Beyond Your Research Degree

Episode 19 - Kelly Preece (Researcher Development Manager and Research and EDI Manager, University of Exeter)

October 25, 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 is interviewed by Dr. Charlotte Kelstead, University of Exeter Doctoral graduate about her career in research and Higher Education.

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



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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 for this episode.

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We're going to be doing things a little bit differently. I'm delighted to be joined by Dr Charlotte Kelstead.

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Charlotte graduated with her Ph.D. in history from the University of Exeter recently and is

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currently working as an event coordinator at the European Centre for Palestine Studies.

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But I'm not going to be talking to Charlotte about her career.

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In fact, we're switching around and instead Charlotte's going to be interviewing me about my career in research and higher education.

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So take it away, Charlotte. OK, fantastic so

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I have lots of questions for you because I feel like you've been part of my experience at Exeter for quite a long time.

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So I remember when I was when I was back doing an undergraduate doing the Exeter The X Factor introductory thing about seven years ago.

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I remember you being there and having a wonderful personality and brightening up,

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brightening up the end of the day when we were all starting to flag a bit. So I'm just really interested to hear all about your career,

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especially because I've just submitted my corrections and I'm now starting to think about careers beyond academia and within academia.

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And I'm just really interested to hear today about how your career has progressed, things that you've learnt along the way.

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Any advice you might have and how it's all come together to be where you are now.

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So perhaps you could start by just giving us a bit of background on your career.

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So how you got to where you are now? Yes, so am I.

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I always say, like my, my career has been incredibly eclectic in every possible way, so I actually started working professionally when I was 14, I.

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So I was a theatre kid in all of its stereotypes.

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And I was a dancer and an actor and a singer.

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And so I was in the the youth company actually at the Northcott Theatre on the University of Exeter campus when I was a teenager.

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And so I was working all through secondary school and then.

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Decided kind of had a decision to make between going to stage school and going to university, I was always quite academic,

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so I thought I'd go down the university route, but I did a degree in dance and theatre, perhaps unsurprisingly.

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And I always say, look, that within about a week of starting my undergraduate degree, I met a Ph.D. student who I just actually,

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I think just passed his viva called Martin Hargreaves, who was one of our what at Exeter would be a PTA,

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I guess, but he was our seminal teacher and one of our modules and.

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He was great, you know, made a really great impression on me, but also he talked to us about his Ph.D. and about his research.

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And I had this kind of moment of of clarity, you know, like clouds parting kind of aha.

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Where I went. Oh, so this this you know, this discipline, this art that I love,

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I can actually combine that with kind of my love of learning and my love of knowledge.

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And I could become a researcher and I could become an academic. And even though I was going to university to do a degree in in that subject,

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it hadn't occurred to me that that was even a job that somebody could have say.

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Right, right.

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From that beginning point in my undergraduate degree, I was like, right, I want to be an academic, wanted do a PhD, want to teach at university.

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That was kind of so I made that decision really early on. And I'm kind of I'm quite a quite stubborn and relentless.

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So, you know, once I make a decision to stick to it. So, you know, I I did my undergraduate degree.

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I did a research master's, and then I got a post at the University of Leeds,

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which was to do my PhD part time and to be a member of academic staff in the department part time.

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They called it a research associate and and.

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And yeah, and that's how I that's how I became an academic, really.

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And so I did that for six years. And during those six years, I.

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Did a myriad of things, I ended up leading undergraduate degree programmes and developing master's programmes and moving institutions,

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but the one thing I didn't do in that period is complete my Ph.D.

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So I. Really struggled. And with.

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Work life balance and mental health and wellbeing, and worked far more than a 1.0 on kind of 0.5 research, 0.5 teaching,

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and made myself very poorly and as a result, decided to withdraw from the PhD and concentrate on on on my teaching and.

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And. That's sort of over time, I kind of I think I naively thought if I kind of let the structure and the time pressures of the PhD go

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it might alleviate a bit. But it didn't because there's a cultural issue in He but  there's also a me issue in this.

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I am a perfectionist. I am an overworker and I'm not very good at work life balance.

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And so I. Ended up in that position again once I moved to the University of Northampton, I did the same thing.

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I was on a four day week lectureship and I was working. Six, if we're being conservative days a week, you know, eight in the morning till eight,

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nine at night, and I did the same thing, I worked myself until I was ill and completely burnt out.

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And it was that second time that I had to take a step back and go, something's not working here.

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I love teaching. I love research. I love working with students.

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Love, love working in HE. But something about this just does not work for me.

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And it brings out qualities in me that make me unwell, you know, those kind of perfectionism and that sort of stuff.

