Beyond Your Research Degree

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 ’Cheery Monday’ by Kevin MacLeod ( License: CC BY (


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,

00:21:34,440 --> 00:21:39,780
especially with everything being online. It's been really good to be able to say, okay,

00:21:39,780 --> 00:21:48,300
I'd like to go to a CVs workshop to an interviews workshop to all these different things, wellbeing workshops.

00:21:48,300 --> 00:21:52,470
It's it's it's part of our role, part of our job.

00:21:52,470 --> 00:21:58,660
You know, we have to go through personal development reviews and that sort of thing.

00:21:58,660 --> 00:22:05,970
So so it's been really interesting having the opportunity to go to these sorts of workshops and professional development opportunities,

00:22:05,970 --> 00:22:16,110
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.

00:22:16,110 --> 00:22:21,030
And I guess I would just add to that that I think, well, first of all,

00:22:21,030 --> 00:22:28,830
the role itself and the kind of modules that we are assisting with because they are postgraduate courses,

00:22:28,830 --> 00:22:37,290
but also because they are kind of some of them are focussed very specifically on education and clinical education.

00:22:37,290 --> 00:22:43,230
How you effectively teach clinical practises to, you know,

00:22:43,230 --> 00:22:48,810
maybe GPs who are taking an extra professional development course or something like that.

00:22:48,810 --> 00:22:58,950
So we have actually assisted in the development of and being present for the delivery of clinical education modules,

00:22:58,950 --> 00:23:04,680
modules on digital teaching, which was really helpful.

00:23:04,680 --> 00:23:13,470
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.

00:23:13,470 --> 00:23:19,590
We were invited to be actually we were invited to kind of be part of the teaching,

00:23:19,590 --> 00:23:28,200
the digital teaching module and to sort of share our own experiences with digital tools and that kind of thing.

00:23:28,200 --> 00:23:31,920
And it was just great to learn from the students as well with that, to be honest. I mean,

00:23:31,920 --> 00:23:37,060
I wish that we'd actually recorded some of the fantastic presentations because they had the opportunity

00:23:37,060 --> 00:23:41,940
to have a play around with some of the digital tools and experiment what you could use them for.

00:23:41,940 --> 00:23:49,020
And they were just simply fantastic things on improving the deliver the training for the COVID vaccine and all sorts of wonderful things

00:23:49,020 --> 00:23:59,100
that are going to make such a difference in the world and really make me proud to be supporting these these healthcare students.

00:23:59,100 --> 00:24:08,820
But with the FHEA more specifically, it's really helped me reflect on what I'm actually getting out of this role.

00:24:08,820 --> 00:24:17,640
So all of the stuff that we do with the quality assurance of module's, the continual evaluation of our practise,

00:24:17,640 --> 00:24:25,470
how successful things have been, the regular meetings with the project enhance leadership team and the college.

00:24:25,470 --> 00:24:31,830
And that's where we get to actually kind of talk to academics that are sort of delivering the teaching.

00:24:31,830 --> 00:24:37,320
And we talk through any arising problems and we kind of troubleshoot and continually evaluate.

00:24:37,320 --> 00:24:41,460
And all of that has been just great to write about on my application, really,

00:24:41,460 --> 00:24:52,040
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.

00:24:52,040 --> 00:24:57,290
So we kind of figured we'd kind of unintentionally ended up sort of hitting, you know,

00:24:57,290 --> 00:25:01,610
most of the criteria just just through kind of what we're doing on a daily basis.

00:25:01,610 --> 00:25:09,520
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.

00:25:09,520 --> 00:25:14,620
So in terms of professional development, I'd say it's it's actually exceeded my expectations, really.

00:25:14,620 --> 00:25:21,730
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.

00:25:21,730 --> 00:25:29,260
And I think that a lot of roles that I've seen advertised have actually wanted somebody who

00:25:29,260 --> 00:25:35,380
knows about digital technology or is interested in using digital technology in their teaching,

00:25:35,380 --> 00:25:41,740
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.

