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

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

February 15, 2021

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

 

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

 

Podcast transcript

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Down in Cornwall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And yeah,

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

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

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

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I think it was in September. Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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So was it an advert that the company had posted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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But I think what really. Yeah.

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

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

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

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And this this is a permanent contract. So.

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

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But that just really. Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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About the fact that you were still finishing up the PhD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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So FFIs offices are in in Cambridge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2020 was it was a pretty tough year for me.

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

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

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

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So it was a pretty tough experience then processing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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like drawing together my my data and theoretical frameworks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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helped me focus and helped me. Keep motivated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A few days a week when working in retail.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And something really interesting came up. So I decided to pursue it.

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I think probably, I'll be honest with you, probably not long after I started, appears the I was fairly sure I didn't want to stay in academia.

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I definitely wanted to stick with the PhD and I'm glad I have stuck with it.

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Of course, there are times where you feel I felt like I was on the brink of giving up.

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But I wouldn't say I was ever 100 percent certain.

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I didn't want to stay in academia, I think, again, it would be like if it was something that really interested me or is really,

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really well aligned with my interests and my values.

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And I probably would have gone for it, but I don't think I would have looked for post-doc for the sake of doing one if if that makes sense.

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Not not that that's there's anything wrong with that. Yeah.

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I just never really was never set on a career in academia.

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But I definitely feel like compared with where I was at the beginning of the PhD

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And I do think that the PhD is the experience,

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the research experience working on a big collaborative project is it's really I've definitely grown

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a lot and a lot of what I'm doing in my current role is a technical input on social monitoring,

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evaluation and in social research.

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So there is a very strong research element to it that I feel like I probably wasn't strong enough on before doing the PhD

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So I think that this new role that I'm in is in what if if I call a crosscutting,

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teams are kind of supporting different teams with this technical input is it's kind of like

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the perfect next step in kind of balancing being both a practitioner and a researcher.

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So being. Yeah.

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Very applied and pragmatic and focussed on the ground sort of work, but then really guided by cutting edge research and theoretical frameworks.

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Yes, it's. It really does sound like the ideal combination. Yeah.

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I still sometimes kind of pinch myself that I've been able to get the job.

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And I like I say, I do feel very, very fortunate, you know, knowing other people who are applying for jobs right now.

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And it is just a very difficult market.

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So I feel very fortunate that something that really does draw together the research and practise side of things.

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Yeah, I feel very fortunate to have been able to to secure this role.

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Thank you so much to Timur for giving us an insight into working for an NGO.

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And the real tangible benefits that can bring to being a researcher in that practical

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applied context to balancing a part time job and career alongside finishing up the PhD.

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And, of course, what it's like to go through the process of all of this during the COVID 19 pandemic.

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

 

Episode 11 - Dr. Hannah Roberts, Career Coach for Women in Science

Episode 11 - Dr. Hannah Roberts, Career Coach for Women in Science

January 24, 2021

Welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast from the University of Exeter Doctoral College! The podcast about non-academic careers and all the opportunities available to you... beyond your research degree!  In this episode Kelly Preece, Researcher Development Manager talks to Dr. Hannah Roberts, who works as a career coach with women in science.

 

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

 

Podcast transcript

 

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

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Hello and welcome to the first episode of Beyond Your Research Degree for 2021.

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My name is Kelly Preece and on the research develop a manager for PGRs at the University of Exeter.

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And I'm delighted for our first episode of 2021 to be bringing you a discussion with Hannah Roberts.

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Hannah did her PhD and a couple of postdocs and then became a career coach.

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So she works one to one with women in research and academia, particularly in STEM and scientific fields.

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So, Hannah, are you happy to introduce yourself? Absolutely, sir.

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Hi, everybody. I'm Hannah Roberts and Well first of all

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I have a degree master's phd postdoc in chemistry,

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and I spent eight years managing large multi-million pound projects between academics

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and industry and commercialising that research and parts of the commercialisation.

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I started a spin out company with three other female academics,

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and I was managing director of that company for two years and did all of that white having three children.

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And it was actually on my maternity leave where I decided that maybe I had outstretched

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outgrown the role that I was in in scientific project management.

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And now is the time to to make a switch.

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And so that's that was the moment where I decided I was going to be a career coach specifically for women in science.

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Amazing. So can we Take a step back from what you do now and talk a little bit about the spin out company and how it came about was.

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So that was you during your research degree, is that right?

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Mine;s a little bit more complicated, so. When I finished my PhD, I went straight into a postdoc.

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So I switch from chemistry to biotechnology at that point.

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And so I got really into the analytical side of mass spectrometry as a tool to help with sort of looking at the structures of carbohydrates at that

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time. Then I was two weeks.

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Well, I should say I was probably four weeks into my postdoc and I fell pregnant.

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So when I returned after my maternity leave and I kind of switched role at that point,

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say, when I started my postdoc, I was half project manager, half postdoc.

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But essentially that meant I was most of the time postdoc. So did the project management alongside.

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But when I returned and just came back as a scientific project manager.

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So at that point, I was managing lots of different these projects because I knew the technology really well.

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And one of the things that's a lots of funding bodies are looking for of obviously commercialisation is from these from these projects,

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whether that's licence agreements, whether that's spin out companies, whether that's patents or something like that.

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And we decided the best vehicle for this new technology in terms of the mass spectrometry was to do it through and through a new company,

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because that way we could get industry to be able to send those samples and all that kind of stuff independently of the projects.

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And that way we could start to then find our own funding and our own money to to make that a company in its own right.

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Well. I mean, it sounds impressive on paper.

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I'm not I'm not sure that's how I felt about it at the time.

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Yes, I can appreciate that. I think there's two things I want to pick up on that.

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The first is about kind of so there seems to be quite a shift in that to from kind of scientific

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research to project management and more kind of business and entrepreneurially related skills.

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How did you find that that shift in focus?

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And to be honest, I I missed out a bit from the career history because I try and make it sound succinct so that it's,

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you know, degree masters PhD Postdoc chemistry.

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So actually, between my degree and my PhD I went on a squiggly loop of not knowing what on earth I was doing.

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So I worked for Croda Chemicals on a graduate development scheme for a couple of years and tried lots of different areas of the business.

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And so I spent quite some time in sales because I thought I would be quite good at that and which I did.

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I did enjoy to degree. And and then I felt I was too far removed from the science.

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So then I got a business development, manager role in cancer studies and down at the Patterson Institute

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And that's where I learnt how to and a little bit more about how to write grants and then how to manage them and how to manage the funds of them.

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So I did that for a couple of years. Then I decided I need a vocation, so I'm going to become a teacher.

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So I did my teacher training for. Yeah. Wow. And yeah, quite a few different things.

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And then I oh this isn't for me. All the kids are stressing me out.

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They're not listening. It's not like being in university where everybody just listen because they want to be there.

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And I was on a real, a real spiral of I've got to find something because and everybody around me was

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off with their careers and I felt like I was just restarting all the time.

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And so I was actually offered a PhD by my old supervisor because it's the first time he'd had funding since since I left i was like

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Like, I'm just going to do that because that's where I where I excelled and where I could feel feel good again,

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because at that time I was quite anxious and having panic attacks and all kinds of things.

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So actually having that PhD set me back up on a path of sort of a good a good place to build a career from.

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To be honest. So and the PhD was kind of kind of a saviour for me, which is not what you hear from most people who don't necessarily.

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But I think it's really it's always really nice to have people who have the experience of do of doing a research degree.

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I mean, to end it being very much the right thing and the thing that they needed at that point in time, career wise, you know, and life, wise.

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Mm hmm.

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The second thing I wanted to pick up from what you said was about the fact that you started your postdoc within a very short space of time, you got.

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Pregnant. Yes. Went on maternity leave and the role changed.

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If you if you feel comfortable talking about it, I wondered, you know, if you could talk about.

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What that was like career wise in terms of, you know,

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going so soon into a job and then taking maternity leave and then coming back to a slightly different role.

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How what was that experience like? I think that's a concern for a lot of women.

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Absolutely. And because I'd had those different interim roles before I do my PhD at that point,

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I was 28 years old when I got married and I just finished my PhD So I really was at a time in my life where I was looking to to start my family.

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And I was in the last year of my PhD I looked ahead at the other women in the department.

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So I was in the Department of Chemistry and I found five of the women out of over 200 people.

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And I was looking carefully at what they were doing. And I think to two or three had children and I was very concerned.

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That's what what it looked like to me was that to make it work, it had to be all consuming, because in my mind,

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when I had children, I wanted to have this kind of maybe just work three days a week and I just couldn't see this elusive thing.

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That was a part time professor. It didn't seem to exist for me.

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But as is the nature of these things,

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I was recommended for a postdoc and it seemed like I was on this conveyor belt and it was the next logical progression.

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And that and having had when I went to the interview, which was an informal chats, because, of course, had been recommended.

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So I had this interview and it was just sort of proposed that well we had this postdoc.

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But it also needs to include some project management. You have that in your history.

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Are you okay with doing this? And and of course, I just say yes.

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Yes, of course. That's absolutely fine. And she was willing to wait for eight months for me to start.

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So I had time to finish up my postdoc and my experiments. I'm writing my PhD

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So a couple of months before I actually started the postdoc, I actually fell pregnant.

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And unfortunately, I had a miscarriage at that time. So my supervisor, my.

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who, I was moving to actually knew about that. So it wasn't a massive surprise to her when I started the job.

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And then, you know, a few a few months in, I said that I was pregnant.

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And she was she was really pleased for me and happy and and really supportive, actually.

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So it was more of a it was the time in the life. You can't kind of change the the biology of you can put it off.

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But for how long? Because I'm on that conveyor belt at that point. There's never a good time to have a child is there in terms of your carer

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And so my husband is five years older than me.

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So we were we just decided that was the time to do it with stability or without stability.

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And at least he had a very stable job.

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And at least with postdocs you know exactly how long the contracts for.

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So I found stability within the instability of knowing.

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At least that Coming on to what you do now, can you talk a little bit about that?

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The coaching you do and the particular focus that you have?

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Yeah, I think because of the experiences that I had and, you know, being on that conveyor belt but not seeing what I really wanted out of academia,

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you know, that part time professor kind of role and then having gone a completely sort of.

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Being moulded in a way to do a different position. But it wasn't necessarily using my natural talents and capabilities.

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So we actually had someone she was in the personal development sphere when we were running a meeting for one of these projects I was managing.

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And she used what's called talent dynamics profiling. And she profiled all of us in the team.

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And when I got my profile back, I was like, Oh, this isn't me.

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I've answered the questions as if I'm in my current role.

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But it's not my natural preference. And when we had a debrief about it,

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it was really clear that the role I was doing was the complete opposite end of the spectrum to my natural preferences.

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And that's and I was like, oh, I'm doing the complete wrong, wrong career.

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I'm in the wrong job here and I don't have the confidence to get out of it.

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So I didn't feel it was I had stability, I had another five year contract,

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I could keep kept rolling on and on and on, and I could design and do whatever I wanted within those roles.

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So and it was actually having coaching for the last two years before I finished that role that enabled me to

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have the confidence to be able to to move on to something different because my my first two maternity leaves,

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I actually worked straight through them. So I was concerned that I wouldn't have a contract to go back to.

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So I decided to say, oh, I'll just continue with my job while I'm on maternity leave.

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So that basically that I would be indispensible. And this is a common practise with lots of people.

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They they write their fellowships on maternity leave. In fact, most of the female academic said to me, oh,

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I wrote my fellowship the first twelve weeks of academia and of having a baby or I went back to

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work after two weeks and got a nanny or these are the kind of things people were telling me.

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So I thought, well, I should be doing something on maternity leave.

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And I did try. I did start try to write a fellowship, but I quickly decided I wasn't quite good enough to do that.

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At that moment in time, funnily enough. But actually having coaching those last two years,

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which came about as as business coaching through the company and but I found it really

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helpful at a personal level and having restored my confidence to to that level.

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I then went onto a third maternity leave and said, no, I'm not doing anything on this maternity leave.

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And having that time and space to think and explore different things and not

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maternity leave was really crucial to me than not actually returning to that role.

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And during that maternity leave, it was wonderful.

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You know, it's a really nice summer. I started a rock painting group and I was looking for loads of stuff.

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And then I found this thing online about Superwoman.

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I was like, oh, my goodness, it sounds just like me, you know, running at 200 miles an hour, pushing to prove myself.

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All this stuff. And when I entered into it, they had these foundational courses in time and energy management and and some coaching stuff.

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And I had to look at it. Did the courses and was like, oh, oh, I can see a link now between.

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Between this coaching stuff and the difference that I want to make within universities, particularly for women.

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When I made that link, I was like, I can do this through coaching, having being coached.

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I knew the impact that it had on me.

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And then I thought as a coach, I can then help the people to navigate this career path much more smoothly than I ever did it.

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And that's what's really important to me.

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Having having this smoother pathway, that doesn't necessarily mean continuing along this conveyor belts of academia.

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It can mean lots of different things.

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But finding the right pathway for you and the other part that's really important to me is having more women in leadership positions.

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Yes. In academia, but also the world around because we know that and the more diverse the leadership is and the better decisions that are made.

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So those are the kind of the two components that I'm trying to combine together within my own coaching company.

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And so you even though, you know, some academic, you're working a lot with academics.

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Yes, I my my coachees tend to be  from postdocs, I get a lot of postdocs fellows, group leaders and also similar positions in industry as well.

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And so it tends to be. Tends to be more of the way you've got a natural kind of career progression, say career transitions,

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say for postdocs it's that kind of lasts 12 months on the contract cause and get to be on the brain all the time, you know.

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Oh, my goodness. I've got to go to sort of line something up.

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And I've got lots of fellows that have done that whole or part way through the fellowship and not sure if they want to continue.

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Because of the stress and the pressures of anxiety and of academia and and it's around, one,

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helping people to manage the current situation more powerfully and more confidently with the right tools to equip them to do that.

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And at the same time, trying to figure out this piece about who they really are and what impact they want to make on the world.

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Because your value or your self-confidence can come from your vision, mission, purpose, natural talents and capabilities and your values.

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And when all of those five pieces are defined that so we can truly know in value,

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we'll be doing the thing that we love doing, finding fulfilment in it and getting paid what worth with as well.

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So those are the kind of key pieces for me.

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Yeah, um, I. I think it's really interesting that you said that you talk about that because it's clear how much of an impact,

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the kind of that assessment of values and reflection and had on you and your career path.

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And then the kind of having those conversations with your clients. And I know from my own experience, I used to be an academic and I.

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Did it for a number of years and then realised I was quite unhappy and.

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It was only when I took a step back for the first time in my life,

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I kind of had that reflection of my values and the kind of work life I wanted and the work life balance.

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I wanted that I realised I was in completely the wrong job.

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And that's the kind of started me on the on the path that led me to working in a professional services job in a university.

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But I know from experience when we kind of say to people or, you know, doing these kinds of psychometric tests or,

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you know, values, assessments and everything is really important to understanding why you want to go in your career.

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I think sometimes people feel a bit like, oh, yeah, all right, okay, whatever.

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And I think no  it really will change the way that you do things.

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For sure. It did for me, but on that point, I was that person who was too busy and I think these things are interesting,

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like, oh, you know, this is a researchers into management course.

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I'll apply for that. And this imposter syndrome workshop, I'd apply for all these things.

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I'd be booked on them. And then I wouldn't show up i'm that naughty person that was far too busy and important to actually turn up because

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I have too much work to do because I'm superwoman ing and I'm too busy like I've got I've got to be gone.

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at half past four to pick up the kids and I'm doing this and doing this and I can't

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actually find the time to go to the things that are most important to me.

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And so I think some of the things to address that actually the culture that causes the superwoman

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kind of archetype that prevents us from actually accessing these things in the first place.

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Yeah, absolutely.

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And and I think that is it's interesting kind of the focus that you have on on women and moving women through their career path and leadership,

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because, you know, we know that that is a particular problem that women face.

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Is that kind of that expectation or the expectation we put on ourselves and the

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expectation put on us by society and our workplaces to be that superwoman? Yeah, it yeah, it's a complicated beast, superwoman.

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So we have these sort of statistics that, you know, only and I saw it myself.

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So 43 percent of women will start with a chemistry degree.

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And certainly when I was doing chemistry, everyone around me looked just like me, you know?

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I didn't see a problem. And it wasn't until I got to that.

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And just looking ahead to that p h d to postdoc position where I really noticed.

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Oh. Two steps ahead of me. There's not so many of them about.

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That was the very first inkling I had that, you know, there was this kind of leaky pipeline.

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And now the statistics show and I quote chemistry. But you can look them up in everyone's own personal fields.

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But only nine percent of women become professors. Nine percent.

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And 43 percent going in.

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So this is a huge dropoff of an already of a pipeline of a conveyor belt that isn't going to be for everybody in the first place.

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But all of those women that start out, there's not many people making it through.

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And I sort of have a theory on this because I'm a scientist.

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I like more of a theory. So does this statistic that says that women are 60 percent more likely to suffer job stress?

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and burn out than men and there's some components to that, so first of all

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There's some work by Hofstedder. And he talks about masculine versus feminine coaches.

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And there are six different independent studies that feed into what determines the masculine qualities of a culture.

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But they came up with things like material rewards for success, individualism, competition is celebrated.

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These kind of qualities and the more feminine qualities were seen as collaboration and

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caring for the weak and the sick in society and and a more collaborative type of society.

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And interestingly, from the research, Japan came out as the most masculine country in the whole world.

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Unsurprisingly, actually, and Finland was lowest on the score

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Now, the U.K. was actually the ninth most masculine country in the whole world.

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Nine. And that was super shocking to me because we're swimming around in a soup that is celebrating this competition culture that drives Superwoman.

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And another factor to layer in on that, then, is also a personal paradigm.

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So I come from quite a masculine paradigm family because my dad works away Monday

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to Friday and my mom was in charge of the family superwomen her way through.

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And if we go through back a generation, my grandma was the only one to actually show up to work when bombs were coming down on their village.

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And because it's that kind of push through, show up, no matter what mentality in my family.

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And then layering on top of that, a workplace hierarchical culture where actually your your colleagues in academia are also your competition.

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And it's very hierarchical as well, because we've got, you know, professors, senior lecturers, lecturers, fellows, postdocs.

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You can see how all those three things combined create this soup.

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And there's also a statistic to show you that women are less happy as a gender than we were 40 years ago.

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And that is irrespective of and of lots of different factors,

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like how how many children you have if you have children, whether you're married, single, divorced, whatever.

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The only exception is African-American women. And they are slightly happier than they were 40 years ago, but still less happy than the men.

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So why are we getting And even though now we have more opportunities than ever before.

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Why are we getting sick? Why are we burning out? So my theory is that this archetype of superwoman that so many of us are using

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is actually the very power that is preventing us from and being happy.

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The thing that's now burning is out in the workplace.

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So it got us these amazing opportunities, but it can't it's not actually sustaining goes long term.

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And certainly that's what I see a lot with my clients.

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Those in Superwoman may also be getting, you know, poorly once every three months, that sort of tonsillitis, seven times a year.

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That's what I used to get. It's that kind of pushing too hard for too long and has to be a different way to get stuff done.

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And what we say about Superwoman. Is that it's operating from fear?

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Because if there's an underlying fear there, then Superwoman is going to show up to make us feel even.

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And, you know, so we that we don't have to feel bad or or ever again.

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You know, it's the perfect antidote to imposter syndrome. So if I'm not good enough, don't worry.

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Superwoman can step in and save the day. So I don't have to feel like that again.

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But of course we do. And so superwomen just continues. Yeah.

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You know, all of this all too well my so much of myself and so many of the amazing women around me in that.

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So can you talk a little bit about. You're coaching them.

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So what it actually involves so you work one on one with clients.

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And quite often with with postdocs or people on that kind of career track.

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What what sort of work are you doing with them? What kind of conversations are you having?

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Here it is. It's a mixture of different things because, yes, I am primarily focussed on career coaching,

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so I'm looking at people who have formed that identity around their career.

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As is the major parts of their life. Typically, these people are really concerned with making an impact, making a difference, helping the people.

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And so the first piece of work that I always do is to drill down and get clarity on what the actual core of the problem is.

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And often that can come down to a number of different factors.

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But it could be the perception or the judgement of other people.

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You know, when we worry what other people think, it can cause us to pre-empt situations or overthink it in the moment or catastrophizing.

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So there is some of the things people might be coming to me with or procrastinating,

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because if we are very concerned about the perception or the judgements for the people,

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it can be hard for us to complete upon tasks, particularly the big tasks like grant writing or papers,

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because we know that we're going to get criticism in return

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So what I'm doing right at the beginning when I start working with people,

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is figuring out what the actual underlying challenges are for them by giving clarity from lots of different perspectives and angles.

