities,

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personal development opportunities that might be offered by the institution. But with this role, it's something that has been very much integrated.

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So we've been able to kind of continually undertake different kinds of training for different digital tools.

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We've also been able to attend the things like the eduexe sessions,

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where we're kind of sharing best practise across the university, finding out how people do things in different departments,

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different colleges, and seeing what we can kind of take from not to to implement in the College of Medicine and Health and in PGT where we're based.

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So I think all of that does feed into our kind of connection and on what we can pass on to people in kind of more senior roles.

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And I work with managers in the college.

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We work very closely with our programme director for PGT, but also with the team director of Quality and Teaching.

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And so we got that's another nice kind of aspect of the role, is that people are interested in actually listening to our ideas.

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And again, coming back to all kind of experience as teachers ourselves, having that side of things,

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and also kind of new understanding of kind of what digital tools are out there and the the processes and functions of ELE

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It's sort of given us of a good ability to see what might potentially work and what we can take, what we can take forward and kind of.

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Yeah, pass on to people like the director of teaching quality and really feel like you're actually

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making a difference in kind of shaping our path forward in terms of online learning.

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So, yeah, I again,

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it's it's lovely to be trusted to the extent that we are and kind of valued that much really by senior people in the university, I would say.

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And just to be kind of taken seriously and be, you know, have the opportunity to actually input ideas as well.

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And I think that applies not just to us as graduate as postgraduates.

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I think it really does apply to the undergraduates, too. And, you know, we're working within multiple teams.

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We're working with technology enhanced learning where we're often asked for our views on certain things and how we work.

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And so, yeah, it's great really to be I suppose the role is so new.

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We've we've actually had to establish the way that we work.

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And Heather and I have had to kind of really specifically define what we do, how we do things in PGT

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even down to kind of, you know, the spreadsheet that we use and and the day to day running of things.

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But also, I think DLDs as a whole seem to be, you know, very much included in actually.

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Trying to define and determine what happens next, which is quite nice.

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Yeah. Now, I was thinking in terms of strategy, as you were saying, it's been really interesting to be part of larger strategy talks,

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but also on just the scale of us working with PGT programmes for the College of Medicine and Health.

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Being able to strategize what we want to do with the year that we have,

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or at least the year that we know we definitely have in this role and being able to think,

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okay, you know, what are we going to prioritise for term one? What do we want our modules to look like?

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What sorts of digital tools do we want to emphasise or demonstrate for the module leads?

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Then what do we want to improve on for term two? How are we going to go about that?

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So we've been able to do things like run college, PGT, specific student surveys,

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staff surveys and run some demonstration meetings to kind of go through the sorts of things that we think will improve courses.

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So just on that smaller scale strategy as well, it's been really interesting to kind of have a handle on that.

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And as Philippa said

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it's kind of shape the trajectory of what we're doing with the year to make things better during pandemic times with online teaching,

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but also think about what will improve things in the long term going forward to potential blended learning.

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Because I think improving these courses in their online offering is still going to help when eventually some of it is move back into the classroom.

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Yeah. I think all of that's really important. And one of the couple of things I want to pick up out of that is really interesting

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to hear you talk about the unique opportunity that you've had within these roles

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for professional development and academic professional development that you wouldn't

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necessarily have the time or scope for if you were just doing a few hours teaching.

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So I wondered if we could talk a little bit more about about what those opportunities might be, but also kind of in tandem with that.

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What? We've talked a lot about all the different experiences you're having, and I can absolutely see how all of these would be really,

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really beneficial in thinking about moving forward with an academic career.

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But I wondered if you could say a little bit about.

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From your perspective about what you feel like you're going to really strongly take forward from the role.

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The roles that you're doing now and the experiences you're having now into applying for academic jobs.

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So I know there are two things that we can really do with professional development first.

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Sure. And so with both. Well, we both came into this job with the associate fellow of the Higher Education Academy as our,

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you know, professional framework teaching qualification.

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And one of the really tangible things to come out of this year is we're using our experience now in our supporting,

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teaching and quality enhancing role to go for the fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

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We've got our applications together. Fingers crossed.

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But, you know, if we can gain that, that's a really good, solid thing that we can use in our applications for other jobs going forward.

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But just as employees of Exeter, we've had the opportunity to go to the full suite of professional development workshops,

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especially with everything being online. It's been really good to be able to say, okay,

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I'd like to go to a CVs workshop to an interviews workshop to all these different things, wellbeing workshops.

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It's it's it's part of our role, part of our job.

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You know, we have to go through personal development reviews and that sort of thing.

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So so it's been really interesting having the opportunity to go to these sorts of workshops and professional development opportunities,

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but also to have them as part of the structure of what's the university wants us to do with our with our time and with our progression as well.

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And I guess I would just add to that that I think, well, first of all,

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the role itself and the kind of modules that we are assisting with because they are postgraduate courses,

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but also because they are kind of some of them are focussed very specifically on education and clinical education.

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How you effectively teach clinical practises to, you know,

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maybe GPs who are taking an extra professional development course or something like that.

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So we have actually assisted in the development of and being present for the delivery of clinical education modules,

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modules on digital teaching, which was really helpful.

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And so all of that is just so useful. We can actually learn not just from the courses, but from the module leads delivering most courses.

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We were invited to be actually we were invited to kind of be part of the teaching,

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the digital teaching module and to sort of share our own experiences with digital tools and that kind of thing.

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And it was just great to learn from the students as well with that, to be honest. I mean,

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I wish that we'd actually recorded some of the fantastic presentations because they had the opportunity

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to have a play around with some of the digital tools and experiment what you could use them for.

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And they were just simply fantastic things on improving the deliver the training for the COVID vaccine and all sorts of wonderful things

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that are going to make such a difference in the world and really make me proud to be supporting these these healthcare students.

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But with the FHEA more specifically, it's really helped me reflect on what I'm actually getting out of this role.

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So all of the stuff that we do with the quality assurance of module's, the continual evaluation of our practise,

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how successful things have been, the regular meetings with the project enhance leadership team and the college.

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And that's where we get to actually kind of talk to academics that are sort of delivering the teaching.

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And we talk through any arising problems and we kind of troubleshoot and continually evaluate.

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And all of that has been just great to write about on my application, really,

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because it's it's really helping me reflect on my own practise as somebody who's supporting teaching and who's interested in kind of teaching myself.

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So we kind of figured we'd kind of unintentionally ended up sort of hitting, you know,

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most of the criteria just just through kind of what we're doing on a daily basis.

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And so it's been great to actually have that, to really take the time to reflect on exactly what we're getting out of the role.

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So in terms of professional development, I'd say it's it's actually exceeded my expectations, really.

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And and as Heather says, if we can get this qualification at the end of it, then, you know, it's been a really fantastic stepping stone.

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And I think that a lot of roles that I've seen advertised have actually wanted somebody who

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knows about digital technology or is interested in using digital technology in their teaching,

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because, I mean, I think this is going to be kind of part of the future. It's going to be had to stay really and in whatever form it eventually takes.

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So, yeah, it's it's been a really great opportunity,

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even though we've been working in a very different field in medicine and health and we're both from English.

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There has been a lot of kind of transferable skills that we can bring to this role.

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That's really brilliant.

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And I think pulling out some of those things like the FHEA, which is really going to set you apart in applying for those academic roles,

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because it's it's rare that PGRs when they're doing their research.

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are going to have the opportunity to engage in that in that level of teaching practise and the opportunity for that level of reflection as well.

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That's needed to achieve that status. So I wondered if you could say a little bit more about how that how this kind of fits in and in.

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The longer kind of career go to work in academia and what specifically things like the FHEA that you think that

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you want to take forward and that you feel are really going to help you with those academic job applications?

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I think for me, it's it's at least understanding the real significance of evaluation and evaluating processes.

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And this is something that the university has had to do on a huge scale, shifting, you know, to so much online.

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And and basically, you know, transforming digitally.

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So I think the fact that we've kind of been forced into this situation where we're constantly having the discussions, is this working?

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Is this effective? What can we do better for me? I think that is something I would actually like to take forward.

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You know, whatever happens,

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I think even if we are doing a lot more face to face teaching eventually or supporting much more kind of blended approaches,

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I just think it's it's something that perhaps wasn't emphasised enough before was this sort of continual evaluation of processes,

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even if you've been doing it for years. You know, it's the opportunity to actually share best practise and innovate, really.

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And and just I think the value of that sort of collaborative approach to teaching is maybe something that we've not fully appreciated before.

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And the point of the pandemic has kind of pushed us into confronting really.

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And I personally feel that that's something we could really take forward.

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And I would like to adopt in my in my practise or wherever I end up, even if I'm if I'm here, if I end up here.

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I just think that's something that's so valuable. And, yeah, it's it's a focus on the process itself.

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The process of teaching. And and I think that includes our students, too.

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So, you know that they are kind of active collaborators in this process.

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I think that there's just so much to learn from the approach we've actually taken with Project Enhance and the benefits of that for,

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you know, the quality of learning as well and what the students can get out of it.

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And that's something I'm quite excited about. I'd like to do more with.

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Definitely. I completely agree.

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In terms of first applying for teaching posts in the future, we've now gained experience of the side of teaching that we didn't.

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Not that we didn't engage with before, but that weren't necessarily our top priority.

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When, you know, we need to prep for our seminars, go and teach them to have a set number of hours to do everything.

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Having this kind of reflective role and thinking about all the kind of other things that go into

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preparing a really good module and really good contact session has been really useful for that.

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But I guess the other thing for me is that I always knew there would be, you know,

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a bit of a gap between finishing my PhD and hopefully getting some sort of academic role.

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And I did think, you know, I'll apply for a job in professional services or maybe I'll get some casual teaching

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contracts and hopefully I'll be doing something linked to the university while I'm kind of,

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you know, working on a book proposal, working on more articles,

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gaining all those other sorts of research experience that I would need to get a postdoc or an academic post.

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And I guess this role has just given us a little bit of security and bought us

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a little bit of time to be doing those things and thinking about our research.

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I mean, not not to say that it hasn't been difficult.

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I think, you know, both me and Philippa feel that it's really tiring to be sat at your laptop all day doing this sort of work and then to think,

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okay, I need to turn to that to the article proposal that I'm working on.

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But that's the other side of this is a lot of post PhD will be in that position of I want to carry on with my research, develop my research profile.

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But, you know, I need some paid employment. And at least this role has felt that we've been developing the teaching side of things

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while we've been trying to continue to work on our research side of things as well.

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Yes. I just want to ask you a little bit about the application process.

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So kind of what you have to do in terms of filling in any kind of application form and then what the interview process was like.

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So, yeah, can you say a little bit about what you had to do in terms of an application?

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And sure. So the application form wasn't overly elaborate.

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I filled in much longer involved application forms before.

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But it asked for I can't remember how long it was, but a relatively lengthy supporting statement.

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So the equivalent of writing a cover letter for a job that wanted you to engage with STAR

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And I cannot remember what the acronym stands for, but it's the idea that its situation.

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task action, reflection or resolution. Yes.

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Yes,. So it it kind of wanted you to go through your experience, what sort of skills and things you're bringing to this job.

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But, you know, you talk about, you know, in this situation, I was faced with this challenge.

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Here's what I did. And, you know, here was the result.

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And I think I don't think I've consciously used that in other job applications before this role.

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But that was actually quite useful for me to talk about previous jobs I'd done and

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then have to think of some some conflict or some issue that I dealt with within that.

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So. So, yeah. So we had this supporting statement to write

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And then we were invited for interview, which was a panel interview.

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I think there were four or five people on the call. It was virtual, obviously over Microsoft teams.

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And I just remember it being very quick, I think, because there were a number of these roles advertised and they had quite a few posts to fill.

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It did need to be quite speedy.

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But the sorts of questions they asked were, I think they were to do with digital teaching, like, you know, where do you see this going?

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Or what's an example of best practise in digital online teaching?

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But I did get the impression that they wanted the answers to be quite succinct.

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So I felt a little bit a little bit rushed versus some of the job interviews I've been in.

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But I got the impression that really they they'd already appreciated what you were going to offer from your written application,

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and they were really trying to work out where you would fit in.

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And so I think the reason they put me in Philipa on PGT programmes was no doubt because of our experience being postgraduates.

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But I think they were just trying to work that out at that stage and obviously check that we were, you know, fit for the role.

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And I'd just add that I really appreciated being picked by the College of Medicine and Health.

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Even though this is not our specialism. They saw something in us.

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And it's really proven transferable how flexible English and humanities graduates can be.

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I think, you know, we've been able to bring a creative approach to the problem solving,

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to, you know, the kinds of education that we're facing in our programmes.

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So, yeah, I think we've definitely had some real strengths to bring to the role.

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I initially didn't hear anything when I applied. So Heather was in the first round of sort of employees.

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I didn't hear anything for a couple of months. And I chased it up and I was told that I hadn't been shortlisted.

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So I just thought, okay, you know, onto the next thing that's that.

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But then I had an email out of the blue a couple of months later when I think they were just they realised they needed to recruit some more DLDs

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So then I had a very last minute interview for the College of Medicine Health as well.

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And, yeah, just just it's been great working there.

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And I think we've had an insight also into the extent to which medical professionals actually do value the humanities also.

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And what they can learn from them. You know, I hadn't realised that medical students are even taught art history because it helps them with being

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able to kind of analyse the symptoms that a patient is presenting and kind of think of it holistically.

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So I think it's really been beneficial for us to bring all sort of creative approach to things.

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Also with things like the strategy Problem-Solving thinking about ways forward more broadly.

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It's been great that that has actually been valued. And yeah, that we were both taken on by the College of Medicine and Health.

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That's really, really brilliant and really helpful. Thank you.

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And I want to finish, you can just give sort of like we got any advice or kind of top tips to other PGRs who are who are coming to.

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The end of their research degree. Maybe they're not sure they want to do.

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Or maybe they're, you know, are thinking about pursuing an academic career or something in higher education.

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What advice would you give them based on? Based on your experience as a sort of almost the past year?

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I think in terms of job searches,

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I definitely had already thoughts about going into professional services just because I wanted to keep that link to a university and,

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you know, ideally Exeter. I just thought it would kind of keep me in the loop with academic things, at least being in that environment.

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So that's definitely something that I was already considering kind of post PhD.

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But I think I've realised in this role with how linked it is with teaching and supporting learning,

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is that it doesn't just have to be a monetary stopgap to kind of pay the bills while you're looking for, you know, stuff that first academic position.

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But there is an awful lot that you can gain towards your academic career from working in other university roles.

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I know the sorts of other things I was thinking of. I worked in admissions before I did my PhD.

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So that was something I was thinking of going back to. I've seen lots of posts advertised supporting big research projects,

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which I think would be a really useful thing to get involved with if you had this,

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you know, think about the admin side of of budgets and organising events and all that sort of thing.

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So I think there are lots of other roles outside of the university as well that can give you further skills and

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experience that still completely translate into the sorts of things that are valued for an academic career.

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So it's just trying to adjust your mindset.

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Think of it not just as you know, oh, I have to spend this period of time doing something that's not my academic career,

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but thinking about what sort of roles you could take on the do still kind of keep you on that path.

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Yeah, I mean, I think there's a lot of pressure on early career researchers because postdocs are essentially time dependent.

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So as you know, you're only eligible for a postdoc within like three years of finishing your PhD.

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And so given how competitive they are, you know,

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it's there's a huge amount of pressure to try and publish to try and get the book to try and make yourself stand out.

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And if you're not fortunate enough to kind of have somebody who can financially support you while you're writing your book or whatever or,

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you know, given the current situation with the pandemic, I'm sure a lot of people have got, you know, completely unexpected circumstances.

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I'm currently supporting my mum. So, you know, you want to have some more kind of security.

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And so I think my advice would be you have to be open minded, not just flexible.

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So I did, as I said, a couple of casual teaching roles.

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But given the current situation, I was I knew I needed something more so stable and secure.

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And I think it is just about having a look at what's out there and and thinking about, you know, again, those transferable skills.

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What can I get from this? Is this going to be a stepping stone?

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And I think you're lucky if you can find something that is relevant to what you want to do.

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It's not easy. I mean, I've also worked in retail and throughout my my teaching, I also worked weekends in a shop.

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So it's really not easy to juggle those things.

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But I think the professional services side of things that university does offer, if you want to go into academia.

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You know, lots of really useful skills and opportunities as we've talked about things like the professional development.

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So I think you just have to be open minded and maybe it isn't going to be the ideal path forward.

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But, you know, you just have to try and be kind of resourceful, I suppose.

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And it does open up other things and it gives you an insight into other areas.

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And, you know, for me, as time goes on, because I've been in this situation for a couple of years now,

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you kind of think, okay, well, maybe previously I can imagine really doing anything else because that means.

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It isn't going to happen quite like that. And, you know, maybe I'll find another way.

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So I just really would say. Be open minded and be resourceful in in the roles that you take on.

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So even if it isn't gonna be a teaching role, there are other roles out there that are still going to benefit you and make you more employable.

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Thank you so much to Heather and Philippa for taking time out of what I know is an incredibly busy schedule in the roles that they're in.

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Talk to me about their roles as digital learning developers at the University of Exeter.

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And I think there are a number of things to pull out of this conversation.

