Beyond Your Research Degree

Episode 12 - Timur Jack-Kadıoğlu, Technical Officer - Conservation, Livelihoods & Governance at Fauna & Flora International

February 15, 2021

Welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast from the University of Exeter Doctoral College! The podcast about non-academic careers and all the opportunities available to you... beyond your research degree!  In this episode Kelly Preece, Researcher Development Manager talks to Timur Jack-Kadıoğlu, who secured a job as Technical Officer - Conservation, Livelihoods & Governance at Fauna & Flora International during COVID-19. Timur had started his role at Fauna & Flora International whilst finishing writing up his PhD.


Music from ’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 welcome to the latest episode of the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast.

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Now, we know that there's a lot of anxiety at the moment about what it means to secure

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a job and specifically a non-academic job during the COVID 19 pandemic.

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Everything has been turned upside down. The experiences we get, how we do our research and how we apply for jobs.

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So to answer that, we are talking to some of our researchers who have got new jobs during the

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COVID 19 pandemic and talk to them about how they found those roles.

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The process of applying and in some cases, what it's like to start a new job during a global pandemic.

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So without further ado, here's the first in our series of podcasts on Moving Beyond Your Research Degree and a global pandemic.

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Timur are you happy to introduce yourself? I sure am.

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My name's Timur Jack-Kadioglu I started my PhD with University of Exeter would have been February 2018

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I'm based with the European Centre for Environment and Human Health.

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Down in Cornwall.

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My PhD is working on a project called Blue Communities and it's a interdisciplinary programme that involves various departments.

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at Exeter While also working with other academic institutions in the UK,

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some NGOs and also academic partners in Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam.

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I guess so I would identify as a Marine. Social scientists.

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My work is about the marine environment. But focussing on the social science aspects.

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And for my PhD. I spent time in the Philippines on the island of Palawan.

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My research was kind of looking at the relationships between livelihoods and governance.

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And especially looking at power relations and power dynamics and looking at trade offs and equity.

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Who the winners and losers are, so to speak, in terms of coastal development and conservation processes.

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Wow. Yeah. So what we're going to talk about today is actually securing a non-academic job,

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but particularly securing a non-academic job during the time of COVID 19.

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And the additional challenges that bring say. Could you tell us a little bit about the job you're going on to?

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Sure. So I started a job in November of twenty twenty.

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So I originally I still have have time in my PhD and I'm still writing up my PhD,

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but my new employer's allowed me to originally start part time for November and December.

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So I still had two days a week working on the PhD

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And I joined the Conservation, Livelihood's and Governance team of the UK based NGO, Fauna and Flora International.

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So they work with they have various regional teams in around the world.

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But their main model is working with small local partner organisations.

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And yeah,

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my my role with them is providing technical inputs on livelihoods and governance related aspects of conservation and natural resource management.

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And as I said, my my PhD is very much on that on that topic.

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And I happen to see the job ad posted on LinkedIn.

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I think it was in September. Yes.

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September time. And it is one of those things where ideally, if this job came up six months later, that would have been perfect.

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But it was almost it was too good an opportunity to miss, given the relevance to the relevance to what I did in my PhD

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So actually, the application process is quite I got invited to an interview when I was on the way up to Scotland for a camping trip.

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And they offered the interview on a day when I was supposed to be in the back end of nowhere.

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So there was some last minute rearranging of plans to be able to accommodate it.

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But, yeah, I'm really glad I did end up doing that because I ended up getting the job.

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I think I was interested to hear you say that you found the job on linked in.

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So was it an advert that the company had posted.

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Were you following the company because you were interested in? Like, how. How did you get to see it?

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Basically, yes. As I said, it's an organisation I've really quite admired for it for a while.

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So I was following them on LinkedIn. And I saw that the job, that they posted the job on there and.

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It. Yeah, it was kind of advertised. I mean, I almost scrolled right past it.

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I mean, it just it's kind of just it was the livelihood's in governance,

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but it kind of caught my eyes when I looked at it and I kind of ummed and ahhed about whether or not to apply for it.

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And like I said, the timing could have been a bit better as I'm still in I am still in the process of writing up my PhD

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But I think what really. Yeah.

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I think that what really went through my mind was needing to be just needing to be pragmatic with the difficult times that we're in.

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And especially on the I was coming towards the end of my PhD,

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this was starting to get a little bit concerned about the economic fallout of of the of the pandemic.

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And this this is a permanent contract. So.

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Well, I would probably let's be honest, I probably would have applied for anyway if it if it wasn't for the pandemic.

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But that just really. Yeah.

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It just really gave that that just happened, realising that I really needed to be pragmatic and make the most of what opportunities are available.

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Yeah. And I think that, you know, there's simple things of actually following organisations that you admire and that you have connections to.