00:25:41,740 --> 00:25:47,050
So, yeah, it's it's been a really great opportunity,

00:25:47,050 --> 00:25:55,060
even though we've been working in a very different field in medicine and health and we're both from English.

00:25:55,060 --> 00:25:59,730
There has been a lot of kind of transferable skills that we can bring to this role.

00:25:59,730 --> 00:26:00,640
That's really brilliant.

00:26:00,640 --> 00:26:08,410
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,

00:26:08,410 --> 00:26:13,000
because it's it's rare that PGRs when they're doing their research.

00:26:13,000 --> 00:26:19,770
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.

00:26:19,770 --> 00:26:32,010
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.

00:26:32,010 --> 00:26:39,420
The longer kind of career go to work in academia and what specifically things like the FHEA that you think that

00:26:39,420 --> 00:26:46,140
you want to take forward and that you feel are really going to help you with those academic job applications?

00:26:46,140 --> 00:26:55,380
I think for me, it's it's at least understanding the real significance of evaluation and evaluating processes.

00:26:55,380 --> 00:27:04,810
And this is something that the university has had to do on a huge scale, shifting, you know, to so much online.

00:27:04,810 --> 00:27:10,170
And and basically, you know, transforming digitally.

00:27:10,170 --> 00:27:18,570
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?

00:27:18,570 --> 00:27:25,640
Is this effective? What can we do better for me? I think that is something I would actually like to take forward.

00:27:25,640 --> 00:27:28,230
You know, whatever happens,

00:27:28,230 --> 00:27:38,610
I think even if we are doing a lot more face to face teaching eventually or supporting much more kind of blended approaches,

00:27:38,610 --> 00:27:49,050
I just think it's it's something that perhaps wasn't emphasised enough before was this sort of continual evaluation of processes,

00:27:49,050 --> 00:27:57,150
even if you've been doing it for years. You know, it's the opportunity to actually share best practise and innovate, really.

00:27:57,150 --> 00:28:07,230
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.

00:28:07,230 --> 00:28:13,440
And the point of the pandemic has kind of pushed us into confronting really.

00:28:13,440 --> 00:28:16,470
And I personally feel that that's something we could really take forward.

00:28:16,470 --> 00:28:26,070
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.

00:28:26,070 --> 00:28:32,940
I just think that's something that's so valuable. And, yeah, it's it's a focus on the process itself.

00:28:32,940 --> 00:28:37,230
The process of teaching. And and I think that includes our students, too.

00:28:37,230 --> 00:28:41,250
So, you know that they are kind of active collaborators in this process.

00:28:41,250 --> 00:28:52,330
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,

00:28:52,330 --> 00:28:57,700
you know, the quality of learning as well and what the students can get out of it.

00:28:57,700 --> 00:29:02,430
And that's something I'm quite excited about. I'd like to do more with.

00:29:02,430 --> 00:29:05,700
Definitely. I completely agree.

00:29:05,700 --> 00:29:15,750
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.

00:29:15,750 --> 00:29:19,980
Not that we didn't engage with before, but that weren't necessarily our top priority.

00:29:19,980 --> 00:29:25,980
When, you know, we need to prep for our seminars, go and teach them to have a set number of hours to do everything.

00:29:25,980 --> 00:29:33,750
Having this kind of reflective role and thinking about all the kind of other things that go into

00:29:33,750 --> 00:29:39,820
preparing a really good module and really good contact session has been really useful for that.

00:29:39,820 --> 00:29:45,150
But I guess the other thing for me is that I always knew there would be, you know,

00:29:45,150 --> 00:29:52,980
a bit of a gap between finishing my PhD and hopefully getting some sort of academic role.