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You know, that's the important thing that we've been trying to focus on about starting your career and getting jobs during COVID

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but also thinking about that kind of route into an academic career, which might not be traditional,

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perhaps particularly at the moment, but going into this kind of professional services role where you might be able to develop really,

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really relevant skills and experience and expertise that will put you in a really, really strong place in the academic job market.

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And I know that the kinds of things that Heather and Philippa were talking about, their teaching and digital skills,

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their fellowship with the Higher Education Academy or the professional development they've been undertaking,

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is going to put them in a really fantastic place when the kind of academic roles, when they come up.

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And that's it for this episode. Join us next time when we'll be talking to another researcher about their career beyond their research degree.

 

Episode 13 - Charlotte Chivers, Research Assistant, University of Gloucestershire

Episode 13 - Charlotte Chivers, Research Assistant, University of Gloucestershire

February 22, 2021

Welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast from the University of Exeter Doctoral College! The podcast about careers and all the opportunities available to you... beyond your research degree!  In this episode Kelly Preece, Researcher Development Manager talks to Charlotte Chivers, who secured a Research Assistant post at the University of Gloucestershire during COVID-19. Charlotte has started her role at the University of Gloucestershire whilst finishing writing up her PhD.

 

Music from https://filmmusic.io ’Cheery Monday’ by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com) License: CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses

 

Podcast transcript

 

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Hello and welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast by the University of Exeter, Doctoral College

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Hello and welcome to beyond your research degree. It's Kelly Preece here, and I'm really excited to be bringing you the second in a special series that

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we're doing for Beyond Your Research Degree about securing jobs during Covid 19.

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So last time I talked to Tomir about securing a job with an NGO.

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And today I'm gonna be talking to Charlotte Chivers in a very similar position to Timur,

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writing up herPhD and starting a new job, but this time as a postdoctoral research associate.

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So we normally on Beyond your Research degree, we focus on non-academic careers.

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But given the real challenges our PGRs are facing at the moment,

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it seemed really pertinent to talk about securing academic and research jobs as well.

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Yeah, hi. So I'm Charlotte Chivers and I have been doing my PhD at the University of Exeter since twenty seventeen.

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My research is within the Centre for Rural Policy Research.

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So it's a social science. PhD and I have been exploring the efficacy of agriculture advice surrounding diffused water pollution.

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So I have now finished a draft of my entire thesis and congratulations.

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And I'm making revisions based on my supervisor's comments at this stage.

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However, back in September, I started a research position at the University of Gloucestershire.

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So I now work in the Countryside and Community Research Institute.

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So I've been juggling, working full time and finishing off my PhD.

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And again, I'm working in social science, but mostly looking at environmental stuff.

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So I now work on two big EU projects. One is called Soil Care, which it's soil health in agriculture.

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And the other is called Spint and we are looking at pesticides in agriculture.

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That's brilliant. Thank you. So there's a number of lots of different things to pick up on within that.

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But I think so firstly. So if we can go back to September last year. So was it September you started the job?

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Yes. I started in September. So when when did you when did you apply?

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What were the sort of timescales? So I applied in June last year.

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OK, yeah. So. So I wasn't. Sorry. No i was just going to say so this is so all of the application process, everything, it's all happened during COVID.

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Yes. Yes. OK. So I.

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Let's start at the beginning of that process that I'm thinking about, how it might have been affected by it.

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So how? First of all, how did you how did you find this role?

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So I had sort of had my eye on the centre

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I now work for for the last couple of years and I recognised that it would potentially be a good fit for me.

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So I kept my eye on their website and I attended one of our events.

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So they have a annual winter school, which meant that I had the opportunity to meet some of the academics working there.

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And from then on, then I kind of just kept my eye out for jobs.

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And although it was quite early for me to apply for a job because I still had, you know,

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my PhDi ongoing, I wanted to make sure I didn't miss out on an opportunity.

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As obviously, you know, academia is competitive. So I had to kind of go for it.

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When when a job came along. So, yeah, absolutely.

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And I think, you know, it is that when your when you're targeting particular departments or organisations,

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if you're thinking outside academia that are a really good fit for your passion, but also your kind of knowledge and skills.

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It is sometimes having to kind of make that compromise going okay.

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It's not the ideal time. But is this opportunity likely to come up in six months when it is the ideal time?

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Can you talk a little bit about the. Application process, particularly thinking about what might have been different about it because of the,

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you know, the all of the restrictions that we've had in the UK for the past year or so.

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Yeah. So in terms of actually applying for the job, it was it was the same essentially because,

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you know, I had to submit an application form and a CV online. And so that was quite normal, actually.

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And that the first stage where it was quite different is that my interview had to be held online with a panel of three professors,

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which was quite interesting. You know, I had to get myself into the mindset of an interview even though I was starting my apartment.

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So that day that I just made sure that I got dressed up as if I was going to an interview.

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And I just tried to get myself in that mindset. But it was quite strange having a sort of online interview.

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But luckily for panellists were lovely, really supportive. So, you know, I felt relatively at ease despite it being an online interview.

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Yeah. And I think you've picked up on a couple of really important things.

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They're about actually kind of that sense of mindset of how do you put yourself in the frame of mind of performing,

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because that's essentially what an interview it is, isn't it? You know, it comes down to it.

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You're you're kind of performing for the interview panel. And how do you do that when you're kind of in your in your everyday?

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Environments, so I think that thing you said about, you know,

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getting dressed up and doing all of those things like you would do for an interview normally are really important.

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Were there any kind of any markedly different things for having the interview online from when you've had interviews face to face?

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Was there anything kind of. I don't know. Different or challenging?

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About doing that way. Yeah, definitely so.

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And the thing is, it's because there were four of us on the call.

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And you have a lag often when you're online It was incredibly difficult to not interrupt each other.

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And and being in an interview, you obviously don't want to interrupt people.

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You want to make sure that you, you know, wait your turn and speak when you can ask the question.

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But there were a couple of times. So it's quite difficult to know when to talk and when to get a word in.

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So that's something that was a bit challenging. But again, I think everyone is aware of this.

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So I didn't I didn't see it as a major issue because I assume everyone is facing the same sort of challenge.

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So it was kind of it was kind of okay. Yeah.

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And were there any kind of any positives, any things that you felt were kind of easier or or or nicer or more relaxed because of the online format?

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Yeah, I mean, I personally do prefer in-person meetings because you can build rapport a bit easier.

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You can make proper eye contact, but not having to travel was quite nice.

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I didn't have to worry about being late, unless the Internet had died.

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But, you know, in general, our Internet is really strong.

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So I could just kind of get up in the morning and not think, oh, my gosh, I need to make sure the train isn't late or.

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Yeah. So it was quite nice, actually, not having to worry about about that.

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So, yeah, I'd say that was a benefit. But other than that I'd say I didn't find it dramatically different.

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You know, it was interviews are Always scary. You know, I think I think either way, it's not it's not the easiest of things to go through.

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But, you know, I think having a nice panel really helped.

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And, you know, I think just making sure your Internet is working and stuff is really important to you.

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But, yeah, I wouldn't say there were any massive positives or necessarily any massive negatives either.

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It was kind of. Yeah, it was it was different. But it was but it was fine.

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So can we talk a little bit more about what was involved as part of the application process?

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So you said that you did an online application form and a CV were that particular things like.

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Required as part of the application form. Did you have to do like a personal statement against the job specification or questions?

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Upload documents, anything like that? Yeah.

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So I believe I had to fill in in the application form, I had to refer to how I met the sort of essential and desirable criteria.

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And as a rule of thumb, what I always do is I actually copy across all of the headings from the job description.

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And I specifically answer each one.

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So, you know, and that's always worked quite well for me because it means that the person reading the application can literally see straightaway.

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Okay. They've actually tried to answer every single one of these essential and desirable criteria.

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So I remember specifically doing that, but I don't think it had off the top of my head.

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I can't remember having any really sort of specific things that were out of the ordinary.

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It was kind of just an application form. And yeah, your CV, which I obviously tailored for four jobs,

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I made sure that I prioritise certain things and put things at the top that were really important.

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So, you know, my publication record and my previous work experience were important for this particular position.

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So, you know, I just made sure that it was really I make it as easy as possible for us to do application to see,

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you know, the key things that they need to know about you rather than having it hidden or or further down the page.

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Yeah. Yeah, I think that's a couple of things that you said and that just really useful kind

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of simple tools like copy and cross the headings of the person specification.

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I do that and I don't necessarily use them as headings, but I make sure that,

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like with the example I'm giving the examples I have the exact language from the person.

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specification. Just say it like you're having all the signals or making it really, really clear.

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And so with the interview, was there any preparation you have to do for the interview?

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Did you have to do task or anything like that? No, I didn't.

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I don't think. But I did send across some material in advance. Just off my own bat.

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OK. So I, I basically just really wanted this job.

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So I probably came across as extremely keen. I think that's fine.

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So I essentially sent across some examples of my work just to help bolster my application.

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So part of the role was and so I work on dissemination work package for one of for projects.

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So, you know, I don't just do research. I have to help with dissemination and communication.

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So I sent across a couple of examples of infographics, ive made,

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and I think I sent them a podcast and things like that just to show that even though I'm mostly trained in research,

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I am capable of doing with dissemination side as well, because, you know, it was quite hard to articulate that without providing evidence.

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So I made sure to send that. But it wasn't a prerequisite.

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They didn't ask for it, but I just felt that it would help them to see that, you know, I'm not just saying I can do it.

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I have shown them. Yeah, absolutely. And I think, you know, as part of the whole job application process, that's to be being proactive.

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It is so crucial to the whole process. And do your remember what kind of questions they asked you an interview.

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Oh, my gosh. One of one of the questions I asked was actually where I'd like my career to go.

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Which one? Yeah. So and I was quite sort of.

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And I was like, well, I could just say, oh, I just desperately want.

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this job forever to try and persuade them to give it to me. But I decided to be honest and actually that really paid off.

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So I said, you know, within a few years I'd like to be a research fellow.

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And when I got offered the job, they said that actually really helped me get the job because they want people to progress and they like ambition, so.

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Yeah. So I remember they asked me that was. Oh, they asked.

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They asked questions about my research interests. So, again, you know, I don't want to end up doing research I'm not passionate about.

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So I was completely honest. You know, I explained that I'm very interested in farm advice and soil health and the environment.

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And again, you know, it was just lucky that the job I was applying for, you know, happened to be really aligned in my research interests.

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They also asked me to talk about. So this is a really common in question.

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I think I've had it in every interview I've ever done. They ask what your sort of weakness is.

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And I always. Yeah, and I always tackle that by giving an example of a weakness.

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I may be used to have.

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And then I explain how I resolved it or how I managed to kind of overcome it or how I'm working to do so so that I don't just say,

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oh, I'm really bad at this. And then that's it. I make sure to say, you know, I used to really struggle with time management, for example.

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But since then, I've decided to have to make more lists and to use my calendar more just as an example.

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So that's something that I think I've been asked in every interview I've ever had

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Yeah. I wondered, so you said that you're working on you've completed a full thesis draft and you're working on feedback from your supervisors.

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Is that right? Yes, that's correct. So you started this job in September and to those listening we are currently in February.

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So with a period of five months you've been working full time and finishing writing up your thesis.

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So are you technically still registered full time for you for your PhD

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No. No. So, I mean, continuation status. Yeah.

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Yeah. So my my funding finished in September.

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And then I started my job in September, which was quite nice because, you know,

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I couldn't afford to have a gap in and, you know, financially, it's very difficult to to have a gap.

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So I kind of did need to start. But equally, you know, due to various reasons, due to the pandemic and things, I hadn't quite finished my PhD.

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So, yeah, I just I just had to go for it really and sort of just make sure I work on the thesis as much as I can.

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So what I did once I'd settled into this ECRI, which is where I work now,

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I took a week of annual leave and just sort of really worked on a thesis because

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I find it hard to I can do some work in the evenings on the on the thesis,

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but I think it's hard to get into that headspace when you've been working on other research all day.

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So I decided to use my annual leave up to sort of get the bits of my thesis just finished.

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I needed to. And then it's been quite nice because I actually handed in my draft to my supervisors

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in November and then it took three months to get my supervisor comments back in full.

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So I essentially just had three months to just work on my job and and other bits,

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too, because I seemed to just always have several other bits going on with work.

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But yeah, so I've only just got it back a couple of weeks ago.

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So I now now hatched a plan.

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I have now had my full draft back with supervisors comments throughout and I've hatched a very strict plan to make sure that I do submit and that I,

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you know, have time to sort of make sure I answer all of that comments and proofread and do any final bits.

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So, you know, my goal now is to submit at the end of March.

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And again, I've had to take another week of annual leave.

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So next week, I I've completely taken myself away from ECRI work so that I can just focus on the thesis because,

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you know, I do need to be able to get into that headspace again. And, you know, I am working a lot of evenings and I worked yesterday on it,

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but I think it's much easier to do it when you have a proper chunk of time to just focus on your PhD

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Yeah, that's what I was going to ask is how what's your plan and kind of managing your time.

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And I know I'm speaking to quite a few people who not necessarily you've kind of started a job early, you know, before they finish their PhD

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but people who've been working full time throughout and they've said that, you know, particularly in the write up stage,

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that's been the way that they've managed it the best is to kind of take a big chunk of time.

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And work exclusively on it rather than try and just do it all in evenings and weekends.

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Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, working full time, I simply don't have the time or energy and I really don't want to burn out.

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So overall, I work a lot of evenings. I can't work every evening.

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It's just not sustainable. And and, you know, my new job, I love it.

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But it does require me to work quite long hours.

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So I often actually work in the evenings on my CCRI work. So by the time I can get there, you stay.

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So, look, well, you know, it's quite late at night. So I do think for blocking out time is the best way forward.

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Really? Yeah. What was it like starting a job in a new academic department during COVID

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So it was bizarre, to say the least, because I couldn't meet anyone in person for ages.

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I have now met a few people in person.

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So we had a couple of months where I don't know if they had all these weird tiers and people were starting to go in again.

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And so I went into the office a couple of times and met people.

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But aside from that, I've I've essentially done the job for almost six months just working from home, which has been odd.

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But luckily the centre I work with a really, really lovely.

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So they have made a real effort with me. So they have like a morning coffee break.

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Twice a week just. And you can just join as you'd like.

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And it means you get to just have a chat with people. And I've had them send lots of emails.

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We even had to what sub-group where we all sort of sat running goals and things.

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So, you know, it's really helped me build some rapport. And I'm also incredibly lucky.

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I had already met a few of them, you know, in the past. So I sort of had a little bit of a rapport with them already.

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But, you know, I have other friends who started in jobs. So my friend Beth.

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She's in the same situation as me. And she hasn't been able to meet anyone.

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And I think I think it is difficult.

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But you have to just almost make that effort to just have a bit of, you know, like talk that you'd have over coffee when you're in the office.

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You always have to try and do that in meetings a little bit. People obviously really fatigued from Zoom and that

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We often have a little bit small talk before we get into the nitty gritty of it research just to help us to feel connected.

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So, yeah. But I'd say my experience has been amazing. Like, I'm incredibly lucky with that, with a sense of I've I've ended up in.

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It's really nice. Yeah. And I think the things that you're saying, I mean, because we've been I mean,

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apart from all of the different things that the difficulty is we've generally

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been in this situation for so long that actually organisations and ah and,

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you know, employees within it getting much better at kind of creating those opportunities for that more informal.

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But community building, I think.

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So, I mean, those kind of opportunities for people to talk and chat in a way that's not about work to sort of finish up.

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What advice would you give to someone who's looking at applying for kind of postdocs sort of research jobs at the moment during the pandemic?

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Is there anything that you kind of wish somebody had told you or anything you've learnt from the process that you think,

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yeah, people need to know this? Yeah, so I'd say just when you're applying.

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Just try to stay optimistic. I know it can be really difficult, especially if you have, you know, some unsuccessful applications go through it.

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It can't be quite demeaning. But just keep your chin up.

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Just keep going. And always just have confidence in yourself and your skills that you've developed in your PhD

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And I'd say also make sure that you show other people your applications and CVs

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So even if it's, you know, peers or anyone who could maybe take a look at it, you know, through a different lens and say,

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oh, actually this skill here is really useful for this criteria for looking for why haven't you suggested that?

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So, you know, I think it's really important to keep talking.

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And equally, if you're starting to feel, you know, down that you haven't got a position yet.

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Just just keep talking to people. And in the meantime, just keep developing developing yourself.

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So if there's things you could do that would both to application, for example, you know,

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completing your HEZ application or, you know, making a podcast or whatever it is that might help you to get that job.

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I would I would just, you know, keep keep trying to do that.

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And okay, so if you if you get to interview stage and I would say just be prepared, you know, have notes by the side of you, maybe have a mock interview.

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So I always ask my partner to go through some potential questions.

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And he he's not in academia. He's got you know, he wouldn't really have a clue what I'm going to be asked,

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but he knows that I'll be asked about my weaknesses and other things like that.

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So whoever it is you're living with, if you're living with anyone or have a Zoom call

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Just get people to help you, you know, practise for an interview,

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because it may be that if you've done a PhD, you may not have been interviewed in free for years.

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So it's almost like a completely new thing to go through again.

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So I think just making sure that you're really prepared for that.

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I always find reading blogs useful on how to respond to certain questions and just, you know, make sure, you know,

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the job description as well as you possibly can have your CV and stuff open during your interview so that you can have a look.