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And it's a really simple thing that can actually kind of bring those opportunities into your awareness when,

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like you say, you might not be thinking about it. Timing wise, but actually the the role and the organisation is it's just the right fit.

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Did you have any conversation with them in advance of applying for the role?

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About the fact that you were still finishing up the PhD

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Yes. So we spoke a little bit about it in the interview, and then afterwards,

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basically I went when they identified me, as the candidate they wanted to go for.

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They got in touch. And just before offering it to me, they just wanted to speak a little bit more about.

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About starting the role while finishing my PhD So I'd kind of thought in advance of the interview and what sort of options?

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Because I knew that I just didn't want to start full time immediately.

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And so I had kind of loosely said about options like starting part time or delaying the start until the beginning of twenty, twenty one.

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And then when we had the call, when they wanted to offer me the job.

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Yeah. They, they were they were quite willing to be somewhat adaptable.

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But while also they basically is the first time they've been able to secure

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funding to hire a new person in that team for like seven or eight years.

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They were very keen to have someone start as soon as possible. But I was really glad that they were understanding of it.

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And some of the team, some of my team members have PhDs themselves.

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So they were really understanding of just what PhD means in terms of obviously from the career progression perspective,

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but also from a personal aspect. Personal perspective is a very personal experience.

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So, yeah, they were really understanding of that. And like since starting as well,

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they've been encouraging and showed an interest in it and are keen to see that as I complete my PhD and hopefully start publishing kind of seeing.

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Yeah. I encourage me to present it to people in the organisation as well as amongst some of their networks more broadly.

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That's brilliant. And it's it's fantastic that the organisation is so supportive of that.

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So I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the application process, actually.

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So you see the job on Linkedin. You almost, scroll past it, but then you don't.

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You decide to give it a closer look. What what did the application process involve exactly?

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So aside from my initial umming and ahhing about whether I should apply for it or not, once I did decide, yep, why am I even.

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Why am I even debating? Let me apply for it. The actual application process.

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So it's quite a typical one, sharing CV and a cover letter.

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And then once I think it was just those two then once

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I mean, they got in touch in advance of the interview.

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And to say that there would be an assignment that could be done, there would be done immediately after the interview.

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But they kind of kept the details of that. Yeah.

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They didn't really say anything about what it would be, just that it would take an hour.

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So I had to interview with three people. I thought I really appreciated what they what they did with the with having the video

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So the interview over a video call. They each were three interviewers.

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And when one person was speaking, the other two would turn off their cameras. And I thought that was a really, really quite a nice way at that time.

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And it really helped me to to relax with it can be quite intimidating if you've got three random people you know very well.

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I suppose that does happen when you're having a face to face one. But a video as is, I will at least find it that much more difficult.

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So I really appreciated that because it did feel more like you were just having a conversation with one person.

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Yeah. And afterwards, they then sent the assignment. So I had was given a set of data and also do various types of analysis in an hour.

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So quite technical. Yeah, fairly technical and definitely pushed me as a more of a qualitative social scientist.

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And it was quite quantitative. Clearly did enough of a did a decent enough of a job to convince them to offer me the rile

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Absolutely. Did you feel that there were things within the process or thinking about applying for a job with the

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things that you concerned about that you felt were made that were more difficult due to COVID?

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And how did you kind of counteract that? Yeah, I think definitely the the thing that was the main I guess my main concern,

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and I made sure as you both me and my new employers we had an open discussion about it and it was about where to be based and expectations around moving.

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So FFIs offices are in in Cambridge.

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And for a long time they've really had a very strong policy about having people based there that they have this they share a building

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with conservation students from Cambridge and a whole load of other environmental engineers is is a real strong point of working there.

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So I was a little bit concerned that they would still really strongly want me to move during the pandemic.

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But then they yeah, they made clear they basically they they asked if I would if I were to completely rule out ever moving to Cambridge.

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And they they wouldn't offer me the role as long as there was some sort of a

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willingness with everything's just still in such a constant state of flux.

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Not to completely rule it out, but then they also emphasised that there was no expectation of moving then it

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was kind of in the short term but of course now with additional lockdowns as well.

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That's very much in the medium term. So that was a big concern of mine because, yeah, it's difficult enough to move.

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Well, I have spent. I have lived in quite a few different countries and different places, I guess moving for me is something that is quite normal.

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But even despite how normal I find it, I was very reluctant to move in the middle of a pandemic, like even knowing people there in Cambridge already.

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Just just the thought of moving somewhere and trying to start putting down some roots and finding out what you like about the place.

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I just can't really imagine doing that during the pandemic. And also just the kind of safety and space that you have,

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the safety and comfort that you haven't been a living in a space both in terms of the flat, I mean, but also living in Truro just

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Yeah, that that was a big concern of mine. And so I was really glad that they were just very understanding in terms of like starting a job in COVID

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It is quite yeah. It's been quite challenging at times, kind of not having the I guess what I would call the water cooler,

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informal conversations that you have with with people in the office and especially when you're starting out.