00:29:52,980 --> 00:29:59,550
And I did think, you know, I'll apply for a job in professional services or maybe I'll get some casual teaching

00:29:59,550 --> 00:30:06,880
contracts and hopefully I'll be doing something linked to the university while I'm kind of,

00:30:06,880 --> 00:30:10,200
you know, working on a book proposal, working on more articles,

00:30:10,200 --> 00:30:17,100
gaining all those other sorts of research experience that I would need to get a postdoc or an academic post.

00:30:17,100 --> 00:30:22,950
And I guess this role has just given us a little bit of security and bought us

00:30:22,950 --> 00:30:29,460
a little bit of time to be doing those things and thinking about our research.

00:30:29,460 --> 00:30:31,830
I mean, not not to say that it hasn't been difficult.

00:30:31,830 --> 00:30:40,320
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,

00:30:40,320 --> 00:30:45,330
okay, I need to turn to that to the article proposal that I'm working on.

00:30:45,330 --> 00:30:55,630
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.

00:30:55,630 --> 00:31:03,180
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

00:31:03,180 --> 00:31:32,470
while we've been trying to continue to work on our research side of things as well.

00:31:32,470 --> 00:31:38,860
Yes. I just want to ask you a little bit about the application process.

00:31:38,860 --> 00:31:46,840
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.

00:31:46,840 --> 00:31:53,020
So, yeah, can you say a little bit about what you had to do in terms of an application?

00:31:53,020 --> 00:31:59,960
And sure. So the application form wasn't overly elaborate.

00:31:59,960 --> 00:32:05,810
I filled in much longer involved application forms before.

00:32:05,810 --> 00:32:12,320
But it asked for I can't remember how long it was, but a relatively lengthy supporting statement.

00:32:12,320 --> 00:32:20,570
So the equivalent of writing a cover letter for a job that wanted you to engage with STAR

00:32:20,570 --> 00:32:26,720
And I cannot remember what the acronym stands for, but it's the idea that its situation.

00:32:26,720 --> 00:32:31,130
task action, reflection or resolution. Yes.

00:32:31,130 --> 00:32:38,330
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.

00:32:38,330 --> 00:32:42,950
But, you know, you talk about, you know, in this situation, I was faced with this challenge.

00:32:42,950 --> 00:32:45,380
Here's what I did. And, you know, here was the result.

00:32:45,380 --> 00:32:51,830
And I think I don't think I've consciously used that in other job applications before this role.

00:32:51,830 --> 00:32:55,970
But that was actually quite useful for me to talk about previous jobs I'd done and

00:32:55,970 --> 00:33:00,640
then have to think of some some conflict or some issue that I dealt with within that.

00:33:00,640 --> 00:33:05,870
So. So, yeah. So we had this supporting statement to write

00:33:05,870 --> 00:33:10,730
And then we were invited for interview, which was a panel interview.

00:33:10,730 --> 00:33:17,870
I think there were four or five people on the call. It was virtual, obviously over Microsoft teams.

00:33:17,870 --> 00:33:26,900
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.

00:33:26,900 --> 00:33:30,280
It did need to be quite speedy.

00:33:30,280 --> 00:33:38,210
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?

00:33:38,210 --> 00:33:44,360
Or what's an example of best practise in digital online teaching?

00:33:44,360 --> 00:33:47,630
But I did get the impression that they wanted the answers to be quite succinct.

00:33:47,630 --> 00:33:53,870
So I felt a little bit a little bit rushed versus some of the job interviews I've been in.

00:33:53,870 --> 00:34:01,100
But I got the impression that really they they'd already appreciated what you were going to offer from your written application,

00:34:01,100 --> 00:34:04,750
and they were really trying to work out where you would fit in.

00:34:04,750 --> 00:34:13,220
And so I think the reason they put me in Philipa on PGT programmes was no doubt because of our experience being postgraduates.

00:34:13,220 --> 00:34:22,430
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.

00:34:22,430 --> 00:34:29,480
And I'd just add that I really appreciated being picked by the College of Medicine and Health.