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Once we have that, we set out a series of aspirational intentions for future.

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And we break things down in the very first actions that she can get to start to maybe towards those intentions.

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And if them from that point, they went to continue, we then look at the core of the problem, how the brain works.

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You know, that cyclic, iterative thinking.

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You know, how we create meaning from situations, attach emotions to them, and then that feeds into the next scenario.

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So we look at that iterative cycle of thinking and break that down with tools that you can apply to stop overthinking.

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And from that point, we layer in another piece of awareness about Superwoman and had disempowering archetypal cousins of the bitch

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the martyr and the victim, and we use a tool to tigger trap

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Those behaviours and I use specific NLP based tools to let go of that stuff because it's important

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to me to let go of the challenging patterns of behaviour before we start career planning,

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because you could have a very different outcome from if you're coming from a confident point of view as to when you first coming into coaching.

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So it takes me about six sessions to to really get to the core of it and move people beyond it.

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And then the last six sessions are really focussed towards defining your value and working on your leadership capabilities.

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So defining your value is that piece around vision, purpose, mission, natural talents and capabilities and values.

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And then from that piece, I'm also using another profiling tool.

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So I use talent dynamics.

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I also use the women's five power types in my coaching, and I help people to enhance the qualities of, say, for instance, if Superwoman shows up.

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superwoman doesn't make us a better communicator. It just makes us more anxious.

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If we're in an interview, we don't want it being superwoman. I'd be just very nervous.

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We actually want to step into the queen power type who is serene, calm in command, and he can articulate a vision really, really powerfully.

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So it's about showing people how to access those five different power types.

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Also, for leadership enhancement

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And then we do a five year detailed five year plan and design a network of support consciously to help put that plan into place.

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So when I'm removed from that picture,

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people will have the right people to help them get there in terms of mental sponsor's and other kinds of support as well.

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Perhaps the obvious ways that you all are using your experience of working in academia and in a research context.

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To work with them, relate to your clients.

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But one of the things we always try and kind of ask and talk about is how actually, you know,

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what what what skills and experience specifically are you using from your research degree, and your postdoc in the role that you're in now?

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Are there things that have transpired over really, really clearly or do you feel it's a completely different.

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You know, it's been a completely different kind of role and you've needed to learn a completely new set of skills.

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I think with em, with postdocs and PhDs, there are so many transferable skills that are really, really helpful and for any given job.

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So the things that I,

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I definitely fall back on time and time again are I did my whole PhD was on using different spectroscopic techniques and analysis.

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So I'm very analytical in the way that I approach coaching too.

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So for instance, I have those aspirational intentions for people's futures

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but it's not breaking down the analysis of what they said, this and this history session and noticing this.

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And I've I've got a tool for that.

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And I know I'm constantly analysing what people are saying and the context and bringing it all together into into a big picture.

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And I'm also analysing the progress that people are making on a fortnightly basis in terms of scoring's and rating.

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So I've become very scientific about whether or not the coaching is beneficial and working.

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And I need to see that progress to know that I'm making a difference and an impact to that person and tangibly.

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So I think that that those analytical skills are crucial and creating systems.

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So I don't know about you, but in my PhD, I had to create protocols and systems that were new to do everything and am and I'm always working in.

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Okay. I've done that with that client. But how does that translate to the next one?

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And how can I create a more streamlined system to do that thing?

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And how can I make things iteratively better on each cycle? So that's important to me.

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And the other part is in terms of in terms of the PhD

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I think creativity is one of the big things that most scientists, whether they know it or not, is a big part of science having that creative freedom.

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And that's what I find really exciting about coaching.

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It's having that creative freedom to to shape a particular session in a particular way, too, to when I work one to one.

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It's not a set programme. It's okay. They've brought this in this day and this in and this is how I'm gonna shape it.

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And I find that really exciting, that creative freedom.

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Although, yes, it often leaves me with many taps open at the same time that that's the nature of creativity.

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What else is important from that?

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I guess in terms of the obviously having run a business before was important in terms of just being able to do that thing.

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That was a big piece for me because it didn't feel as daunting to incorporate a

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company and then run all the books and that kind of stuff and set targets and goals.

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So. So that was also helpful to me as well. That's brilliant.

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And really insightful about how you apply those analytical skills.

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And I know when a lot of all researchers have an anxiety about searching for jobs outside of academia and that feeling of,

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well, how am I going to find something in. Spectroscopy.

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I said that right? And actually, you know, nine times out of ten people won't necessarily be moving into a role outside academia.

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Academia. That's specific to that discipline, but is about the application of the skills that they used to conduct their research.

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More than a topic they were researching. And so it's great to hear you articulate that so.

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So clearly, and, and eloquently

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It's yeah. It's really, really useful.

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Well. One is the other sort of things that we ask people.

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Because it's it's a key thing people like to know is. What are the main differences?

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You know, if we've done you've done a post, doc.

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Moving into kind of the business. So one to one coaching. What's different about working in that environment?

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Oh, my goodness. What's different about working in this environment?

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It's like I said, there were these terms, translational skills that I'm using, but it's completely different to to that world and that environment.

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Completely different. Yeah.

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So in academia, you have, you know, your colleagues that you work with and you can get people to bounce ideas off.

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And that's I always used to find that really, really helpful. And when I was maybe it wasn't my natural talent or capabilities.

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I knew exactly who to find to help me proofread my grant applications.

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He was really good on the detail because I'm more of the big picture thinker.

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Now, when I'm working in coaching, I'm I'm running my own business.

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I'm I'm by myself at the moment. So what I found superimportant, one of the big differences for me is I'm by myself.

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And so tapping into a big community of the people, doing the same thing as me, where I can bounce ideas off them.

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I have my own coach. I have a coaching mentor as well, supervisor so that I can get even better what it is I'm doing.

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Having all of these different people in place has been really important to bring structure

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that I used to have now into something that could be really lonely if it wasn't for for the.

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Yeah, I think that's a that's a really and I think a really key.

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Really key thing to consider when people are thinking about kind of what kind of environment they want to be working in.

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Yeah, when I'm I, I do I do have a two part workshop on defining your legacy, your life's work,

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and one part of that is the vehicle of choice that you use to express what it is that you want to do in the world,

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whether that's being an employee, whether that's in a not for profit sector or whether it's as a freelancer or an entrepreneur.

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Now, I would bracket myself as a freelancer as opposed to an entrepreneur,

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because although I like that freedom and I quite like an element of risk, I actually don't want a massive team of people to manage.

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That's not my strong point. My strong point is creating new stuff all the time and finding that creativity with helping the clients that I have.

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You know, that's the bit that really excites me, helping other people,

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making an impact and then doing new stuff all the time, whereas I don't actually want to manage a massive amount of people.

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So when you really understand yourself really well, you you can find the right vehicle of choice for you.

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Which doesn't necessarily mean that because you started a business, suddenly your having to be this massive entrepreneur all the time.

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So I am figuring out who you really are is a key part of which vehicle you'll choose to to express that in amazing.

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What advice would you give to someone who's thinking about.

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Taking the kind of path that you have, so moving into something that is more an.

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Kind of freelance, but also looking at something that's kind of coaching and developing people.

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Well, I remember having this conversation with the coach, our coaching certification programme.

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She was a research fellow. And had gone into the coaching certification programme,

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having never been coached herself, having never undertaken that kind of personal development.

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And she got there and she said, I really feel that if I'm coaching other people them perhaps I should have some coaching myself.

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And I said, yeah, definitely,

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because I had had coaching for two years before it made that connection that this was the way that I could make the difference.

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And that was really important because I knew that what a difference it made to me.

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So anybody who's thinking of moving into coaching or research development in some way and really do the work yourself

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first before you take all the people along because you want to be at least a few steps ahead of the other people,

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because we're all, you know, taking off layers, peeling back layers, becoming more of ourselves in the process.

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But it's great to get a head start before the clients, basically.

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Yeah, I think that that's that's really. That's really useful.

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And, of course, would be useful kind of thing to do.

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Anyway, are there any apart from kind of being coached are there, any experiences that you would advise?

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Current researchers to make the most was.

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Whilst that whilst they're still within that university system or is, you know, still completing their degree.

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Yeah. I think if I had my time again, I would do more of the courses that were available and actually carve out the time to do them.

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Because we lose so much time and energy on so many other things.

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And I would have a specific time of the week where I'm working specifically on my own self and my own career development,

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as opposed to blocking out all the time to do everything for everybody else and for the projects that I'm working on to have that self reflection,

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self development time factored in. And there are so many more things available within universities now and to take up on stage of them, really.

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Thank you so much to Hannah for taking the time to speak to me and to have such a rich and

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fascinating conversation about finding your fee and trying things out and identifying values,

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but also, you know, some of the very particular challenges that women face,

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not just in academia and research careers, but in the job market in general.

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

 

Episode 10 - Dr. Natalie Garrett, Private Secretary to the Chief Scientist at the Met Office

Episode 10 - Dr. Natalie Garrett, Private Secretary to the Chief Scientist at the Met Office

November 29, 2020

Welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast from the University of Exeter Doctoral College! The podcast about non-academic careers and all the opportunities available to you... beyond your research degree!  In this episode Kelly Preece, Researcher Development Manager talks to Dr. Natalie Garrett, Private Secretary to the Chief Scientist at the Met Office. You can find out more about Natalie on the Met Office website, and the British Federation of Women Graduates scholarships.

 

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

 

Podcast transcript

 

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

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

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I'm your host, Kelly Preece, and today I'm going to be talking to Dr. Natalie Garrett.

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Natalie currently works as a private secretary to the Met Office chief scientist.

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So, Natalie, are you happy to introduce yourself? My name is Natalie Garrett.

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I work at the Met office as the private secretary to our chief scientist.

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I've been in this role since January of this year.

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So more than half my time in this position has now been spent working from home, which has been an interesting kind of journey like before January.

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I was working in the international climate services team still at the Met office,

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and I had been in that position for, I think, the best part of four years.

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And the purpose of that role was essentially to manage a project that was all

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about translating climate science into actionable information for decision makers.

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But prior to all of that, I was a postdoc at the University of Exeter working in the Biomedical Physics Group.

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And you might notice that there's a bit of a Segway there from biomedical physics to climate and weather science.

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And it's not necessarily immediately apparent what exactly unifies those two areas.

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But broadly, what motivates me at work is to do something that's meaningful and that will have a positive impact on society.

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So the work I did at the university was primarily translating biomedical advances into kind of taking physical interpretations of them.

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So one of the major projects I worked on my role was to provide mechanistic validation for the claims that were being made in patents for novel

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nano medicines that were aimed to treat things like alzhiemers and brain cancer.

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And having lost a family member to brain cancer, that was obviously an area that was very close to my heart.

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So sometimes I feel like my career has been a little bit of a random walk.

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But ultimately, I've always done what I thought sounded interesting,

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and I perhaps naively assumed that job opportunities would make themselves apparent to me along the way.

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And I've been very fortunate and privileged that that has worked out for me.

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That's brilliant and really interesting to hear about that.

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That from kind of being a postdoc in researching inside inside a university to moving outside.

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I wondered if you could talk a little bit about your experience of that transition.

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So what it was like kind of moving to applying for jobs outside of academia and and how you

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find how different you find working in it in a different kind of research environment is.

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So I had been working as a postdoc at the University of Exeter since late 2009.

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And by the time I left, it was January 2016.

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So that is quite a substantial chunk of my professional career was spent working,

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doing the whole postdoc merry go round where you go from contract to contract without much job security.

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I think a lot of people in academia can empathise with that kind of situation.

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You don't have much job security. You're trying really hard to set yourself apart from your peer group to improve your

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chances of perhaps getting a lectureship or getting a fellowship or a grant and.

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I was in a situation where leaving Exeter wasn't really an option for me.

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So I was thinking about how I could give myself the best chances of securing a lectureship.

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at Exeter University and a lectureship position came up in my research group working for different P.I. and I went for it.

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And although I scored highest at interview and my presentation, I was told that I couldn't bring added value because I was already there.

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And that was quite a bitter pill to swallow at the time that I can see what they mean in hindsight.

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And if I had applied to other universities for lectureships it may have been more feasible for me to negotiate or leverage contract at the university.

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At any rate, I was encouraged to apply for fellowships and I was given the opportunity of a tenured position at the end.

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If I were successful in that. But ultimately I started looking at other opportunities.

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I saw a job at the Met office. Now, my background did not involve coding.

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It did not really involve modelling. So I was quite surprised when I saw a job advert that I felt I could apply for.

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Hence, this role was titled Senior European Climate Service Coordinator.

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This is quite a mouthful. The skills they were looking for those the usual planning organisation,

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time management, which if you have a PhD and you've actually managed to complete it.

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You have that in spades. But it also specifically said that they needed good interpersonal skills with evidence of communicating with and developing

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productive working relationships with a range of stakeholders and also communicating complex information into plain English.

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Now, interestingly, during my PhD, I had been very, very keen as an outreach ambassador of the university.

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I was in the STEM network and I participated in things like I'm a scientist get me out of here.

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And soapbox, science and three minute wonder pretty much any scientific outreach competition that you could engage in.

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I had a go at and I was very passionate about scientific outreach.

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In fact, the Institute of Physics had me as a guest lecturer and I was travelling all around the south west of the UK giving talks to some.

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I think in total it was about two thousand schoolchildren talking about my research.

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So this is something that was very, very passionate, was very passionate about.

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But my boss had said to me, you only need to do one piece of outreach a year for it to count on your CV.

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And at that point, you should stop and focus your efforts elsewhere.

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I didn't really listen to him and I just carried on doing what I wanted to, to do what I was passionate about.

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And in the end, because of that, it put me in a really good position to apply for this job at the Met office.

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Additionally, what I was doing, my postdoc,

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I founded the early career researcher network within the college and that was bringing together early career scientists

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and helping people work together to improve the quality of the jobs to improve their chances of securing funding.

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We had career workshops. We had the guest lecturers come in and give seminars.

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We had occasions where we bought pizza and blitzed the Internet trying to find funding opportunities.

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Because I built that network, I had experience of network management.

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I had experience of engagement. And I'd set up a social media channel for that, too.

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So I had all these communication stakeholder network management skills, which made me the ideal candidate for this job.

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And this is all stuff that was done in the margins. I was discouraged from doing so.

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Yeah, it's an interesting one. I don't know if it would always work out that way. But ultimately, do things that matter to you?

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Is that what I would say if you're considering academia?

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Ultimately, you may not find yourself in a position where you have a science communication job,

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but the skills you gain doing science communication, are massively transferable outside of academia.

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So I was surprised when I was offered the job at the Met office.

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I'm always quite negative about my performance in interview.

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But actually, my new boss said that it was one of the best interviews he's ever sat in on.

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So I think that might be typical of academics.

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I think we are quite hard on ourselves and our performance and always focus on

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what we could do better and not necessarily so much of what we've done well.

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I think that's an area that I'm trying to work on in terms of personal confidence and that feeling of imposter syndrome.

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Moving from academia to the civil service, because the Met office is where within the civil service was very different.

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And my first day on the job, I got on an aeroplane to go to Paris for the Kick-Off meeting for the project and had an overnight stay.

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And it was lovely meeting all these wonderful people that are very passionate about their work.

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And the next day we came back to Exeter and they said, well, you've had quite a busy day.

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You should probably take some time off in lieu. This is not a concept that usually gets in academia.

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The actual contracted hours. So my second day on the job, I came home mid-afternoon and ran myself a bubble bath with the blessing, nay the

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It was it was pretty great. It was pretty great. And to be honest, that feeling that you should be working, you should be writing.

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More that you should be doing. It took a while for me to get over that.

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And I think about two months into my job, I was walking through town one day and I glanced up.

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If you've been in Exeter High Street and you look up the hill to streatham campus at the university, you can see the physics tower.

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You can see it from everywhere, in Exeter You can never get away from its shadow.

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If you feel like, oh, I should be working on my paper, I should be working on my thesis. That's the first time that I looked up at that.

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This has no power over me. No, I'm allowed to have fun.

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I'm allowed to have a work life balance because there's so much in there that I think is really,

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really important about, you know, feelings of imposter syndrome and work life balance.

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And I think of somebody as well that used to be an academic and admittedly is in an academic related role.

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There's something about different roles that are kind of more amenable, perhaps, or more easily to to a better work life balance.

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Well, having you know, you said about going from kind of contract.

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So you've obviously had a few kind of applications and interviews for academic or academic research roles,

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as well as the Met office was the application and interview process, particularly different to your experience in academia.

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So although I have had multiple postdoc posts at the university,

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they were all working for the same PI because the work I was doing was so specialised.

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So I did have to apply and go through the interview process that given that there were

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basically at the time a handful of people in the world that could do that job.

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I didn't feel that worried. So, yeah, that was pretty straightforward.

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So the Met office interview was quite nerve wracking by comparison.

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I mean, they were very lovely. They did everything they could to make me feel at ease.

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But I think from a very young age, I've always been thrown into the mix with a variety of different people,

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different ages, and just encouraged to socialise.

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My father was very active in local politics and I was kind of co-opted into helping him out, handing out kind of things at events.

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So the idea of talking to strangers, I just lost all fear of that and talking to thousands and thousands of people about my science,

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a kind of public speaking becomes second nature when you do that enough.

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So interviews didn't have the same kind of effect on me.

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And I've discovered a tip, a trick. If you convince yourself that you're excited rather than afraid, then it becomes a lot more manageable.

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And then you can actually enjoy it. So if you ever have a public speaking engagement and you feel nervous, you go, Oh, I'm so excited.

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Imagine it's like a roller coaster or something. So, yeah, the Met office interview

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I was massively overprepared. I identified the area that I was weakest up and that was in my climates where

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the science knowledge and I did an online free training course beforehand.

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And I printed off my certificates and I brought with me a folder with all kinds of things,

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like copies of papers that published copies of my reference letters.

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There's a whole range, a barrage of information. And none of it came out of my briefcase during the meeting, during the interview.

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But it was there and it helped me feel prepared. That's what I was going to ask because I do something similar.

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When I prepare for interviews, I do. I prepare and I have this kind of folder of lots of stuff that I never refer to.

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But it's it's not necessarily about the kind of using that knowledge I need to be, but the feeling of it's kind of like psychological armour.

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Yes. Yes. I think a lot of my life I've just expected there to be gatekeepers.

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So I've never been able to consider myself to be an artist or a photographer.

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But now I've had experience writing poetry to explain climate change with community groups,

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and I've had prizes for the photographs that I've created myself.

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So I know once said to me, hey, go, here's an award, here's a certificate.

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Here's an exam that you've passed. Therefore, you can call yourself a photographer, you can call yourself a poet or an artist.

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And because I've been so used to gatekeeping, because academia is all about gatekeeping,

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I think it's that does foster the whole imposter syndrome mentality.

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If you take yourself out of that headspace and realise, oh, maybe I can actually do these other things too, maybe I don't need someone's permission.

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What's your experience of that, working in the civil service? Does it still have that sense of gatekeeping or does it feel a little open?

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It's interesting this so well, I guess there's a lot of bureaucracy in academia that my experience in academia was.

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It's very much the academics were doing everything they could to avoid, bureaucracy, as far as possible.

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Whereas my experience of the civil service? Is that bureaucracy is sort of embedded in the ways of working, and sometimes that's for good reasons.

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And other times it's just because that's how it's always been done and people haven't questioned it.

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So it makes change quite difficult at a corporate level.

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If you have people's ways of working and mindset so embedded in a particular way of working.

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Like my boss, the chief scientist was keen to get my impressions of the job within my first six months because he said, you come with fresh eyes.

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You can tell us all the things that we're doing stupid or that don't make sense or that could be optimised.

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But once you're in the six months and you stop questioning stuff.

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Yeah. I completely yes, I can completely understand, we're saying.

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So the. The job that you do now as a as a P.A, isn't it, to the chief scientist?

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Is that right? So it's a weird one. It's called private secretary.

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And so it's just to academics. They focus on the secretary and think that it's an administrative job.

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Whereas if so, my boss is the head of the chief scientist at the Met office.

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He is also the head of the science and engineering profession at the met office.

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That's said. And that comes under something called government, science and engineering profession.

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And he's also on the chief scientific adviser at the CSA network with Patrick Vallance as its head.

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So. So Patrick Vallance is one of my boss's bosses, if you like,

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and I regularly attend meetings to represent the met office at the chief scientific adviser network meetings.

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So the purpose of these is to make sure that all the science within the civil service within the UK is all joined up.

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So you'll see these quite regularly with UK. All right.

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It's it's baffling how many connections and how many partners and how many stakeholders there were that the met office is involved with.