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I'd recommend printouts, though, because you don't want to be seen to be clicking about when you're in your Zoom call because it looks unprofessional.

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I'd say like taking about I wouldn't do it personally.

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I just have notes by the side of me so I can refer to those if needed.

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And aside from that, I mean, yeah, my main task is just to stay as optimistic as you can and to look after yourself while you're applying for jobs.

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Thanks so much to Charlotte for sharing her experience with me. I think it's really helpful to know.

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Actually, all of these processes are still the same and these opportunities are still out there.

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Even during COVID 19. And that's it for this episode.

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Join us next time when we'll be talking to another researcher about their career beyond their research degree.

 

Episode 12 - Timur Jack-Kadıoğlu, Technical Officer - Conservation, Livelihoods & Governance at Fauna & Flora International

Episode 12 - Timur Jack-Kadıoğlu, Technical Officer - Conservation, Livelihoods & Governance at Fauna & Flora International

February 15, 2021

Welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast from the University of Exeter Doctoral College! The podcast about non-academic careers and all the opportunities available to you... beyond your research degree!  In this episode Kelly Preece, Researcher Development Manager talks to Timur Jack-Kadıoğlu, who secured a job as Technical Officer - Conservation, Livelihoods & Governance at Fauna & Flora International during COVID-19. Timur had started his role at Fauna & Flora International whilst finishing writing up his PhD.

 

Music from https://filmmusic.io ’Cheery Monday’ by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com) License: CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses

 

Podcast transcript

 

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Hello and welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast by the University of Exeter, Doctoral College

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Hello and welcome to the latest episode of the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast.

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Now, we know that there's a lot of anxiety at the moment about what it means to secure

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a job and specifically a non-academic job during the COVID 19 pandemic.

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Everything has been turned upside down. The experiences we get, how we do our research and how we apply for jobs.

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So to answer that, we are talking to some of our researchers who have got new jobs during the

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COVID 19 pandemic and talk to them about how they found those roles.

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The process of applying and in some cases, what it's like to start a new job during a global pandemic.

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So without further ado, here's the first in our series of podcasts on Moving Beyond Your Research Degree and a global pandemic.

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Timur are you happy to introduce yourself? I sure am.

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My name's Timur Jack-Kadioglu I started my PhD with University of Exeter would have been February 2018

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I'm based with the European Centre for Environment and Human Health.

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Down in Cornwall.

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My PhD is working on a project called Blue Communities and it's a interdisciplinary programme that involves various departments.

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at Exeter While also working with other academic institutions in the UK,

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some NGOs and also academic partners in Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam.

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I guess so I would identify as a Marine. Social scientists.

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My work is about the marine environment. But focussing on the social science aspects.

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And for my PhD. I spent time in the Philippines on the island of Palawan.

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My research was kind of looking at the relationships between livelihoods and governance.

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And especially looking at power relations and power dynamics and looking at trade offs and equity.

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Who the winners and losers are, so to speak, in terms of coastal development and conservation processes.

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Wow. Yeah. So what we're going to talk about today is actually securing a non-academic job,

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but particularly securing a non-academic job during the time of COVID 19.

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And the additional challenges that bring say. Could you tell us a little bit about the job you're going on to?

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Sure. So I started a job in November of twenty twenty.

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So I originally I still have have time in my PhD and I'm still writing up my PhD,

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but my new employer's allowed me to originally start part time for November and December.

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So I still had two days a week working on the PhD

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And I joined the Conservation, Livelihood's and Governance team of the UK based NGO, Fauna and Flora International.

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So they work with they have various regional teams in around the world.

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But their main model is working with small local partner organisations.

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And yeah,

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my my role with them is providing technical inputs on livelihoods and governance related aspects of conservation and natural resource management.

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And as I said, my my PhD is very much on that on that topic.

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And I happen to see the job ad posted on LinkedIn.

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I think it was in September. Yes.

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September time. And it is one of those things where ideally, if this job came up six months later, that would have been perfect.

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But it was almost it was too good an opportunity to miss, given the relevance to the relevance to what I did in my PhD

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So actually, the application process is quite I got invited to an interview when I was on the way up to Scotland for a camping trip.

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And they offered the interview on a day when I was supposed to be in the back end of nowhere.

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So there was some last minute rearranging of plans to be able to accommodate it.

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But, yeah, I'm really glad I did end up doing that because I ended up getting the job.

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I think I was interested to hear you say that you found the job on linked in.

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So was it an advert that the company had posted.

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Were you following the company because you were interested in? Like, how. How did you get to see it?

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Basically, yes. As I said, it's an organisation I've really quite admired for it for a while.

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So I was following them on LinkedIn. And I saw that the job, that they posted the job on there and.

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It. Yeah, it was kind of advertised. I mean, I almost scrolled right past it.

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I mean, it just it's kind of just it was the livelihood's in governance,

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but it kind of caught my eyes when I looked at it and I kind of ummed and ahhed about whether or not to apply for it.

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And like I said, the timing could have been a bit better as I'm still in I am still in the process of writing up my PhD

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But I think what really. Yeah.

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I think that what really went through my mind was needing to be just needing to be pragmatic with the difficult times that we're in.

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And especially on the I was coming towards the end of my PhD,

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this was starting to get a little bit concerned about the economic fallout of of the of the pandemic.

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And this this is a permanent contract. So.

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Well, I would probably let's be honest, I probably would have applied for anyway if it if it wasn't for the pandemic.

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But that just really. Yeah.

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It just really gave that that just happened, realising that I really needed to be pragmatic and make the most of what opportunities are available.

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Yeah. And I think that, you know, there's simple things of actually following organisations that you admire and that you have connections to.

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And it's a really simple thing that can actually kind of bring those opportunities into your awareness when,

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like you say, you might not be thinking about it. Timing wise, but actually the the role and the organisation is it's just the right fit.

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Did you have any conversation with them in advance of applying for the role?

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About the fact that you were still finishing up the PhD

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Yes. So we spoke a little bit about it in the interview, and then afterwards,

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basically I went when they identified me, as the candidate they wanted to go for.

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They got in touch. And just before offering it to me, they just wanted to speak a little bit more about.

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About starting the role while finishing my PhD So I'd kind of thought in advance of the interview and what sort of options?

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Because I knew that I just didn't want to start full time immediately.

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And so I had kind of loosely said about options like starting part time or delaying the start until the beginning of twenty, twenty one.

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And then when we had the call, when they wanted to offer me the job.

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Yeah. They, they were they were quite willing to be somewhat adaptable.

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But while also they basically is the first time they've been able to secure

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funding to hire a new person in that team for like seven or eight years.

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They were very keen to have someone start as soon as possible. But I was really glad that they were understanding of it.

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And some of the team, some of my team members have PhDs themselves.

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So they were really understanding of just what PhD means in terms of obviously from the career progression perspective,

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but also from a personal aspect. Personal perspective is a very personal experience.

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So, yeah, they were really understanding of that. And like since starting as well,

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they've been encouraging and showed an interest in it and are keen to see that as I complete my PhD and hopefully start publishing kind of seeing.

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Yeah. I encourage me to present it to people in the organisation as well as amongst some of their networks more broadly.

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That's brilliant. And it's it's fantastic that the organisation is so supportive of that.

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So I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the application process, actually.

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So you see the job on Linkedin. You almost, scroll past it, but then you don't.

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You decide to give it a closer look. What what did the application process involve exactly?

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So aside from my initial umming and ahhing about whether I should apply for it or not, once I did decide, yep, why am I even.

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Why am I even debating? Let me apply for it. The actual application process.

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So it's quite a typical one, sharing CV and a cover letter.

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And then once I think it was just those two then once

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I mean, they got in touch in advance of the interview.

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And to say that there would be an assignment that could be done, there would be done immediately after the interview.

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But they kind of kept the details of that. Yeah.

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They didn't really say anything about what it would be, just that it would take an hour.

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So I had to interview with three people. I thought I really appreciated what they what they did with the with having the video

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So the interview over a video call. They each were three interviewers.

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And when one person was speaking, the other two would turn off their cameras. And I thought that was a really, really quite a nice way at that time.

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And it really helped me to to relax with it can be quite intimidating if you've got three random people you know very well.

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I suppose that does happen when you're having a face to face one. But a video as is, I will at least find it that much more difficult.

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So I really appreciated that because it did feel more like you were just having a conversation with one person.

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Yeah. And afterwards, they then sent the assignment. So I had was given a set of data and also do various types of analysis in an hour.

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So quite technical. Yeah, fairly technical and definitely pushed me as a more of a qualitative social scientist.

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And it was quite quantitative. Clearly did enough of a did a decent enough of a job to convince them to offer me the rile

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Absolutely. Did you feel that there were things within the process or thinking about applying for a job with the

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things that you concerned about that you felt were made that were more difficult due to COVID?

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And how did you kind of counteract that? Yeah, I think definitely the the thing that was the main I guess my main concern,

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and I made sure as you both me and my new employers we had an open discussion about it and it was about where to be based and expectations around moving.

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So FFIs offices are in in Cambridge.

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And for a long time they've really had a very strong policy about having people based there that they have this they share a building

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with conservation students from Cambridge and a whole load of other environmental engineers is is a real strong point of working there.

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So I was a little bit concerned that they would still really strongly want me to move during the pandemic.

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But then they yeah, they made clear they basically they they asked if I would if I were to completely rule out ever moving to Cambridge.

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And they they wouldn't offer me the role as long as there was some sort of a

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willingness with everything's just still in such a constant state of flux.

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Not to completely rule it out, but then they also emphasised that there was no expectation of moving then it

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was kind of in the short term but of course now with additional lockdowns as well.

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That's very much in the medium term. So that was a big concern of mine because, yeah, it's difficult enough to move.

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Well, I have spent. I have lived in quite a few different countries and different places, I guess moving for me is something that is quite normal.

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But even despite how normal I find it, I was very reluctant to move in the middle of a pandemic, like even knowing people there in Cambridge already.

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Just just the thought of moving somewhere and trying to start putting down some roots and finding out what you like about the place.

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I just can't really imagine doing that during the pandemic. And also just the kind of safety and space that you have,

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the safety and comfort that you haven't been a living in a space both in terms of the flat, I mean, but also living in Truro just

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Yeah, that that was a big concern of mine. And so I was really glad that they were just very understanding in terms of like starting a job in COVID

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It is quite yeah. It's been quite challenging at times, kind of not having the I guess what I would call the water cooler,

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informal conversations that you have with with people in the office and especially when you're starting out.

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But I think I was quite fortunate that I had some relationship to the organisation already.

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I worked for a small like a local partner of theirs in Tanzania before starting my career.

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Yeah, I feel really fortunate to have had that existing connection.

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How are you finding doing the writing of the PhD alongside working.

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How's that working for you. Oh, the million dollar question. Yes I know.

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Honestly I've actually found it is actually had I.

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Don't get me wrong, it is quite full on but it's actually had a very positive effect.

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2020 was it was a pretty tough year for me.

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Basically when the pandemic was declared, I was still in the Philippines after pretty intense long term fieldwork.

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And then no, I was essentially extracted as the pandemic was declared and lockdown's are being put down.

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I got back immediate. I came back to the UK and was basically straight into lockdown.

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So it was a pretty tough experience then processing.

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But like analytically processing my data, but emotionally and the whole experience and actually I,

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I feel like after getting the job, it it kind of took a it took quite a lot of weight off.

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Yeah. It felt like a weight was lifted and that but my whole relationship with my PhD changed quite a bit.

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It was no longer so kind of like tied up it and.

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Yeah, like it just started to get a bit of perspective on on on the PhD

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And being able to kind of separate it out for myself a bit. And I think also having that urgency in that pressure that still felt somewhat manageable.

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I think it helps with being less of a perfectionist and trying to really get everything perfect.

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As I remember, seeing a quote like a PhD is never done is just simply handed in at the least damaging time.

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And I feel like starting the job. Yeah. It really helped to that.

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And I think in terms of productivity. Yeah, I'm just chipping away at it when I can.

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Most mornings, not all mornings, and I'm trying to just be flexible and mostly just kind myself.

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If I have energy and I feel up for it, then I'll try and do like an hour or so reading in the morning.

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As if writing and in the mornings during the work week, occasionally working on weekends or the past few weeks since this new lockdown.

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I've been trying not to do that. So, yeah, it's I think for me it.

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November and December, when I still had those two days a week on the PhD,

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there were some of the most productive times I have felt like I kind of had the breakthrough in and theoretic,

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like drawing together my my data and theoretical frameworks.

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And yeah, I find it really fascinating, like beyond just the whole, like,

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productivity aspect of the PhD and getting closer to finishing my PhD

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I find it really interesting from a psychological perspective of time and pressure and expectation and everything.

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Because how did that kind of compare in terms of when you were when you're working on writing up the PhD

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And you weren't working as well, did you? Did you find, like you said, you make a lot breakthroughs, but did you find it easier to kind of, I guess,

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structure your time or motivate yourself once you got the once you've got the job

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than you did when you were just trying to kind of write it during the pandemic?

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I think I think it kind of it would vary quite a bit, depending on like basically the stage of of the pandemic and definitely there were some periods,

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especially when I had first come back, I get there was some periods of like being really, really unproductive.

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But generally I tried as much as possible to keep Monday to Friday, nine to five,

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or sometimes ten to four and I will have was mostly able to keep that up while still full time month on the PhD.

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But but yeah, I think it just. I can't really put my finger on it, it was almost like a switch was kind of flicked in terms of just.

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Yeah, just in terms of realising that, OK, I have this amount of time, I have this many work days, two days, work days a week for the next two months.

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So two days on the PhD or the next two months, I really need to just get words on paper.

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Felt like the edge. Getting words on paper became a lot easier.

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But then a big part of that is also to do with a breakthrough that had around that time.

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And that was kind of more to do with reading a new paper that just really clicked.

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So I think is very a combination of having that moment of data just coming together.

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But then also having that limited, limited amount of time, a limited amount of days.

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Yeah, I experienced something similar when I did my Masters by research that actually the kind of the condensed amount of time actually helped me,

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helped me focus and helped me. Keep motivated.

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Also gave me kind of head space in between when I was doing other things to kind of, you know, little cogs to turn and things to click into me.

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Guess is something that I also remember from when I did my Masters as well.

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My partner and I, we both had part time jobs while we're doing the Masters.

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And remember the whole thesis process when we spoke about this,

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we were on the same master's programme when we spoke about our experience of writing a thesis with friends who had just only had it to focus on.

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I think I was actually ended up quite a lot. Wasn't easy.

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Thesis is never easy, but it always ended up a little a little bit easier because we kind of did have that.

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A few days a week when working in retail.

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And it was something you would really focus on and be quite present in that and be able to kind of just drop away,

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at least consciously, not be thinking about about the thesis and then being able to compartmentalise your time, be like, okay.

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Now I have this. Now I've got my work shift in the morning. I've then got this afternoon where I need to be productive.

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I'll go to the library and do that. So I think, yeah, I understand it doesn't work for may not work for everyone,

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but I've definitely found that having something else to kind of give structure,

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to give structure, but also it's to give to something else where you can say find it certainly unconsciously and also consciously the PhD

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And we'll still pop into my mind when I'm doing other things.

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But kind of having that separation and being able to do something that isn't the PhD basically. the question I often

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ask people is kind of at what point did you decide that you didn't want to continue on doing research in academia?

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Was that never even a consideration for you? This is the billion dollar question now.

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Down at. So I I feel like I kind of straddle the.

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I do want to call it a divide, straddle the kind of one foot being a bike practitioner, one foot being a researcher.

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And so I was working for an NGO before my PhD and that kind of thing.

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A bit frustrated about that. And just felt like I wanted to continue my my academic education.

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I think it was a case of just do a really interesting PhD

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The opportunity came up through the work. I was I was doing that.

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That's how I met one of my PhD supervisors. And it was just such an exciting project.

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It was really. Yes. It was more the kids.

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I wasn't actively looking for PhD at all. At that point, I kind of considered that it might be something I do.

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And something really interesting came up. So I decided to pursue it.

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I think probably, I'll be honest with you, probably not long after I started, appears the I was fairly sure I didn't want to stay in academia.

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I definitely wanted to stick with the PhD and I'm glad I have stuck with it.

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Of course, there are times where you feel I felt like I was on the brink of giving up.

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But I wouldn't say I was ever 100 percent certain.

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I didn't want to stay in academia, I think, again, it would be like if it was something that really interested me or is really,

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really well aligned with my interests and my values.

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And I probably would have gone for it, but I don't think I would have looked for post-doc for the sake of doing one if if that makes sense.

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Not not that that's there's anything wrong with that. Yeah.

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I just never really was never set on a career in academia.

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But I definitely feel like compared with where I was at the beginning of the PhD

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And I do think that the PhD is the experience,

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the research experience working on a big collaborative project is it's really I've definitely grown

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a lot and a lot of what I'm doing in my current role is a technical input on social monitoring,

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evaluation and in social research.

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So there is a very strong research element to it that I feel like I probably wasn't strong enough on before doing the PhD

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So I think that this new role that I'm in is in what if if I call a crosscutting,

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teams are kind of supporting different teams with this technical input is it's kind of like

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the perfect next step in kind of balancing being both a practitioner and a researcher.

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So being. Yeah.