00:34:29,480 --> 00:34:35,300
Even though this is not our specialism. They saw something in us.

00:34:35,300 --> 00:34:43,460
And it's really proven transferable how flexible English and humanities graduates can be.

00:34:43,460 --> 00:34:49,010
I think, you know, we've been able to bring a creative approach to the problem solving,

00:34:49,010 --> 00:34:56,300
to, you know, the kinds of education that we're facing in our programmes.

00:34:56,300 --> 00:35:01,640
So, yeah, I think we've definitely had some real strengths to bring to the role.

00:35:01,640 --> 00:35:10,070
I initially didn't hear anything when I applied. So Heather was in the first round of sort of employees.

00:35:10,070 --> 00:35:17,090
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.

00:35:17,090 --> 00:35:21,010
So I just thought, okay, you know, onto the next thing that's that.

00:35:21,010 --> 00:35:31,460
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

00:35:31,460 --> 00:35:37,280
So then I had a very last minute interview for the College of Medicine Health as well.

00:35:37,280 --> 00:35:40,280
And, yeah, just just it's been great working there.

00:35:40,280 --> 00:35:50,200
And I think we've had an insight also into the extent to which medical professionals actually do value the humanities also.

00:35:50,200 --> 00:35:59,600
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

00:35:59,600 --> 00:36:05,750
able to kind of analyse the symptoms that a patient is presenting and kind of think of it holistically.

00:36:05,750 --> 00:36:11,600
So I think it's really been beneficial for us to bring all sort of creative approach to things.

00:36:11,600 --> 00:36:19,740
Also with things like the strategy Problem-Solving thinking about ways forward more broadly.

00:36:19,740 --> 00:36:28,250
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.

00:36:28,250 --> 00:36:30,990
That's really, really brilliant and really helpful. Thank you.

00:36:30,990 --> 00:36:41,510
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.

00:36:41,510 --> 00:36:45,320
The end of their research degree. Maybe they're not sure they want to do.

00:36:45,320 --> 00:36:51,830
Or maybe they're, you know, are thinking about pursuing an academic career or something in higher education.

00:36:51,830 --> 00:36:59,270
What advice would you give them based on? Based on your experience as a sort of almost the past year?

00:36:59,270 --> 00:37:02,330
I think in terms of job searches,

00:37:02,330 --> 00:37:11,610
I definitely had already thoughts about going into professional services just because I wanted to keep that link to a university and,

00:37:11,610 --> 00:37:19,670
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.

00:37:19,670 --> 00:37:24,890
So that's definitely something that I was already considering kind of post PhD.

00:37:24,890 --> 00:37:31,490
But I think I've realised in this role with how linked it is with teaching and supporting learning,

00:37:31,490 --> 00:37:42,770
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.

00:37:42,770 --> 00:37:52,310
But there is an awful lot that you can gain towards your academic career from working in other university roles.

00:37:52,310 --> 00:37:58,130
I know the sorts of other things I was thinking of. I worked in admissions before I did my PhD.

00:37:58,130 --> 00:38:06,080
So that was something I was thinking of going back to. I've seen lots of posts advertised supporting big research projects,

00:38:06,080 --> 00:38:09,550
which I think would be a really useful thing to get involved with if you had this,

00:38:09,550 --> 00:38:16,670
you know, think about the admin side of of budgets and organising events and all that sort of thing.

00:38:16,670 --> 00:38:24,110
So I think there are lots of other roles outside of the university as well that can give you further skills and

00:38:24,110 --> 00:38:30,470
experience that still completely translate into the sorts of things that are valued for an academic career.

00:38:30,470 --> 00:38:33,560
So it's just trying to adjust your mindset.

00:38:33,560 --> 00:38:40,190
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,

00:38:40,190 --> 00:38:46,940
but thinking about what sort of roles you could take on the do still kind of keep you on that path.