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A large part of my job is liasing with government and the government office, the science.

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I'm translating quite complex requests with very short deadlines.

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Finding the right people within the met office to answer those questions.

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Summarising the information into a briefing, giving it to the chief scientist.

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And then. Asking him what he wants, what action he wants to be taken from it.

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So, for instance, I've seen in the news the Academy of Medical Sciences report that was that was created at the request of the Patrick

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Vallance and Chris Whitty for looking at what's the reasonable worst case scenario would be for COVID this winter.

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So the Met office fed in regarding seasonal forecasting and air quality and aspects that relate to met office expertise.

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So I was involved in helping to coordinate our input to that report.

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And my boss was also present at the sage meeting where this was being discussed.

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So I had to help coordinate minutes and taking and so on.

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So it's that's just one aspect of the roles I take. I also produce regular scientific updates for within the Met office that we produce quarterly

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briefings for all of us scientists we have in the region of six hundred scientists at the Met office.

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And my boss is kind of at the head of that that up triangle.

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And so we have to try to provide updates to everybody on a regular basis.

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And it's just incredibly varied. I think about 50 percent of my my job is reactive.

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So I never know what's going to come into my inbox.

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We might have a request coming straight from government asking us to provide a briefing on a particular topic,

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or it might be just regular normal work that's just going along,

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producing minutes for scientific management committees or for met office board meetings.

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So it's what I enjoy most about this role. Is that because I'm the private secretary to the chief scientist, people just answer my email straightaway?

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I think when I leave this job, that probably won't be the case anymore.

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So another point to mention is that the private secretary roles aren't typically what you would expect as a lifetime position.

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The half life is between two and four years. It's a developmental opportunity.

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So you get loads of opportunities to showcase your skills, which then enable you to better apply for a management position.

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That's the aim of the role anyway. That's really interesting and it's really interesting to have that kind of.

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Clear sense of. Clear sense of progression and direction, I guess, and I'm not saying that that,

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you know, there was a clear kind of promotion route in academia, but it's not.

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I think it looks like it's very clear cut.

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In fact, is not, I think well by, to be honest when I say so, I'm going to backtrack a it when I applied to the Met office.

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I tried to use all of the skills that I had been sort of instilled in me from the doctoral training college at the university.

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Like, you need to negotiate your salary. You need to do this. You need to do that.

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I went and tried this out with the civil service and now you can try and negotiate your salary.

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But this is as far as we can go. That's just not.

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It's so different to maybe applying for the private sector, you know, going to a business and trying to negotiate.

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You probably have a lot more leeway that the civil service is so tied down they cannot make exceptions.

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The met office doesn't have the flexibility to change the pay deal for new people coming.

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And that has to be everything has to be auditable and fair and fair enough.

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You know, it's it's taxpayers money. So I tried to negotiate my salary and completely failed.

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I said, well, how about this? You offer a relocation bursary.

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And I didn't have to relocate. Could you give me that instead? Is it? No, because that's all provided  onreceipts.

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OK. So I had to manage my expectations a little bit. Essentially, I took a 20 percent pay cut.

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Wow. To join the met office Yes. It was the very low end of what I was prepared to accept.

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Which was sort of annoying. But the compensation package was also really good.

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And it was a permanent job. So it was it's a tricky one.

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And it's not necessarily the right choice for everybody. But I've managed to it's quite competitive getting promotion within the met office.

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And it's a competitive. So depending on the year, if people who are regularly publishing scientific output in science and nature are up against you,

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you may not stand a chance of actually getting information because it's judged based on merit and output and everything's graded.

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So it's quite challenging compared with academia where it felt like you progress up the spine points and it's relatively straightforward.

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I mean, that was my experience of it as postdoc. It's not everybody's.

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So there seemed to be a lot of, you know,

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things coming out that are quite different about the working environment and the kind of work that you're doing and the kind of.

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What the similarities were. What really kind of carries across from your experience as a as a researcher at a university into the role you're in now?

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So the biggest similarity is the passion that people have for the work that they do.

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The Met office. It's just so lovely to log on and every day and locg on

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We have a platform online where people can discuss variety of topics is not quite social media,

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but people share things from, for instance, the pictures of their cats.

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We have a cat appreciation forum and we've also got weather photographs and people asking questions about science and technology.

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People are just so keen to help each other and they're so keen to share their enthusiasm.

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And you can end up going down rabbit holes. And it's really lovely that I think academia, you get paid essentially to think a lot of the time.

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This is how I've seen it.

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And there aren't necessarily that many jobs in the world where you get that freedom to just pursue an idea and see where it takes you.

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And we have a certain amount of time, I think, to add up to 20 percent of our time is for development.

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So if you agree with your line manager that you want to learn a skill in a completely

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different area that might one day align with where you ultimately want to go in your career.

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You have the freedom to do that. And that kind of freedom to learn and to develop and share your enthusiasm and.

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I guess it's peer to peer learning that that's very similar to academia.

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One big difference I've noticed is I've not seen so many examples of that kind of toxic.

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Relationship where some people appear to be friendly, and then we'll take your idea and then publish before you.

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I've not seen that at the Met office. I'm not saying it doesn't necessarily happen,

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but my experience has been that people are in it together for the group benefit rather than their own individual benefit.

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Perhaps that's naive. Perhaps I've just said a sheltered experience.

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But as a for instance, at one point I had a handover between two managers because one was leaving alone, was taking me on,

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and I was sat in a room and these two people were not quite arguing, but they were just very, very focussed.

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And trying to discover the best ways for me to develop in the direction that I wanted to develop.

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And I feel I've never had this before. I've never felt so and nurtured.

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I had a line manager is trying to find opportunities for me because before it felt

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like I was doing things whenever I found an opportunity that I knew would benefit me,

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but not my line manager in academia.

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I had to do the other stuff kind of behind his back because I knew that he would never give me the go ahead for it.

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And in fact, there was one occasion when I got a travel grant from the Royal Society to do some independent research in Australia,

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and my P.I. turned around and said, well, that doesn't benefit me, so you're going to have to do it.

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on your annual leave. Wow. And I naively thought that he was allowed to make that call

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But a few years later, I was talking to the head of school and mentioned this, and he said, well, that that's not OK.

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You should come to me about that. But I naively thought, well, he wouldn't tell me something that wasn't true.

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So another another top tip.

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A don't assume that your line manager necessarily has your best interests at heart or B knows what is best or what can be done for you.

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So do ask around to ask other people.

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And it's it's amazing that in spite of that pushback, you still continued with the outreach work and the ECR network,

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which actually became so fundamental to help you move forward.

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I was wondering what other things you did, maybe as part of your research, but also, you know, on the fringes,

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let that have been really important or formative in kind of helping you move forward with your career.

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So instead of procrastinating in the traditional sense, I used to just look for competitions and awards and things that I could.

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It felt like it was wasting my time because I've been indoctrinated in the idea that if I'm not actively working on a paper in some way,

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then I'm not doing anything productive, which is quite a toxic one set in itself.

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So, for instance, I discovered the British Federation of Women graduates.

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Is that something you've heard of? No, never say I've never heard of it before until I was Googling for opportunities.

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So they offer scholarships for academic excellence and they also offer hardship bursaries.

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Now, I haven't actually checked that they still offer these. But in 2009,

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they sent me to it and I managed to secure myself five and a half thousand pounds for academic

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excellence as part of the Women British Federation of Women Graduates Academic Awards in 2009.

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And if you have experience of securing grant money, even if it's a competition like that, then that's always going to look good on your CV.

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And as I said, I got a international travel grant to go to Australia.

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So I went to Melbourne and I was looking at malaria.

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I'm trying to detect it using spectroscopy and weirdly using butterfly wings as a substrate for doing this.

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So that was quite a bizarre. When people say, explain what you did for your PhD, I kind of go hmmmm the experience of the early career researcher network.

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It also gave me the opportunity to apply for funding from within the university.

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And then I also ran competitions for outreach activities and online poster competitions.

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So I was then able to get experience of managing sort of grant funding so I could say that I've had that kind of experience,

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depending on where you want spend up.

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If you think I want to be able to tick various boxes for different types of job, I've these opportunities enabled me to do that.

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And in kind of roundabout way, even though my main main job didn't.

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I was also part of the working group for the Athena Swan Initiative at the School of Physics.

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So equality and diversity has always been very important to me to.

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And I think it's, you know, really interesting as several of the things you've said, like you said early on, about,

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you know, if you've done a research degree, you've got time management and project management and everything in spades.

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But actually, you know,

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there's other fundamental skills which in some ways you just do need to go outside of that initial kind of bubble of your research to develop that.

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And absolutely and it's really interesting to hear you talk about actually the motivation for that for you was just a follow.

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Follow your interests. Yeah, the things that mattered to me most.

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I think another thing that helped me was going to conferences by myself.

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And not with my research group and not with anybody else from the university, because it forces you to stop talking to the same people.

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Because conferences are massive networking opportunity. But it's so hard to make inroads.

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I struggled a bit initially because it felt very cliquey and it's hard as an outsider just to essentially barge in on someone's conversations.

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Hi. Can I introduce myself?

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But it was some it was because of going to a conference by myself that I met Baden Wood of Monash University in Melbourne.

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And he was the one that suggested I apply for Royal Society travel grant

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which is why I was then able to demonstrate some independent research and have

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a first solo publication without my P.I. from University of Exeter on it.

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So these chance meetings are so important.

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And if you're able to I know socialising at conferences can be really uncomfortable for those people.

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And perhaps the current situation,

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the current pandemic is therefore opening more doors for people who find it challenging to do face to face networking.

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I hope so. I know not all conferences are offering the opportunity for a career networking, but it's a good idea if,

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if, if, if anyone listening is involved in organising workshops or seminars or conferences,

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do allow specific time for early career people to engage in network and have an invite

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to come as coffee breaks because that's where the important conversations happen.

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That's where the next big collaboration starts to form.

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That's really, really.

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Yeah, that's really, really great, because they're all of the things that I think sometimes in in the kind of in the Doctoral College

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that kind of central well, we're kind of going on and on about all the time,

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you know, how important the networking is and how important doing stuff outside of the research degree is,

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because it's it's the stuff that builds your experience and builds your skill, your skill base.

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But I think sometimes people think, oh, no. You know. I wouldn't think about that just now.

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Oh, it can't have that much. It's easy to yeah, it's easy to put it off because it's not something that will immediately provide a tangible benefit.

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Something that's a slow burner and learning how to use LinkedIn and Twitter.

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And it's not for everybody. But if you figure out how to use these platforms, then it can leverage more opportunities in the future.

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What advice would you give to somebody who's looking at making that transition from a, you know,

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a research career or a postdoc into a role outside academia, but particularly thinking about moving into a civil service role?

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I would say. Sure, well, you may have people within your current network who all people that work within

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the civil service or who are working in a kind of field you'd like to go to.

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Always, always talk to people who you already connected with.

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We can give you insight, especially if they're working closely with an area that you want to work in,

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because there may be subjects, specific skills that you need to work on in order to be a viable candidate.

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But more generally, it's a numbers game.

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And do be prepared for failure. People in academia especially don't tend to talk about the grants.

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They didn't get or the papers they've never managed to get accepted in a journal

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or all the things that they tried and didn't work out or the experiments that failed.

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Because why would you why would you talk about that? So it's all about self promotion.

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It's all about creating and curating this successful persona.

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It's all about your H index and trying to find metrics that show off your skills?

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The truth is, unless you apply for dozens and dozens and dozens of things, you're not going to get the one that really matters.

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And that takes so much time and resilience.

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And it can annoy the people that you've put your references for you, especially if they get contacted by every single one.

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So that's another tip. Talk to the people here.

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You've put down as your references to make sure they know that these things are coming out,

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because honestly, they do sometimes get contacted out of the blue before you even get shortlisted.

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So prepare them for that. So, yeah, it's a numbers game.

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And women especially are more likely to not apply for jobs if they don't feel that they fulfil all the criteria.

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And there's been research that's showing that whether you meet 50 percent of the criteria or 90 percent of the criteria,

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the chances of getting an interview roughly the same. So you might as well just apply for the thing.

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And at worst, you're going to get feedback that you can use to improve your next application.

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So you have to treat applying for jobs as a job, put time aside for it, do it regularly, try and sign up to jobs that ask around.

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A lot of jobs come up and it's word of mouth. So put in those cold calling emails to people saying, I love what you do, I'd love to work with you.

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one day if I was to. Can you give me any advice on my current CV?

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What things you'd be looking for? That totally an out. It feels like cheating, but it's part of networking.

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And certainly in my experience as well, people actually quite a quite receptive.

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And, you know, more often than not, willing to help. Absolutely.

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It reminds me of when I was an undergraduate.

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The professors would make time for the students who genuinely wanted to understand and would say, can I talk to you about this particular integrals?

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I can't solve. And the professors would sit and make the time thing.

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So, yeah, ultimately, people are in that job for a reason.

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And if I care about it and if they want to share the enthusiasm with other people, then of course they can go help.

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That's brilliant. And one thing I wanted to pick up on is this thing about resilience and failure.

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How what advice do you have for. For dealing with that, I guess, for dealing with that.

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That sense of failure or rejection, which which is just common in the drug market, is common.

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I think. It's a difficult one, personally.

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It's not always been easy to accept failure and rejection.

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But the thing that I found that's helped the most is if I reframe it and instead of

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feeling like if I don't get to interview that I failed in the application process.

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What I've done is I've succeeded at submitting application.

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And if I don't get past the interview stage, then what I've done is I've succeeded in getting to interview.

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So, yeah. You haven't managed to get the thing that might have been the ultimate goal that you have done.

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The really difficult steps in getting there. And each time you get to interview, each time you'll almost shortlisted.

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You're improving your skills. And it is a skill. And to improve.

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You have to practise. So I would say definitely apply to things that.

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Maybe hit 70 percent of the things you're looking for because at least you don't get it.

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You don't feel like it's such high stakes and apply for the things that might not

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necessarily excite you so much initially just so that you get that experience.

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Thanks to Natalie for that really interesting conversation, thinking about the move from postdoc to civil service application processes,

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the importance of networking and building that wider skill base outside of your immediate research project.

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

 

Episode 9 - Dr. Celia Butler, Senior Applications Engineer at Synopsys Inc

Episode 9 - Dr. Celia Butler, Senior Applications Engineer at Synopsys Inc

October 27, 2020

Welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast from the University of Exeter Doctoral College! The podcast about non-academic careers and all the opportunities available to you... beyond your research degree!  In this episode Kelly Preece, Researcher Development Manager talks to Dr. Celia Butler, Senior Applications Engineer at Synopsys Inc.

 

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

 

Podcast transcript

 

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Hello and welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast by the University of Exeter, Doctoral College
 
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Hello and welcome to the latest episode of Beyond Your Research Degree.
 
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I'm Kelly Preevce And today, I'll be talking to Dr Celia Butler, who is currently senior applications engineer at Synopsis,
 
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having graduated with her PhD in physics in 2012. Celia, you happy to introduce yourself?
 
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Hello, my name's Celia Butler and I did my PhD in Microwave Metamaterials in the electro magnetic materials group at the University of Exeter
 
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which is part of the physics department or it was at the time. And now I work for synopsis
 
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I'm a senior applications engineer with the simplewear support team.
 
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And what I do is I provide support for a software package that allows you to take 3D image data and like scans from MRI,
 
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and CT and turn it into a computer model and you can do all sorts of things with that computer model from 3D printing to finite
 
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element analysis all the way through to just simple visualisations to learn something about that data that you're inspecting.
 
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Amazing. So can you tell me a little bit about the transition from doing your research degree into the current role?
 
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Did you have any were there any jobs that you took in between or was it a straight move?
 
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Yes. So when I left my PhD, I actually went into a job which sort of spanned the gap between academia and industry.
 
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So officially, it was a postdoc role, but I was actually more of a research and development engineer with a pre-spin out company.
 
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So it was still part of the university and it took on a role.
 
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kind of like a technical consultancy?
 
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So like an R&D consultancy role. And my specific area was to look at improving radio frequency identification tagging.
 
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So RFID tagging is now quite popular, popular. You see it all over the place in tags, in clothes shops.
 
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RFID tags are embedded into shoes. When you buy them all sorts of things.
 
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But the specific area that I was looking at was how to tag structures that have a lot of
 
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metal in them because essentially they're an antenna and when you place them on metal,
 
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they don't work very well. And I was looking at tagging RFID circuit boards.
 
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So these circuit boards have very high value and you really try to understand what you can do.
 
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So I worked with a few different people locally to try and address this problem,
 
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using some of the knowledge from my PhD, but also past experience from before that as well.
 
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And after that role, I left it and started a new position for a company called Subten Systems.
 
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Now, this was a very small Start-Up company, possibly the best and most exciting research I have ever done.
 
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It was looking to create wireless Ethernet bridges.
 
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What that means is point to point, a transmission of data, at very, very high frequencies.
 
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So in the millimetre wave region. And this was so exciting because I was quite new to the R&D world and I was given a lot of responsibility,
 
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but also worked in an amazing team and we just got things done.
 
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It was fantastic. But unfortunately, like a lot of start-ups, it didn't make it.
 
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And I had to make the decision to leave. Possibly the hardest decision of my life.
 
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But yes. So I left subten systems and that fantastic team.
 
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And then I found a job in the centre of Exeter working for at the time, simplewear
 
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which were, again, a small company, not really a Start-Up, but about 30, 40 people.
 
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And from there. This company was bought out by synopsis.
 
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But my job role has stayed pretty consistent. Most of the way through.
 
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And I actually I'm able to use a lot of my experience from my career, but also interests outside of work to perform my job, which is it's just a.
 
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Varied and keeps me on my toes most of the time.
 
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That sounds amazing. And in a short space of time, you've worked in quite a lot of different.
 
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Different organisations. So what was it like making that transition from your phd into a.
 
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Non-academic Role did. Did you always know you wanted a job outside of academia and doing research in industry or so?
 
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I think when I did my PhD, I really enjoyed my time doing the research element before I did my PhD.
 
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I worked in industry for a few years.
 
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So I was very aware of what it was like to work in a team doing commercial R&D as opposed to quite academic research.
 
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And it is very different. And I preferred the industrial research, the kind of work.
 
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Working towards one product or one specific goal,
 
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but also having the flexibility to change projects or move into different roles within the same organisation.
 
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Whereas in a PhD, you're very focussed on your path, your route to completing whatever your project might be.
 
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I didn't find the transition very hard.
 
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Moving from academic research to sort of industrial R&D, I think, because it's something that I knew and I was comfortable with.
 
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I was looking forward to moving back. I also had very good kind of time management skills during the PhD.
 
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I viewed it more as a day to day job because of my past experience.
 
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There is one exception for that, which was when I was writing up.
 
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When I wrote up, the time really went out the window. I was just working all the time, it seemed.
 
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But after that, I was really able to relax into that role,
 
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to work with lots and lots of different people and to really focus on a product, which is what we were aiming for.
 
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So, yeah, that worked really well for me. So, yeah.
 
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Can you say a little bit more about what it what it is about doing R&D work in industry that you prefer to academia.
 
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Is it that kind of. Is it something to do with the pace. Is it the pace of it or is it the kind of clearer sense of product, and impact.
 
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So I think industrial R&D has a clear focus, a clear aim.
 
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But people work slightly differently. In my experience in commercial R&D compared to academic R&D or academic research, in academic research,
 
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you are striving to understand every single little part of whatever your problem or area might be in commercial R&D,
 
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although you need to understand what's going on. There's a limit to how much detail you need to go into.
 
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You need to be able to solve the problem. But you are working towards a different goal and that goal will come to an end and it will change.
 
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There will be a second level, another stage or something that you are building on.
 
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You need to understand this area. Make a decision. Produce a product, whatever that might be, and then you move on.
 
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It's also quite normal to have multiple projects going on at the same time.
 
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And for me, I need that that ability to be able to switch between projects to keep me fully invested and sort of just enjoying what I do.
 
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I need lots of little things to dip in and out of just to keep me entertained.
 
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I guess. Yes, I absolutely know that feeling.
 
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So you said about the time management skills that you developed during your PhD and how important they are to what you do now.
 
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And certainly if you're working in lots of different projects, I can really see that.
 
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What other skills and experiences have you taken from your PhD that have really helped you with an R&D role in industry?
 
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I think the biggest thing that I learnt during the PhD, as opposed to other roles I've been in before,
 
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was to be able to take a big project and be able to divide it up into small chunks that seem more manageable,
 
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because I think when you start the PhD, it can be a little bit overwhelming because you've got this three,
 
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four years plus and you've got to produce something at the end of it.
 
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But I'm not really sure what that is.
 