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But I think I was quite fortunate that I had some relationship to the organisation already.

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I worked for a small like a local partner of theirs in Tanzania before starting my career.

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Yeah, I feel really fortunate to have had that existing connection.

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How are you finding doing the writing of the PhD alongside working.

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How's that working for you. Oh, the million dollar question. Yes I know.

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Honestly I've actually found it is actually had I.

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Don't get me wrong, it is quite full on but it's actually had a very positive effect.

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2020 was it was a pretty tough year for me.

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Basically when the pandemic was declared, I was still in the Philippines after pretty intense long term fieldwork.

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And then no, I was essentially extracted as the pandemic was declared and lockdown's are being put down.

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I got back immediate. I came back to the UK and was basically straight into lockdown.

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So it was a pretty tough experience then processing.

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But like analytically processing my data, but emotionally and the whole experience and actually I,

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I feel like after getting the job, it it kind of took a it took quite a lot of weight off.

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Yeah. It felt like a weight was lifted and that but my whole relationship with my PhD changed quite a bit.

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It was no longer so kind of like tied up it and.

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Yeah, like it just started to get a bit of perspective on on on the PhD

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And being able to kind of separate it out for myself a bit. And I think also having that urgency in that pressure that still felt somewhat manageable.

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I think it helps with being less of a perfectionist and trying to really get everything perfect.

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As I remember, seeing a quote like a PhD is never done is just simply handed in at the least damaging time.

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And I feel like starting the job. Yeah. It really helped to that.

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And I think in terms of productivity. Yeah, I'm just chipping away at it when I can.

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Most mornings, not all mornings, and I'm trying to just be flexible and mostly just kind myself.

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If I have energy and I feel up for it, then I'll try and do like an hour or so reading in the morning.

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As if writing and in the mornings during the work week, occasionally working on weekends or the past few weeks since this new lockdown.

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I've been trying not to do that. So, yeah, it's I think for me it.

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November and December, when I still had those two days a week on the PhD,

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there were some of the most productive times I have felt like I kind of had the breakthrough in and theoretic,

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like drawing together my my data and theoretical frameworks.

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And yeah, I find it really fascinating, like beyond just the whole, like,

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productivity aspect of the PhD and getting closer to finishing my PhD

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I find it really interesting from a psychological perspective of time and pressure and expectation and everything.

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Because how did that kind of compare in terms of when you were when you're working on writing up the PhD

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And you weren't working as well, did you? Did you find, like you said, you make a lot breakthroughs, but did you find it easier to kind of, I guess,

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structure your time or motivate yourself once you got the once you've got the job

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than you did when you were just trying to kind of write it during the pandemic?

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I think I think it kind of it would vary quite a bit, depending on like basically the stage of of the pandemic and definitely there were some periods,

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especially when I had first come back, I get there was some periods of like being really, really unproductive.

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But generally I tried as much as possible to keep Monday to Friday, nine to five,

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or sometimes ten to four and I will have was mostly able to keep that up while still full time month on the PhD.

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But but yeah, I think it just. I can't really put my finger on it, it was almost like a switch was kind of flicked in terms of just.

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Yeah, just in terms of realising that, OK, I have this amount of time, I have this many work days, two days, work days a week for the next two months.

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So two days on the PhD or the next two months, I really need to just get words on paper.

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Felt like the edge. Getting words on paper became a lot easier.

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But then a big part of that is also to do with a breakthrough that had around that time.

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And that was kind of more to do with reading a new paper that just really clicked.

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So I think is very a combination of having that moment of data just coming together.

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But then also having that limited, limited amount of time, a limited amount of days.

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Yeah, I experienced something similar when I did my Masters by research that actually the kind of the condensed amount of time actually helped me,

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helped me focus and helped me. Keep motivated.

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Also gave me kind of head space in between when I was doing other things to kind of, you know, little cogs to turn and things to click into me.

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Guess is something that I also remember from when I did my Masters as well.

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My partner and I, we both had part time jobs while we're doing the Masters.

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And remember the whole thesis process when we spoke about this,

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we were on the same master's programme when we spoke about our experience of writing a thesis with friends who had just only had it to focus on.

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I think I was actually ended up quite a lot. Wasn't easy.

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Thesis is never easy, but it always ended up a little a little bit easier because we kind of did have that.

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A few days a week when working in retail.

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And it was something you would really focus on and be quite present in that and be able to kind of just drop away,

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at least consciously, not be thinking about about the thesis and then being able to compartmentalise your time, be like, okay.

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Now I have this. Now I've got my work shift in the morning. I've then got this afternoon where I need to be productive.