00:38:46,940 --> 00:38:59,030
Yeah, I mean, I think there's a lot of pressure on early career researchers because postdocs are essentially time dependent.

00:38:59,030 --> 00:39:07,190
So as you know, you're only eligible for a postdoc within like three years of finishing your PhD.

00:39:07,190 --> 00:39:11,450
And so given how competitive they are, you know,

00:39:11,450 --> 00:39:18,260
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.

00:39:18,260 --> 00:39:26,540
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,

00:39:26,540 --> 00:39:34,040
you know, given the current situation with the pandemic, I'm sure a lot of people have got, you know, completely unexpected circumstances.

00:39:34,040 --> 00:39:43,280
I'm currently supporting my mum. So, you know, you want to have some more kind of security.

00:39:43,280 --> 00:39:50,720
And so I think my advice would be you have to be open minded, not just flexible.

00:39:50,720 --> 00:39:56,480
So I did, as I said, a couple of casual teaching roles.

00:39:56,480 --> 00:40:02,300
But given the current situation, I was I knew I needed something more so stable and secure.

00:40:02,300 --> 00:40:10,460
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.

00:40:10,460 --> 00:40:15,140
What can I get from this? Is this going to be a stepping stone?

00:40:15,140 --> 00:40:20,750
And I think you're lucky if you can find something that is relevant to what you want to do.

00:40:20,750 --> 00:40:30,170
It's not easy. I mean, I've also worked in retail and throughout my my teaching, I also worked weekends in a shop.

00:40:30,170 --> 00:40:33,170
So it's really not easy to juggle those things.

00:40:33,170 --> 00:40:42,950
But I think the professional services side of things that university does offer, if you want to go into academia.

00:40:42,950 --> 00:40:48,560
You know, lots of really useful skills and opportunities as we've talked about things like the professional development.

00:40:48,560 --> 00:40:55,700
So I think you just have to be open minded and maybe it isn't going to be the ideal path forward.

00:40:55,700 --> 00:41:00,290
But, you know, you just have to try and be kind of resourceful, I suppose.

00:41:00,290 --> 00:41:04,040
And it does open up other things and it gives you an insight into other areas.

00:41:04,040 --> 00:41:10,850
And, you know, for me, as time goes on, because I've been in this situation for a couple of years now,

00:41:10,850 --> 00:41:18,970
you kind of think, okay, well, maybe previously I can imagine really doing anything else because that means.

00:41:18,970 --> 00:41:24,970
It isn't going to happen quite like that. And, you know, maybe I'll find another way.

00:41:24,970 --> 00:41:33,270
So I just really would say. Be open minded and be resourceful in in the roles that you take on.

00:41:33,270 --> 00:41:42,390
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.

00:41:42,390 --> 00:41:51,630
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.

00:41:51,630 --> 00:41:56,840
Talk to me about their roles as digital learning developers at the University of Exeter.

00:41:56,840 --> 00:42:01,500
And I think there are a number of things to pull out of this conversation.

00:42:01,500 --> 00:42:08,850
You know, that's the important thing that we've been trying to focus on about starting your career and getting jobs during COVID

00:42:08,850 --> 00:42:17,790
but also thinking about that kind of route into an academic career, which might not be traditional,

00:42:17,790 --> 00:42:24,900
perhaps particularly at the moment, but going into this kind of professional services role where you might be able to develop really,

00:42:24,900 --> 00:42:33,660
really relevant skills and experience and expertise that will put you in a really, really strong place in the academic job market.

00:42:33,660 --> 00:42:40,680
And I know that the kinds of things that Heather and Philippa were talking about, their teaching and digital skills,

00:42:40,680 --> 00:42:44,940
their fellowship with the Higher Education Academy or the professional development they've been undertaking,

00:42:44,940 --> 00:43:00,830
is going to put them in a really fantastic place when the kind of academic roles, when they come up.

00:43:00,830 --> 00:43:16,577
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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