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So to be able to take that huge idea, chop it up and then manage yourself to be able to to achieve whatever that might be is really important.
 
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And then the other thing, the sort of skills that I learnt.
 
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I did a course on how to read sounds ridiculous, but how to speed read, how to take academic papers and top and tail.
 
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And that's been really useful in other projects that I've done because in industrial research,
 
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you haven't got loads of time to do a full literature review on most projects.
 
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You need to extract the information that you need. Put it together and then use it in whatever form that might be.
 
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The other thing I think was really important is how to present robustly.
 
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So I've never really had a problem with the actual presenting side of things.
 
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But the questioning was something that was sort of really drilled into me during my PhD
 
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That you need to know your subject well enough.
 
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You need to have done your research to be able to answer questions robustly and kind of stand up to someone standing up and saying,
 
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oh, I'm not I'm not sure about this. Tell me more or I don't believe that.
 
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What's your evidence for it? And to be able to stand there and and defend the research that you've done and to present a reasoned argument.
 
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And I think that was probably the biggest thing to take away.
 
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Yeah. So really, it it's project management. It's. Ability to read and synthesise information and presenting.
 
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Yes, it's kind of a soft skills. I mean, obviously I learnt a lot of physics in my actual PhD
 
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But I wouldn't say that I've applied much of that in my other roles.
 
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It's more being those kind of soft skills that have been the most useful.
 
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Yeah. And I think that's that's always what's really interesting about looking at careers beyond academia,
 
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because I think we get really entrenched in this idea that I.
 
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I need to be looking at something that's very specific to the very niche topic area I am working in, whereas actually.
 
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When people are going to work in industry, that they're more using the working in the general subject area in some shape or form.
 
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But it's those soft skills that become even more important because they're the ones that are transferable.
 
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Absolutely. And I can give you an example of that. So. Right. One of the first things that I did when I joined Simplewear
 
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whereas it was then now synopsis was I had a Web meeting with someone who is using this software and they were doing knee replacement.
 
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And now my PhD is a microwave metamaterials. I'm looking at electromagnetic interaction with materials and it has nothing to do with knees.
 
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So very quickly, I have to understand the different parts that need to put the bones are called some of the key muscles or tendons.
 
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I had to understand how you perform in knee replacement so that I was roughly on the same level so that
 
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we could talk in similar terms because there are terms that are specific to different industries.
 
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So I had to come up to speed very fast on all of that and then understand how this particular
 
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customer wanted to use the software and what what the challenges were that they were facing.
 
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And then I had to take all of that presented back to them in a Web meeting in under an hour.
 
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So very quickly, you're having to take a problem.
 
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Understand it. Do your research. Kind of problem solve along the way and then present it back and answer questions all in one.
 
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So I think that would take about maybe between one and two days to complete the whole project.
 
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But at the same time, I had three or four other projects and sort of mini projects like that that I'd have to answer as well.
 
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And meetings and emails and all these other things. So it's really a bit of a juggling act.
 
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But you've got to focus on each problem, solve it, and then present it back to your customer and make sure that they're happy with that solution.
 
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Make sure that you have understood and solved whatever they're looking to work towards and make sure that it fits for them.
 
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So it it's quite a quite large challenge, but it's really fun.
 
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Yeah, and I think that there seems to be something there that's really about problem solving,
 
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but using your research skills and your creativity in finding solutions to your work problems.
 
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And I think you draw on all your past experience in order to do that Problem-Solving.
 
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So in before I started the PhD, I worked in manufacturing.
 
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So there are lots of things that I learnt in terms of tolerances, in terms of manufacturing processes.
 
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So when I work with someone who's using additive manufacturing, I can relate to certain areas there as well.
 
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And I bring that experience to help me to solve that.
 
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So, yeah, there's lots of different areas that kind of draw together.
 
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But the PhD brings a skill set of tackling a very large project and helping you to form it all together.
 
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One of the things people get. We get feedback that our researchers are quite nervous about is the application process for.
 
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Jobs outside of academia, because they're sort of the. Academic kind of job application promotions process feels very familiar.
 
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When you're in that environment, can you talk about your experience of.
 
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Applying for jobs in. industry and specifically kind of how you talked about and framed, your research experience?
 
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Yes, absolutely. So I was very lucky with the jobs that I went to.
 
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Most of them, I had some connection to the company.
 
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And throughout my working career, I seem to have fallen into jobs rather than applied through the formal process.
 
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So I would definitely say to any PhD tudents and create a network and tell people that you're looking for a job,
 
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because the one that I got at Subten Systems, I found out through a guy that I used to go gliding with.
 
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He'd started at this company and they were looking down on and I was able to apply
 
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and get a lot of things have kind of fallen into place through that network.
 
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I have done very few formal applications. Having said that, all my positions have involved some kind of interview.
 
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So I can certainly comment on that. I guess the key thing is to think about how you've applied your skills and
 
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any way that you can show that you can talk about how you've used that skill.
 
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So it could be that you.
 
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Looked after a colleague's child, say, for a few hours.
 
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And that was very challenging for you. You can apply that situation and say this was a very stressful situation.
 
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Not something that I'm familiar with. And this is how I managed it. That might not be particularly relevant to an industrial R&D engineering job,
 
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but they can see how when you went into a new situation, how you managed it.
 
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And I think those how you can form an example, if you can draw on your PhD, if you can draw on your sort of formal experiences, that's great.
 
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But if there's an area where you think importantly, where to go with this, look at your your life outside of work,
 
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outside of academia and think, are there examples that you can draw from there as well?
 
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Because that's a really key area that people sometimes sometimes miss.
 
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I think the other thing about applications and interviews is.
 
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It's almost always evidence based. So really try to give as many examples of how you fulfil the job.
 
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Job skills and competencies which will be listed on the job description, try and like focus on those specifically.
 
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And then you've got a stronger application. Are there particular things that you did?
 
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So you said you talked about kind of the importance of forming those examples and those examples,
 
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not having to be really specific to the role the industry that you're working in.
 
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Are there things that you did during your OhD that weren't necessarily kind of just about the doing the research
 
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and writing the thesis that have been really useful to you as examples and job applications and interviews?
 
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Oh, that's a great question. So there are lots of things I did during my PhD
 
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I travelled extensively as part of the PhD, which is something that I would definitely recommend to everybody.
 
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And actually that travel led to multiple collaboration's.
 
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Regarding my research. So that was extremely helpful in terms of outside of the actual PhD and the research environment.
 
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And I was also a Brownie leader. So that's part of the Girlguiding structure.
 
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And that was something that kept me really rooted during the PhD because I was working with girls aged seven to 10 and they can be so challenging.
 
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They can really come up with so many questions.
 
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Things that you don't think about a child's mind is a fascinating array of ideas, and they're so inquisitive.
 
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So that was really amazing. And I am quite lucky in that I was able to actually bring them into the physics building.
 
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And we did a whole evening in the physics building with a little talk and we did some bridge building and and all sorts of things.
 
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So that was that was really fantastic. I think I also did just after my PhD, I did some volunteering through girlguiding.
 
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So it was sustainable. Volunteering is what I called it.
 
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Call it. I'm not a builder. I don't have any skills in that area.
 
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So I can't go and build houses for people or anything like that.
 
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But we we ran a programme where we went out and asked the people what they were
 
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looking for and actually what they wanted was something much more simple or simple,
 
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something that I could deliver. Which was how to build CVs
 
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How to present yourself to different people. And it was a very simplistic level, but that was something that we were we were able to do.
 
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So that was fantastic. And as part of that, we also developed the girl guiding programme in the country with the leaders,
 
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very simple ideas that don't take lots of resources or money or time, but just ideas for things that they could do to to get more people involved.
 
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So that's something that I often talk about in interviews,
 
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because it's something that also changed me as a person to understand that I finished my PhD.
 
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But actually I have a lot of skills that are useful to other people and I can
 
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teach them in an informal way and about the world around them and how it works.
 
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I never really appreciated that before I went away.
 
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So that was really great. That's very interesting and how did you how did you balance doing that kind of activity alongside doing your PhD?
 
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I was quite lucky. We're part of a team.
 
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So when my work load up for my academic workload was quite high, I was able to kind of step back from the brownie preparation for the sessions.
 
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But when I was a little bit quieter, I could jump in and do more.
 
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And what I really tried to do was make sure that every Monday night when it was the meeting, I was always there.
 
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And that was a kind of a non-negotiable aspect for me. That time was Brownie time.
 
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And that was it. Apart from obviously when I was travelling for conferences and and other such things.
 
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But I think that's all about teamwork. That's about communicating with the team that you have and understanding each other's pressures.
 
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One of the other ladies that runs it is a school teacher. So there are key aspects during the year which are particularly busy for her.
 
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Another lady is a solicitor, so she has big projects.
 
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So sometimes it coincides that we we are all really busy.
 
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In which case we all do a little bit to contribute to what we need.
 
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Having said that, there's also a good aspect of just winging it,
 
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turning up and just having some fun and nothing to planned and just having a couple of things in your back pocket that you can just get on with.
 
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And I think that's that's really fun as well.
 
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I wouldn't want to do all the time, but that helps. And it is quite an important skill to have.
 
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Like you say, it's not something that we would necessarily want to make.
 
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The way that we operate on a daily basis, but quite often in in the working world and in your PhD, you do kind of have to just turn up and wing it.
 
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Absolutely. So there's always that time when you go to a conference and someone's talk doesn't load properly or is corrupted,
 
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or I went to a talk where all the graphs were in neon colours and you couldn't see any of the lines.
 
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And so I give him his due. That guy stood there for 20 minutes.
 
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He talked about his research and we could not see a single thing on any of his slides.
 
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And I think that is a real skill. And I think there's a bit to be said for preparation in that situation.
 
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Maybe you can go in the night before or just a couple of hours before your talk and just
 
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check it over to make sure that it does work on the projector that you're going to use.
 
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However, it's if you really know your subject area,
 
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hopefully you'd be able to talk a little bit about your research without these slides, you know, just giving it a go talk.
 
213
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And actually, it was a really good talk because it got people asking questions.
 
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And I think that's really key. I guess one of the big questions is what advice would you give to someone who's currently starting out or doing well,
 
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coming to the end of the research degree, who is thinking about R&D roles in industry?
 
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What advice would you give them about things they should be doing now, about applying for applying for jobs?
 
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Is there any kind of key tips you would give them? Absolutely.
 
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I would say try and extend your network.
 
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Now, you could do that by going up to conferences, talking to people about your research, but also talk to your family,
 
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your friends locally, because lots of my business contacts have been made through unusual links.
 
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So really use that network to understand what opportunities are out there.
 
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What kind of skills people are looking for right now. Because it changes it.
 
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It changes all the time. We're seeing more of a focus towards automation and more scripting is required.
 
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So things like Python are becoming more necessary and lots of job roles.
 
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And I would say focus on that to kind of understand what areas you might want to go into, on what kind of skills they're looking for.
 
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And then you can focus on sort of fulfilling those before you get there,
 
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but also using those contacts to understand actually is there an opportunity that I'd be perfect for.
 
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And actually, I can look to apply and say to them, look, it's conditional.
 
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I want to finish my PhD and then start or something like that.
 
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There are lots of opportunities out there. And you just need to be a bit flexible in looking for them, how you find them.
 
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And I think people often overlook that. Thinking that they have to apply through a formal route.
 
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And there will be a formal route. That is how you find those opportunities that I'm saying can be can be less orthodox.
 
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Yeah, I think I think that's really key and it seems to have been a key theme in your career so far.
 
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Actually, the importance of networking and making Connections to actually creating those opportunities.
 
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Yeah, yeah, definitely. I mean, before my PhD, most of my jobs were through word of mouth.
 
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One of the jobs that I had was because I'd used a particular software for my dissertation and a company contacted the university and said,
 
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Do you have any students who can use this software? Any graduates who might be looking for jobs?
 
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That was another way that I that I got an opportunity there as well.
 
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So there are lots ways. Talk to your supervisor about what you're looking for.
 
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Maybe they have someone who's sponsoring PhDs in another area that maybe you're not aware of and they're looking for people.
 
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So that can be a huge help as well. Yeah, that's really brilliant.
 
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I'm. Is there anything that you.
 
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Wish that you had done. While you were still a PhD student that you think would've benefited your career so far?
 
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I don't think there's any opportunities that I missed. I think probably I should have spent some time learning how to code properly.
 
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That would be really useful in my career.
 
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Now, I've picked up bits along the way, but I have to say I'm not a superb coder.
 
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I think that's a key area. But in terms of conferences, in terms of experience, I was always quite cheeky.
 
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So I'd always ask if I wanted to go to a conference, if I saw it was somewhere amazing.
 
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Then I'd just ask and we'd see if there was budget and I'd make sure that I had something new to present.
 
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When I went to my supervisor to say I would go to this conference and most of the time we made it happen.
 
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So, yeah, be cheeky. Just go for it. Yeah, that's that's the benefit of being.
 
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Proactive. And also just accepting that, you know, if you ask.
 
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They might say no. They might say yes. Exactly. My mom always used to say, if you don't ask, you don't get.
 
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And that, I think, is very true. So couple of examples on that.
 
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Specifically, before I started my PhDD, I did a placement with Kinetic.
 
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And there was a project that we were working on, which was on a warship that was in for refits.
 
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And I I've never been on an aircraft carrier.
 
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And I thought I'd really like to go. So I went over to the guy who's running projects and I said, I'd really like to go.
 
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And he said, Oh, I dunno And then I ended up being down there for two weeks.
 
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And it was absolutely fantastic. And in another example, in my current job, I was working on a project.
 
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And one of the surgeons said to me, you should come down and see surgery.
 
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And I said, okay. So I asked my boss and he said, Well, yes, I guess so.
 
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So I went down and I saw a knee replacement and a hip replacement. And I've never seen anything like that.
 
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It's it's brutal and it's fascinating. And I had no idea how I was gonna react, whether I was going to faint on the floor or be engrossed in it.
 
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Turns out I didn't faint on the floor. Fantastic. Didn't embarrass myself in front of the surgeons, but it was just the most amazing experience.
 
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And I've got so much more insight into how these surgeries are performed.
 
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So when I work with a surgeon now, I know that if you're talking about fractions of a millimetre,
 
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it's probably not going to be achievable in surgery because you you just can't see does that level of detail that you can give them a guide
 
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and that that really the understanding of the situation of the kind of equipment that you have to wear of the how hot it is in the room.
 
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You know, all these things really help you to to speak to the customer and to to be able to direct them to the best solution for their problem.
 
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What do you love most about your job? Oh, just working with loads of different people.
 
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All the different industries. So I've got a project at the moment where I'm working on trying to automate a learning process to defect,
 
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to find defects in addictively manufactured parts.
 
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So that's one project.
 
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We're also working on automated learning to build models of hearts and knees and hips for things like pacemaker design or stent placement.
 
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So just working with that huge range of industries and everything in between,
 
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I'm just really allows me to keep my brain active and learning lots of new, different things.
 
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But like I've said, applying those skills,
 
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I've learnt through the experience that I've had before to be able to come up with innovative solutions that don't only solve, you know,
 
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sort of minor problems, but they're they're really addressing critical problems like defects in aircraftg wings or,
 
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you know, my my mum's knee replacement. She could have.
 
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Now, she could have a personalised knee replacement rather than one that was probably a bit smaller, a bit too big.
 
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But she was somewhere in the middle. And I think helping to address those problems gives you a real warm glow feeling inside.
 
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Thank you so much, Celia, for taking the time to talk to me and giving some really interesting insights on kind of R&D roles,
 
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but also the hidden job market. And that's it for this episode.
 
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Join us next time when we'll be talking to another researcher about their career beyond their research degree.
 
Episode 8 - Dr. David Jacoby, Research Fellow at the Zoological Society of London

Episode 8 - Dr. David Jacoby, Research Fellow at the Zoological Society of London

September 28, 2020

Welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast from the University of Exeter Doctoral College! The podcast about non-academic careers and all the opportunities available to you... beyond your research degree!  In this episode Kelly Preece, Researcher Development Manager talks to Dr. David Jacoby, Research Fellow at the Zoological Society of London. You can find out more about David on his LinkedIn profile.

 

Music credit: Cheery Monday Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) 
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License 
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ 

 

Podcast transcript

 

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

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Hello.

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I'm Kelly Peece and welcome to this episode. Today I'm going to be talking to David Jacoby.

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David works as a research fellow in a university affiliated institution, so he's kind of bridging that gap between industry and academia.

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Hi, David. Can you introduce yourself? My name is Dr. David Jacoby.

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I'm a research fellow at the Institute of Zoology, which is part of the Zoological Society of London.

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I've been working there for roughly seven years now. I graduated from the University of Exeter with a research degree in 2012.

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My PhD was in animal behaviour and that was from the School of Psychology at the Streatham campus,

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and it focussed predominantly on the application of network analysis for understanding shark behaviour.

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So, David, can you tell me a little bit about your current role and what it involves as a research fellow?

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I have a growing research lab around the theme of network ecology and telemetry,

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and this focuses on my main research interests, which are predominately the ecology and conservation of shark species.

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So that is things like how they reside with inside and outside marine protected areas, the threats they face from commercial and illegal fisheries.

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But another component in my research is also various different animal tracking

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technologies and how we can use that to understand things about movement, ecology and behaviour.

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And finally, the third strand of my research is into animal social network analysis as well.

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So why animals aggregate predominately in the marine environment for my focus.

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What this means for population dynamics and how do we quantify social behaviour in fish at all.

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So this role really involves supervision of both PhD and masters students, as a research and pure research institute.

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We do some degree of teaching associated with some of the other London universities whose masters courses are affiliated to us.

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But it's predominantly my role is around data analysis. The writing of grant applications and papers, reviewing grant applications and papers,

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as well as a big component, and then everyday meetings with students and colleagues.

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For example, I sit on the Equality and Diversity Committee within the Institute of Zoology, and this is really about taking inward.

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Look at how we as an organisation represent the diversity in society and how we can improve diversity across academia in general.

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In addition to that, we have a lot of responsibilities around communication and outreach activities.

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So I spend quite a lot of time trying to present my work to people, be on the scientific community and whether that be at conferences,

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non-specific scientific conferences and events for the public evening symposia which we put on for public at the Zoological Society of London.

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And then extra curricular activities include things like editorial responsibilities.

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So I am I've been an assistant editor at the Journal of Fish Biology for the last six years.

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So that also takes up quite a bit of my time as well. So what's it like working in a pure research institute?

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Is it similar or different to conducting research in academia?

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And what's the what's your day to day work life like?

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I really enjoy working at ZSL or the Zoological Society of London.

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It's a pure research institute. And as an organisation, it is absolutely steeped in history.

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It's nearing its two hundredth anniversary. Charles Darwin was a former fellow of that as well.

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And Sir David Attenborough is the current patron. So the place is really inspirational in terms of some of the research that's come out of there.

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There's a real diversity of research, a diversity of methods and study systems as well.

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So you never really know what you're going to be discussing when you meet people in the tea room.

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There's so many different study systems from terrestrial animals to aquatic, from various tracking to genetics.

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So there's a real mixed bag of people working there. And that's what I like about the place.

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In many ways it's similar to university, but without the pressure perhaps to conduct quite so much teaching,

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we do contribute to master's courses from Imperial College, London, University College, London as well.

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King's Royal Vetinary College and a number of other institutions. So I can do as much or as little teaching as I want,

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but I experience the same pressure that you get at a university to bring in grant

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money to justify our position to publish regularly in high impact publications.

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I have an honorary position at UCL, which is one of our main collaborative organisations,

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and there's broad collaboration across all of the London and London groups and London universities.

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And this includes the London doctoral training programme from which we have a kind of annual cohort of these students as well available to us.

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My average day, I would say, is desk based predominantly, and it will include student meetings, some analysis, a bit of writing,

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quite a lot of internal meetings as well, and also external international collaborative meetings,

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which can run out of hours as well, depending on who is speaking to.

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Then on the flip side of that, I have regular fieldwork each year as well.

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So I have two main field sites currently up and running where we track sharks using acoustic telemetry.

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My main field site is in the British Indian Ocean territory, one of the largest marine protected areas in the world.

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And here, the groups tracking reef sharks to understand the role that the marine protected area has on trying to conserve these species,

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which are still facing large threats from illegal fishing activity.

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The second field site is in northern Lanzarote in the Canary Islands,

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and this is tracking critically endangered angel sharks, about which we know very little.

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So we're using technologies there to try to understand some of their ecology,

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some of their daily seasonal and annual variation and movements and distribution.

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And this usually involves being out on the water from the vessel based research for anywhere up to three weeks at a time, at least once a year.