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Very applied and pragmatic and focussed on the ground sort of work, but then really guided by cutting edge research and theoretical frameworks.

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Yes, it's. It really does sound like the ideal combination. Yeah.

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I still sometimes kind of pinch myself that I've been able to get the job.

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And I like I say, I do feel very, very fortunate, you know, knowing other people who are applying for jobs right now.

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And it is just a very difficult market.

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So I feel very fortunate that something that really does draw together the research and practise side of things.

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Yeah, I feel very fortunate to have been able to to secure this role.

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Thank you so much to Timur for giving us an insight into working for an NGO.

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And the real tangible benefits that can bring to being a researcher in that practical

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applied context to balancing a part time job and career alongside finishing up the PhD.

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And, of course, what it's like to go through the process of all of this during the COVID 19 pandemic.

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And that's it for this episode. Join us next time when we'll be talking to another researcher about that career beyond their research degree.

 

Episode 11 - Dr. Hannah Roberts, Career Coach for Women in Science

Episode 11 - Dr. Hannah Roberts, Career Coach for Women in Science

January 24, 2021

Welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast from the University of Exeter Doctoral College! The podcast about non-academic careers and all the opportunities available to you... beyond your research degree!  In this episode Kelly Preece, Researcher Development Manager talks to Dr. Hannah Roberts, who works as a career coach with women in science.

 

Music from https://filmmusic.io ’Cheery Monday’ by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com) License: CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses

 

Podcast transcript

 

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Hello and welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast by the University of Exeter, Doctoral College

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Hello and welcome to the first episode of Beyond Your Research Degree for 2021.

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My name is Kelly Preece and on the research develop a manager for PGRs at the University of Exeter.

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And I'm delighted for our first episode of 2021 to be bringing you a discussion with Hannah Roberts.

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Hannah did her PhD and a couple of postdocs and then became a career coach.

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So she works one to one with women in research and academia, particularly in STEM and scientific fields.

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So, Hannah, are you happy to introduce yourself? Absolutely, sir.

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Hi, everybody. I'm Hannah Roberts and Well first of all

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I have a degree master's phd postdoc in chemistry,

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and I spent eight years managing large multi-million pound projects between academics

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and industry and commercialising that research and parts of the commercialisation.

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I started a spin out company with three other female academics,

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and I was managing director of that company for two years and did all of that white having three children.

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And it was actually on my maternity leave where I decided that maybe I had outstretched

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outgrown the role that I was in in scientific project management.

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And now is the time to to make a switch.

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And so that's that was the moment where I decided I was going to be a career coach specifically for women in science.

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Amazing. So can we Take a step back from what you do now and talk a little bit about the spin out company and how it came about was.

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So that was you during your research degree, is that right?

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Mine;s a little bit more complicated, so. When I finished my PhD, I went straight into a postdoc.

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So I switch from chemistry to biotechnology at that point.

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And so I got really into the analytical side of mass spectrometry as a tool to help with sort of looking at the structures of carbohydrates at that

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time. Then I was two weeks.

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Well, I should say I was probably four weeks into my postdoc and I fell pregnant.

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So when I returned after my maternity leave and I kind of switched role at that point,

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say, when I started my postdoc, I was half project manager, half postdoc.

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But essentially that meant I was most of the time postdoc. So did the project management alongside.

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But when I returned and just came back as a scientific project manager.

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So at that point, I was managing lots of different these projects because I knew the technology really well.

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And one of the things that's a lots of funding bodies are looking for of obviously commercialisation is from these from these projects,

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whether that's licence agreements, whether that's spin out companies, whether that's patents or something like that.

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And we decided the best vehicle for this new technology in terms of the mass spectrometry was to do it through and through a new company,

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because that way we could get industry to be able to send those samples and all that kind of stuff independently of the projects.

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And that way we could start to then find our own funding and our own money to to make that a company in its own right.

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Well. I mean, it sounds impressive on paper.

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I'm not I'm not sure that's how I felt about it at the time.

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Yes, I can appreciate that. I think there's two things I want to pick up on that.

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The first is about kind of so there seems to be quite a shift in that to from kind of scientific

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research to project management and more kind of business and entrepreneurially related skills.

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How did you find that that shift in focus?

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And to be honest, I I missed out a bit from the career history because I try and make it sound succinct so that it's,

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you know, degree masters PhD Postdoc chemistry.

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So actually, between my degree and my PhD I went on a squiggly loop of not knowing what on earth I was doing.

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So I worked for Croda Chemicals on a graduate development scheme for a couple of years and tried lots of different areas of the business.

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And so I spent quite some time in sales because I thought I would be quite good at that and which I did.

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I did enjoy to degree. And and then I felt I was too far removed from the science.

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So then I got a business development, manager role in cancer studies and down at the Patterson Institute

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And that's where I learnt how to and a little bit more about how to write grants and then how to manage them and how to manage the funds of them.

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So I did that for a couple of years. Then I decided I need a vocation, so I'm going to become a teacher.

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So I did my teacher training for. Yeah. Wow. And yeah, quite a few different things.

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And then I oh this isn't for me. All the kids are stressing me out.

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They're not listening. It's not like being in university where everybody just listen because they want to be there.

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And I was on a real, a real spiral of I've got to find something because and everybody around me was

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off with their careers and I felt like I was just restarting all the time.

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And so I was actually offered a PhD by my old supervisor because it's the first time he'd had funding since since I left i was like

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Like, I'm just going to do that because that's where I where I excelled and where I could feel feel good again,

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because at that time I was quite anxious and having panic attacks and all kinds of things.

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So actually having that PhD set me back up on a path of sort of a good a good place to build a career from.

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To be honest. So and the PhD was kind of kind of a saviour for me, which is not what you hear from most people who don't necessarily.

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But I think it's really it's always really nice to have people who have the experience of do of doing a research degree.

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I mean, to end it being very much the right thing and the thing that they needed at that point in time, career wise, you know, and life, wise.

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Mm hmm.

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The second thing I wanted to pick up from what you said was about the fact that you started your postdoc within a very short space of time, you got.

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Pregnant. Yes. Went on maternity leave and the role changed.

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If you if you feel comfortable talking about it, I wondered, you know, if you could talk about.

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What that was like career wise in terms of, you know,

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going so soon into a job and then taking maternity leave and then coming back to a slightly different role.

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How what was that experience like? I think that's a concern for a lot of women.

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Absolutely. And because I'd had those different interim roles before I do my PhD at that point,

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I was 28 years old when I got married and I just finished my PhD So I really was at a time in my life where I was looking to to start my family.

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And I was in the last year of my PhD I looked ahead at the other women in the department.

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So I was in the Department of Chemistry and I found five of the women out of over 200 people.

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And I was looking carefully at what they were doing. And I think to two or three had children and I was very concerned.

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That's what what it looked like to me was that to make it work, it had to be all consuming, because in my mind,

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when I had children, I wanted to have this kind of maybe just work three days a week and I just couldn't see this elusive thing.

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That was a part time professor. It didn't seem to exist for me.

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But as is the nature of these things,

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I was recommended for a postdoc and it seemed like I was on this conveyor belt and it was the next logical progression.

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And that and having had when I went to the interview, which was an informal chats, because, of course, had been recommended.

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So I had this interview and it was just sort of proposed that well we had this postdoc.

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But it also needs to include some project management. You have that in your history.

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Are you okay with doing this? And and of course, I just say yes.

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Yes, of course. That's absolutely fine. And she was willing to wait for eight months for me to start.

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So I had time to finish up my postdoc and my experiments. I'm writing my PhD

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So a couple of months before I actually started the postdoc, I actually fell pregnant.

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And unfortunately, I had a miscarriage at that time. So my supervisor, my.

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who, I was moving to actually knew about that. So it wasn't a massive surprise to her when I started the job.

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And then, you know, a few a few months in, I said that I was pregnant.

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And she was she was really pleased for me and happy and and really supportive, actually.

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So it was more of a it was the time in the life. You can't kind of change the the biology of you can put it off.

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But for how long? Because I'm on that conveyor belt at that point. There's never a good time to have a child is there in terms of your carer

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And so my husband is five years older than me.

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So we were we just decided that was the time to do it with stability or without stability.

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And at least he had a very stable job.

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And at least with postdocs you know exactly how long the contracts for.

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So I found stability within the instability of knowing.

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At least that Coming on to what you do now, can you talk a little bit about that?

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The coaching you do and the particular focus that you have?

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Yeah, I think because of the experiences that I had and, you know, being on that conveyor belt but not seeing what I really wanted out of academia,

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you know, that part time professor kind of role and then having gone a completely sort of.

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Being moulded in a way to do a different position. But it wasn't necessarily using my natural talents and capabilities.

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So we actually had someone she was in the personal development sphere when we were running a meeting for one of these projects I was managing.

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And she used what's called talent dynamics profiling. And she profiled all of us in the team.

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And when I got my profile back, I was like, Oh, this isn't me.

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I've answered the questions as if I'm in my current role.

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But it's not my natural preference. And when we had a debrief about it,

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it was really clear that the role I was doing was the complete opposite end of the spectrum to my natural preferences.

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And that's and I was like, oh, I'm doing the complete wrong, wrong career.

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I'm in the wrong job here and I don't have the confidence to get out of it.

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So I didn't feel it was I had stability, I had another five year contract,

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I could keep kept rolling on and on and on, and I could design and do whatever I wanted within those roles.

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So and it was actually having coaching for the last two years before I finished that role that enabled me to

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have the confidence to be able to to move on to something different because my my first two maternity leaves,

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I actually worked straight through them. So I was concerned that I wouldn't have a contract to go back to.

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So I decided to say, oh, I'll just continue with my job while I'm on maternity leave.

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So that basically that I would be indispensible. And this is a common practise with lots of people.

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They they write their fellowships on maternity leave. In fact, most of the female academic said to me, oh,

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I wrote my fellowship the first twelve weeks of academia and of having a baby or I went back to

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work after two weeks and got a nanny or these are the kind of things people were telling me.

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So I thought, well, I should be doing something on maternity leave.

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And I did try. I did start try to write a fellowship, but I quickly decided I wasn't quite good enough to do that.

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At that moment in time, funnily enough. But actually having coaching those last two years,

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which came about as as business coaching through the company and but I found it really

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helpful at a personal level and having restored my confidence to to that level.

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I then went onto a third maternity leave and said, no, I'm not doing anything on this maternity leave.

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And having that time and space to think and explore different things and not

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maternity leave was really crucial to me than not actually returning to that role.

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And during that maternity leave, it was wonderful.

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You know, it's a really nice summer. I started a rock painting group and I was looking for loads of stuff.

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And then I found this thing online about Superwoman.

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I was like, oh, my goodness, it sounds just like me, you know, running at 200 miles an hour, pushing to prove myself.

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All this stuff. And when I entered into it, they had these foundational courses in time and energy management and and some coaching stuff.

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And I had to look at it. Did the courses and was like, oh, oh, I can see a link now between.

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Between this coaching stuff and the difference that I want to make within universities, particularly for women.

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When I made that link, I was like, I can do this through coaching, having being coached.

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I knew the impact that it had on me.

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And then I thought as a coach, I can then help the people to navigate this career path much more smoothly than I ever did it.

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And that's what's really important to me.

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Having having this smoother pathway, that doesn't necessarily mean continuing along this conveyor belts of academia.

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It can mean lots of different things.

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But finding the right pathway for you and the other part that's really important to me is having more women in leadership positions.

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Yes. In academia, but also the world around because we know that and the more diverse the leadership is and the better decisions that are made.

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So those are the kind of the two components that I'm trying to combine together within my own coaching company.

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And so you even though, you know, some academic, you're working a lot with academics.

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Yes, I my my coachees tend to be  from postdocs, I get a lot of postdocs fellows, group leaders and also similar positions in industry as well.

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And so it tends to be. Tends to be more of the way you've got a natural kind of career progression, say career transitions,

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say for postdocs it's that kind of lasts 12 months on the contract cause and get to be on the brain all the time, you know.

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Oh, my goodness. I've got to go to sort of line something up.

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And I've got lots of fellows that have done that whole or part way through the fellowship and not sure if they want to continue.

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Because of the stress and the pressures of anxiety and of academia and and it's around, one,

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helping people to manage the current situation more powerfully and more confidently with the right tools to equip them to do that.

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And at the same time, trying to figure out this piece about who they really are and what impact they want to make on the world.

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Because your value or your self-confidence can come from your vision, mission, purpose, natural talents and capabilities and your values.

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And when all of those five pieces are defined that so we can truly know in value,

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we'll be doing the thing that we love doing, finding fulfilment in it and getting paid what worth with as well.

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So those are the kind of key pieces for me.

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Yeah, um, I. I think it's really interesting that you said that you talk about that because it's clear how much of an impact,

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the kind of that assessment of values and reflection and had on you and your career path.

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And then the kind of having those conversations with your clients. And I know from my own experience, I used to be an academic and I.

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Did it for a number of years and then realised I was quite unhappy and.

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It was only when I took a step back for the first time in my life,

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I kind of had that reflection of my values and the kind of work life I wanted and the work life balance.

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I wanted that I realised I was in completely the wrong job.

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And that's the kind of started me on the on the path that led me to working in a professional services job in a university.

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But I know from experience when we kind of say to people or, you know, doing these kinds of psychometric tests or,

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you know, values, assessments and everything is really important to understanding why you want to go in your career.

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I think sometimes people feel a bit like, oh, yeah, all right, okay, whatever.

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And I think no  it really will change the way that you do things.

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For sure. It did for me, but on that point, I was that person who was too busy and I think these things are interesting,

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like, oh, you know, this is a researchers into management course.

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I'll apply for that. And this imposter syndrome workshop, I'd apply for all these things.

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I'd be booked on them. And then I wouldn't show up i'm that naughty person that was far too busy and important to actually turn up because

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I have too much work to do because I'm superwoman ing and I'm too busy like I've got I've got to be gone.

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at half past four to pick up the kids and I'm doing this and doing this and I can't

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actually find the time to go to the things that are most important to me.

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And so I think some of the things to address that actually the culture that causes the superwoman

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kind of archetype that prevents us from actually accessing these things in the first place.

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Yeah, absolutely.

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And and I think that is it's interesting kind of the focus that you have on on women and moving women through their career path and leadership,

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because, you know, we know that that is a particular problem that women face.

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Is that kind of that expectation or the expectation we put on ourselves and the

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expectation put on us by society and our workplaces to be that superwoman? Yeah, it yeah, it's a complicated beast, superwoman.

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So we have these sort of statistics that, you know, only and I saw it myself.

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So 43 percent of women will start with a chemistry degree.

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And certainly when I was doing chemistry, everyone around me looked just like me, you know?

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I didn't see a problem. And it wasn't until I got to that.

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And just looking ahead to that p h d to postdoc position where I really noticed.

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Oh. Two steps ahead of me. There's not so many of them about.

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That was the very first inkling I had that, you know, there was this kind of leaky pipeline.

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And now the statistics show and I quote chemistry. But you can look them up in everyone's own personal fields.

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But only nine percent of women become professors. Nine percent.

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And 43 percent going in.

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So this is a huge dropoff of an already of a pipeline of a conveyor belt that isn't going to be for everybody in the first place.

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But all of those women that start out, there's not many people making it through.

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And I sort of have a theory on this because I'm a scientist.

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I like more of a theory. So does this statistic that says that women are 60 percent more likely to suffer job stress?

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and burn out than men and there's some components to that, so first of all

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There's some work by Hofstedder. And he talks about masculine versus feminine coaches.

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And there are six different independent studies that feed into what determines the masculine qualities of a culture.

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But they came up with things like material rewards for success, individualism, competition is celebrated.

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These kind of qualities and the more feminine qualities were seen as collaboration and

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caring for the weak and the sick in society and and a more collaborative type of society.

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And interestingly, from the research, Japan came out as the most masculine country in the whole world.

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Unsurprisingly, actually, and Finland was lowest on the score

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Now, the U.K. was actually the ninth most masculine country in the whole world.

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Nine. And that was super shocking to me because we're swimming around in a soup that is celebrating this competition culture that drives Superwoman.

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And another factor to layer in on that, then, is also a personal paradigm.

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So I come from quite a masculine paradigm family because my dad works away Monday

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to Friday and my mom was in charge of the family superwomen her way through.

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And if we go through back a generation, my grandma was the only one to actually show up to work when bombs were coming down on their village.

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And because it's that kind of push through, show up, no matter what mentality in my family.

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And then layering on top of that, a workplace hierarchical culture where actually your your colleagues in academia are also your competition.

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And it's very hierarchical as well, because we've got, you know, professors, senior lecturers, lecturers, fellows, postdocs.

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You can see how all those three things combined create this soup.

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And there's also a statistic to show you that women are less happy as a gender than we were 40 years ago.

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And that is irrespective of and of lots of different factors,

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like how how many children you have if you have children, whether you're married, single, divorced, whatever.

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The only exception is African-American women. And they are slightly happier than they were 40 years ago, but still less happy than the men.

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So why are we getting And even though now we have more opportunities than ever before.

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Why are we getting sick? Why are we burning out? So my theory is that this archetype of superwoman that so many of us are using

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is actually the very power that is preventing us from and being happy.

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The thing that's now burning is out in the workplace.

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So it got us these amazing opportunities, but it can't it's not actually sustaining goes long term.

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And certainly that's what I see a lot with my clients.