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So I. Oh. Sorry, cats just appeared and she wants to get involved I yeah,

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so I kind of I reached this kind of crisis point and I always say, like, these things aren't just professional.

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These are personal as well as a part of that crisis point was that my my grandmother, who pretty much raised me, passed away unexpectedly.

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And I was, you know, on the other side of the country marking undergraduate essays when I could have been with her.

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And I think the whole thing kind of came to a head and I realised that I was doing the wrong thing.

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And so I started to kind of have an existential crisis of, you know, I said when we started like I wanted to do this since I was 18.

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I've never tried to get any experience and anything else, I'd had a part time job in a bookshop which was wonderful and gave me all sorts of skills,

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but nonetheless, you know, what the hell was I going to go on to?

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And people said, well, why don't you retrain as a secondary school teacher? I didn't want to retrain.

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I'm not a fan of teenagers, certainly not en masse individually.

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They're fine. And so there was all sorts of things and I just sort of signed up for lots of job alerts

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all of that sort of stuff. And up comes this job at the University of Exeter.

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And I knew I wanted to move back to Devon cause it's where I'm from for researcher development.

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Programme manager for PGRs was what it was called at the time to run training and development for PhD students.

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And I thought, well, given my experience as an academic, given my experience as a Ph.D. student, you know, I feel like I've got.

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I've got some credibility here and I've got some some interest in kind of making sure that other people haven't gone,

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don't go through what I went through and that can learn from my mistakes.

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And also, I got lots of teaching experience and all of that sort stuff.

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So I applied. And six years later and.

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Here I am, I'm I'm still here and, you know.

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A wonderful thing of serendipity where it was it was really a kind of shot in the dark, this job for me,

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I wasn't sure if I would like it, and I wasn't really sure if I was cut to be in professional services,

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if I would be sorry, if I would encounter the same problems that I'd had as an academic with work life balance and kind of boundaries and also stuff.

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But actually, it was the step removed that I needed. I still get to do all the things I love.

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I still do teaching. I still do research.

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But it's it's really been a way for me to channel what in some ways was quite a negative experience of being an academic

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into something really positive and to feel like I'm I'm kind of making a contribution to the sector or the system,

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because whilst I recognise that a lot of my issues were were to do with my personality and who I am, also, you know,

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there are cultural issues in the sector to do with overwork and all those sorts of stuff and all those sorts of things.

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And hopefully in the role that I'm in, I can do a little bit to help take that pressure off.

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New students coming in. And how did you find the shift when you moved away from the PhD into the professional services community?

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Was that what you expected or were there aspects of that that you hadn't anticipated?

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And how did you feel how did you feel that that community received you as someone who hadn't finished your PhD for various reasons?

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How did you find that sort of introduction to that new area in terms of the transition?

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I think I was worried about that kind of concept of failure, and I would be perceived as some form of failure.

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And I think inevitably for some people, perhaps some academics, that that is how they will see it.

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Because, you know, academia is is is the goal. And certainly, you know, I guess I felt like that.

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But for the majority of people, that's just not the case.

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And I was worried about my credibility in terms of not having the PhD.

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But again, actually, you know, I remember a conversation with one academic where.

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They found out I didn't have a Ph.D. and they seemed a bit kind of like a little bit taken aback,

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and then they realised that I had spent five years teaching as a lecturer at Russell Group university.

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And all of a sudden that, you know, that was completely, you know,

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it was it became completely irrelevant that I didn't have the PhD because actually I have the experience of being an academic.

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I've been a researcher.

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I may not have the letters before my name, but I have all of the kind of the credentials and the credibility through experience.

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And that's what people value. And I find working with academic colleagues that it's really,

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really valuable to be able to kind of empathise and really understand because I've been there, you know, I know what it's like.

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And also, you know, in terms of professional services.

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I think what I didn't know before I went into professional services is how many people with PhDs are in professional services,

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particularly in research services, in the doctoral college and my.

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I mean, my to my my sort of equivalent at the when I started and my boss, both PhDs, that's still the case.

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You know, I work with colleagues in kind of research funding and grants and also stuff.

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So many with PhDs. I'm currently working on a project with the Climate Emergency Sustainability Team.

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The head of that team also has a PhD, and these are all professional services.

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So actually kind of you know, they're not everybody,

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but so many people in that kind of supporting function of the university have made that transition from academia and or some form of research.

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And so I felt that to be a really welcoming environment because it felt like.

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It felt like the right decision, if you see what I mean, I kind of stepped in and went, oh, this is this is the right thing.