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Sometimes there are more trips and I also attend both national and international conferences as well.

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So that's another component of my time. But that's a broad overview of what I tend to do on a day to day basis.

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So what skills and experiences from your research degree?

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Do you use specifically in your current role for key skills?

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My PhD, I would argue that I really relied on some of the project management experience I got during my PhD

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This included things like budgeting, time allocation, delegation of responsibilities and roles to research assistants and to students as well.

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But also the importance of reading and reading a lot. Reading around the subject, reading as broadly as possible.

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Things like practising presentations as well. I used to be terrified of giving presentations.

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The more I do, the easier I find it.

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So certainly practising that more and more was a skill that I began to acquire during my PhD, which is still really important today.

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Also, I would say a willingness to kind of see where a conversation or a train of thought can lead you as well.

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So I'm very fortunate at the moment in my role that I'm able to kind of explore different avenues of research.

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But one of the great things about a pure research institute is that you can have a conversation that can set you off on a whole new direction.

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It could be bring in whole new techniques, a whole new set of collaborators,

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and it can really set start your day or your week or your year off in a very exciting direction.

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And the only other thing I would say about what I learnt from my PhD was the importance of listening to people,

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taking onboard advice and learning the kind of better habits of people I admired,

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but also learning from bad habits of others and generally just trying to treat people in the way that I enjoyed being treated as a student myself.

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I learnt a lot from my supervisors and I learnt a lot from the people I interacted with.

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During my PhD and I've really made a conscious effort to try and take some of those good

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components and repeat them and pass them on to students that I now supervise as well.

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Are there any additional activities or extracurricular projects you would advise research

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degree students to get involved in to help make them more employable extracurricular activities?

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As I said, I. I have my editorial roles for various different journals.

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These have been extremely rewarding for me as I've learnt a lot about the peer review system and about research in general.

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It's meant I've had to interact with a lot of different researchers worldwide, both for requests for review,

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but also managing the comments as they come in and then dealing with the authors

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and and being the Go-Between between the authors and reviewers as well. That's been a really rewarding and interesting experience.

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So I would highly recommend if those opportunities come up. Taking those organising events is certainly a very useful thing to do.

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Again, this comes down to project management.

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And I helped organise a behaviour meeting while I was at Exeter during my PhD and that was a very useful thing to do.

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I currently run a twice monthly bio logging journal club where we discuss and critique new papers in the field of animal tracking.

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And this really, again, encourages people to read. It stimulates discussion amongst people of a like mind.

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It enables you to keep on top of the literature and learn new new things.

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But just just having to run that really forced me to to bring the group together

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and to meet on a regular basis and to discuss things on a regular basis as well.

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I would advise offering yourself out to help out on committees that, you know,

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really try and have an impact on the environment you work in and try and really be

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be an individual that pushes forward better practises within that institution,

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an organisation that can always be improvements made both at an institutional level, but also at a wider.

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Academic level as well. So I would say use your voice.

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Everyone, everyone has an important thing. Everyone has important things to say.

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And I would use that to try and improve the surroundings that you're in.

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And the field as a whole. And finally, what advice would you give to students who are thinking about applying for roles in pure research institutes?

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The advice that I always give isn't necessarily specific to a research institute at all, but it is useful, I think.

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And that is learn a skill, whether that be coding or learning a programming language.

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Genetic techniques and mathematical processes or all things from physics, anything like that.

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And bring that skill to the organisation that you want to work at or the study system that you want to work on, particularly in ecology and zoology.

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We are crying out for interdisciplinary research techniques, people to bring in research from other areas.

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I mean, science is becoming an increasingly interdisciplinary thing to do.

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So thinking outside the box is a must. And outside skills often pave the way for new, very novel research.

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And these can be be the difference in, you know, really progressing the field.

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So I would I would definitely recommend trying to learn a skill as opposed to being

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focussed on a particular system or a particular study organism or something like that.

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The second and final piece of advice I would also give is to be really persistent as well.

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There is no tried and tested method from going from your PhD  to the job you finally want to end up in.

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It took me many years to get to the point where I was being paid to lead my own research and often just a foot in the door is really important.

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So I actually took up a six month unpaid internship after my PhD, which wasn't wasn't ideal.

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And it's also not feasible for everyone as well. But it was really important.

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I was able to get a foot in the door at the Zoological Society of London.

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And since then I've stayed and I've slowly developed my own strands of research, my own research group over time.

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So people take different routes. There is no right way of getting from A to B.

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And it's important to remember that, but it will take a lot of persistence. So stick at it if you're keen and the rewards will come.

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Thank you so much, David, for taking the time to share your thoughts and your experience.

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

 

Episode 7 - Dr. Natalie Whitehead, Co-Founder Exeter Science Centre

Episode 7 - Dr. Natalie Whitehead, Co-Founder Exeter Science Centre

September 3, 2020

Welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast from the University of Exeter Doctoral College! The podcast about non-academic careers and all the opportunities available to you... beyond your research degree!  In this episode Kelly Preece, Researcher Development Manager talks to Dr. Natalie Whitehead, co-founder of the Exeter Science Centre.

Here are some links to the different organisations and schemes we discussed in the podcast: 

 

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

 

Podcast transcript

 

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

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

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I'm your host, Kelly Preece, and I'm delighted for this episode to be joined by one of our recent graduates, Dr Natalie Whitehead.

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Natalie, are you happy to introduce yourself? OK, great.

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So I'm Natalie Whitehead. I recently finished my PhD in physics.

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I was looking at spin waves through magnets, which are just a special type of wave that travels through magnets.

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That was my PhD and that finished in September.

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And I'm now the founder and director alongside my colleague, Dr Alice Mills for the Exeter Science Centre.

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Talk to me about the Exeter Science Centre. How how did this come about?

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So this is something that I've been thinking about for, oh, I don't know, probably just a bit over a year now.

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But a year and a half. And basically, I I was trying to work out what to do after my PhD

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So this who was in physics and during my PhD and undergraduate degree,

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I was really involved in doing public engagement with research and a lot of science outreach.

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I absolutely love talking about science and and speaking to the public about it and showing them demos and getting their

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views and trying to answer questions and things and basically just trying to inspire them about how amazing science is.

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So I was trying to work out what to do after the PhD, which would, you know,

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be good for me, but also for something that I can really contribute towards.

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So, you know, the climate crisis is a really big thing at the moment.

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Of course, it should be and should have been for the. I don't know how many decades.

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And I really feel like I have some kind of responsibility to do something with my physics training, which is useful.

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So I was trying to work out what to do and whether, you know,

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whether I should go and work for one of these amazing Start-Up companies doing cool things.

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You know, I was looking at the the ocean clean up.

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I think what they're doing is amazing, using science and tech to solve the problem and a global issue and lots of other companies like that.

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It's nice thinking. Well, you know, I could go and work for someone like that. Will I be the best scientist or engineer to do that?

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I don't know. But I thought really what my what my skills are.

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One of the things I'm really passionate about, as I mentioned, is science communication.

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And this idea really just came to me one afternoon having lunch and thinking like, why don't I just make a science centre in Exeter?

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It's just something that I've always kind of thought, wow, we should really have one of those here

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I've been to a few around the UK and across the world.

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And I just I love going there. And I see adults and people of all ages just absolutely loving,

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understanding different things about science and playing with scientific equipment and just really engaging with science.

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And I just figured, why don't we have one here? And why don't I just make it?

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So I approached my colleague Alice, and she's a very passionate science communicator as well.

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And she loved the idea here. And we've just been talking about it since then.

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So, yeah, we're just super dedicated to making it happen.

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So what stage are you at with your plans for the science centre?

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We're still in the very early stages. So, as I mentioned, I finished the PhD in September.

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And of course, when you, you know, hand in a PhDthesis,

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you still got a lot of work to do afterwards to kind of, you know, do the viva and make corrections.

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So that's been kind of continued and maybe into about January or so.

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And then I really properly submitted it put in online and then then could properly focus on this that I've been working on.

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It's pretty much full time on and off, you know, around the thesis since September.

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So what we're what we're doing at the moment is trying to get trying to get the public to be aware of our plans and try

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to get their input and really just try to establish ourselves as a science discovery centre for Exeter and for the region.

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And just trying to raise awareness, try to raise money as well.

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That's a big part of it. And just trying to make it happen.

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We've got a a team of advisers who are amazing and super inspiring from different areas of science education and business as well.

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And they're kind of our advisory boards. They'll be moving over to be our trustees.

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Once we establish ourselves as a charity soon. But there's there's loads of things to do about it.

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When you take on such a big project, you realise that, you know, you're running a business.

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You're also trying to create a charity here, charitable business.

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Engage with the public. And that is just a kind of multidisciplinary project ready, which is really exciting or very overwhelming.

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But at the same time, it's some I wouldn't want to be doing anything else.

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I was going to say it's it's a huge project and and it is there must be an awful

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lot of business based skills and business based work that needs to be done.

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How how has that been? How has it been. Yeah.

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You know, going from an academic environment to doing much more business related work.

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Have you found that transition easy?

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Have there been kind of skills and experiences you've been able to take across or has it been a complete learning curve?

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It's been a very steep learning curve. So am I. I don't have any experience of running a company myself, and nor does my colleague Alice.

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So we're learning. However, I feel like when you you do a PhD and you study.

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I mean, you know, from my experience of studying science and physics,

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you you have to take in a lot of information and and process things and think logically.

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And, you know, you you can learn things very quickly.

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And although the business and accounting and finance and all that kind of stuff is it's not my first language at all

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I feel like there's there's a lot of information out there that just needs synthesising, understanding.

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And really, that is the way we're approaching this.

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Of course, we understand it. We we shouldn't be expected to be absolute experts.

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Everything we're doing and this projects, rather,

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it's it's understanding when we need help and need assistance and guidance from people who really have experience in this.

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So we've been very lucky, actually, to have a lot of assistance from the university in.

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In this kind of Start-Up venture, if you would call with the start-ups team, setsquared programme.

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They've been absolutely wonderful and giving us the kind of business advice.

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So we've been assigned a business adviser, David Solomides, who is just super inspiring and really, really, really helpful.

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And he's become one of our kind of formal advisors and hopefully one four trustees will move to a charity as well.

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So so the help is out there.

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I suppose if I was to give advice to someone perhaps who is thinking about doing something unusual like this, who doesn't have the experience.

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I guess it's just you just have to go for it and be prepared to ask and and reach out to people and organisations who can help you,

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such as the university and and others. It's just been wonderful.

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Actually, the amount of support and help that we've received from from various kind of organisations across Exeter and mostly really the university.

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But, yeah, I feel like we've we've been assisted the whole time with them.

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With things like this, especially business, which is kind of scary and unusual for the physicist,

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for scientists, but I but I think it's it's totally doable and it's always going to be a learning curve.

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But if you're determined enough, you'll you'll make out. Yeah. And I think there's a couple of things I'd like to pick up on there.

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The first of which is to just acknowledge that that the support is out there in it.

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And it's not about knowing everything yourself and having all of the skills yourself, but knowing how to access your networks, I guess.

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And and and in this case, for you, it is the university and the start-ups team.

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Definitely, definitely. That's really important, too, because you you can't possibly know everything,

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really recognising that is really important because otherwise you just try and do everything yourself.

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It get stressful. It gets overwhelming.

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It's kind of it's almost like knowing when to delegate and knowing when to knowing that you can't possibly know everything

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and that there is a big support network there if you're part of the university or have been part of the university.

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They are just wonderful in in encouraging and helping and facilitating anything to do with Enterprise or Start-Up Ideas.

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That is just been even the kind of encouragement that you get of, you know, wow, this is a great idea.

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You should speak to this person or have a look at this. It's it's just been really, really helpful.

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And I think people don't expect that to be a department of the university that has this kind of business expertise.

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And they really do. Yeah, that's it.

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And I seriously encourage anyone to to go visit the the Innovation Centre as the start-ups team are over in the deck over there.

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And they're just they're just great. You just pop in and speak to them and they can they have lots of kind of seminars, workshops and advice for you.

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So just go and speak to them. They're really great. So the experience you have of writing papers, your thesis reports, funding applications,

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all those sorts of things clearly and stood you in good stead for what you're doing now.

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Are there any other skills or experiences you had during your PhD day that have been really, really crucial to starting this venture?

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That's a good question, because I think, to be honest, the whole thing really the the way that I was approaching this,

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they're calling it a project, is there's more than a project.

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So that is an ambition. But, you know, you have to break it down into small, achievable steps because, of course,

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you know, Mount Improbable really in this case is building a multi-million pound science centre.

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But they're kind of finite steps you can break this down into.

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Okay. We need to talk to people. We need to make a plan.

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And then those have some steps as well.

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So the important thing is when you're doing a Ph.D., you cannot say, right, I'm going to just just solve this big problem I have for, you know,

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it's going to take four years and a PhD in this case, it might take about I dunno about seven years if we're if we're lucky to get the funding.

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But at the same time, it's a seemingly insurmountable task, but it can be broken down into small, achievable chunks,

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some of which you're doing all at the same time, which just makes it a little bit more challenging.

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But, um, but yeah, I think that the whole time management and understanding that things can be done,

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they just need to be done in small chunks is very helpful from a PhD

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So what else. Things like presentation skills. That's been hugely important to them during the a PhD

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We've had a lot of opportunities to to do presentations, you know, preparing PowerPoint,

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doing either conference presentations or presentations to our colleagues about the way that we're doing.

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Again, you have to be clear. You have to be kind of clear enough to a to a broad audience who don't necessarily have your expertise.

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And you have to express complicated ideas in a very short space of time, sometimes five, 10 minutes or so that you've got.

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And I found actually that that I've had that experience here as well. So we've had a number of number of opportunities where we will be doing business

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pitches to various audiences and they might be five minutes long or so.

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So I've had the same problem I have to express to people this kind of amazing

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vision that I that I and my colleagues have about the Exeter science centre.

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And I have to explain it in five minutes and everything that could possibly encompass and that's challenging.

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It's something I'm still kind of learning about because, of course,

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they people think of it from a business sense to not only have you got to express the vision,

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you have to express, you know, how you're going to get funding and all of this kind of extra detail to in five minutes.

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So that's been challenging. So, yeah, there's some really cool things are coming across.

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That's the the writing, as we've already talked about, but also the kind of product and time management presentation skills.

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So I think the thing that's. That's really interesting to reflect on is that it's not necessarily obviously what you're doing is science related,

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but it's not necessarily the the science specific skills that you're using certainly at this moment in time.

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It's it's the broader kind of skill set that you develop through the process of doing the research degree.

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Definitely, definitely. I think it's not necessarily you know, you don't have to have done a science PhD to to be able to do this stuff.

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But certainly, from my perspective, it has helped a lot because I feel I said and I hope I'm sure it's the same in other disciplines.

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Of course, I have no experience of it, but I just feel like doing a you know, doing a PhD in general,

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I think gives you this this ability to take on and face a lot of information and and that kind of stuff, that that's really incomprehensible.

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Synthesise it down and make logical steps when you understand what what needs to be done.

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So it's definitely helped. I guess that the difficult question but the one that I know that people will be

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wondering is obviously this isn't making you any money at the moment to be to be blunt.

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So are you working alongside it? So that the way that I'm doing it at the moment is we don't have any specific income, which is, you know,

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obviously would be difficult for a lot of people, to be honest, being pretty thrifty throughout the PhD

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I know a lot of PhD students often, you know,

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work an extra year sometimes to write up results and and maybe their funding ends and they have to continue writing the thesis.

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Luckily, with the way that I did the PhD in the centre for doctoral training in metamaterials, they were wonderful.

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And they would they would, you know, pay you for the full amount of time.

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So you had a good four years to write up.

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But what we're trying to do is, well, we've got some it's called co creation funding from one of our advisors who's amazing, Dr. Janet Anders.

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She's provided us with some funding to basically pay a very small stipend that will start soon.

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Yeah, it is a bit of a problem because when you when you do start something like this way,

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maybe you don't have an immediate income source or or reading something current kind of charitable.

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You do need to have a bit of a business head on you.

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You need to think about how how you're going to make money from it, mainly because it has to be sustainable.

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We don't want to make a big salary for ourselves. We're not interested in that.

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We want to do something good. To be honest, it would just be great if, you know, we could we could all just live for free and do nice things.

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But of course, that, of course, you have to you have to think sustainably long term.

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So this has been something we've been thinking about for a while. How on earth do we do this?

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Because, of course, you know, I initially were like, we need to make this amazing building, amazing centre, because that will have the most impact.

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And, of course, we need a lot of money for. How are we going to get to that stage?

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Well, we think that since our expertise, mine and Alice's when Alice joins us properly in September,

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our expertise really is public engagement with science.

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And of course, we we've had a lot of experience working with academics and working in academia.

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And we think that's a really important way for us to bring money in initially just to

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kind of pay ourselves a small salary and enable us to work on this properly for for

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a longer term is to work with academics to kind of basically do public engagement on

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their behalf or with them and take the hassle out of that whole process for them,

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including the reporting back and making sure that everything's clear for the for the the ref, the research excellence framework.

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So what we're what we're doing is starting now to work with academics to make public engagement programmes of their research,

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which involve, you know, working schools, the public.

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And we've got, of course, a big growing audience across the Southwest to reach and do public talks for them, help them make exhibits.

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And eventually we hope that this will transition into working with them properly for,

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you know, putting putting their amazing exhibitions in the science centre itself.

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But the way we've kind of reframed thinking about this project is that, you know, it's not just working towards a building.

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You know, that isn't the end goal, really. It would be wonderful. We really, really want it to happen.

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But the really important thing that we can be doing right now is having an impact with the public.

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You know, even though we don't have a centre, we can still be a kind of a kind of abstract idea of a centre, which is just,

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you know, we're doing something great where we're communicating science to the public in a scientific research.

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And by the way, I have to clarify, like I'm using science, but really, that's an umbrella term for STEM or science,

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technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine, which we're using but I tend to just use science because its shorter

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So we want to communicate science, the public. We want to have an impact now.

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And and we don't need a building to do that. Of course, when we have a building,

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we'll be able to have so much more influence and impact and have a space that people can actually visit and engage with.

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But for now, we're going to be working with academics that should bring some money in to enable us to do this.

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And at the same time, we're going to be working to get grants from from various funding bodies and of course,

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working towards getting what we hoped might be some philanthropic or some capital grant funding to make the building itself where we're optimistic.

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That's brilliant. And just sounds like a really, really considered a weay to.

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Support yourselves, but also develop and support the.

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The business slash charity. And develop those connections and that interest and engagement with the future centre.

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Definitely. Yeah. I mean, we're really I guess the thing is we're not trying to do something on the side,

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which is I don't know for example, selling scientific toys

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Maybe that would make some money. It's kind of relevant, but not really.

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But that's more of a kind of profit making enterprise, which is just trying to,

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you know, and whether that profit goes towards the stuff that we're doing.

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We we thought we might as well try to get some some income through doing the activities we really ought to be doing anyway.

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It's just kind of lucky, really, that some that there is a market for, if you want to call it that.

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We know that a lot of academics are really busy and they don't necessarily have

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the skills or the the time to do proper public engagement rather than just,

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you know, going to a school once throughout the whole course of of of a grant.

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Instead, what we can do is say, look, you know, you don't need to bother about sending all those emails and organising things and

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reporting back and and trying to reach a broad audience will do all that stuff for you.

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And at the same time, we're doing something good,

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because it's we're getting to talk to the public about science and about exciting research that's going on locally.

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So it just ticks loads of boxes, really. We really hope that's gonna be a viable income source for us.

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But we're working on it. Yeah. Yeah.

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As I said, it sounds incredibly exciting. And the.

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The idea of of the centre, and I mean certainly as a kind of I grew up locally and I remember taking school trips,

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we always had to go to Bristol, you know, to the science centre. And so the idea of having having that in Exeter seems.

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It almost makes me sort of when I when I saw saw the work you were doing,

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it made me think what actually given this exeter science park, we've got the Met office here, the university.

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Why don't we have one? Yeah. Exactly. Really pleased you said that

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I guess this is a good opportunity to kind of explain, you know, a rationale for putting it here and also what we're trying to achieve.

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So if you. The clearest thing I tend to start with, of course, on a podcast, so I can't show you it.

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But if you look at the map of science centres across the U.K., these are.

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I have to kind of define science centre first.

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So a science centre or Science Discovery Centre is a kind of Hands-On science museum, which isn't about exhibits behind glass,

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which are kind of historical or, you know, and and have a more historical kind of background.

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It's more about Hands-On experiences which are trying to, you know, infuse and inspire people of all ages and backgrounds about science.

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So that's what a science centre is.

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And if you if you look at the map of science centres across the U.K., there is just a gap in this region which needs filling, quite frankly.