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Those in Superwoman may also be getting, you know, poorly once every three months, that sort of tonsillitis, seven times a year.

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That's what I used to get. It's that kind of pushing too hard for too long and has to be a different way to get stuff done.

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And what we say about Superwoman. Is that it's operating from fear?

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Because if there's an underlying fear there, then Superwoman is going to show up to make us feel even.

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And, you know, so we that we don't have to feel bad or or ever again.

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You know, it's the perfect antidote to imposter syndrome. So if I'm not good enough, don't worry.

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Superwoman can step in and save the day. So I don't have to feel like that again.

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But of course we do. And so superwomen just continues. Yeah.

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You know, all of this all too well my so much of myself and so many of the amazing women around me in that.

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So can you talk a little bit about. You're coaching them.

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So what it actually involves so you work one on one with clients.

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And quite often with with postdocs or people on that kind of career track.

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What what sort of work are you doing with them? What kind of conversations are you having?

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Here it is. It's a mixture of different things because, yes, I am primarily focussed on career coaching,

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so I'm looking at people who have formed that identity around their career.

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As is the major parts of their life. Typically, these people are really concerned with making an impact, making a difference, helping the people.

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And so the first piece of work that I always do is to drill down and get clarity on what the actual core of the problem is.

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And often that can come down to a number of different factors.

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But it could be the perception or the judgement of other people.

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You know, when we worry what other people think, it can cause us to pre-empt situations or overthink it in the moment or catastrophizing.

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So there is some of the things people might be coming to me with or procrastinating,

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because if we are very concerned about the perception or the judgements for the people,

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it can be hard for us to complete upon tasks, particularly the big tasks like grant writing or papers,

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because we know that we're going to get criticism in return

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So what I'm doing right at the beginning when I start working with people,

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is figuring out what the actual underlying challenges are for them by giving clarity from lots of different perspectives and angles.

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Once we have that, we set out a series of aspirational intentions for future.

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And we break things down in the very first actions that she can get to start to maybe towards those intentions.

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And if them from that point, they went to continue, we then look at the core of the problem, how the brain works.

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You know, that cyclic, iterative thinking.

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You know, how we create meaning from situations, attach emotions to them, and then that feeds into the next scenario.

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So we look at that iterative cycle of thinking and break that down with tools that you can apply to stop overthinking.

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And from that point, we layer in another piece of awareness about Superwoman and had disempowering archetypal cousins of the bitch

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the martyr and the victim, and we use a tool to tigger trap

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Those behaviours and I use specific NLP based tools to let go of that stuff because it's important

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to me to let go of the challenging patterns of behaviour before we start career planning,

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because you could have a very different outcome from if you're coming from a confident point of view as to when you first coming into coaching.

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So it takes me about six sessions to to really get to the core of it and move people beyond it.

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And then the last six sessions are really focussed towards defining your value and working on your leadership capabilities.

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So defining your value is that piece around vision, purpose, mission, natural talents and capabilities and values.

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And then from that piece, I'm also using another profiling tool.

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So I use talent dynamics.

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I also use the women's five power types in my coaching, and I help people to enhance the qualities of, say, for instance, if Superwoman shows up.

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superwoman doesn't make us a better communicator. It just makes us more anxious.

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If we're in an interview, we don't want it being superwoman. I'd be just very nervous.

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We actually want to step into the queen power type who is serene, calm in command, and he can articulate a vision really, really powerfully.

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So it's about showing people how to access those five different power types.

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Also, for leadership enhancement

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And then we do a five year detailed five year plan and design a network of support consciously to help put that plan into place.

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So when I'm removed from that picture,

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people will have the right people to help them get there in terms of mental sponsor's and other kinds of support as well.

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Perhaps the obvious ways that you all are using your experience of working in academia and in a research context.

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To work with them, relate to your clients.

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But one of the things we always try and kind of ask and talk about is how actually, you know,

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what what what skills and experience specifically are you using from your research degree, and your postdoc in the role that you're in now?

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Are there things that have transpired over really, really clearly or do you feel it's a completely different.

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You know, it's been a completely different kind of role and you've needed to learn a completely new set of skills.

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I think with em, with postdocs and PhDs, there are so many transferable skills that are really, really helpful and for any given job.

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So the things that I,

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I definitely fall back on time and time again are I did my whole PhD was on using different spectroscopic techniques and analysis.

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So I'm very analytical in the way that I approach coaching too.

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So for instance, I have those aspirational intentions for people's futures

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but it's not breaking down the analysis of what they said, this and this history session and noticing this.

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And I've I've got a tool for that.

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And I know I'm constantly analysing what people are saying and the context and bringing it all together into into a big picture.

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And I'm also analysing the progress that people are making on a fortnightly basis in terms of scoring's and rating.

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So I've become very scientific about whether or not the coaching is beneficial and working.

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And I need to see that progress to know that I'm making a difference and an impact to that person and tangibly.

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So I think that that those analytical skills are crucial and creating systems.

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So I don't know about you, but in my PhD, I had to create protocols and systems that were new to do everything and am and I'm always working in.

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Okay. I've done that with that client. But how does that translate to the next one?

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And how can I create a more streamlined system to do that thing?

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And how can I make things iteratively better on each cycle? So that's important to me.

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And the other part is in terms of in terms of the PhD

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I think creativity is one of the big things that most scientists, whether they know it or not, is a big part of science having that creative freedom.

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And that's what I find really exciting about coaching.

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It's having that creative freedom to to shape a particular session in a particular way, too, to when I work one to one.

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It's not a set programme. It's okay. They've brought this in this day and this in and this is how I'm gonna shape it.

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And I find that really exciting, that creative freedom.

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Although, yes, it often leaves me with many taps open at the same time that that's the nature of creativity.

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What else is important from that?

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I guess in terms of the obviously having run a business before was important in terms of just being able to do that thing.

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That was a big piece for me because it didn't feel as daunting to incorporate a

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company and then run all the books and that kind of stuff and set targets and goals.

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So. So that was also helpful to me as well. That's brilliant.

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And really insightful about how you apply those analytical skills.

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And I know when a lot of all researchers have an anxiety about searching for jobs outside of academia and that feeling of,

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well, how am I going to find something in. Spectroscopy.

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I said that right? And actually, you know, nine times out of ten people won't necessarily be moving into a role outside academia.

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Academia. That's specific to that discipline, but is about the application of the skills that they used to conduct their research.

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More than a topic they were researching. And so it's great to hear you articulate that so.

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So clearly, and, and eloquently

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It's yeah. It's really, really useful.

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Well. One is the other sort of things that we ask people.

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Because it's it's a key thing people like to know is. What are the main differences?

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You know, if we've done you've done a post, doc.

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Moving into kind of the business. So one to one coaching. What's different about working in that environment?

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Oh, my goodness. What's different about working in this environment?

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It's like I said, there were these terms, translational skills that I'm using, but it's completely different to to that world and that environment.

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Completely different. Yeah.

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So in academia, you have, you know, your colleagues that you work with and you can get people to bounce ideas off.

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And that's I always used to find that really, really helpful. And when I was maybe it wasn't my natural talent or capabilities.

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I knew exactly who to find to help me proofread my grant applications.

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He was really good on the detail because I'm more of the big picture thinker.

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Now, when I'm working in coaching, I'm I'm running my own business.

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I'm I'm by myself at the moment. So what I found superimportant, one of the big differences for me is I'm by myself.

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And so tapping into a big community of the people, doing the same thing as me, where I can bounce ideas off them.

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I have my own coach. I have a coaching mentor as well, supervisor so that I can get even better what it is I'm doing.

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Having all of these different people in place has been really important to bring structure

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that I used to have now into something that could be really lonely if it wasn't for for the.

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Yeah, I think that's a that's a really and I think a really key.

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Really key thing to consider when people are thinking about kind of what kind of environment they want to be working in.

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Yeah, when I'm I, I do I do have a two part workshop on defining your legacy, your life's work,

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and one part of that is the vehicle of choice that you use to express what it is that you want to do in the world,

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whether that's being an employee, whether that's in a not for profit sector or whether it's as a freelancer or an entrepreneur.

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Now, I would bracket myself as a freelancer as opposed to an entrepreneur,

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because although I like that freedom and I quite like an element of risk, I actually don't want a massive team of people to manage.

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That's not my strong point. My strong point is creating new stuff all the time and finding that creativity with helping the clients that I have.

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You know, that's the bit that really excites me, helping other people,

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making an impact and then doing new stuff all the time, whereas I don't actually want to manage a massive amount of people.

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So when you really understand yourself really well, you you can find the right vehicle of choice for you.

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Which doesn't necessarily mean that because you started a business, suddenly your having to be this massive entrepreneur all the time.

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So I am figuring out who you really are is a key part of which vehicle you'll choose to to express that in amazing.

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What advice would you give to someone who's thinking about.

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Taking the kind of path that you have, so moving into something that is more an.

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Kind of freelance, but also looking at something that's kind of coaching and developing people.

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Well, I remember having this conversation with the coach, our coaching certification programme.

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She was a research fellow. And had gone into the coaching certification programme,

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having never been coached herself, having never undertaken that kind of personal development.

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And she got there and she said, I really feel that if I'm coaching other people them perhaps I should have some coaching myself.

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And I said, yeah, definitely,

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because I had had coaching for two years before it made that connection that this was the way that I could make the difference.

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And that was really important because I knew that what a difference it made to me.

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So anybody who's thinking of moving into coaching or research development in some way and really do the work yourself

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first before you take all the people along because you want to be at least a few steps ahead of the other people,

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because we're all, you know, taking off layers, peeling back layers, becoming more of ourselves in the process.

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But it's great to get a head start before the clients, basically.

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Yeah, I think that that's that's really. That's really useful.

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And, of course, would be useful kind of thing to do.

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Anyway, are there any apart from kind of being coached are there, any experiences that you would advise?

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Current researchers to make the most was.

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Whilst that whilst they're still within that university system or is, you know, still completing their degree.

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Yeah. I think if I had my time again, I would do more of the courses that were available and actually carve out the time to do them.

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Because we lose so much time and energy on so many other things.

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And I would have a specific time of the week where I'm working specifically on my own self and my own career development,

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as opposed to blocking out all the time to do everything for everybody else and for the projects that I'm working on to have that self reflection,

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self development time factored in. And there are so many more things available within universities now and to take up on stage of them, really.

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Thank you so much to Hannah for taking the time to speak to me and to have such a rich and

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fascinating conversation about finding your fee and trying things out and identifying values,

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but also, you know, some of the very particular challenges that women face,

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not just in academia and research careers, but in the job market in general.

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And that's it for this episode. Join us next time when we'll be talking to another researcher about their career beyond their research degree.

 

Episode 10 - Dr. Natalie Garrett, Private Secretary to the Chief Scientist at the Met Office

Episode 10 - Dr. Natalie Garrett, Private Secretary to the Chief Scientist at the Met Office

November 29, 2020

Welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast from the University of Exeter Doctoral College! The podcast about non-academic careers and all the opportunities available to you... beyond your research degree!  In this episode Kelly Preece, Researcher Development Manager talks to Dr. Natalie Garrett, Private Secretary to the Chief Scientist at the Met Office. You can find out more about Natalie on the Met Office website, and the British Federation of Women Graduates scholarships.

 

Music from https://filmmusic.io ’Cheery Monday’ by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com) License: CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses

 

Podcast transcript

 

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Hello and welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast by the University of Exeter Doctoral College

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Hello and welcome to the latest episode of Beyond Your Research Degree.

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I'm your host, Kelly Preece, and today I'm going to be talking to Dr. Natalie Garrett.

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Natalie currently works as a private secretary to the Met Office chief scientist.

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So, Natalie, are you happy to introduce yourself? My name is Natalie Garrett.

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I work at the Met office as the private secretary to our chief scientist.

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I've been in this role since January of this year.

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So more than half my time in this position has now been spent working from home, which has been an interesting kind of journey like before January.

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I was working in the international climate services team still at the Met office,

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and I had been in that position for, I think, the best part of four years.

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And the purpose of that role was essentially to manage a project that was all

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about translating climate science into actionable information for decision makers.

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But prior to all of that, I was a postdoc at the University of Exeter working in the Biomedical Physics Group.

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And you might notice that there's a bit of a Segway there from biomedical physics to climate and weather science.

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And it's not necessarily immediately apparent what exactly unifies those two areas.

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But broadly, what motivates me at work is to do something that's meaningful and that will have a positive impact on society.

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So the work I did at the university was primarily translating biomedical advances into kind of taking physical interpretations of them.

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So one of the major projects I worked on my role was to provide mechanistic validation for the claims that were being made in patents for novel

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nano medicines that were aimed to treat things like alzhiemers and brain cancer.

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And having lost a family member to brain cancer, that was obviously an area that was very close to my heart.

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So sometimes I feel like my career has been a little bit of a random walk.

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But ultimately, I've always done what I thought sounded interesting,

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and I perhaps naively assumed that job opportunities would make themselves apparent to me along the way.

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And I've been very fortunate and privileged that that has worked out for me.

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That's brilliant and really interesting to hear about that.

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That from kind of being a postdoc in researching inside inside a university to moving outside.

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I wondered if you could talk a little bit about your experience of that transition.

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So what it was like kind of moving to applying for jobs outside of academia and and how you

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find how different you find working in it in a different kind of research environment is.

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So I had been working as a postdoc at the University of Exeter since late 2009.

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And by the time I left, it was January 2016.

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So that is quite a substantial chunk of my professional career was spent working,

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doing the whole postdoc merry go round where you go from contract to contract without much job security.

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I think a lot of people in academia can empathise with that kind of situation.

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You don't have much job security. You're trying really hard to set yourself apart from your peer group to improve your

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chances of perhaps getting a lectureship or getting a fellowship or a grant and.

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I was in a situation where leaving Exeter wasn't really an option for me.

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So I was thinking about how I could give myself the best chances of securing a lectureship.

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at Exeter University and a lectureship position came up in my research group working for different P.I. and I went for it.

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And although I scored highest at interview and my presentation, I was told that I couldn't bring added value because I was already there.

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And that was quite a bitter pill to swallow at the time that I can see what they mean in hindsight.

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And if I had applied to other universities for lectureships it may have been more feasible for me to negotiate or leverage contract at the university.

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At any rate, I was encouraged to apply for fellowships and I was given the opportunity of a tenured position at the end.

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If I were successful in that. But ultimately I started looking at other opportunities.

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I saw a job at the Met office. Now, my background did not involve coding.

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It did not really involve modelling. So I was quite surprised when I saw a job advert that I felt I could apply for.

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Hence, this role was titled Senior European Climate Service Coordinator.

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This is quite a mouthful. The skills they were looking for those the usual planning organisation,

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time management, which if you have a PhD and you've actually managed to complete it.

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You have that in spades. But it also specifically said that they needed good interpersonal skills with evidence of communicating with and developing

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productive working relationships with a range of stakeholders and also communicating complex information into plain English.

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Now, interestingly, during my PhD, I had been very, very keen as an outreach ambassador of the university.

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I was in the STEM network and I participated in things like I'm a scientist get me out of here.

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And soapbox, science and three minute wonder pretty much any scientific outreach competition that you could engage in.

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I had a go at and I was very passionate about scientific outreach.

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In fact, the Institute of Physics had me as a guest lecturer and I was travelling all around the south west of the UK giving talks to some.

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I think in total it was about two thousand schoolchildren talking about my research.

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So this is something that was very, very passionate, was very passionate about.

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But my boss had said to me, you only need to do one piece of outreach a year for it to count on your CV.

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And at that point, you should stop and focus your efforts elsewhere.

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I didn't really listen to him and I just carried on doing what I wanted to, to do what I was passionate about.

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And in the end, because of that, it put me in a really good position to apply for this job at the Met office.

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Additionally, what I was doing, my postdoc,

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I founded the early career researcher network within the college and that was bringing together early career scientists

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and helping people work together to improve the quality of the jobs to improve their chances of securing funding.

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We had career workshops. We had the guest lecturers come in and give seminars.

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We had occasions where we bought pizza and blitzed the Internet trying to find funding opportunities.

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Because I built that network, I had experience of network management.

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I had experience of engagement. And I'd set up a social media channel for that, too.

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So I had all these communication stakeholder network management skills, which made me the ideal candidate for this job.

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And this is all stuff that was done in the margins. I was discouraged from doing so.

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Yeah, it's an interesting one. I don't know if it would always work out that way. But ultimately, do things that matter to you?

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Is that what I would say if you're considering academia?

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Ultimately, you may not find yourself in a position where you have a science communication job,

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but the skills you gain doing science communication, are massively transferable outside of academia.

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So I was surprised when I was offered the job at the Met office.

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I'm always quite negative about my performance in interview.

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But actually, my new boss said that it was one of the best interviews he's ever sat in on.

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So I think that might be typical of academics.

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I think we are quite hard on ourselves and our performance and always focus on

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what we could do better and not necessarily so much of what we've done well.

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I think that's an area that I'm trying to work on in terms of personal confidence and that feeling of imposter syndrome.

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Moving from academia to the civil service, because the Met office is where within the civil service was very different.

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And my first day on the job, I got on an aeroplane to go to Paris for the Kick-Off meeting for the project and had an overnight stay.

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And it was lovely meeting all these wonderful people that are very passionate about their work.

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And the next day we came back to Exeter and they said, well, you've had quite a busy day.