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This feels like my space and my people in a way.

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And that must have been really important after.

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Going through a difficult period during the PhD to then changed career, which must have been incredibly intimidating,

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to then move into that environment and feel welcome and know it's the right place for you.

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That must have been really reassuring. And I think that that experience that you had, although of course, was awful at the time,

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it does mean that you've been able to contribute more than someone who had a happy, easy experience.

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I agree that, you know what support a PhD student needs at different times.

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And I think there's a lot of value in that. I think I think there's a lot of merit in the fact that, you know,

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what students need and I'm interested in the researcher development programme that you've spearheaded at Exeter.

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And was that something that you very quickly, once you switched, made the shift in your career?

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Did you know that that's what you wanted to put together or did that come together slowly after years of seeing the gaps,

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once you were actually on the on the inside of some of the training side of things?

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A combination, really. So I, I mean, I inherited I inherited a programme and it's it's changed quite significantly since I took it over.

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But so there was the kind of there was the basis. So coming in as somebody knew, I had you know, I had a really good starting point.

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And then, you know, I had I had ideas, you know, right at the beginning of things I wanted to do.

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And, you know, we introduced this quickly in terms of wellbeing workshops and various different things,

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all of which have evolved hugely since their introduction.

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But so there were some kind of immediate things and also moving more content online, which, you know, has turned out to work in our favour.

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But so there was some little kind of immediate things. But the rest has really been evolving.

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And it wasn't until about three years ago that we kind of started the academic year and I went,

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yeah, this is a this felt like a completely new programme. This felt like a completely new entity because it had been through sort of so many

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iterations of change and because the experience of being a researcher and like you said,

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I think having a negative experience, like I do believe that makes me uniquely placed to understand what people really need,

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but also kind of being part of the landscape. And, you know, it's an area of practise and of scholarship in and of itself.

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You know, there's a journal of researcher development and, you know.

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It's its own kind of sector and its own research area and educational and career practise,

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and so, you know, you need to be kind of inducted into that to really understand.

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And also, you know. Getting to know the university and getting to know the students, and that's something that I,

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I, I place a lot of importance of on is actually engaging with our academics,

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meaningfully having difficult conversations and also, you know, engaging with our students and talking to them and being part of their community and.

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Again, being open to having.

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Difficult and challenging conversations, because I think sometimes.

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There's. I think sometimes people have a lot of things that they might want to say that's feedback or critique about things that they experience,

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but they don't want to because they don't want to be perceived as annoying or argumentative or that, you know,

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or they think actually the person doing this is really nice and didn't want to upset them or don't want to cause problems.

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And I'm always like, actually, if you don't tell me what the problems are, I can't offer I can't find the solutions.

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And I'm always kind of like, tell me what's not working on the programme.

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I don't take it personally. I need I need to know.

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Because if I don't if you don't tell me what's wrong, then I'll assume everything's perfect.

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I mean, I won't because that's not who I am. But I'll assume everything's fine and I'll continue as I am.

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And actually that that doesn't achieve anything for any of us.

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So so I think there's a kind of. An openness that's been really important to kind of hearing what hasn't worked for

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people in the past and what still doesn't work for people and and how we might.

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Bring about more change. So I see it is a constantly evolving entity and also I can't I'm you know, we've interacted in various ways.

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You will know I'm not very good at sitting still or letting things sit as they are.

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Just because something works doesn't mean it can't be made better. And so, yeah, I'm never the kind of person that's going to go, oh, that's done.

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Now I'm going to I'm going to sit back and relax. I'm always going to find.

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Find things that need addressing and improving, you are a true perfectionist, I think.

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Yeah, I'm just screaming perfectionist to me. But actually I remember coming along to one of the sessions,

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I think it was in that year that you're talking about where the programme started to feel quite different.

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I think it was twenty twenty eighteen or. Yeah, yeah.

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And you ran a session on perfection, perfectionism.

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And for me it was really useful because I was briefly I was at that point writing my literature review and I was finding that there was,

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as you know, from your PhD, there's so much literature out there and you think, gosh,

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I've got to have everything in my literature review and those perfectionist tendencies come out and you think you've got to write everything,

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but you just need to use the most relevant things to situate your work.

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And I remember finding that such a useful session and I think so many people did.

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But it's also for you. You were so friendly at that session.

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But then it's difficult for you, I assume, to separate what you're doing and getting feedback on your sessions and from you

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as a person because you have put so much effort into creating the programme.

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So do you find that difficult taking on, although you're super encouraging about receiving feedback, do you find that difficult?