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So, as you mentioned, there's one in Bristol, which is really curious and that's amazing, really a really great centre.

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And they've got a wonderful planetarium. And it's just it's just really cool.

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It's actually one of the the earliest science centres in the UK in its original form.

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And also what else we got down in the Southwest where we've got these projects, of course, amazing and really iconic.

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And the Eden projects is still quite specialised in its aim

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So that, you know, it's more about kind of I kind of want to get it wrong, but more horticultural, you know,

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it's it's it has a certain theme associated with it isn't really general science, including like space and astronomy and biology and things like that.

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It's it's more specialised in what it does. And there's also the Plymouth the Aquarium in Plymouth.

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That, again, is very specialised. It's a it's an aquarium. And it says more about, you know, it very specialised theme.

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So what we're trying to create is a is a general science centre,

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which covers all aspects of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine.

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And we are trying to to fill this gap of science engagement in the Southwest and why Exeter

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Why not Tiverton or Cullompton?

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Or something like that.

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Well, Exeter itself is is really trying to establish itself and is doing a wonderful job at being a real science and tech innovation hub.

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I mean, you're right. We have the Met office, we have the university,

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we have the exeter science park and this consists of a load of really exciting science and tech companies who are who are doing great things.

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So Exeter already is a hub of science and that does lots of great things going in the region are going on in the region around here.

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And it really just is the perfect place for it, not only because they know it has great connections,

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particularly for North Devon and the more rural areas across the southwest, you know that the roads all head towards Exeter.

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And, of course, the train service as well. So we're trying to take as many boxes as we can in terms of location.

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We want to really locate it in the centre of Exeter so that people don't have to drive to get to us.

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You know, they could use public transport or they could use a park ride service and and you know that.

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Or they could cycle in and whatever, depending on where they live with.

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You know, if we were located out in the countryside, pretty much everyone would have to drive to get to us or,

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you know, it would just make it more difficult for people to reach us.

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And also, we're just we're trying to become a real cultural centre.

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You know, we don't want to be a kind of tourist attraction on the outskirts.

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We want to serve the public and and host clubs where if we get this amazing building that we'd like to create,

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we'd love to have green walls of rooftop garden.

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You know, maybe we'd love to work with the RHS for example,

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and the Eden project to create a kind of rooftop Eden where people come and they they have mindful kind of gardening activities

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and clubs they might take part in from a kind of gardening for mental health kind of idea that we'll have public lectures.

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So I just imagine it being this kind of space that people, you know, whether they're.

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Interested in science, whether they're interested in the arts, though, will come in and an experience this place in lots of different ways.

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The thing I haven't really emphasised too much. Mainly because it's it's something I'm really excited about.

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I don't necessarily have the expertise in is the fact that we want to tie in art with the science centre really strongly.

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And I'm still working out ways to do this. I met with residents at the amazing and inspiring Studio Kaleider

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And that's the kind of organisation which not only facilitates lots of artists who work together and and

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work on really inspiring things that they create these amazing kind of art experiences and installations.

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So I'm a resident there, which means that they very kindly let me use their office space and, you know, work amongst their colleagues.

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And I'm hoping that will, you know, help me get an insight into this. This amazing arts community we have in Exeter in the Southwest,

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and we're trying to we're trying to ensure that that isn't just a, you know, science centre for science nerds.

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You know, even that would be some nerdy components of the science centre.

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We wanted to ensure that it's appealing to a broad audience and we want to emphasise that science, isn't it?

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Well, okay. The subject isn't just you're a scientist or you're an artist.

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You know that you can be both. You can use the skills from both areas to to to basically understand the universe.

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We find ourselves in and that's what artists are trying to do, you know, interpret and understand the world.

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And that's what scientists are trying to do as well. I don't see them mutually exclusive, I think.

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I think we can learn a lot from each other. And I just think it would just make it so much more interesting.

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We have been to a few science centres, the one in particular that really resonates with me,

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and that is a great inspiration for the place we're trying to make is the Exploratorium in San Francisco.

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They have a an artist in residence.

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They have these amazing creative and kind of psychologically interesting art installations which have loads of science behind them.

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And they just I can't even express it. It's it's really inspiring stuff.

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And we'd really love to emulate that. And that's something I'm trying to work on at the moment.

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We're trying to understand how we can embed and and make a thread running through a whole centre of art as well as science.

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So there's a lot of information. It just sounds incredibly inspiring.

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And it's great to hear that you're working with Kaleider as well is that a connection that the university that through the start-ups,

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set up, or is that something that you sought out yourself? So I'm trying to think how that happened.

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I think I was doing a pitch. This was I handed my PhD thesis in on the Monday and on the Tuesday, I had a pitch at an Exeter Cits Futures event.

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Oh, wow. Yeah. And I hadn't written my presentation for it, so I had zero I had to hand, my thesis on the Monday morning.

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And then that afternoon prepared my presentation. And then I'm quite literally on that Tuesday.

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Everything starts kicking off. So I had of emails and really started working on the Science Centre the next day.

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So that was intense. But yeah.

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But I think from that meeting, the kind of networking meeting, I met Andy at Kaleider and he said, oh you need to come in to our open Fridays.

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So they have this wonderful thing where on a on a Friday anyone can go and use their

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office space and just kind of mingle and do some work there and talk to people.

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And. And I I did that a few times.

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I just thought, this is so cool. You know, everyone is so interesting and they're working on great things.

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And they were really welcoming. And I guess I just I just wanted to be part of it.

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So I applied to become a resident. And they very kindly let me in. And yeah.

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So it kind of happened through just one of the networking events that these wonderful events that Exeter City futures organisers.

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I heartily encourage anyone who is thinking of setting up or being part of or doing something locally.

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They should just go to these kind of events.

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You know, there's lots of no on exeter city features have this amazing, you know, idea for the future of, exeter, that they're really proactive.

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It's just a great place to get things done. I can't really explain. I think it's it's.

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Exeter. It's the kind of people that are working here that are doing things here.

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There is a lot of encouragement and a lot of help and a lot of opportunities. So it's really the best place to be doing something great.

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That's that's brilliant. That's really, really brilliant. I think we probably draw to a close, but in doing so what?

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What advice would you give someone that's thinking about.

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I guess setting up their own business or venture or or project or, you know, we can use a variety different terms,

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but they're getting towards the end of the end of the research degree of the day, they're thinking about what's next.

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They want to set up on start up on their own. What advice would you give them?

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Okay. I would suggest that they have to.

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If they say they've got the project, they they understand what they want to do or even if they have a brief idea.

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First of all, if that part of university, I'd suggest talk to the kind of student entrepreneur team we have.

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We have one at Exeter. Of course, they're amazing. Go and talk to them and they will probably give you some amazing advice.

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Maybe you attend a seminar about, you know, how to put your put your business ideas into practise.

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They have lots of things about how to make a business plan, how to, you know, make you go to networking events and and make Connections.

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So I would really firstly suggest just talking to people about it,

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preferably people from the business entrepreneurship team, and also try and get a bit of a team behind you if you can.

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Trying to do something as a single person is really tough because, you know,

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not only is it really helpful to have a sounding board for other people to come say, well, should we do it this way or maybe we should try this.

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You know, I think this is why, for example, in in university lab work, you know, when you we have we have lab projects.

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You have to do it.

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They usually put you with a partner or there's a small team of you that really helps realise working in a series is hugely important to this.

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So maybe they'll be two of you, maybe three of you.

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And then, you know, eventually you'll start thinking about getting advisors on board maybe who have business experience,

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maybe you who are just super enthusiastic about your cause and have experience from other areas.

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But it's it's just I suppose don't be afraid of going and doing something unusual.

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You know, it might when you when you say to people, oh, I want to make a case, maybe 40 million pound science centre in Exeter,

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I think a lot of people would just like you're completely mad and you kind of say,

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well, you know, you have to be a bit crazy to do something like this. But, you know, it can be done in that it should be done and that it can happen.

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If you're motivated enough. You really I guess you have to have the enthusiasm for what you're doing.

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You have to be motivated and particularly resilient to setbacks,

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to the kind of overwhelming nature of what you're doing and just get people around you who can support you, who can guide you and who can help you.

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Yeah. Talk to First of all, the first thing to do is talk to the amazing people and the student start-ups team.

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That's my advice. Absolutely.

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And you've mentioned lots of different resources here, like the start-ups team at the Innovation Centre, set squared Exeter City Futures, Kaleider

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And I'm going to put links to all of these organisations and information in the show

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notes so that people can kind of follow up on on those brilliant recommendations.

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And that's it for this episode.

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Thank you so much to Natalie for taking the time to talk to me about what is an incredibly exciting project and the range of support.

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You can access it if you're interested in this kind of charitable, entrepreneurial venture after your research degree.

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

 

Episode 6 - Dr. Denise Wilkins, Researcher at Microsoft Research

Episode 6 - Dr. Denise Wilkins, Researcher at Microsoft Research

July 27, 2020

Welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast from the University of Exeter Doctoral College! The podcast about non-academic careers and all the opportunities available to you... beyond your research degree!  In this episode Kelly Preece, Researcher Development Manager talks to Dr. Denise Wilkins, Researcher at Microsoft Research.

 

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

 

Podcast transcript

 

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

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It's Kelly Preece here research development manager ing the University of Exeter Doctor College.

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And I'll be your host for this episode.

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I'm delighted to be talking to another University of Exeter doctoral alumnus, Denise Wilkins, who is currently working as a researcher in industry.

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Denise, are you happy to introduce yourself, I'm Denise Wilkins and I'm a social scientist and I work at Microsoft Research in Cambridge.

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So my job there really is to conduct research. So I'll be trying to understand people.

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Social scientists trying to understand their needs and really try to feed insights back

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to people who are looking at the future of technology development to really think how,

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you know, what I'm hearing, what I'm talking to, people might translate and be applied to products that we might want to develop in the longer term.

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And so at the moment, we're working in a theme called The Future of Work.

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So we're really interested to understand what the work might look like in the future and how technology might support that.

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And my project is looking at knowledge in large organisations, say,

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trying to find ways to help workers in large organisations share knowledge and have knowledge kind of more available to them in their work.

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What was your research degree in at Exeter? My degree was in psychology.

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Say it was it was very kind of similar themes.

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I was looking at technology and in particular I was looking at a social media and how it might affect people's willingness to engage in activism.

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So to put it, I was really inspired by things like the Arab Spring and where you might have

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seen or have kind of had news stories that social media played a role in,

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acts as a catalyst by inspiring people to go on the streets. But at the same time, there was also kind of a slacktivism narrative going on which said,

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well, you know, people are just like him things and sharing things on social media.

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And they're not really kind of going on the ground and doing the hard effort. So really

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Well, what I tried to do in my PhD was to really understand when and how social media might facilitate activism

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and social change and what are the type of circumstances where it might maybe have a different effect.

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And reduce people's willingness to do that. On what? When might it have more kind of negative effects and social change?

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So although I was in psychology,

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my research will always have the interest in people and technology and how technology can be a positive driver for change.

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And that's kind of followed me on to my work at Microsoft. So I'm interested to know what what your plan was, I guess,

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when you were doing the coming to the end of your research degree in the write-up, which is incredibly challenging in and of itself.

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Did you have a clear plan of what you wanted to do afterwards? Was the plan always to go into a research career in industry?

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Yeah. Well, at the time, I don't think I was aware.

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of the different options and career paths that there were.

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And I knew that I love researching. I knew that I love talking to people.

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And I knew that I wanted to have an impact, say,

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thinking about how technology so pervasive in our everyday lives and how new technology is being created all the time.

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I was aware that, you know, that there are kind of negative impacts that technology can have, say how can.

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And so the idea as a researcher take a role in shaping that.

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And I wasn't really sure then about the opportunities that existed in industry.

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It wasn't something that I heard much about. You know, psychology's part of STEM in Exeter.

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So I often heard about people with like a chemistry or biology degrees and how they might go to kind of pharmaceutical companies.

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But I didn't really hear much of the narrative about what kind of psychology PhD could do with their degree.

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So I wasn't really aware and I was mostly looking for the kind of jobs in academia and postdocs in academia.

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And I actually I went on. And prior to working in Microsoft, I did a postdoc and I Exeter.

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So that was with the same P.I.

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He supervised me for my PhD. And that was looking at a different form of technology in different contexts.

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And I was looking at block chain and how and how it could be used to create new peer-to-peer energy markets.

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I was looking at the energy sector there. It was only when I started doing that postdoc

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One of the other researchers on the same project really told me about kind of user research.

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They told me about HCI as a field. And they told me about my research in Cambridge and how they do lots of they have lots of engagement,

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kind of which social science and which social scientists that there really is a role for kind of social scientists in large

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organisations like that and engaging with different users and generating insights that can be used by design and developers.

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So was that an immediate move?

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So when you finished your postdoc, did you go straight to a job at Microsoft Research or was there something in between?

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Yeah, there wasn't anything in between. So from talking to her it just sounded really inspirational

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It sounded kind of exactly what I wanted to do

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So no, on the one hand and. So Microsoft research is slightly different from like Microsoft, so there's kind of two arms to Microsoft.

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You have sort of Microsoft and the product groups and they'd be directly they still do user research

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and they and they would be directly trying to impact the products we use every day in the short term.

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So it really is. As far as I totally understand that it's about sort of what really focussed on finding insights that can improve specific products.

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Whereas Microsoft Research has its longer term or indeed vision.

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So I'm not part of any particular project, product group, but I hope to have insights that could perhaps impact and shape any of the products.

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And other large tech companies have similar.

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You have Google and you've got Google product groups, but you will see what people research.

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So, yeah, that's that's kind of one of the splits that you have.

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So really what I liked about Microsoft research is that you have the opportunity to have the real world impact on the products.

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And by really doing that I'm aiming for that kind of thought leadership and find it,

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finding these insights that can impact the longer term vision that there really is this kind of academic community.

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So we're encouraged to write publications and to submit them to journals and to conferences.

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Really, really there is this academic engagement.

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We also have. So that's another reason why that's those kind of opportunities with Microsoft Research really appealed

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to me because I felt like it ticked both of the boxes of what I really loved about being in academia.

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So on the one hand, trying to have real world impact or say being part of a broader academic and scientific community where you're able to sort of

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push your learnings out more broadly and beyond kind of the immediate project that you might be working on through publications,

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for example. Yes, and what you're saying about not being aware of the opportunities in industry,

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but particularly where social science type research might be happening in industry is something we hear a lot for from students.

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So from what you're saying, it sounds like there were a lot of similarities between the role that you're doing now and a research role in academia.

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So could you talk a little bit about what the differences are? So what's different about researching in industry compared to academia?

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Yeah. So I think, you know, one of those pieces that I like, which is much stronger is is the impact.

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Say, I feel like maybe for me as a junior researcher in a university, that idea of impact was probably quite far from my mind.

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So I want to see the research I wanted to write out for publication.

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And then you heard stories about people talking about impact are more senior.

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Well, I never really knew what that meant. I didn't really know how I would go about having impact.

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And I think sometimes on a personal level, I would think I'm I'm doing research and I'm I'm writing papers.

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But who's reading them. Who's going to do something with them.

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Is is it other folk from the psychology community, which is great.

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But, you know, how can you go beyond your community and and really encourage people who are designing technology to do it differently?

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And for me. That was just perhaps a kind of psychological gap in my head,

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like I couldn't see how those steps joined up, whereas in my soul, for me, it's much clearer.

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And so I'm just a really practical examples. We have regular meetings, we have different product groups, and I'll be sharing my insights with them.

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So really, the stakeholders of the research are really clear.

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And, you know, you have those in mind when you're trying to design the research and you have the opportunity to really think,

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well, how how might this kind of shape shape their thinking?

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So that's the kind of steps are a lot clearer to me, which is one thing that I really liked.

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I think it perhaps changes some of the type of things you might produce.

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So I think sometimes in sort of academia where we're taught to write

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Kind of papers and the papers can be really long. And, you know, people are really interested in the details.

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So they want to know exactly what methods you used and they'll want to know a

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lot about kind of the background and your kind of theoretical justification. And again, I want to know at the end,

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how does how what other kind of impacts of this and other academics will really have time to kind of read those long papers.

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And we need to still learnings from it.

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But I think one of the things in industry is that you're trying to communicate # to lots of different people.

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And some people they might be the same specialism as you.

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So there might be other social scientists and I might have a lot more time to read all of that.

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But you also might be talking to kind of leaders or designers or people need to make that decision about their product really quickly.

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So they will just really want to have something that they can absorb like, say,

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really a PowerPoint and they just want to know on know even two slides, like what are the key things I need to know?

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And so it's about communicating a lot and a lot more kind of concise ways.

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And also perhaps not being afraid to have an opinion and how they're a strength and say these are tje recommendations is what I would advise you today.

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And again, for me, at least in academia. I felt like that wasn't something that I did before.

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I didn't really make lots of presentations, only occasionally of us going to a conference, for example.

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And again, I, I think it was just my personality but I would shy away from making really strong recommendations and say,

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well, because of this study, we need to be X, Y and Z.

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But that's really what people are looking for in industry.

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You to give the practical recommendations for that for that work and what they should do next.

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So I'm hearing a lot and what you're saying about the core skill set that you use in your current role

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and communication in a variety different forms and formats seems to be an important part of that.

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But I wonder what other sort of general skills did you learn or develop during your research degree that you use on a daily basis now?

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I think because of my degree, I think one of. The core skills that I learnt was really planning research and then sort of learning

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how to conduct research on having sort of a variety of different research methods.

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So really that kind of expertise with people and being able to interview people and get them to talk to you about whatever,

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whatever topic they might they might have and then really been able to put that together into a narrative.

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So I feel that's one of kind of the strongest, the strongest skills that I've kind of taken from my PhD

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So something that I think would be really interesting for our listeners is that you've

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interviewed and been successful for a research job in academia and in industry.

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So can you talk about the interview, and application processes for those roles?

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And if they were similar or if they were different and if so, what the differences were and they were different.

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So the the entry process at Microsoft was much longer.

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So there were a number of calls first.

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I think first I submitted an application, which was I think it was a CV and maybe maybe a statement, a short statement as to why the job was with.

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Interesting. And then I had a call from a recruiter.

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He just really wanted to cover some kind of fundamental thing.

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So the job I actually have with Microsoft, it is called a postdoc.

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So it was just really checking things of, you know, how have I finished my PhD?

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And just trying to get the basics to kind of field. And then I was passed on to a telephone interview with the person who is now my manager.

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So I think she interviewed me, for about an hour.

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And then after that, I got invited to the lab where I would give a presentation, say the presentation was an hour.

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And then I had an interviews with one to one interviews with a number of different researchers at the lab.

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So it really was like a whole When I was there, it was really like a whole day event, the number of different activities.

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Whereas my postdoc, Exeter, I did the I think it was the normal application of the CV and the cover letter.

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And then I got invited to an interview and I was interviewed by a panel of three people who ask questions.

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And I think, you know, that interview was for less than an hour.

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So I think that the length and the number of stages was much different.

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And in industry compared to the university, you know, and I think because the task the difference I didn't give a presentation,

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was interviewed at the university, say again, that had a different type of preparation.

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So I had to kind of put the presentation together.

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But I think in terms of like the the fundamental preparation for the interview and thinking, you know, why do you want the job?

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Why what have you got to offer? How does that fit into your career path?

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Why this organisation? Why this role? And those things were great.

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And also say when I was applying for both jobs I got help from the career service at Exeter.

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So I had a one to one session with one of the career advisers.

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She specifically helps PhD students. And that was really sort of invaluable both times in terms of sort like just helping me think about it.

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So I really felt like that kind of preparation that I did beforehand would be really key.

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And I would encourage anybody who's applying for any type of job, reallu to put the work into that preparation.

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You know, any any might even that work might even span a few days when you go away and you'll really be searching and understanding things.

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So, yeah,

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I feel like that was something that really helped me with both with being able to do that kind of up from preparation and get my my head into space.

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So I need kind of a story that I wanted to tell. Absolutely.

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And did you find you articulated that story and those skills differently in the different contexts?

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I feel like it was similar. Yeah, I do feel like it was similar.

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I think because, you know, the job I have with Microsoft is a postdoc.

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So they are expecting somebody. who doesn't have you know

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Somebody who i new to industry is somebody who has completed a PhD and they're looking for that kind of first industry position.

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So they weren't you we'd expect me to come and say, you know, I've got years of, you know,

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working with product groups and, you know, delivering insights and having this massive impact on how organisations run.

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And it really was trying to articulate how the findings from kind of my my PhD, for example,

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of how some of the findings that I have could be relevant and impactful for them and kind of Microsoft as stakeholders.