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I'll go to the library and do that. So I think, yeah, I understand it doesn't work for may not work for everyone,

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but I've definitely found that having something else to kind of give structure,

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to give structure, but also it's to give to something else where you can say find it certainly unconsciously and also consciously the PhD

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And we'll still pop into my mind when I'm doing other things.

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But kind of having that separation and being able to do something that isn't the PhD basically. the question I often

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ask people is kind of at what point did you decide that you didn't want to continue on doing research in academia?

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Was that never even a consideration for you? This is the billion dollar question now.

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Down at. So I I feel like I kind of straddle the.

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I do want to call it a divide, straddle the kind of one foot being a bike practitioner, one foot being a researcher.

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And so I was working for an NGO before my PhD and that kind of thing.

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A bit frustrated about that. And just felt like I wanted to continue my my academic education.

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I think it was a case of just do a really interesting PhD

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The opportunity came up through the work. I was I was doing that.

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That's how I met one of my PhD supervisors. And it was just such an exciting project.

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It was really. Yes. It was more the kids.

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I wasn't actively looking for PhD at all. At that point, I kind of considered that it might be something I do.

00:22:58,030 --> 00:23:03,280
And something really interesting came up. So I decided to pursue it.

00:23:03,280 --> 00:23:13,860
I think probably, I'll be honest with you, probably not long after I started, appears the I was fairly sure I didn't want to stay in academia.

00:23:13,860 --> 00:23:18,900
I definitely wanted to stick with the PhD and I'm glad I have stuck with it.

00:23:18,900 --> 00:23:26,180
Of course, there are times where you feel I felt like I was on the brink of giving up.

00:23:26,180 --> 00:23:29,080
But I wouldn't say I was ever 100 percent certain.

00:23:29,080 --> 00:23:38,040
I didn't want to stay in academia, I think, again, it would be like if it was something that really interested me or is really,

00:23:38,040 --> 00:23:40,330
really well aligned with my interests and my values.

00:23:40,330 --> 00:23:49,980
And I probably would have gone for it, but I don't think I would have looked for post-doc for the sake of doing one if if that makes sense.

00:23:49,980 --> 00:23:54,240
Not not that that's there's anything wrong with that. Yeah.

00:23:54,240 --> 00:23:59,010
I just never really was never set on a career in academia.

00:23:59,010 --> 00:24:04,590
But I definitely feel like compared with where I was at the beginning of the PhD

00:24:04,590 --> 00:24:08,940
And I do think that the PhD is the experience,

00:24:08,940 --> 00:24:15,600
the research experience working on a big collaborative project is it's really I've definitely grown

00:24:15,600 --> 00:24:22,830
a lot and a lot of what I'm doing in my current role is a technical input on social monitoring,

00:24:22,830 --> 00:24:25,290
evaluation and in social research.

00:24:25,290 --> 00:24:34,050
So there is a very strong research element to it that I feel like I probably wasn't strong enough on before doing the PhD

00:24:34,050 --> 00:24:39,180
So I think that this new role that I'm in is in what if if I call a crosscutting,

00:24:39,180 --> 00:24:44,250
teams are kind of supporting different teams with this technical input is it's kind of like

00:24:44,250 --> 00:24:50,620
the perfect next step in kind of balancing being both a practitioner and a researcher.

00:24:50,620 --> 00:24:53,370
So being. Yeah.

00:24:53,370 --> 00:25:07,740
Very applied and pragmatic and focussed on the ground sort of work, but then really guided by cutting edge research and theoretical frameworks.

00:25:07,740 --> 00:25:13,620
Yes, it's. It really does sound like the ideal combination. Yeah.

00:25:13,620 --> 00:25:17,280
I still sometimes kind of pinch myself that I've been able to get the job.

00:25:17,280 --> 00:25:23,910
And I like I say, I do feel very, very fortunate, you know, knowing other people who are applying for jobs right now.

00:25:23,910 --> 00:25:26,010
And it is just a very difficult market.

00:25:26,010 --> 00:25:34,780
So I feel very fortunate that something that really does draw together the research and practise side of things.

00:25:34,780 --> 00:25:39,240
Yeah, I feel very fortunate to have been able to to secure this role.

00:25:39,240 --> 00:25:47,010
Thank you so much to Timur for giving us an insight into working for an NGO.

00:25:47,010 --> 00:25:52,500
And the real tangible benefits that can bring to being a researcher in that practical

00:25:52,500 --> 00:26:00,660
applied context to balancing a part time job and career alongside finishing up the PhD.

00:26:00,660 --> 00:26:08,910
And, of course, what it's like to go through the process of all of this during the COVID 19 pandemic.

00:26:08,910 --> 00:26:24,637
And that's it for this episode. Join us next time when we'll be talking to another researcher about that career beyond their research degree.


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