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Have you had to become more resilient as more students do the programme and might provide feedback which might be constructive,

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but nevertheless still might be suggesting you change the way you do things?

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Yeah, it's hard. It's really hard. And I have had to.

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Develop a thicker skin, I mean, in some cases, we you know, in some ways we are used to that as an academic, you have to do that.

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You know, I remember getting my first peer review back and which was not the most fun I've ever had and and various different things,

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you know, where we're used to being challenged and critiqued in that way.

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I think very similarly to with, you know, your research, you know, it's something that you're passionate about and you put your heart and soul into.

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So when. When there is criticism or when something's not working, it's it's hard to hear, but I.

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I do try and I try as much as I can separate things out.

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I always try to distance myself from any feedback I get first and go, okay, just take a step back and actually just always see it as right.

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How how can I use this? What can I do with that? So that it doesn't just sit as an email that somebody has sent me a comment that

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somebody makes to me at the end of the actual day actually becomes something,

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something changes as a result of it. And then that that feels like an in an empowering way to kind of deal with it.

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And also, you know,

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apart from the odd case where people are in circumstances where they're particularly stressed or frustrated or overwhelmed or any of the above,

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where they might not articulate feedback in the kindest of ways, you know, that that's the exception rather than the rule most of the time,

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particularly because I approach it on a kind of like I want to know what's wrong.

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People are honest, but they're fair. And and they don't kind of it doesn't come from a place of attack.

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It really comes from a place of wanting to enter into a dialogue and to and to make things better as well.

00:21:46,850 --> 00:21:51,620
And so that feels like a completely different conversation to have with somebody, because, you know,

00:21:51,620 --> 00:21:59,600
I always get when people send feedback I get emails going, this is not about you or I know it's not your fault or something like that.

00:21:59,600 --> 00:22:08,000
And actually, I don't need that because that's not necessary, because the tone and the way that they communicate, it's it's very supportive.

00:22:08,000 --> 00:22:15,230
And I think, you know, that's the PGR community is incredibly vocal in so many ways, which is brilliant.

00:22:15,230 --> 00:22:21,800
But actually, like in terms of, you know, being kind of embedded within it is so supportive.

00:22:21,800 --> 00:22:27,380
So if there was someone listening to this conversation and they were feeling inspired by the way,

00:22:27,380 --> 00:22:36,570
you're talking about how we can change the support that is available for academics and PhD students,

00:22:36,570 --> 00:22:45,560
do you have advice on that shift from academia, as in being a PhD student into professional services?

00:22:45,560 --> 00:22:54,440
Do you feel that you learnt, although it sounds like you had a relatively smooth transition into that aspect of your career,

00:22:54,440 --> 00:23:02,930
do you have advice on what you might have done differently or how or perhaps even as well how someone can go about looking into these opportunities?

00:23:02,930 --> 00:23:11,390
Because I think that speaking as a PhD student at the moment, it can be difficult to know what's out there in the world of professional services.

00:23:11,390 --> 00:23:15,530
We tend to take it for granted. We get emails and we think that's a fact that looks like a really useful event.

00:23:15,530 --> 00:23:20,390
I'll sign onto to that. But we don't know who's working behind the scenes and who does what.

00:23:20,390 --> 00:23:24,980
So do you have advice on how you navigated that shift, what you might have done differently,

00:23:24,980 --> 00:23:32,660
but also how we can as PhD students, how we can access those jobs or start to learn about what's out there?

00:23:32,660 --> 00:23:40,310
Yeah, I think one of the reasons why the shift was quite easy for me is that so in Exeter my role is professional services in other institutions,

00:23:40,310 --> 00:23:48,710
they sometimes call my role academic related, so much like the academic development team who run LTHE and all that sort of stuff.

00:23:48,710 --> 00:23:54,890
You know, we are roles are not purely professional services that they're very hybrid.

00:23:54,890 --> 00:24:03,110
And that's why what attracted me to it, because it allowed me to continue teaching and engaging with research and scholarship,

00:24:03,110 --> 00:24:10,500
but in a slightly different kind of environment and context. So I think that's one of the reasons why.

00:24:10,500 --> 00:24:22,580
It was a slightly easier. Transition for me, because it felt more familiar, I guess, to what I was already doing in terms of.

00:24:22,580 --> 00:24:34,310
What I might have done differently. I think probably ties into the next thing, actually, which is about kind of how you find out about opportunities.

00:24:34,310 --> 00:24:39,480
So, I mean, I just signed up for every I knew I wanted to move back to Devon.

00:24:39,480 --> 00:24:44,460
I wasn't really sure what I was kind of qualified to do anything but work in higher education.