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What would that look like? And I think that was kind of similar. to my postdoc interview in academia, they really want to kind of, you know,

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know some of those kind of transferable skills, so the postdoc that I did at Exeter.

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And it was a completely different topic.

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But they wanted to able you know what what skills would you bring and how how would she make sure that they that that could benefit all project?

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So I feel like that was there were lots of similarities. Yeah.

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It sounds like the threads between the different research roles in different contexts are actually really strong.

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Can you talk to me a little bit about your average, say? I know there's no such thing as an average day right now,

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but how different is you kind of working day and working life to when you were a research degree student and a postdoc?

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So I think my average day I'm now in industry is quite different to how it was as a PhD student.

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And for me, at least mostly in my PhD, I was really working on on my own.

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Say, a lot of the time I was in wasn't meeting with many other people to discuss my research.

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Other than my academic supervisors, I'm very rarely.

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I would give maybe a presentation to kind of the lab group that we had.

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So it really was a very individual work. I felt like I was kind of doing it for myself.

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And I also felt like, you know, this is for me when I'm ready to

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Share that. When once I got the paper or once I've done the presentation, I'll share that with other people.

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But I think the kind of flipside of that was always that question. My model, who's really interested in the in the results of this?

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Like, what's going to happen to it later? Whereas in Microsoft, it's much more collaborative.

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So I'm working as part of a multidisciplinary team, so there's designers on the team.

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And there's machine only researchers and theire's engineers. And we have sort of regular meetings throughout the week.

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So in any one day I might be meeting with the team members to tell them about the things I've been doing, so to update on

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The things I've been doing during the week, or also to hear about what they've been doing.

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I might be helping people conduct their own research, say some of the designers they do research on might be helping them like recruit participants.

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I might be helping them think about some of their findings and distil insights.

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I might be kind of contributing to a PowerPoint that we're making to show other people the work we've done.

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And there is I might be I might be participating in a brainstorm or workshop where we're

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trying to understand the next phase of the project and what some of our priorities are.

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But there is still space for individual work. So I would still conduct my research studies.

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I'd be doing literature reviews. I'd be doing going through an ethics process, say, to get ethical approval for my study.

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I'd be analysing the results and trying to trying to write these up and trying to write papers.

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And there is also an we have sort of a kind of lab culture say I'm part of the future of work theme.

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And every other week we would have a meeting where we would, for example, listen a presentation from one of the other researchers.

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So I think really my day could be split up with any of those tasks, depending on what stage I'm in the project.

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And I wouldn't. There is no one day that looks the same.

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And I think those types of tasks on that kind of individual level, they are very similar to what I was doing in my PhD

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And there is this other collaborative layer where you are really part of a bigger team and anybody trying to kind of help the team be successful,

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which I feel is different from from my PhD because it was kind of a very individual project and working style.

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So thinking about the emphasis on collaborative working, what experiences did you have as a research student that helped prepare you for this way

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of working or helped you develop the skill set that you would need in the workplace?

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I got involved in different types of extracurricular activities, I feel like that helped more than what was in my PhD per se

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So when I was Exeter,

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that was the opportunity to be a facilitator on Grand Challenges Week and so that was really a great point of collaboration for me in trying to

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kind of think about what what kind of team of undergraduates are doing and how I might also support them in their work and kind of facilitate them.

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So that didn't feel as kind of individual. And there were other things that I did.

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So I I'd be included on a grant application, it wasn't successful, but I kind of helped prepare some of the work for that.

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So there were kind of brainstorms and kind of workshops, sessions, and people were collaboratively authoring kind of documents.

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So that was really another aspect that really facilitated that.

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And another thing that I.

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got involved with was the widening participation programme at Exeter so that's with the with the residential team, say and also open days as well.

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So those I was working as part of a team where we collaborated said, think about what?

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What activities do you want today? Well, some of the things you want to present to people.

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So I felt like those extra curricular things were what really helped.

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And we have that kind of collaboration aspect in my PhD

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And I also mentioned the postdoc I did at Exeter. was looking at the kind of peer-to-peer energy markets.

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And that was more collaborative that because I was working in a multidisciplinary team with computer scientists and software engineers and say, yeah,

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that was a lot more collaborative in terms if we had more kind of regular meetings where we would

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give updates about the work that we've done and look at the different kind of pieces of work,

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we tried to understand how the different pieces kind of fit together.

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So I felt like it wasn't perhaps things that I did kind of directly through my PhD

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But I felt that there were other things that I got involved in during my PhD that helped.

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So what other extra curricular things you got involved with that really important

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or formative for moving onto the stock and your current job at Microsoft Research?

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Yeah. So I know that I got I took part in a summer school as well.

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So in the psychology department and social psychologists, we're part of a broader kind of the European association social psychologists.

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And there was a summer school. So I took part in that. And that was in a way of about how we have kind of grand challenges for the undergrads.

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It was sort of you kind of came in for I think it was a week or two weeks and

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we just tackled like a brand new problem or brand new area of research us

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And we kind of worked in small groups and we thought about what a study would look like and what kind of questions we'd want to ask,

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what kind of data we want to collect. So that kind of rapid and that trying to gain a rapid understanding of any topic and

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then tried to kind of spend that up into what kind of project proposal might look like.

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That was really good as well. So I think. Those types of opportunities where you know that you can be working with other people,

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doing a different type of task than you might do in your everyday work. That was good.

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And yeah, I had a few other things that I did so that I always kind of get the names of the schemes

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but I think it was I think this actually came under public outreach.

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So when I got involved in things like the Sidmouth Science Festival and put together, I just sort of like a little demo from psychology,

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but just got me talking to other audiences say those are kids, you know,

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young children and members of the public and say again, you know, I didn't even talk about my own research.

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I feel like sometimes that's a barrier or you might think, oh, I don't have anything to say about my research,

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but I just talked to them about kind of classic psychology experiments and bought them things that they could play with.

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So there's a little bit of an IQ test that they got to kind of shift ground blocks and try to put patterns together.

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But I think that as well,

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it just helped me just with communication skills and thinking about how to explain kind of research to people who aren't academics.

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So, yeah, I thought both in the communication and in just kind of planning that and setting them up and talking about the team,

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all we got to do and how are we going to do that? That was also another aspect of collaboration.

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So thinking about those those extra curricular things you did, you know, Sidmouth Science Festival,

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Granch challenges the summer school, going to a careers consultant for one to one appointment.

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What other advice would you give to current research degree students to.

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What opportunities do you think they should make the most of during their research

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degree to help them prepare for that transition to a career in research,

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but also a role outside of academia? Yes. So I think the one thing that I didn't do, which I've learnt about, is internships.

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So, you know, so organisations like Microsoft Research.

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But I think anybody anybody's interested, potentially interested in tech in the summer.

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Lots of these companies have internships where they're looking to these students.

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They're paid. They're like well paid.

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And you can go for three months over the summer, say, I think a lot of places they start to kind of advertise things in September,

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say, you know, it's a bit of forward planning involved.

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But I would definitely say to look and see if there's an internship in the type of area that you might be interested in,

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because it really does give you a head start on.

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You know, some people come back and do the internship every single year.

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So they, you know, they start in their first year.

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And then by the end of their third year, they've done an internship with the organisation three, three times.

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And you really think, you know, they've almost got kind of years work experience directly in the industry that they want to go into.

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But even if you do the internship and you might think, oh, actually,

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this isn't anything like I thought it's going to be and I've I've realised I don't want to do this.

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I think it will give you a whole new set of skills that you probably wouldn't get from your PhD

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And also, it gives you that learning. It might give you that closer understanding of what is it that I want today.

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And I think even if you kind of really feel strongly I want to go into academia

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and doing something like an internship might help you get industry connections.

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So when you're thinking about, like your own grants and how you might want to have an industry sponsor when

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they're doing internships with a relevant industry could help you get a build.

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That network can have these connections where later you can say, oh, actually, maybe I can find out these can be an industry partner on a grant.

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So I would definitely advise you to look for these things.

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I think one of the challenges that I always had thinking about my career was I had relatively limited geographic mobility.

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So I know that lots of people end up going abroad after their PhD

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And, you know, for me, because of my family circumstances, that wasn't an option.

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But I would encourage people here don't underestimate like what companies are kind of not too far off on your doorstep.

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I really I didn't even know that Microsoft had a lab in Cambridge and other companies in London isn't isn't too far from Exeter.

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So, you know, you might be surprised kind of what there os and what they're doing, the type of opportunities that they have.

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And so I'd really encourage you to think about that.

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And I'd just talk to people who I talk to people at conferences and yeah, just reach out to people on linkedin

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If you think they're really interesting and even if they're not somebody you could work directly,

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they might have advice and say, well, you know, maybe I should try this place or maybe should look at this programme.

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And I think that that's fabulous advice,

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whether you're looking at roles inside or outside of academia to really think about starting to build and maintain that network of contacts,

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because whether you're looking for roles in industry or collaborators or industry partners for funding applications,

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those networks will sustain you for your career. Thank you so much to Denise for taking the time to talk to me.

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I found our conversation really fascinating to get into some of the detail of what a research career in industry is like,

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what that transition from postdoc to research an industry is like,

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but also what experiences to make the most of to help facilitate that transition and get you the skills that you need.

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

 

Episode 5 - Dr. James Alsop, Secondary School Teacher

Episode 5 - Dr. James Alsop, Secondary School Teacher

June 25, 2020

Welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast from the University of Exeter Doctoral College! The podcast about non-academic careers and all the opportunities available to you... beyond your research degree!  In this episode Kelly Preece, Researcher Development Manager talks to Dr. James Alsop, who works as a secondary school English teacher.

 

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

 

Podcast transcript

 

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

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Hello, it's Kelly Preece and welcome to the latest episode of Beyond Your Research Degree.

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In this episode, I'm talking to Dr James Alsop, a graduate of the University of Exeter who is now working as a secondary school teacher.

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Are you happy to introduce yourself, James. I'm James Allsopp. I graduated from Exeter in 2015 with my PhD in English.

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My thesis was all about the Living Dead in early modern drama.

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It was cunningly titled Playing Dead because it involves dead things in plays.

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I thought I was quite proud of that. I am. It was a four year process.

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It was a hard, hard, hard fought PhD. And at the end of it, I didn't really have any career trajectory.

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For various reasons I'll probably end up talking about in a minute or two.

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Fast forward, you know, five years or so. And I'm here in Exeter again after a short return home to Essex and I'm teaching.

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So I'm teaching English at Torquay Girls Grammar School.

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And yeah, I've been teaching now for seven years in total with a couple of mini breaks here and there as well.

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Yeah, that's been my path. And hopefully I'll fill in the gap between how did I finish the PhD and how did I end up here.

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Yeah. So what? I think thinking about it kind of chronologically,

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what was what was that like to be coming to the end of or getting to the end of the PhD and not knowing what the next step was?

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So first thing's first I think I made the whole thing sound a little bit easier than it was

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even though I did emphasise the chronic difficulty of the entire process.

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I don't if I mean if you're listening to this, I don't necessarily take my example as a model to follow.

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I had a extremely. I want to say strange, this strange feels like an understatement.

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I had a frankly bizarre ending to my PhD, so I did my first year of the doctorate

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And I'm self-funded, by the way. I was very fortunate in that my grandfather was able to pay for my entirePhDprocess.

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He gave me his will before he passed away. He is still with us

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He's got. That's lovely because he's got the kind of fruits of the labour.

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He wanted to say, you know, you'll end up with his money at some point, say I have it now and do something with it.

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And it was strange because that was very cool having this amazing gift.

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But also there was a lot of emotional pressure there. You know, you've got this big pocket of money.

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All of a sudden it's been spent on your education and you better do something with it.

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And even in those early days, it felt like the Holy Grail at the end of the PhD

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was always this academic career. You know, my role models were academics.

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My my my academic heroes were people that I looked up to for so long.

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And just imagine being in their position one day.

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Imagine being in that lecture theatre or imagine sharing these ideas and having these amazing conversations and writing books.

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And, you know, that was the aim that was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

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But I mean, as we all know, and I imagine anyone listening to this knows,

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those pots of gold are far rarer than perhaps you imagine at the start of the journey.

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And being self-funded I had to pay my own way through that first year of the PhD in terms of living expenses and things like that.

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So what I found was I had three Part-Time Jobs on the go one time.

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And of course people think of the PhD. As, you know, you're a student, you're learning, you're in education still.

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But as anyone that started the process knows, the PhD is a full time job.

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Yeah. You know, it's it's an all consuming beasy

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So I was spending my evenings and nights working on this doctorate and my days I was spending so much time,

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you know, furthering between, gosh, what did I do? I was a barman. That was cool.

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I love being a barman. I was a barista in a coffee bar.

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Wow. I worked in what was Coffee Express and I think has now turned into I know there's a salon there at the bottom of Devonshire house.

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It used to be a coffee bar.  I was there in the early morning to do breakfasts for students.

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I was a cleaner as well at the Exeter Corn Exchange.

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I still get a cold shudder whenever I go out there.

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And that's not because it was a bad job or because I saw it as unworthy of me.

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It's because it was ungodly early hours. I was up at half past three in the morning to get there for a half past four shift.

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And I'm not I'm not gonna tell you this because, you know, woe is me or anything like that.

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I just want to make it clear, you know, that that first year was intense. I had this huge emotional pressure,

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but also this workload that meant I was spending so much time earning money to live in Exeter that I wasn't actually doing much studying in Exeter.

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I rarely saw my supervisor. And that wasn't because they weren't available.

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It was just because I wasn't. Yeah.

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So that was a lot. I moved home in the second year of the degree, which was a godsend.

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You know, I was lucky enough to be able to move home and live with my parents while I carried on with this PhD

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And finally, I had time to research. Finally, I had time to start writing.

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Of course, what that means is now in the back of my mind, I've got this ticking clock.

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You're in your second year. The third year is approaching and that first year didn't contain much productivity, did it, in any real sense?

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I also needed money. You know, I couldn't live off my parents.

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So I had to get a job. I ended up working in a pancake restaurant.

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Both things. Oh I know, which is great.

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You know, I make a mean pancake and a mean omlette to this day, you know, there are skills that I carry with me for the rest of my life.

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But, you know, it was a again, it was it was a tough process balancing this.

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I lived in Essex, which isn't a million miles away from the British Library, which was grand.

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So I'm finally starting to find some balance there.

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And then the third year of my PhD started and I realised that actually I didn't know what was at the end.

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Now, thing is, I because of all the other stuff that in.

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Not so much my time. I hadn't got anything published. I've been to one single conference.

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I hadn't helped to put together any conference panels myself.

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I hadn't contributed any reviews to any publications. And when you're studying English, when English is your field, you know,

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the publication is it's a daunting process because there's so much amazing stuff out there.

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But it's also very solitary process. This was in the days before academic Twitter, I think, took off.

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And I found that the whole thing intensely lonely. It was very hard to make any any headway there.

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I didn't even know what an academic conference was until the end of my second year.

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You know, I it feels so strange to say now.

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So I found myself in this strange place at the start of my third year where I didn't know what was actually going to happen at the end of it.

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I had a very supportive supervisor who saw me through that, third year by, you know, scrutinising everything I sent her, no matter how terrible it was.

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You know, come the end of that third year, I found, you know, I.

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I didn't know what was actually going to happen once I completed this enormous essay in my mind.

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I wasn't preparing for a career anymore. I was just surviving I needed to go into a fourth year to complete this PhD.

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So that that's when things started to turn around for me, out of necessity, I needed to look for jobs.

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So I thought academia is not going to happen for me.

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You know, with my lack of publication history, with my lack of any contacts, there's no way I'm getting a university job.

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I don't even know how to apply. And I didn't know it at the time.

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I'm saying this because I think the context is important. I felt as hopeless as hopeless could get.

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And looking back, actually, this period of time was perhaps the best thing that happened to me.

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It was perhaps the most productive, personally and professionally of my career.

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You know, that necessity creates opportunity. I think if you look for it, you find it.

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And I decided it's, you know, I need a job, I need money.

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And to move out of my parents. I went into teaching.

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It wasn't as easy as I thought to begin with because you need to do teacher training.

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And the teacher training programmes on offer, you know, vary between universities.

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There are different schemes you can go on. I needed money now.

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I didn't want any more student debt, really, or I want to minimise that as much as I could.

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So I went on something called a SCITT school centred initial teacher training.

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I went back to my old secondary school and I started doing training there.

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It was so weird. I was on the other side of the staff room door all of a sudden.

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And I'm doing this PhD on the one hand, again, in the evenings during my days, I'm training as a teacher.

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I'm going on teaching courses. I'm learning how to engage with kids harder than I thought.

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Oh, man. And let me make this clear. Subject knowledge does not a good teacher make.

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I mean, I can't emphasise that strongly enough. I thought.

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Yeah, this will be a cinch. I'm just talking to kids. I'm just talking about English.

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I can do English. Oh, I could not teach.

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My training was important. At the same time as I am completing a PhD, doing teacher training,

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I am also in the process of moving house because I'm also in the process of getting married.

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So again, when I say that my experience isn't necessarily one you can generalise,

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I feel that that's a fair thing to say because I would not recommend doing two of those things at the same time,

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let alone all four of them needs must. And I did what I could and every decision I made at the time I made because I felt it needed to happen.

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I wasn't willing. And perhaps it was a foolish thing in hindsight, I don't know, I wasn't willing to compromise on any one area of my life.

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I wasn't willing to compromise on my relationship or my PhD or my teacher training.

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I wanted to start living. I couldn't afford mentally or financially to carry on in this strange, nebulous stopgap zone.

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I wanted to start being the person I could be. Outside of the PhD

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And I think that's important. You know, when you're studying for the PhD actually, again, it's a long, long process,

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regardless of your subject, regardless if you're working by yourself or part of a team.

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It's a lot. And you. By the end of it, we'll have a good idea of where you stand academically.

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But professionally is still finding your feet professionally. There's a world out there that you haven't had the chance to explore just yet.

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I. Fast forward to the end of my teacher training.

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It was very, very difficult. It was a hard, hard process. I experienced a lot of good, though, you know.

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There's nothing more therapeutic, I think, than working with young people.

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I think every teacher I've ever spoken to will say the same thing.

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The very best part of teaching is working in that classroom with those kids, regardless of whether they're in secondary to sixth form here.

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So whether you're dealing with an 11 year old who's writing a comic strip about Romeo and Juliet or whether

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you're dealing with a sixth former who's writing a huge assess coursework essay on comparative feminist literature,

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you know, whichever age group you're dealing with.

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Just being able to sit down with kids and talk through their ideas and help them see the best parts of themselves.

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That's what teaching is all about. There's loads of negativity. There's loads of financial pressure.

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I mean, you don't get paid much. Government are constantly moving goalposts.

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The things that you need to teach often feel slightly counterintuitive, you know.

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But the marking. Oh, over marking.

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But all of that is made worthwhile by being able to work with young people.

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That was a lifeline for me. And it's a lifeline during difficult circumstances.

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Like I said, it was strange working with other adults again after after a long period of being by myself.

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It was strange working with with other, you know, young professionals.

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And I got a little bit of blowback. You know, I would tell people, hey, this is my story.

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I've got a PhD after I'm doing my PhD and I'm doing this as well.

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And there was a lot of I don't know how else to describe it.

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But reverse snobbery, you know.

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Oh, so you've spent this long at university. You haven't lived.

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You've come into teaching. What do you think? It was the easy option. And I'm like, well, I did think.

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And now I know it's not you know, you by doing it, actually, you're working on developing a huge,

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huge set of skills that will be useful to you in any form of employment.

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I know that's the sort of thing I tell you when you start your PhD

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It's the sort of thing that you hear whenever you go to any kind of, you know, training session on.

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ok  what do I do once it's done? They'll say that. But I speak from experience.

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This is true. You don't know how good you are.

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If you're listening to this and you're doing your PhD and it feels like you're struggling and scratching and clawing your way through it,

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you've got so much to offer the world. You just don't realise it yet.

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And you will. Your time will come as mine did.

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You know, I finished this teacher training. I moved to a grammar school in Chelmsford, in Essex.

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And I had the best three years, I think, of my life there.

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The reason for that was simple. I found something that works for me.

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I found a job that let me be me. And it scratched that academic itch

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It helps me, you know, I think it helped me grow in any number of ways, teaching.

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But, you know, first and foremost, it allowed me to be academic in a sense, without having all the university pressure on me anymore.

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But also, it gave me something I didn't even realise I was looking for. You know, remember, I was a teacher.

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That sounds cheesy. I don't care. You know, I say at times, you know,

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I entered because I needed the job and I thought it would fit and I didn't realise quite how well I would fit into it.