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You should probably take some time off in lieu. This is not a concept that usually gets in academia.

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The actual contracted hours. So my second day on the job, I came home mid-afternoon and ran myself a bubble bath with the blessing, nay the

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It was it was pretty great. It was pretty great. And to be honest, that feeling that you should be working, you should be writing.

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More that you should be doing. It took a while for me to get over that.

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And I think about two months into my job, I was walking through town one day and I glanced up.

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If you've been in Exeter High Street and you look up the hill to streatham campus at the university, you can see the physics tower.

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You can see it from everywhere, in Exeter You can never get away from its shadow.

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If you feel like, oh, I should be working on my paper, I should be working on my thesis. That's the first time that I looked up at that.

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This has no power over me. No, I'm allowed to have fun.

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I'm allowed to have a work life balance because there's so much in there that I think is really,

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really important about, you know, feelings of imposter syndrome and work life balance.

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And I think of somebody as well that used to be an academic and admittedly is in an academic related role.

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There's something about different roles that are kind of more amenable, perhaps, or more easily to to a better work life balance.

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Well, having you know, you said about going from kind of contract.

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So you've obviously had a few kind of applications and interviews for academic or academic research roles,

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as well as the Met office was the application and interview process, particularly different to your experience in academia.

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So although I have had multiple postdoc posts at the university,

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they were all working for the same PI because the work I was doing was so specialised.

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So I did have to apply and go through the interview process that given that there were

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basically at the time a handful of people in the world that could do that job.

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I didn't feel that worried. So, yeah, that was pretty straightforward.

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So the Met office interview was quite nerve wracking by comparison.

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I mean, they were very lovely. They did everything they could to make me feel at ease.

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But I think from a very young age, I've always been thrown into the mix with a variety of different people,

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different ages, and just encouraged to socialise.

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My father was very active in local politics and I was kind of co-opted into helping him out, handing out kind of things at events.

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So the idea of talking to strangers, I just lost all fear of that and talking to thousands and thousands of people about my science,

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a kind of public speaking becomes second nature when you do that enough.

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So interviews didn't have the same kind of effect on me.

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And I've discovered a tip, a trick. If you convince yourself that you're excited rather than afraid, then it becomes a lot more manageable.

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And then you can actually enjoy it. So if you ever have a public speaking engagement and you feel nervous, you go, Oh, I'm so excited.

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Imagine it's like a roller coaster or something. So, yeah, the Met office interview

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I was massively overprepared. I identified the area that I was weakest up and that was in my climates where

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the science knowledge and I did an online free training course beforehand.

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And I printed off my certificates and I brought with me a folder with all kinds of things,

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like copies of papers that published copies of my reference letters.

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There's a whole range, a barrage of information. And none of it came out of my briefcase during the meeting, during the interview.

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But it was there and it helped me feel prepared. That's what I was going to ask because I do something similar.

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When I prepare for interviews, I do. I prepare and I have this kind of folder of lots of stuff that I never refer to.

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But it's it's not necessarily about the kind of using that knowledge I need to be, but the feeling of it's kind of like psychological armour.

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Yes. Yes. I think a lot of my life I've just expected there to be gatekeepers.

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So I've never been able to consider myself to be an artist or a photographer.

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But now I've had experience writing poetry to explain climate change with community groups,

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and I've had prizes for the photographs that I've created myself.

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So I know once said to me, hey, go, here's an award, here's a certificate.

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Here's an exam that you've passed. Therefore, you can call yourself a photographer, you can call yourself a poet or an artist.

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And because I've been so used to gatekeeping, because academia is all about gatekeeping,

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I think it's that does foster the whole imposter syndrome mentality.

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If you take yourself out of that headspace and realise, oh, maybe I can actually do these other things too, maybe I don't need someone's permission.

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What's your experience of that, working in the civil service? Does it still have that sense of gatekeeping or does it feel a little open?

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It's interesting this so well, I guess there's a lot of bureaucracy in academia that my experience in academia was.

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It's very much the academics were doing everything they could to avoid, bureaucracy, as far as possible.

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Whereas my experience of the civil service? Is that bureaucracy is sort of embedded in the ways of working, and sometimes that's for good reasons.

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And other times it's just because that's how it's always been done and people haven't questioned it.

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So it makes change quite difficult at a corporate level.

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If you have people's ways of working and mindset so embedded in a particular way of working.

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Like my boss, the chief scientist was keen to get my impressions of the job within my first six months because he said, you come with fresh eyes.

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You can tell us all the things that we're doing stupid or that don't make sense or that could be optimised.

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But once you're in the six months and you stop questioning stuff.

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Yeah. I completely yes, I can completely understand, we're saying.

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So the. The job that you do now as a as a P.A, isn't it, to the chief scientist?

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Is that right? So it's a weird one. It's called private secretary.

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And so it's just to academics. They focus on the secretary and think that it's an administrative job.

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Whereas if so, my boss is the head of the chief scientist at the Met office.

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He is also the head of the science and engineering profession at the met office.

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That's said. And that comes under something called government, science and engineering profession.

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And he's also on the chief scientific adviser at the CSA network with Patrick Vallance as its head.

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So. So Patrick Vallance is one of my boss's bosses, if you like,

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and I regularly attend meetings to represent the met office at the chief scientific adviser network meetings.

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So the purpose of these is to make sure that all the science within the civil service within the UK is all joined up.

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So you'll see these quite regularly with UK. All right.

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It's it's baffling how many connections and how many partners and how many stakeholders there were that the met office is involved with.

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A large part of my job is liasing with government and the government office, the science.

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I'm translating quite complex requests with very short deadlines.

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Finding the right people within the met office to answer those questions.

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Summarising the information into a briefing, giving it to the chief scientist.

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And then. Asking him what he wants, what action he wants to be taken from it.

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So, for instance, I've seen in the news the Academy of Medical Sciences report that was that was created at the request of the Patrick

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Vallance and Chris Whitty for looking at what's the reasonable worst case scenario would be for COVID this winter.

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So the Met office fed in regarding seasonal forecasting and air quality and aspects that relate to met office expertise.

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So I was involved in helping to coordinate our input to that report.

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And my boss was also present at the sage meeting where this was being discussed.

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So I had to help coordinate minutes and taking and so on.

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So it's that's just one aspect of the roles I take. I also produce regular scientific updates for within the Met office that we produce quarterly

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briefings for all of us scientists we have in the region of six hundred scientists at the Met office.

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And my boss is kind of at the head of that that up triangle.

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And so we have to try to provide updates to everybody on a regular basis.

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And it's just incredibly varied. I think about 50 percent of my my job is reactive.

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So I never know what's going to come into my inbox.

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We might have a request coming straight from government asking us to provide a briefing on a particular topic,

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or it might be just regular normal work that's just going along,

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producing minutes for scientific management committees or for met office board meetings.

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So it's what I enjoy most about this role. Is that because I'm the private secretary to the chief scientist, people just answer my email straightaway?

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I think when I leave this job, that probably won't be the case anymore.

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So another point to mention is that the private secretary roles aren't typically what you would expect as a lifetime position.

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The half life is between two and four years. It's a developmental opportunity.

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So you get loads of opportunities to showcase your skills, which then enable you to better apply for a management position.

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That's the aim of the role anyway. That's really interesting and it's really interesting to have that kind of.

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Clear sense of. Clear sense of progression and direction, I guess, and I'm not saying that that,

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you know, there was a clear kind of promotion route in academia, but it's not.

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I think it looks like it's very clear cut.

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In fact, is not, I think well by, to be honest when I say so, I'm going to backtrack a it when I applied to the Met office.

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I tried to use all of the skills that I had been sort of instilled in me from the doctoral training college at the university.

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Like, you need to negotiate your salary. You need to do this. You need to do that.

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I went and tried this out with the civil service and now you can try and negotiate your salary.

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But this is as far as we can go. That's just not.

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It's so different to maybe applying for the private sector, you know, going to a business and trying to negotiate.

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You probably have a lot more leeway that the civil service is so tied down they cannot make exceptions.

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The met office doesn't have the flexibility to change the pay deal for new people coming.

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And that has to be everything has to be auditable and fair and fair enough.

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You know, it's it's taxpayers money. So I tried to negotiate my salary and completely failed.

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I said, well, how about this? You offer a relocation bursary.

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And I didn't have to relocate. Could you give me that instead? Is it? No, because that's all provided  onreceipts.

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OK. So I had to manage my expectations a little bit. Essentially, I took a 20 percent pay cut.

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Wow. To join the met office Yes. It was the very low end of what I was prepared to accept.

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Which was sort of annoying. But the compensation package was also really good.

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And it was a permanent job. So it was it's a tricky one.

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And it's not necessarily the right choice for everybody. But I've managed to it's quite competitive getting promotion within the met office.

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And it's a competitive. So depending on the year, if people who are regularly publishing scientific output in science and nature are up against you,

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you may not stand a chance of actually getting information because it's judged based on merit and output and everything's graded.

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So it's quite challenging compared with academia where it felt like you progress up the spine points and it's relatively straightforward.

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I mean, that was my experience of it as postdoc. It's not everybody's.

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So there seemed to be a lot of, you know,

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things coming out that are quite different about the working environment and the kind of work that you're doing and the kind of.

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What the similarities were. What really kind of carries across from your experience as a as a researcher at a university into the role you're in now?

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So the biggest similarity is the passion that people have for the work that they do.

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The Met office. It's just so lovely to log on and every day and locg on

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We have a platform online where people can discuss variety of topics is not quite social media,

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but people share things from, for instance, the pictures of their cats.

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We have a cat appreciation forum and we've also got weather photographs and people asking questions about science and technology.

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People are just so keen to help each other and they're so keen to share their enthusiasm.

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And you can end up going down rabbit holes. And it's really lovely that I think academia, you get paid essentially to think a lot of the time.

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This is how I've seen it.

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And there aren't necessarily that many jobs in the world where you get that freedom to just pursue an idea and see where it takes you.

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And we have a certain amount of time, I think, to add up to 20 percent of our time is for development.

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So if you agree with your line manager that you want to learn a skill in a completely

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different area that might one day align with where you ultimately want to go in your career.

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You have the freedom to do that. And that kind of freedom to learn and to develop and share your enthusiasm and.

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I guess it's peer to peer learning that that's very similar to academia.

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One big difference I've noticed is I've not seen so many examples of that kind of toxic.

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Relationship where some people appear to be friendly, and then we'll take your idea and then publish before you.

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I've not seen that at the Met office. I'm not saying it doesn't necessarily happen,

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but my experience has been that people are in it together for the group benefit rather than their own individual benefit.

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Perhaps that's naive. Perhaps I've just said a sheltered experience.

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But as a for instance, at one point I had a handover between two managers because one was leaving alone, was taking me on,

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and I was sat in a room and these two people were not quite arguing, but they were just very, very focussed.

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And trying to discover the best ways for me to develop in the direction that I wanted to develop.

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And I feel I've never had this before. I've never felt so and nurtured.

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I had a line manager is trying to find opportunities for me because before it felt

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like I was doing things whenever I found an opportunity that I knew would benefit me,

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but not my line manager in academia.

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I had to do the other stuff kind of behind his back because I knew that he would never give me the go ahead for it.

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And in fact, there was one occasion when I got a travel grant from the Royal Society to do some independent research in Australia,

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and my P.I. turned around and said, well, that doesn't benefit me, so you're going to have to do it.

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on your annual leave. Wow. And I naively thought that he was allowed to make that call

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But a few years later, I was talking to the head of school and mentioned this, and he said, well, that that's not OK.

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You should come to me about that. But I naively thought, well, he wouldn't tell me something that wasn't true.

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So another another top tip.

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A don't assume that your line manager necessarily has your best interests at heart or B knows what is best or what can be done for you.

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So do ask around to ask other people.

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And it's it's amazing that in spite of that pushback, you still continued with the outreach work and the ECR network,

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which actually became so fundamental to help you move forward.

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I was wondering what other things you did, maybe as part of your research, but also, you know, on the fringes,

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let that have been really important or formative in kind of helping you move forward with your career.

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So instead of procrastinating in the traditional sense, I used to just look for competitions and awards and things that I could.

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It felt like it was wasting my time because I've been indoctrinated in the idea that if I'm not actively working on a paper in some way,

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then I'm not doing anything productive, which is quite a toxic one set in itself.

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So, for instance, I discovered the British Federation of Women graduates.

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Is that something you've heard of? No, never say I've never heard of it before until I was Googling for opportunities.

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So they offer scholarships for academic excellence and they also offer hardship bursaries.

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Now, I haven't actually checked that they still offer these. But in 2009,

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they sent me to it and I managed to secure myself five and a half thousand pounds for academic

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excellence as part of the Women British Federation of Women Graduates Academic Awards in 2009.

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And if you have experience of securing grant money, even if it's a competition like that, then that's always going to look good on your CV.

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And as I said, I got a international travel grant to go to Australia.

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So I went to Melbourne and I was looking at malaria.

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I'm trying to detect it using spectroscopy and weirdly using butterfly wings as a substrate for doing this.

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So that was quite a bizarre. When people say, explain what you did for your PhD, I kind of go hmmmm the experience of the early career researcher network.

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It also gave me the opportunity to apply for funding from within the university.

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And then I also ran competitions for outreach activities and online poster competitions.

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So I was then able to get experience of managing sort of grant funding so I could say that I've had that kind of experience,

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depending on where you want spend up.

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If you think I want to be able to tick various boxes for different types of job, I've these opportunities enabled me to do that.

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And in kind of roundabout way, even though my main main job didn't.

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I was also part of the working group for the Athena Swan Initiative at the School of Physics.

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So equality and diversity has always been very important to me to.

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And I think it's, you know, really interesting as several of the things you've said, like you said early on, about,

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you know, if you've done a research degree, you've got time management and project management and everything in spades.

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But actually, you know,

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there's other fundamental skills which in some ways you just do need to go outside of that initial kind of bubble of your research to develop that.

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And absolutely and it's really interesting to hear you talk about actually the motivation for that for you was just a follow.

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Follow your interests. Yeah, the things that mattered to me most.

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I think another thing that helped me was going to conferences by myself.

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And not with my research group and not with anybody else from the university, because it forces you to stop talking to the same people.

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Because conferences are massive networking opportunity. But it's so hard to make inroads.

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I struggled a bit initially because it felt very cliquey and it's hard as an outsider just to essentially barge in on someone's conversations.

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Hi. Can I introduce myself?

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But it was some it was because of going to a conference by myself that I met Baden Wood of Monash University in Melbourne.

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And he was the one that suggested I apply for Royal Society travel grant

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which is why I was then able to demonstrate some independent research and have

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a first solo publication without my P.I. from University of Exeter on it.

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So these chance meetings are so important.

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And if you're able to I know socialising at conferences can be really uncomfortable for those people.

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And perhaps the current situation,

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the current pandemic is therefore opening more doors for people who find it challenging to do face to face networking.

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I hope so. I know not all conferences are offering the opportunity for a career networking, but it's a good idea if,

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if, if, if anyone listening is involved in organising workshops or seminars or conferences,

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do allow specific time for early career people to engage in network and have an invite

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to come as coffee breaks because that's where the important conversations happen.

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That's where the next big collaboration starts to form.

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That's really, really.

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Yeah, that's really, really great, because they're all of the things that I think sometimes in in the kind of in the Doctoral College

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that kind of central well, we're kind of going on and on about all the time,

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you know, how important the networking is and how important doing stuff outside of the research degree is,

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because it's it's the stuff that builds your experience and builds your skill, your skill base.

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But I think sometimes people think, oh, no. You know. I wouldn't think about that just now.

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Oh, it can't have that much. It's easy to yeah, it's easy to put it off because it's not something that will immediately provide a tangible benefit.

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Something that's a slow burner and learning how to use LinkedIn and Twitter.

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And it's not for everybody. But if you figure out how to use these platforms, then it can leverage more opportunities in the future.

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What advice would you give to somebody who's looking at making that transition from a, you know,

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a research career or a postdoc into a role outside academia, but particularly thinking about moving into a civil service role?

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I would say. Sure, well, you may have people within your current network who all people that work within

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the civil service or who are working in a kind of field you'd like to go to.

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Always, always talk to people who you already connected with.

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We can give you insight, especially if they're working closely with an area that you want to work in,

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because there may be subjects, specific skills that you need to work on in order to be a viable candidate.

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But more generally, it's a numbers game.

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And do be prepared for failure. People in academia especially don't tend to talk about the grants.

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They didn't get or the papers they've never managed to get accepted in a journal

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or all the things that they tried and didn't work out or the experiments that failed.

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Because why would you why would you talk about that? So it's all about self promotion.

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It's all about creating and curating this successful persona.

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It's all about your H index and trying to find metrics that show off your skills?

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The truth is, unless you apply for dozens and dozens and dozens of things, you're not going to get the one that really matters.

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And that takes so much time and resilience.

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And it can annoy the people that you've put your references for you, especially if they get contacted by every single one.

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So that's another tip. Talk to the people here.

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You've put down as your references to make sure they know that these things are coming out,

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because honestly, they do sometimes get contacted out of the blue before you even get shortlisted.

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So prepare them for that. So, yeah, it's a numbers game.

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And women especially are more likely to not apply for jobs if they don't feel that they fulfil all the criteria.