00:24:44,460 --> 00:24:52,600
So I just signed up to. All the job alerts I could for, anything relating to higher education,

00:24:52,600 --> 00:24:58,150
and I was getting literally everything I was getting like like rugby coach adverts to

00:24:58,150 --> 00:25:05,900
the university and also I wasn't filtering because I was aware that I knew so little.

00:25:05,900 --> 00:25:12,720
And. So part of it is a huge part of it is awareness raising, and I wish I'd done this earlier.

00:25:12,720 --> 00:25:23,050
I wish I'd engaged with. Professional services earlier, and part of that is just kind of opening your eyes to the work that's going on around you.

00:25:23,050 --> 00:25:31,900
So, you know, if you're on a funded research grant or a DTP, there will be people supporting you.

00:25:31,900 --> 00:25:37,240
There'll be some you know, if you're on a doctoral training partnership, there will be someone running the doctoral training partnership.

00:25:37,240 --> 00:25:44,890
Quite possibly. That person has a Ph.D. And you know, if you're applying for grants as a postdoc,

00:25:44,890 --> 00:25:48,370
there will be someone supporting you in research services that will be called.

00:25:48,370 --> 00:25:52,570
They will be called a research development manager, not researcher development manager.

00:25:52,570 --> 00:25:59,170
It's cause of much confusion. But.

00:25:59,170 --> 00:26:03,820
You know, quite a lot of my colleagues, who do that role have PhDs,

00:26:03,820 --> 00:26:16,620
it's a very different role because it's much more advisory and it's much more project management and focussed, but actually.

00:26:16,620 --> 00:26:28,020
You'd be surprised how applicable everything you learn as a Ph.D. student is, and even though it may feel like chalk and cheese,

00:26:28,020 --> 00:26:33,240
actually more often than not it's the same thing, but in a different language.

00:26:33,240 --> 00:26:39,240
And I talk about this. So my partner is an academic and we talk about this a lot and he gets frustrated

00:26:39,240 --> 00:26:43,890
when I talk about things like and when I talk about in management speak and,

00:26:43,890 --> 00:26:48,570
you know, stakeholder analysis and like and market driven.

00:26:48,570 --> 00:26:53,190
And I'm just trying to think of all the other kind of buzzwords and.

00:26:53,190 --> 00:26:57,930
And I always say, but, you know, I talk about stakeholder mapping and stakeholder management,

00:26:57,930 --> 00:27:03,690
all I mean is talking to and engaging with students and academics and all the

00:27:03,690 --> 00:27:08,650
people that are relevant to the delivery of the researcher development programme.

00:27:08,650 --> 00:27:17,230
It's not anything different. It's just. The different language, I have another question for you, which is a difficult question,

00:27:17,230 --> 00:27:23,980
but you run your various sessions on perfectionism or resilience, et cetera,

00:27:23,980 --> 00:27:29,360
and I was wondering to what extent you feel that you take the advice, the advice that you give,

00:27:29,360 --> 00:27:37,170
do you take on board yourself or do you just things like that only really resonate with you when you hear them from someone else?

00:27:37,170 --> 00:27:45,480
Oh, that's a really good question, because one of the also one of the things that's been really important to me as a

00:27:45,480 --> 00:27:52,440
teacher has been what what is referred to in the literature as authentic teaching.

00:27:52,440 --> 00:27:59,430
So it's about bringing yourself into the classroom. And it's not about kind of, you know, exposing your deepest, darkest secrets.

00:27:59,430 --> 00:28:08,490
It's about being open and honest, sharing your experience of what you're talking about, sharing your failures or those sorts of things.

00:28:08,490 --> 00:28:14,400
And so, you know, particularly where I haven't been very good at things like perfectionism, work, life balance.

00:28:14,400 --> 00:28:20,100
I try and bring that in sessions because I feel it humanises, you know what I'm saying?

00:28:20,100 --> 00:28:27,690
It grounds it in real world experience. But also, you know.

00:28:27,690 --> 00:28:36,230
Being honest about the fact that I know so I know all of the kind of things that I taught people about literature review,

00:28:36,230 --> 00:28:37,500
so I talk about literature reviews,

00:28:37,500 --> 00:28:48,000
I talk about working habits, I talk about not checking email about, you know, dedicating time, kind of environment and all those sorts of things.

00:28:48,000 --> 00:28:54,360
I know that they're true nine times out of ten. I don't necessarily do them, even though I know that they're true.

00:28:54,360 --> 00:29:00,870
I do sometimes do them. But it's you know, I don't always take my own advice.

00:29:00,870 --> 00:29:08,910
And but that's a learning process. And I think being honest about that and saying, you know, I know the way that I'm supposed to do things.

00:29:08,910 --> 00:29:13,680
I know that I'm supposed to take regular breaks and I'm supposed to get away from my desk at lunch.

00:29:13,680 --> 00:29:17,250
But, you know, I don't always do it. That's part of that process.

00:29:17,250 --> 00:29:21,570
As part of that being open and humanising, it is saying, look, nobody's perfect.

00:29:21,570 --> 00:29:28,590
Just because I've told you you need like research shows you need to take a break every five every 25 minutes for five minutes.

00:29:28,590 --> 00:29:33,330
Doesn't mean when you leave this room or leave this team's call or whatever.

00:29:33,330 --> 00:29:40,170
that I expect that you're going to do that from now on or that you should expect that of yourself.

00:29:40,170 --> 00:29:46,440
Yeah, absolutely. I know that when I have been to training sessions and the person delivering the training,

00:29:46,440 --> 00:29:51,600
you might get the impression that they do all these things perfectly and it sort of creates a bit of a divide between you and them.

00:29:51,600 --> 00:29:54,660
And you just think, well, I'm not like you, so I can't achieve any of this.

00:29:54,660 --> 00:30:00,390
Whereas when they say, actually, I'm not so good at this either, you think, OK, OK, that's that's that's normal.

00:30:00,390 --> 00:30:05,220
That's human. Maybe I can try and make a few of these changes that you're suggesting.

00:30:05,220 --> 00:30:08,940
I think it's really important. I really am really passionate about it.

00:30:08,940 --> 00:30:13,380
And it's it's also one of the reasons that one of the developments in the past couple of years,

00:30:13,380 --> 00:30:18,990
we've got postgraduate teaching assistants delivering on the researcher development programme.

00:30:18,990 --> 00:30:23,460
So some of those sessions like literature reviews and various different things they can deliver.

00:30:23,460 --> 00:30:30,810
And I think that that's really important as well, because it has it has a currency and they can share their experiences in a way that

00:30:30,810 --> 00:30:36,420
really makes it it makes it really real and really tangible for the people attending.

00:30:36,420 --> 00:30:38,800
And that's really important to me.

00:30:38,800 --> 00:30:45,310
We learn so much more when it's someone who can who we can relate to, and there's something quite fundamental about that.

00:30:45,310 --> 00:30:49,630
And with all these types of training, which again comes back to your position,

00:30:49,630 --> 00:30:54,850
in your experience of your Ph.D. and why you are creating such wonderful things because of your

00:30:54,850 --> 00:31:01,520
experiences and how things that might during your PhD might have felt that it was the end of the world.

00:31:01,520 --> 00:31:07,750
And now looking back, you're able to take that long view and see that actually you've contributed a lot to

00:31:07,750 --> 00:31:12,580
so many different individuals experiences of their Ph.D. because of your experiences.

00:31:12,580 --> 00:31:18,790
Thank you for that. I really appreciate that. And I think that's where that kind of having conversations with people is really important.

00:31:18,790 --> 00:31:27,070
You know, if you're if you're not certain about an academic career and whether it's for you actually, you know,

00:31:27,070 --> 00:31:37,570
talking to your supervisors or if that doesn't feel like it's the right thing reaching out to other people in your department and people like me,

00:31:37,570 --> 00:31:42,850
other people in professional services to just have those conversations with.

00:31:42,850 --> 00:31:52,090
That's something that I really wish that I'd done because I think I probably would have got to where to where I am kind of in my career,

00:31:52,090 --> 00:31:54,190
but also kind of in my life.

00:31:54,190 --> 00:32:04,390
much more quickly and I, I think because I just would have been aware of this kind of whole of the world and way of doing.

00:32:04,390 --> 00:32:05,470
Yeah, absolutely.

00:32:05,470 --> 00:32:13,570
I think it's also worth remembering that of the people, people who reach out to you to say thank you for that session, that was really helpful.

00:32:13,570 --> 00:32:18,340
They'll be twice as many people who found it just as helpful but haven't emailed

00:32:18,340 --> 00:32:24,250
And that's something like forgive me, for example, I've never reached out to you to say that I've appreciated everything you've done.

00:32:24,250 --> 00:32:33,730
But you've been sort of part of my experience as a PhD student, as a PGR from master's onwards all the way through my Exeter experience.

00:32:33,730 --> 00:32:37,060
But I haven't ever reached out to and admittedly I now know it is.

00:32:37,060 --> 00:32:40,280
I should have done and I haven't reached out to you to say thank you.