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And there's been research that's showing that whether you meet 50 percent of the criteria or 90 percent of the criteria,

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the chances of getting an interview roughly the same. So you might as well just apply for the thing.

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And at worst, you're going to get feedback that you can use to improve your next application.

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So you have to treat applying for jobs as a job, put time aside for it, do it regularly, try and sign up to jobs that ask around.

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A lot of jobs come up and it's word of mouth. So put in those cold calling emails to people saying, I love what you do, I'd love to work with you.

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one day if I was to. Can you give me any advice on my current CV?

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What things you'd be looking for? That totally an out. It feels like cheating, but it's part of networking.

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And certainly in my experience as well, people actually quite a quite receptive.

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And, you know, more often than not, willing to help. Absolutely.

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It reminds me of when I was an undergraduate.

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The professors would make time for the students who genuinely wanted to understand and would say, can I talk to you about this particular integrals?

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I can't solve. And the professors would sit and make the time thing.

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So, yeah, ultimately, people are in that job for a reason.

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And if I care about it and if they want to share the enthusiasm with other people, then of course they can go help.

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That's brilliant. And one thing I wanted to pick up on is this thing about resilience and failure.

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How what advice do you have for. For dealing with that, I guess, for dealing with that.

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That sense of failure or rejection, which which is just common in the drug market, is common.

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I think. It's a difficult one, personally.

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It's not always been easy to accept failure and rejection.

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But the thing that I found that's helped the most is if I reframe it and instead of

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feeling like if I don't get to interview that I failed in the application process.

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What I've done is I've succeeded at submitting application.

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And if I don't get past the interview stage, then what I've done is I've succeeded in getting to interview.

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So, yeah. You haven't managed to get the thing that might have been the ultimate goal that you have done.

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The really difficult steps in getting there. And each time you get to interview, each time you'll almost shortlisted.

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You're improving your skills. And it is a skill. And to improve.

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You have to practise. So I would say definitely apply to things that.

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Maybe hit 70 percent of the things you're looking for because at least you don't get it.

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You don't feel like it's such high stakes and apply for the things that might not

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necessarily excite you so much initially just so that you get that experience.

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Thanks to Natalie for that really interesting conversation, thinking about the move from postdoc to civil service application processes,

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the importance of networking and building that wider skill base outside of your immediate research project.

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And that's it for this episode. Join us next time when we'll be talking to another researcher about their career beyond their research degree.

 

Episode 9 - Dr. Celia Butler, Senior Applications Engineer at Synopsys Inc

Episode 9 - Dr. Celia Butler, Senior Applications Engineer at Synopsys Inc

October 27, 2020

Welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast from the University of Exeter Doctoral College! The podcast about non-academic careers and all the opportunities available to you... beyond your research degree!  In this episode Kelly Preece, Researcher Development Manager talks to Dr. Celia Butler, Senior Applications Engineer at Synopsys Inc.

 

Music from https://filmmusic.io ’Cheery Monday’ by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com) License: CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses

 

Podcast transcript

 

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Hello and welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast by the University of Exeter, Doctoral College
 
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Hello and welcome to the latest episode of Beyond Your Research Degree.
 
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I'm Kelly Preevce And today, I'll be talking to Dr Celia Butler, who is currently senior applications engineer at Synopsis,
 
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having graduated with her PhD in physics in 2012. Celia, you happy to introduce yourself?
 
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Hello, my name's Celia Butler and I did my PhD in Microwave Metamaterials in the electro magnetic materials group at the University of Exeter
 
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which is part of the physics department or it was at the time. And now I work for synopsis
 
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I'm a senior applications engineer with the simplewear support team.
 
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And what I do is I provide support for a software package that allows you to take 3D image data and like scans from MRI,
 
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and CT and turn it into a computer model and you can do all sorts of things with that computer model from 3D printing to finite
 
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element analysis all the way through to just simple visualisations to learn something about that data that you're inspecting.
 
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Amazing. So can you tell me a little bit about the transition from doing your research degree into the current role?
 
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Did you have any were there any jobs that you took in between or was it a straight move?
 
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Yes. So when I left my PhD, I actually went into a job which sort of spanned the gap between academia and industry.
 
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So officially, it was a postdoc role, but I was actually more of a research and development engineer with a pre-spin out company.
 
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So it was still part of the university and it took on a role.
 
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kind of like a technical consultancy?
 
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So like an R&D consultancy role. And my specific area was to look at improving radio frequency identification tagging.
 
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So RFID tagging is now quite popular, popular. You see it all over the place in tags, in clothes shops.
 
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RFID tags are embedded into shoes. When you buy them all sorts of things.
 
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But the specific area that I was looking at was how to tag structures that have a lot of
 
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metal in them because essentially they're an antenna and when you place them on metal,
 
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they don't work very well. And I was looking at tagging RFID circuit boards.
 
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So these circuit boards have very high value and you really try to understand what you can do.
 
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So I worked with a few different people locally to try and address this problem,
 
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using some of the knowledge from my PhD, but also past experience from before that as well.
 
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And after that role, I left it and started a new position for a company called Subten Systems.
 
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Now, this was a very small Start-Up company, possibly the best and most exciting research I have ever done.
 
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It was looking to create wireless Ethernet bridges.
 
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What that means is point to point, a transmission of data, at very, very high frequencies.
 
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So in the millimetre wave region. And this was so exciting because I was quite new to the R&D world and I was given a lot of responsibility,
 
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but also worked in an amazing team and we just got things done.
 
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It was fantastic. But unfortunately, like a lot of start-ups, it didn't make it.
 
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And I had to make the decision to leave. Possibly the hardest decision of my life.
 
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But yes. So I left subten systems and that fantastic team.
 
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And then I found a job in the centre of Exeter working for at the time, simplewear
 
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which were, again, a small company, not really a Start-Up, but about 30, 40 people.
 
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And from there. This company was bought out by synopsis.
 
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But my job role has stayed pretty consistent. Most of the way through.
 
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And I actually I'm able to use a lot of my experience from my career, but also interests outside of work to perform my job, which is it's just a.
 
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Varied and keeps me on my toes most of the time.
 
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That sounds amazing. And in a short space of time, you've worked in quite a lot of different.
 
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Different organisations. So what was it like making that transition from your phd into a.
 
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Non-academic Role did. Did you always know you wanted a job outside of academia and doing research in industry or so?
 
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I think when I did my PhD, I really enjoyed my time doing the research element before I did my PhD.
 
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I worked in industry for a few years.
 
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So I was very aware of what it was like to work in a team doing commercial R&D as opposed to quite academic research.
 
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And it is very different. And I preferred the industrial research, the kind of work.
 
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Working towards one product or one specific goal,
 
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but also having the flexibility to change projects or move into different roles within the same organisation.
 
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Whereas in a PhD, you're very focussed on your path, your route to completing whatever your project might be.
 
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I didn't find the transition very hard.
 
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Moving from academic research to sort of industrial R&D, I think, because it's something that I knew and I was comfortable with.
 
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I was looking forward to moving back. I also had very good kind of time management skills during the PhD.
 
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I viewed it more as a day to day job because of my past experience.
 
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There is one exception for that, which was when I was writing up.
 
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When I wrote up, the time really went out the window. I was just working all the time, it seemed.
 
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But after that, I was really able to relax into that role,
 
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to work with lots and lots of different people and to really focus on a product, which is what we were aiming for.
 
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So, yeah, that worked really well for me. So, yeah.
 
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Can you say a little bit more about what it what it is about doing R&D work in industry that you prefer to academia.
 
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Is it that kind of. Is it something to do with the pace. Is it the pace of it or is it the kind of clearer sense of product, and impact.
 
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So I think industrial R&D has a clear focus, a clear aim.
 
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But people work slightly differently. In my experience in commercial R&D compared to academic R&D or academic research, in academic research,
 
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you are striving to understand every single little part of whatever your problem or area might be in commercial R&D,
 
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although you need to understand what's going on. There's a limit to how much detail you need to go into.
 
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You need to be able to solve the problem. But you are working towards a different goal and that goal will come to an end and it will change.
 
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There will be a second level, another stage or something that you are building on.
 
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You need to understand this area. Make a decision. Produce a product, whatever that might be, and then you move on.
 
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It's also quite normal to have multiple projects going on at the same time.
 
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And for me, I need that that ability to be able to switch between projects to keep me fully invested and sort of just enjoying what I do.
 
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I need lots of little things to dip in and out of just to keep me entertained.
 
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I guess. Yes, I absolutely know that feeling.
 
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So you said about the time management skills that you developed during your PhD and how important they are to what you do now.
 
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And certainly if you're working in lots of different projects, I can really see that.
 
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What other skills and experiences have you taken from your PhD that have really helped you with an R&D role in industry?
 
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I think the biggest thing that I learnt during the PhD, as opposed to other roles I've been in before,
 
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was to be able to take a big project and be able to divide it up into small chunks that seem more manageable,
 
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because I think when you start the PhD, it can be a little bit overwhelming because you've got this three,
 
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four years plus and you've got to produce something at the end of it.
 
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But I'm not really sure what that is.
 
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So to be able to take that huge idea, chop it up and then manage yourself to be able to to achieve whatever that might be is really important.
 
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And then the other thing, the sort of skills that I learnt.
 
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I did a course on how to read sounds ridiculous, but how to speed read, how to take academic papers and top and tail.
 
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And that's been really useful in other projects that I've done because in industrial research,
 
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you haven't got loads of time to do a full literature review on most projects.
 
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You need to extract the information that you need. Put it together and then use it in whatever form that might be.
 
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The other thing I think was really important is how to present robustly.
 
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So I've never really had a problem with the actual presenting side of things.
 
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But the questioning was something that was sort of really drilled into me during my PhD
 
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That you need to know your subject well enough.
 
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You need to have done your research to be able to answer questions robustly and kind of stand up to someone standing up and saying,
 
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oh, I'm not I'm not sure about this. Tell me more or I don't believe that.
 
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What's your evidence for it? And to be able to stand there and and defend the research that you've done and to present a reasoned argument.
 
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And I think that was probably the biggest thing to take away.
 
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Yeah. So really, it it's project management. It's. Ability to read and synthesise information and presenting.
 
96
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Yes, it's kind of a soft skills. I mean, obviously I learnt a lot of physics in my actual PhD
 
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But I wouldn't say that I've applied much of that in my other roles.
 
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It's more being those kind of soft skills that have been the most useful.
 
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Yeah. And I think that's that's always what's really interesting about looking at careers beyond academia,
 
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because I think we get really entrenched in this idea that I.
 
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I need to be looking at something that's very specific to the very niche topic area I am working in, whereas actually.
 
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When people are going to work in industry, that they're more using the working in the general subject area in some shape or form.
 
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But it's those soft skills that become even more important because they're the ones that are transferable.
 
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Absolutely. And I can give you an example of that. So. Right. One of the first things that I did when I joined Simplewear
 
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whereas it was then now synopsis was I had a Web meeting with someone who is using this software and they were doing knee replacement.
 
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And now my PhD is a microwave metamaterials. I'm looking at electromagnetic interaction with materials and it has nothing to do with knees.
 
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So very quickly, I have to understand the different parts that need to put the bones are called some of the key muscles or tendons.
 
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I had to understand how you perform in knee replacement so that I was roughly on the same level so that
 
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we could talk in similar terms because there are terms that are specific to different industries.
 
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So I had to come up to speed very fast on all of that and then understand how this particular
 
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customer wanted to use the software and what what the challenges were that they were facing.
 
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And then I had to take all of that presented back to them in a Web meeting in under an hour.
 
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So very quickly, you're having to take a problem.
 
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Understand it. Do your research. Kind of problem solve along the way and then present it back and answer questions all in one.
 
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So I think that would take about maybe between one and two days to complete the whole project.
 
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But at the same time, I had three or four other projects and sort of mini projects like that that I'd have to answer as well.
 
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And meetings and emails and all these other things. So it's really a bit of a juggling act.
 
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But you've got to focus on each problem, solve it, and then present it back to your customer and make sure that they're happy with that solution.
 
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Make sure that you have understood and solved whatever they're looking to work towards and make sure that it fits for them.
 
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So it it's quite a quite large challenge, but it's really fun.
 
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Yeah, and I think that there seems to be something there that's really about problem solving,
 
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but using your research skills and your creativity in finding solutions to your work problems.
 
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And I think you draw on all your past experience in order to do that Problem-Solving.
 
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So in before I started the PhD, I worked in manufacturing.
 
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So there are lots of things that I learnt in terms of tolerances, in terms of manufacturing processes.
 
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So when I work with someone who's using additive manufacturing, I can relate to certain areas there as well.
 
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And I bring that experience to help me to solve that.
 
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So, yeah, there's lots of different areas that kind of draw together.
 
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But the PhD brings a skill set of tackling a very large project and helping you to form it all together.
 
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One of the things people get. We get feedback that our researchers are quite nervous about is the application process for.
 
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Jobs outside of academia, because they're sort of the. Academic kind of job application promotions process feels very familiar.
 
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When you're in that environment, can you talk about your experience of.
 
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Applying for jobs in. industry and specifically kind of how you talked about and framed, your research experience?
 
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Yes, absolutely. So I was very lucky with the jobs that I went to.
 
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Most of them, I had some connection to the company.
 
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And throughout my working career, I seem to have fallen into jobs rather than applied through the formal process.
 
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So I would definitely say to any PhD tudents and create a network and tell people that you're looking for a job,
 
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because the one that I got at Subten Systems, I found out through a guy that I used to go gliding with.
 
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He'd started at this company and they were looking down on and I was able to apply
 
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and get a lot of things have kind of fallen into place through that network.
 
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I have done very few formal applications. Having said that, all my positions have involved some kind of interview.
 
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So I can certainly comment on that. I guess the key thing is to think about how you've applied your skills and
 
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any way that you can show that you can talk about how you've used that skill.
 
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So it could be that you.
 
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Looked after a colleague's child, say, for a few hours.
 
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And that was very challenging for you. You can apply that situation and say this was a very stressful situation.
 
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Not something that I'm familiar with. And this is how I managed it. That might not be particularly relevant to an industrial R&D engineering job,
 
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but they can see how when you went into a new situation, how you managed it.
 
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And I think those how you can form an example, if you can draw on your PhD, if you can draw on your sort of formal experiences, that's great.
 
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But if there's an area where you think importantly, where to go with this, look at your your life outside of work,
 
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outside of academia and think, are there examples that you can draw from there as well?
 
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Because that's a really key area that people sometimes sometimes miss.
 
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I think the other thing about applications and interviews is.
 
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It's almost always evidence based. So really try to give as many examples of how you fulfil the job.
 
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Job skills and competencies which will be listed on the job description, try and like focus on those specifically.
 
156
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And then you've got a stronger application. Are there particular things that you did?
 
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So you said you talked about kind of the importance of forming those examples and those examples,
 
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not having to be really specific to the role the industry that you're working in.
 
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Are there things that you did during your OhD that weren't necessarily kind of just about the doing the research
 
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and writing the thesis that have been really useful to you as examples and job applications and interviews?
 
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Oh, that's a great question. So there are lots of things I did during my PhD
 
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I travelled extensively as part of the PhD, which is something that I would definitely recommend to everybody.
 
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And actually that travel led to multiple collaboration's.
 
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Regarding my research. So that was extremely helpful in terms of outside of the actual PhD and the research environment.
 
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And I was also a Brownie leader. So that's part of the Girlguiding structure.
 
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And that was something that kept me really rooted during the PhD because I was working with girls aged seven to 10 and they can be so challenging.
 
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They can really come up with so many questions.
 
168
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Things that you don't think about a child's mind is a fascinating array of ideas, and they're so inquisitive.
 
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So that was really amazing. And I am quite lucky in that I was able to actually bring them into the physics building.
 
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And we did a whole evening in the physics building with a little talk and we did some bridge building and and all sorts of things.
 
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So that was that was really fantastic. I think I also did just after my PhD, I did some volunteering through girlguiding.
 
172
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So it was sustainable. Volunteering is what I called it.
 
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Call it. I'm not a builder. I don't have any skills in that area.
 
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So I can't go and build houses for people or anything like that.
 
175
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But we we ran a programme where we went out and asked the people what they were
 
176
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looking for and actually what they wanted was something much more simple or simple,
 
177
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something that I could deliver. Which was how to build CVs
 
178
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How to present yourself to different people. And it was a very simplistic level, but that was something that we were we were able to do.
 
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So that was fantastic. And as part of that, we also developed the girl guiding programme in the country with the leaders,
 
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very simple ideas that don't take lots of resources or money or time, but just ideas for things that they could do to to get more people involved.
 
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So that's something that I often talk about in interviews,
 
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because it's something that also changed me as a person to understand that I finished my PhD.
 
183
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But actually I have a lot of skills that are useful to other people and I can
 
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teach them in an informal way and about the world around them and how it works.
 
185
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I never really appreciated that before I went away.
 
186
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So that was really great. That's very interesting and how did you how did you balance doing that kind of activity alongside doing your PhD?
 
187
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I was quite lucky. We're part of a team.
 
188
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So when my work load up for my academic workload was quite high, I was able to kind of step back from the brownie preparation for the sessions.
 
189
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But when I was a little bit quieter, I could jump in and do more.
 
190
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And what I really tried to do was make sure that every Monday night when it was the meeting, I was always there.
 