00:32:40,280 --> 00:32:48,850
So I think things like Twitter, something like Twitter is is a good way, because I saw you spoke about this and I thought, oh, interesting.

00:32:48,850 --> 00:32:53,620
I'd love to know a bit more about your career. So Twitter does have its lot of criticism.

00:32:53,620 --> 00:32:57,010
It does have a benefit. It does have its benefits.

00:32:57,010 --> 00:33:07,940
You know, you can't you can't expect people to kind of constantly tell you how good and how wonderful you are and because it's just not realistic and.

00:33:07,940 --> 00:33:13,880
Not always true, but also it's just it's the wrong thing to kind of be motivated by, I think.

00:33:13,880 --> 00:33:21,560
But then but then sometimes when so when it does come, it like makes it all the more meaningful.

00:33:21,560 --> 00:33:29,090
So I'm I'm actually tonight is the Guild teaching awards and one of our PGRs nominated me for outstanding research support.

00:33:29,090 --> 00:33:35,750
And I've had a good little cry about that already and I will have a good little cry about it again later, I'm sure,

00:33:35,750 --> 00:33:44,330
just because it just completely moved and that someone would take the time and the and the energy to do that.

00:33:44,330 --> 00:33:50,960
And it's really meaningful. So I think it's about not expecting it and knowing, like you say,

00:33:50,960 --> 00:33:56,720
that quite a lot of the time you're having an impact and people are just going on with that because you're having an impact.

00:33:56,720 --> 00:34:00,200
People are able to just go on with their lives and you don't necessarily hear it.

00:34:00,200 --> 00:34:05,270
And that's good. That's fine. I'm you know, I'm I'm quite happy with that.

00:34:05,270 --> 00:34:12,080
But there is little there's little nuggets and there's little moments they can be really, really meaningful.

00:34:12,080 --> 00:34:18,950
And like you like you were saying about motivation, that's kind of that really pushes me forward,

00:34:18,950 --> 00:34:28,250
particularly when things are tough like they've been for the past year and where, you know, university systems feel like they're against us.

00:34:28,250 --> 00:34:36,380
And I'm kind of. You know, almost shouting in meetings, PGRs exist, you know,

00:34:36,380 --> 00:34:41,960
which everyone's at the university is going to be completely fed up with after six years of me doing it.

00:34:41,960 --> 00:34:51,950
But you know, it. It makes it. It's perhaps not it makes it worthwhile, it's a reminder of why.

00:34:51,950 --> 00:35:02,360
Yeah, yeah, and where do you where do you see yourself going or or, you know, someone who thinks too far ahead, if you if you had to,

00:35:02,360 --> 00:35:09,440
you'd like to be in a few years time or where you'd like the programmes that you're delivering to be, if not you personally.

00:35:09,440 --> 00:35:16,240
Have you had thoughts about that. Yeah. Yeah, I, I'm quite a kind of.

00:35:16,240 --> 00:35:22,810
I am unashamedly ambitious, I think that's probably the way that I would put it and other people as well.

00:35:22,810 --> 00:35:26,530
I've never been fond of and I've always have been since I was little.

00:35:26,530 --> 00:35:35,820
And, you know, I I come from a really working class background, but with parents and with the extended family who were really kind of like.

00:35:35,820 --> 00:35:44,520
If you want to do it, do it. And so I've never kind of, you know, I've been really lucky to have been brought up with that kind of attitude where I,

00:35:44,520 --> 00:35:48,990
I, I have that kind of that sense of self belief.

00:35:48,990 --> 00:35:53,310
It's not always self esteem or kind of, but it's there's that that kind of fuel.

00:35:53,310 --> 00:36:06,120
And so, you know, I, I would like to in the future, move on to kind of a senior leadership role in the university in higher education,

00:36:06,120 --> 00:36:12,990
where I can be kind of operating at a higher level and a more strategic level to kind of create more top down change.

00:36:12,990 --> 00:36:20,080
So I guess it's about having a wider impact. You know, when I taught undergraduates, we had.

00:36:20,080 --> 00:36:26,630
You know, maybe 50 students in a year group, we were smaller groups and sometimes quite smaller than that.

00:36:26,630 --> 00:36:33,170
And so, you know, at any one time, I could be teaching sort of 200 students and it was great and you having quite a wide range of impact,

00:36:33,170 --> 00:36:36,110
you know, now with two to two and a half thousand PGRs

00:36:36,110 --> 00:36:44,060
Again, the level of impact on the student experience is kind of upped its game from moving to be an academic into this.

00:36:44,060 --> 00:36:54,410
Right. Be nice to kind of in the future, make another jump that allows me to to create change and have impact on an even wider range of students.

00:36:54,410 --> 00:36:58,650
Yeah, I am. I've enjoyed hearing a lot about your career.

00:36:58,650 --> 00:37:05,240
It's inspiring to hear about the way that you've you've sort of always known potentially where you're going.

00:37:05,240 --> 00:37:10,940
If you haven't maybe if you haven't even realised it yourself. It sounds like you, even when you were young and you were going off to university,

00:37:10,940 --> 00:37:17,840
had these different ideas and your experiences have really shaped where you've gone and you've gone you've sort of gone with the flow.

00:37:17,840 --> 00:37:25,790
And that's meant that you've had what sounds like quite a satisfying career because you've done what you know, you can contribute well to.

00:37:25,790 --> 00:37:32,630
And I think quite often we don't tend to listen to that and we get worried about moving beyond such and boundaries.

00:37:32,630 --> 00:37:40,700
And I think your career is a testament to the fact that if you if you take that, if you make the leap, it does usually pay off.

00:37:40,700 --> 00:37:45,800
And I think as well, like trusting your gut is really important to me.

00:37:45,800 --> 00:37:50,090
And actually, you know, I work very closely with my colleague Kate Foster's career coach.

00:37:50,090 --> 00:37:55,670
And we talk about this quite often. And we've talked about my career as kind of an example of things.

00:37:55,670 --> 00:38:04,220
And we talk about it is something it's called planned happenstance. So it's those kind of accidents that happen like me, like me getting this job.

00:38:04,220 --> 00:38:10,820
It was all kind of by chance. And the timing was right and and and various different things.

00:38:10,820 --> 00:38:14,150
It wasn't like this was where I was planning for my career to go.

00:38:14,150 --> 00:38:23,870
But actually it ended up being the right move in the right decision, because I kind of trusted my I trusted my intuition and I trusted my gut.

00:38:23,870 --> 00:38:26,830
And and I knew.

00:38:26,830 --> 00:38:36,420
You know, I reflected and thought about at this point about what worked for me and what I wanted out of a job and, you know, it took me.

00:38:36,420 --> 00:38:41,040
Six years of being an academic to realise it was the wrong thing. Hmm.

00:38:41,040 --> 00:38:43,920
So anyone listening to this and thinking that maybe they'd be interested in a

00:38:43,920 --> 00:38:49,110
career in professional services is to contact you as a matter of priority,

00:38:49,110 --> 00:38:53,930
to have a discussion. They welcome to. They are welcome to come.

00:38:53,930 --> 00:38:57,990
And, you know, I've had those conversations with lots of people over the years,

00:38:57,990 --> 00:39:05,330
and it's a nice thing to be able to do because, again, it's that sense of it's something that I didn't know.

00:39:05,330 --> 00:39:08,870
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And, well, thank you very much.

00:39:08,870 --> 00:39:12,950
Thank you for letting me had the pleasure, the privilege of interviewing you.

00:39:12,950 --> 00:39:15,680
And I know that you don't want to you don't want it to be all about you.

00:39:15,680 --> 00:39:21,230
But I would also like to say, on behalf of the PGR community, a big thank you for all the work that you have done.

00:39:21,230 --> 00:39:25,370
And best of luck for the enjoy the awards tonight.

00:39:25,370 --> 00:39:29,870
I will. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you.

00:39:29,870 --> 00:39:37,070
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. Since the podcast was recorded, we obviously had the teaching awards.

00:39:37,070 --> 00:39:41,510
I did not win an award, but I'm still incredibly,

00:39:41,510 --> 00:39:51,660
incredibly touched and moved to have been nominated and to have been shortlisted amongst my academic peers is fantastic.

00:39:51,660 --> 00:39:56,900
And another update career wise for me since then is that I am about to go part time in researcher

00:39:56,900 --> 00:40:01,730
development so that I can go on secondment for a year as a research and EDI manager.

00:40:01,730 --> 00:40:07,940
So I'm going to be working at the University of Exeter to set up a working group and develop an action plan for making,

00:40:07,940 --> 00:40:13,430
ah, research processes and structures more inclusive.

00:40:13,430 --> 00:40:23,910
So, you know, it's the next stage I've gone from two and a half thousand PGRs to 6000 plus researchers that I'm looking after.

00:40:23,910 --> 00:40:29,540
So it's a really exciting move for me. And that's it for this episode.

00:40:29,540 --> 00:40:44,016
Join us next time when we'll be talking to another researcher about their career beyond their research degree.


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