191
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And that was a kind of a non-negotiable aspect for me. That time was Brownie time.
 
192
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And that was it. Apart from obviously when I was travelling for conferences and and other such things.
 
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But I think that's all about teamwork. That's about communicating with the team that you have and understanding each other's pressures.
 
194
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One of the other ladies that runs it is a school teacher. So there are key aspects during the year which are particularly busy for her.
 
195
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Another lady is a solicitor, so she has big projects.
 
196
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So sometimes it coincides that we we are all really busy.
 
197
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In which case we all do a little bit to contribute to what we need.
 
198
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Having said that, there's also a good aspect of just winging it,
 
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turning up and just having some fun and nothing to planned and just having a couple of things in your back pocket that you can just get on with.
 
200
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And I think that's that's really fun as well.
 
201
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I wouldn't want to do all the time, but that helps. And it is quite an important skill to have.
 
202
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Like you say, it's not something that we would necessarily want to make.
 
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The way that we operate on a daily basis, but quite often in in the working world and in your PhD, you do kind of have to just turn up and wing it.
 
204
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Absolutely. So there's always that time when you go to a conference and someone's talk doesn't load properly or is corrupted,
 
205
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or I went to a talk where all the graphs were in neon colours and you couldn't see any of the lines.
 
206
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And so I give him his due. That guy stood there for 20 minutes.
 
207
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He talked about his research and we could not see a single thing on any of his slides.
 
208
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And I think that is a real skill. And I think there's a bit to be said for preparation in that situation.
 
209
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Maybe you can go in the night before or just a couple of hours before your talk and just
 
210
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check it over to make sure that it does work on the projector that you're going to use.
 
211
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However, it's if you really know your subject area,
 
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hopefully you'd be able to talk a little bit about your research without these slides, you know, just giving it a go talk.
 
213
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And actually, it was a really good talk because it got people asking questions.
 
214
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And I think that's really key. I guess one of the big questions is what advice would you give to someone who's currently starting out or doing well,
 
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coming to the end of the research degree, who is thinking about R&D roles in industry?
 
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What advice would you give them about things they should be doing now, about applying for applying for jobs?
 
217
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Is there any kind of key tips you would give them? Absolutely.
 
218
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I would say try and extend your network.
 
219
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Now, you could do that by going up to conferences, talking to people about your research, but also talk to your family,
 
220
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your friends locally, because lots of my business contacts have been made through unusual links.
 
221
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So really use that network to understand what opportunities are out there.
 
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What kind of skills people are looking for right now. Because it changes it.
 
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It changes all the time. We're seeing more of a focus towards automation and more scripting is required.
 
224
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So things like Python are becoming more necessary and lots of job roles.
 
225
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And I would say focus on that to kind of understand what areas you might want to go into, on what kind of skills they're looking for.
 
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And then you can focus on sort of fulfilling those before you get there,
 
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but also using those contacts to understand actually is there an opportunity that I'd be perfect for.
 
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And actually, I can look to apply and say to them, look, it's conditional.
 
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I want to finish my PhD and then start or something like that.
 
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There are lots of opportunities out there. And you just need to be a bit flexible in looking for them, how you find them.
 
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And I think people often overlook that. Thinking that they have to apply through a formal route.
 
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And there will be a formal route. That is how you find those opportunities that I'm saying can be can be less orthodox.
 
233
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Yeah, I think I think that's really key and it seems to have been a key theme in your career so far.
 
234
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Actually, the importance of networking and making Connections to actually creating those opportunities.
 
235
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Yeah, yeah, definitely. I mean, before my PhD, most of my jobs were through word of mouth.
 
236
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One of the jobs that I had was because I'd used a particular software for my dissertation and a company contacted the university and said,
 
237
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Do you have any students who can use this software? Any graduates who might be looking for jobs?
 
238
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That was another way that I that I got an opportunity there as well.
 
239
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So there are lots ways. Talk to your supervisor about what you're looking for.
 
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Maybe they have someone who's sponsoring PhDs in another area that maybe you're not aware of and they're looking for people.
 
241
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So that can be a huge help as well. Yeah, that's really brilliant.
 
242
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I'm. Is there anything that you.
 
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Wish that you had done. While you were still a PhD student that you think would've benefited your career so far?
 
244
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I don't think there's any opportunities that I missed. I think probably I should have spent some time learning how to code properly.
 
245
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That would be really useful in my career.
 
246
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Now, I've picked up bits along the way, but I have to say I'm not a superb coder.
 
247
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I think that's a key area. But in terms of conferences, in terms of experience, I was always quite cheeky.
 
248
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So I'd always ask if I wanted to go to a conference, if I saw it was somewhere amazing.
 
249
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Then I'd just ask and we'd see if there was budget and I'd make sure that I had something new to present.
 
250
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When I went to my supervisor to say I would go to this conference and most of the time we made it happen.
 
251
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So, yeah, be cheeky. Just go for it. Yeah, that's that's the benefit of being.
 
252
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Proactive. And also just accepting that, you know, if you ask.
 
253
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They might say no. They might say yes. Exactly. My mom always used to say, if you don't ask, you don't get.
 
254
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And that, I think, is very true. So couple of examples on that.
 
255
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Specifically, before I started my PhDD, I did a placement with Kinetic.
 
256
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And there was a project that we were working on, which was on a warship that was in for refits.
 
257
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And I I've never been on an aircraft carrier.
 
258
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And I thought I'd really like to go. So I went over to the guy who's running projects and I said, I'd really like to go.
 
259
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And he said, Oh, I dunno And then I ended up being down there for two weeks.
 
260
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And it was absolutely fantastic. And in another example, in my current job, I was working on a project.
 
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And one of the surgeons said to me, you should come down and see surgery.
 
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And I said, okay. So I asked my boss and he said, Well, yes, I guess so.
 
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So I went down and I saw a knee replacement and a hip replacement. And I've never seen anything like that.
 
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It's it's brutal and it's fascinating. And I had no idea how I was gonna react, whether I was going to faint on the floor or be engrossed in it.
 
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Turns out I didn't faint on the floor. Fantastic. Didn't embarrass myself in front of the surgeons, but it was just the most amazing experience.
 
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And I've got so much more insight into how these surgeries are performed.
 
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So when I work with a surgeon now, I know that if you're talking about fractions of a millimetre,
 
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it's probably not going to be achievable in surgery because you you just can't see does that level of detail that you can give them a guide
 
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and that that really the understanding of the situation of the kind of equipment that you have to wear of the how hot it is in the room.
 
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You know, all these things really help you to to speak to the customer and to to be able to direct them to the best solution for their problem.
 
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What do you love most about your job? Oh, just working with loads of different people.
 
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All the different industries. So I've got a project at the moment where I'm working on trying to automate a learning process to defect,
 
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to find defects in addictively manufactured parts.
 
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So that's one project.
 
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We're also working on automated learning to build models of hearts and knees and hips for things like pacemaker design or stent placement.
 
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So just working with that huge range of industries and everything in between,
 
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I'm just really allows me to keep my brain active and learning lots of new, different things.
 
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But like I've said, applying those skills,
 
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I've learnt through the experience that I've had before to be able to come up with innovative solutions that don't only solve, you know,
 
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sort of minor problems, but they're they're really addressing critical problems like defects in aircraftg wings or,
 
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you know, my my mum's knee replacement. She could have.
 
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Now, she could have a personalised knee replacement rather than one that was probably a bit smaller, a bit too big.
 
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But she was somewhere in the middle. And I think helping to address those problems gives you a real warm glow feeling inside.
 
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Thank you so much, Celia, for taking the time to talk to me and giving some really interesting insights on kind of R&D roles,
 
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but also the hidden job market. And that's it for this episode.
 
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Join us next time when we'll be talking to another researcher about their career beyond their research degree.
 
Episode 8 - Dr. David Jacoby, Research Fellow at the Zoological Society of London

Episode 8 - Dr. David Jacoby, Research Fellow at the Zoological Society of London

September 28, 2020

Welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast from the University of Exeter Doctoral College! The podcast about non-academic careers and all the opportunities available to you... beyond your research degree!  In this episode Kelly Preece, Researcher Development Manager talks to Dr. David Jacoby, Research Fellow at the Zoological Society of London. You can find out more about David on his LinkedIn profile.

 

Music credit: Cheery Monday Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) 
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License 
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ 

 

Podcast transcript

 

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Hello and welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast by the University of Exeter, Doctoral College

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Hello.

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I'm Kelly Peece and welcome to this episode. Today I'm going to be talking to David Jacoby.

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David works as a research fellow in a university affiliated institution, so he's kind of bridging that gap between industry and academia.

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Hi, David. Can you introduce yourself? My name is Dr. David Jacoby.

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I'm a research fellow at the Institute of Zoology, which is part of the Zoological Society of London.

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I've been working there for roughly seven years now. I graduated from the University of Exeter with a research degree in 2012.

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My PhD was in animal behaviour and that was from the School of Psychology at the Streatham campus,

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and it focussed predominantly on the application of network analysis for understanding shark behaviour.

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So, David, can you tell me a little bit about your current role and what it involves as a research fellow?

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I have a growing research lab around the theme of network ecology and telemetry,

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and this focuses on my main research interests, which are predominately the ecology and conservation of shark species.

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So that is things like how they reside with inside and outside marine protected areas, the threats they face from commercial and illegal fisheries.

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But another component in my research is also various different animal tracking

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technologies and how we can use that to understand things about movement, ecology and behaviour.

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And finally, the third strand of my research is into animal social network analysis as well.

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So why animals aggregate predominately in the marine environment for my focus.

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What this means for population dynamics and how do we quantify social behaviour in fish at all.

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So this role really involves supervision of both PhD and masters students, as a research and pure research institute.

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We do some degree of teaching associated with some of the other London universities whose masters courses are affiliated to us.

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But it's predominantly my role is around data analysis. The writing of grant applications and papers, reviewing grant applications and papers,

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as well as a big component, and then everyday meetings with students and colleagues.

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For example, I sit on the Equality and Diversity Committee within the Institute of Zoology, and this is really about taking inward.

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Look at how we as an organisation represent the diversity in society and how we can improve diversity across academia in general.

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In addition to that, we have a lot of responsibilities around communication and outreach activities.

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So I spend quite a lot of time trying to present my work to people, be on the scientific community and whether that be at conferences,

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non-specific scientific conferences and events for the public evening symposia which we put on for public at the Zoological Society of London.

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And then extra curricular activities include things like editorial responsibilities.

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So I am I've been an assistant editor at the Journal of Fish Biology for the last six years.

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So that also takes up quite a bit of my time as well. So what's it like working in a pure research institute?

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Is it similar or different to conducting research in academia?

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And what's the what's your day to day work life like?

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I really enjoy working at ZSL or the Zoological Society of London.

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It's a pure research institute. And as an organisation, it is absolutely steeped in history.

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It's nearing its two hundredth anniversary. Charles Darwin was a former fellow of that as well.

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And Sir David Attenborough is the current patron. So the place is really inspirational in terms of some of the research that's come out of there.

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There's a real diversity of research, a diversity of methods and study systems as well.

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So you never really know what you're going to be discussing when you meet people in the tea room.

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There's so many different study systems from terrestrial animals to aquatic, from various tracking to genetics.

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So there's a real mixed bag of people working there. And that's what I like about the place.

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In many ways it's similar to university, but without the pressure perhaps to conduct quite so much teaching,

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we do contribute to master's courses from Imperial College, London, University College, London as well.

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King's Royal Vetinary College and a number of other institutions. So I can do as much or as little teaching as I want,

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but I experience the same pressure that you get at a university to bring in grant

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money to justify our position to publish regularly in high impact publications.

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I have an honorary position at UCL, which is one of our main collaborative organisations,

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and there's broad collaboration across all of the London and London groups and London universities.

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And this includes the London doctoral training programme from which we have a kind of annual cohort of these students as well available to us.

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My average day, I would say, is desk based predominantly, and it will include student meetings, some analysis, a bit of writing,

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quite a lot of internal meetings as well, and also external international collaborative meetings,

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which can run out of hours as well, depending on who is speaking to.

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Then on the flip side of that, I have regular fieldwork each year as well.

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So I have two main field sites currently up and running where we track sharks using acoustic telemetry.

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My main field site is in the British Indian Ocean territory, one of the largest marine protected areas in the world.

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And here, the groups tracking reef sharks to understand the role that the marine protected area has on trying to conserve these species,

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which are still facing large threats from illegal fishing activity.

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The second field site is in northern Lanzarote in the Canary Islands,

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and this is tracking critically endangered angel sharks, about which we know very little.

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So we're using technologies there to try to understand some of their ecology,

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some of their daily seasonal and annual variation and movements and distribution.

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And this usually involves being out on the water from the vessel based research for anywhere up to three weeks at a time, at least once a year.

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Sometimes there are more trips and I also attend both national and international conferences as well.

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So that's another component of my time. But that's a broad overview of what I tend to do on a day to day basis.

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So what skills and experiences from your research degree?

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Do you use specifically in your current role for key skills?

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My PhD, I would argue that I really relied on some of the project management experience I got during my PhD

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This included things like budgeting, time allocation, delegation of responsibilities and roles to research assistants and to students as well.

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But also the importance of reading and reading a lot. Reading around the subject, reading as broadly as possible.

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Things like practising presentations as well. I used to be terrified of giving presentations.

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The more I do, the easier I find it.

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So certainly practising that more and more was a skill that I began to acquire during my PhD, which is still really important today.

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Also, I would say a willingness to kind of see where a conversation or a train of thought can lead you as well.

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So I'm very fortunate at the moment in my role that I'm able to kind of explore different avenues of research.

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But one of the great things about a pure research institute is that you can have a conversation that can set you off on a whole new direction.

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It could be bring in whole new techniques, a whole new set of collaborators,

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and it can really set start your day or your week or your year off in a very exciting direction.

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And the only other thing I would say about what I learnt from my PhD was the importance of listening to people,

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taking onboard advice and learning the kind of better habits of people I admired,

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but also learning from bad habits of others and generally just trying to treat people in the way that I enjoyed being treated as a student myself.

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I learnt a lot from my supervisors and I learnt a lot from the people I interacted with.

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During my PhD and I've really made a conscious effort to try and take some of those good

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components and repeat them and pass them on to students that I now supervise as well.

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Are there any additional activities or extracurricular projects you would advise research

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degree students to get involved in to help make them more employable extracurricular activities?

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As I said, I. I have my editorial roles for various different journals.

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These have been extremely rewarding for me as I've learnt a lot about the peer review system and about research in general.

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It's meant I've had to interact with a lot of different researchers worldwide, both for requests for review,

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but also managing the comments as they come in and then dealing with the authors

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and and being the Go-Between between the authors and reviewers as well. That's been a really rewarding and interesting experience.

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So I would highly recommend if those opportunities come up. Taking those organising events is certainly a very useful thing to do.

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Again, this comes down to project management.

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And I helped organise a behaviour meeting while I was at Exeter during my PhD and that was a very useful thing to do.

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I currently run a twice monthly bio logging journal club where we discuss and critique new papers in the field of animal tracking.

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And this really, again, encourages people to read. It stimulates discussion amongst people of a like mind.

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It enables you to keep on top of the literature and learn new new things.

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But just just having to run that really forced me to to bring the group together

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and to meet on a regular basis and to discuss things on a regular basis as well.

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I would advise offering yourself out to help out on committees that, you know,

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really try and have an impact on the environment you work in and try and really be

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be an individual that pushes forward better practises within that institution,

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an organisation that can always be improvements made both at an institutional level, but also at a wider.

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Academic level as well. So I would say use your voice.

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Everyone, everyone has an important thing. Everyone has important things to say.

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And I would use that to try and improve the surroundings that you're in.

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And the field as a whole. And finally, what advice would you give to students who are thinking about applying for roles in pure research institutes?

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The advice that I always give isn't necessarily specific to a research institute at all, but it is useful, I think.

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And that is learn a skill, whether that be coding or learning a programming language.

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Genetic techniques and mathematical processes or all things from physics, anything like that.

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And bring that skill to the organisation that you want to work at or the study system that you want to work on, particularly in ecology and zoology.

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We are crying out for interdisciplinary research techniques, people to bring in research from other areas.

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I mean, science is becoming an increasingly interdisciplinary thing to do.

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So thinking outside the box is a must. And outside skills often pave the way for new, very novel research.

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And these can be be the difference in, you know, really progressing the field.

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So I would I would definitely recommend trying to learn a skill as opposed to being

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focussed on a particular system or a particular study organism or something like that.

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The second and final piece of advice I would also give is to be really persistent as well.

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There is no tried and tested method from going from your PhD  to the job you finally want to end up in.

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It took me many years to get to the point where I was being paid to lead my own research and often just a foot in the door is really important.

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So I actually took up a six month unpaid internship after my PhD, which wasn't wasn't ideal.

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And it's also not feasible for everyone as well. But it was really important.

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I was able to get a foot in the door at the Zoological Society of London.

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And since then I've stayed and I've slowly developed my own strands of research, my own research group over time.

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So people take different routes. There is no right way of getting from A to B.

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And it's important to remember that, but it will take a lot of persistence. So stick at it if you're keen and the rewards will come.

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Thank you so much, David, for taking the time to share your thoughts and your experience.

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And that's it for this episode. Join us next time when we'll be talking to another researcher about their career beyond their research degree.

 

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