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Oh, that rhymes see, teaching is fund. I think it be useful to talk about what the what aspects of your PhD you feel that you use.

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In your job. Apart from that kind of academic knowledge and like you say, scratching that kind of academic itch.

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What I discovered was that the PhD had actually given me all these transferable skills and I was in a job where they had the time to shine, I think.

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So first of all, even though if you're doing the PhD, you become pretty good at time management pretty quickly,

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if you don't, you you very quickly learn why time management is useful.

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And you get a diary and you invest in ways to try to learn very quickly how to become good at time management.

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It's I mean, it goes without saying a school is run on a clock. You know, you've got every hour of the day.

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It's designated to a certain period, a certain subject, a certain class. You've got to be in a certain place at a certain time.

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Well, all of that came second nature. You know, for a lot of people that have been throughuniversity and going straight into teaching,

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they haven't had a rigid timetable for a couple of years, particularly in the humanities.

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You know, actually, you know,

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waking up early and getting to the place on time and then having every hour of my day organised was I mean, it was amazing.

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I knew exactly where I'd be at any given point of the day. And I found it really easy to sort of immerse myself in that world.

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And the interpersonal skills that a PhD teaches you as well.

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And by that, I mean the importance of asking questions. I think I said, you know, while I was researching, I was very lonely.

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I was very isolated. But even so,

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you're engaging with the text that you study and you learn very quickly the importance of asking the right question to find the answer you need.

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Well, in a school, what you're doing as a teacher is asking questions constantly.

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Kids don't learn because you throw information into their heads.

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Kids don't learn because you stand there with a syringe and inject the information through their eyeballs.

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I mean, the day would be a lot shorter if that was true.

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They learn because you're asking them the right questions and you're getting them to find answers to those questions themselves.

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Give them the tools. Give them the scaffolding they need. But, you know,

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I didn't realise quite how naturally it came to bounce questions from one person to another to encourage students to ask each other questions.

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I mean, that kind of thing became second nature very quickly. But it's a skill that it takes a lot of new teachers a long time to pick up.

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It feels quite. It feels quite logical to go into teaching and give information.

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It feels less intuitive to provide the means to find the information and then assess whether or not that information was being found.

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But as a PhD researcher, graduate student postdoc, wherever you are, that's the skill that you find comes very,

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very naturally because you've been practising it for longer than you realise.

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What else did I come across? Well, my goodness. I find in schools students need help with things that I see, again,

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as a actually student had been doing for some time, writing letters of application.

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So if a student is applying for, you know, a part time job or if a student more permanently is applying for a university.

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If a student wants to apply for a university that has entrance exams, I'm thinking to in particular, you can probably think of where they are.

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That's a lot of pressure on these kids to do enormous research, enormous work on an application that may or may not even be successful.

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And if you're sitting there as a PhD student thinking, yep, I've done a few of those.

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Welcome to the world of UCAS.

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Again, you thought you were long past it, but if you go back to teaching, you'll be working with sixth form kids who need help applying to university.

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It's more competitive now than ever. And the application process is so, so difficult in so many ways.

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When's the last time you wrote a personal statement? Also, I'll ask these kids and they won't know what a personal statement is.

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When's the last time you wrote an essay about how good you are?

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I'll ask my students and they'll say, well, never. As a researcher, you're constantly doing that kind of thing.

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You're writing emails, asking for information, your writing applications for funding, your writing applications for conferences, things like that.

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You are constantly trying to justify, you know, why you deserve a shot or something.

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And for these kids, that experience became valuable. I found in everything I've been to four schools now as a teacher and every school I've gone.

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So I've become. The go to guy for my sixth formers, if they want an application read or if they want a personal statement,

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make it stronger or if they want to know how to sell themselves.

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It's strange in an era of social media where everyone talks about themselves constantly.

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I still think being able to talk positively about one's self is a skill a lot of young people struggle to develop.

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And, you know, if you can just teach them to think more of themselves and put that into paper.

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Well, that's progress. And, yeah, that that's I think that's the biggest thing I got from the  PhD

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And you'll notice I haven't mentioned anything academic, really. You know, the subject knowledge.

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You know, if you've done it, if you want to be actually you've got some subject knowledge.

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Right, about that. It kind of goes without saying.

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But what perhaps you don't realise you've got is the ability to make connections between different subjects, areas in teaching.

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That's really important. You know, you can be teaching two different modules to the same class at the same time.

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And if you can show them why it's important we do this where the areas connect.

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If you can do creative writing, your writing to persuade, writing to convince in one module as part of the English language component,

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then you can link that to perhaps, you know, your literature studies.

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You can talk about Pride and Prejudice and say, well, okay.

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So when this letter is written to this character, what persuasive techniques are you detecting here?

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So you're combining the creative with the analytical in ways that you know again well, you will find regardless of your specialism.

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I know I'm using English examples, but regardless of your specialism, you'll find it so much easier to make Connections that engage the students.

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One of the big questions every teacher fears is, is the loud kid at the back of the class saying, yeah, but why is this important?

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Do we really need to learn this? And my friend, if you're listening to this, you will have an answer ready, because that's what you do.

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You give answers to that kind of question without thinking about it.

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That's what you've been doing all the time you've been researching. You know what else I found, though, that I wasn't expecting?

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Here;s the really cool thing, I think about going into teaching.

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It made me a better academic. I can't emphasise that enough.

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I told you at the end of the PhD, I had zero publications. I'd been to one conference.

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I didn't even know conferences were available to people like me. I thought it was just professors that went to them.

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They were daunting, scary things. And I hadn't written anything anybody care to read as a teacher.

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The first thing you learn, I think day one is clarity of expression is everything.

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If you don't express yourself clearly to class.

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They won't know what they're doing. And then you've wasted an hour of their time on yours.

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If you don't explain something clearly to them, they'll go into an exam with the wrong answer.

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I learnt quickly that being concise and clear were two of the most valuable skills anyone could ever develop, regardless of your job.

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But in teaching, they shine. And that's not something I had ever considered really as a the actually researcher.

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I've been teaching now for seven years and I've published two essays.

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I've published one review. I've been to eight different conferences.

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I've done two podcasts on academic matters.

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I've started an academic blog. I've done all of these things while being a full time teacher.

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Thank you very much, James, for taking the time to talk to me.

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I felt that this was a really important conversation in terms of thinking about careers beyond a research degree,

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because it's a classic case of what's called planned happenstance.

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So where you make decisions based on a number of different contextual factors that lead you into your career path.

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It's not a clear plan to become a teacher. And James's case, but he's ended up in the.

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Exactly the right career and the right environment for him. And I felt his passion for teaching was so palpable and evident in the conversation.

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And I really valued the way that he articulated the different ways in which his skills

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and experiences of doing the research degree are part of his job as a teacher.

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And also the ways in which teaching in a second school environment helps him to quote him.

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James himself, scratch that academic itch. And that's it for this episode.

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Join us next time when we'll be talking to another researcher about that career beyond their research degree.

 

Episode 4 - Dr Caitlin McDonald, LEF’s resident Digital Anthropologist

Episode 4 - Dr Caitlin McDonald, LEF’s resident Digital Anthropologist

April 27, 2020

Welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast from the University of Exeter Doctoral College! The podcast about non-academic careers and all the opportunities available to you... beyond your research degree! In this episode PhD student Debbie Kinsey talks to Dr Caitlin McDonald, a University of Exeter alumni who now works at the Leading Edge Forum. Today Caitlin is recognised for her domain knowledge in qualitative methods like ethnography and participant-observation. 

 

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

 

Podcast transcript

 

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

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My name's Dr Caitlin McDonald.

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I graduated in 2011 with a degree in Arab and Islamic studies from here at the University of Exeter at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies.

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And hard as it is to believe that it's now nine years later.

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It's it's really interesting to look back on what's happened since that time and

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consider the skills that I took away from the university and how I'm applying them now.

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So maybe to give you a bit of an update on where I am. I currently work as a digital anthropologist at an organisation called The Leading Edge Forum,

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which does technology and strategy research for large businesses and just in the

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Last month I was at the UN delivering a talk at the International Labour Organisation.

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I then hosted a dinner at the House of Lords about ethics. And I've done a range of interesting and exciting things since then.

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But it's really interesting to think about this particular month in particular

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and how that the kind of culmination of where I started and how I got here.

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So I started working at the Leading Edge forum about two years ago, and before that I was based at what was the Times educational supplement.

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But it's no longer known as that it's just the tes

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It's no longer owned by the Times, where I was working as a digital analyst, data analyst and working with data systems quite a bit.

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So all of that sounds really different than where I started, which was very much middle easy studies based, but really the kind of the through line.

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The thread for me was that a lot of the research that I was doing when I was doing my PhD was very digital ethnography based.

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So I was looking at patterns of knowledge and how they shift around the world, in particular for dancers who often for Middle Eastern dance,

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want to base their practise or to base the centre at the hub of their knowledge in Cairo or sometimes in Turkey or in other kinds of regions.

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But in my particular case, I was looking at dancers who had a dance tradition that is based out of Cairo.

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And what ended up happening was I did a lot of ethnography around in particular how people were using Facebook groups,

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but also other social media channels to spread the knowledge and in the creation of knowledge

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about how the dance kind of mythology and epistemology of what the dance meant to people.

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And while this doesn't sound really revolutionary now, way back in 2006, 2007, 2008, when I was first doing that, that was fairly new.

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You know, there weren't a huge amount of digital humanities tools at the time.

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And certainly we weren't using anything like this wonderful lab that we have now. I think this was the old print print shop at the time.

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So it was really interesting. But then what ended up happening is I went to do a very quantitative role,

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which when you become an anthropologist, you don't necessarily think of yourself as a quantitative person.

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Some might. I did not. But it was having that kind of digital skills component that really was able to help me make

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the transition from a very academic role into a much more kind of commercially minded role.

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And I didn't really intend to leave academia, but around the time that I was leaving, there were huge budget cuts.

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So there simply weren't the kind of resources available for people to have postdocs and subsequent academic careers in particular.

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As an immigrant to this country, I was I needed to have a role if I wanted to stay working here.

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That was not short term. So it had to be a Full-Time full contract.

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And luckily, I was able to find something that worked out, which was with the Tes

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and they really wanted someone who could help them to an extent of their research skills.

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But a lot of the role was really about the kind of Day-To-Day operational knowledge to help the business run.

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So that was very, very different from what I previously been doing.

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But having this kind of interrogative skills, those kind of basics of a humanities research skills,

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those basic social sciences research skills was really helpful or for doing things

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like helping question why a particular thing was being done in a particular way.

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In particular, I was doing a lot of kind of daily reporting of what was happening on the website and what kinds of numbers

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were coming back in terms of circulation and all those kinds of things that digital businesses do.

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And really, the thing that was extremely useful was being able to turn around and say, hey, is anyone actually reading this report?

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You know, something as simple as this ritual that we go through on a daily basis of producing these numbers.

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How are they feeding into our decision making?

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And in some senses, that questioning was perhaps not always very welcome, but it also was that helpful to create the conditions for change.

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And I think that the social sciences are not always really great about talking about

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the transferable skills outside of academia that absolutely do exist.

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And I think now we're starting to see in particular with another research area that I do, which is all around ethics.

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You're starting to see some of those kinds of questions emerging around.

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Who is in charge of this knowledge or what are the kinds of different weights that we put on how we assess particular aspects of

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artificial intelligence and its relevance and its usefulness and how is it relevant to and who's benefiting and who's not benefiting?

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And I think that having a general social sciences research background, regardless of whether your specialism is in ethics or in,

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you know, particular aspects of digital technologies, you know, having that kind of questioning mind is is a really useful thing.

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And I think that people who work in digital context are starting to appreciate those qualitative skills,

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again, in a way that perhaps has been a little bit subsumed recently. So those kinds of questions around how is this going to benefit not only direct

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users of our services or our products or whatever it is that we're building,

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but also that kind of contextual knowledge about how is this affecting other people who are going to be impacted by the decisions that we're making?

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There is renewed curiosity and interest in those kinds of decisions. And so increasingly, organisations,

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businesses and non-commercial organisations are looking to the humanities as well as

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engineering to to make up the body of knowledge of creating those products effectively.

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So I would say now is a really good time, actually, to be in the digital humanities.

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And to some extent, no matter what you're doing, your work is always going to have a digital component.

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So recognising that, you know, when you think about the degree that I did,

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which was very much based in transmission of knowledge and very much about dance,

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you wouldn't necessarily think that that would lead to where it did lead. But in other ways, it makes total sense.

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It was a logical chain of transmission. I was looking at the social components of how that knowledge was happening.

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And now we are even more immersed in digital technologies. Our careers are even more immersed in this, no matter who you are.

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So having that background of having done that, kind of that kind of study was really useful to get me where I am now.

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Yeah, it sounds really interesting. So it sounds like so

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all PhDs are very specific so yours was around dance and transmission of knowledge between dances and creation of knowledge in that way.

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But then it sounds you talk about thinking about things, those things more broadly in terms of the general skills we develop.

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And how did you find translating those things from kind of academic speak to then going into a non-academic, non-academic role?

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Yeah. I would say that initially it was a real challenge for me, partly because when I first was looking for a job,

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I still was applying for a very academic roles, as well as starting to look beyond that.

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So I was looking at a lot of roles in market research. I was looking at the National Centre for Social Research.

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I was looking at ESRA U.K. you know, you go places like that and they have a more kind of traditional, I would say, research bent.

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Whereas if you if you move into, you know, user research and a company, for example,

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and most organisations do have a user research arm if they have a digital component, even if that's not their kind of core business,

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but that the language of that is very different from what perhaps you might be talking about

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if you're coming out of the social sciences or have a real kind of pure research background.

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So but the advantage of being an anthropologist or a sociologist or someone who

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studies the way that people think about knowledge is that you can then apply

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all the research skills that you have to your own situation so you can notice

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the kinds of patterns of knowledge that are happening in your organisation.

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You can notice the particular language that people are using around things and say, OK, you know, this group is talking about doing AB testing.

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You know, I might describe that differently in my own historical research background or whatever it was.

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But actually, the actual things that you need to do, the mechanics of the research are the same.

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So simply learning the kind of patterns of the patterns of life and work in

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the organisation that you find yourself in is a really useful skill to apply.

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So I spent probably two or three years mostly working in a digital engineering team.

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People that were doing actual software creation. And my role there was to assist with data migration that was happening.

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So we essentially had a place that we'd been storing all of this hard quantitative data

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that we were collecting over the years about how that Web site that we had was being used.

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And then we were changing everything about the underlying infrastructure and technology that we had into a completely different data storage system.

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And my role is to make sure that as we were doing that, nothing got lost.

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The data was collected in the same way. Nothing was missing.

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Nothing suddenly looked out of place. And so part of that was doing things like mapping the infrastructure from how the old data system work,

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doing what's called an entity relationship diagram, and looking at what the new entity relationships would be.

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So the places where the data was collected from the stored.

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And as I was doing those, I was like, this is a lot like doing essentially is family tree diagrams.

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You know, it's very much the same thing where you're looking at where are things transmitting from A to Z.

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So you can use all those kinds of same skills. And also just the kind of.

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That sense that I would get when I would go in and if I didn't know what people were

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talking about or if I felt like there was something unspoken or something happening,

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I didn't quite understand, I would behave exactly as though I were doing ethnography with a community,

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which is to try and treat the knowledge that I was a part of as being something that was that I was studying, you know.

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And so kind of having that observational hat on.

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First of all, it really helped defuse some situations that could have otherwise been quite personally demanding.

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Because if you just view it as I'm learning about what's going on within this group,

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then you're kind of personal sense of responsibility about that while still high because you were working there.

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It doesn't feel quite so rooted in your own sense of identity, I suppose,

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because you can also treat it as I'm viewing this as objectively separate from myself.

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And also then, you know,

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eventually you will pick up the lingo and you will learn the skills and you will realise the patterns that are happening within your organisation.

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And that's really helpful for putting the right pieces in place at the right time to achieve the things that you want to achieve in your career.

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Yeah, yeah. It's kind of like learning the language when you're there using those skills.

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You already have to kind of pick up on that. Precisely.

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Yeah. And how did you find it kind of before that stage, kind of making applications,

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trying to write and tailor things in such a way that you're using a language you're not quite sure of yet?

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And kind of that probably is the hardest piece.

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I would say, because you're not yet immersed enough in the transition that you want to make.

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To really know what you need to say so that your legitimacy of knowledge in that spaces is understood.

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And you also simply don't have the connections, perhaps, that you would do once you've moved into the space.

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So I'd say if I were going to do anything differently, probably what I would do is, you know,

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and especially for students who are listening to this now that are maybe in their first or second year,

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I would have spent a little bit more time thinking about how am I going to make the

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kinds of connections I want to make to understand the spaces that are available to me,

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like what are the options that are out there? And, B,

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make the Connections to really form the right network so that at the right time I have the right information about what roles are available and

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potentially who can introduce me to the right kind of person to to know about a job that's that's out there and the right kinds of skills.

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So because skills do change in terms of need, employer need, and what they're looking for will change over time.

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So having an idea of how that space is shifting will allow you to see not only what's on the on the market right now or what's needed in the market,

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but you can get an understanding of what's going to be needed by the time I leave,

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because you can kind of observe the trends that are happening and say, OK.

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So if I put some resources into, for example, learning how to do network mapping or doing a bit more on the kind of digital skill side,

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then I'll be more valuable than if I'm spending time doing something else. Which isn't to say, of course, that you shouldn't focus on your degree.

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I mean, you know, it's such a kind of you have to get over that hurdle more than anything else.

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Right? That is the thing to get through. But I'd say a really crucial skill is networking.

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And I know that everyone always says that. And people find it can find it very overwhelming.

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But I think the thing to remember is networking is a skill that allows you to understand

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some knowledge that's out there in the world that you don't yet have in an informal way.

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So if you view it in that sense, then it can be less overwhelming.

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And I found as well, once I started learning to have an objective when I went to a networking event.

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So I go to a lot of digital skills, meet ups in London, or I try and attend a lot of webinars or whatever it is I'm trying to learn about.

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I look for places where I can find that information and in particular I potentially can

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share some information as well because people are always willing to engage with you.

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First of all, if you're interested in them and ask them questions, everyone loves talking about themselves.

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This is like the crucial skill of good networking is if you can get someone, if you can express interest in them.

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People are usually very willing to tell you more about what they're doing,

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but also people are usually have some kind of a need that if you can fulfil that need in some way,

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like having a slightly adjacent skill or a different skill that they're looking for, then they'll want to talk to you as well.

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So so building that skill of saying, OK, there is a big data meetup on Wednesday, I'm going to go and

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My goal is to find out either a little bit more about this particular topic or to meet someone that works in this

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business or to find someone that has this job title and just speak to them a little bit about whatever my objective is.

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Having that focus can really, really make it much easier because you feel less overwhelmed by the idea of networking in general.

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That can. Huge kind of topic and kind of focussing it on something smaller to achieve can make can make life just a little bit less overwhelming.

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Yeah, yeah, definitely. I think a lot people do get it. Oh, you've got to network.

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But then what does that really mean? What does it look like in practise. They kind of.

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Yeah. So to get tip of going to something with an objective and kind of having a little bit of reciprocity in that,

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like maybe there's two things you can offer as well as getting people to talk about themselves.

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Yeah. And honestly, the other thing that I would say, which is a really good tip, is even if you're fairly early in your career,

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especially if you're looking at a non-academic role, getting up there and being a speaker.

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So, you know, it gives it gives you a chance to showcase what you're doing or the kinds of knowledge and skills that you have.

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But it also gives people an excuse to talk to you at a networking event.

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And even if you're an introvert, actually, as scary as it could be to go on stage,

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giving a talk is a really excellent way of putting the burden on others to come and talk to you so you don't have

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to feel like you're trying to muscle your way into someone else or to identify a friendly face in the crowd,

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because everyone knows that you're so and so talked about the thing and then they might want to come ask you questions.

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So it's a really great way of, you know, it's essentially you saying I'm here, I can talk about this.

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And I'd say the real value is that in the personal connections, the one on one connections that you make after you've given the talk.

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So even a short you know, in particular, when I think about the technology team,

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which is mostly what I work in, there are tons of events, in particular London, where I live.

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You could probably go to multiple. You'd have your choice of events to go to every evening.

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And typically they're very short form talks, two to three minutes about a subject of interest.

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So there's usually lots of opportunities to get in and kind of on the ground floor of the ladder of speaking, as it were.

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If you're in a place that has less accessible resources in that way, there are definitely a lot of online resources.

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And in particular, I think now that there is so much fear about physically being lots of people together,

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lots of the kinds of events that I would typically have gone to are going to be thinking about moving online more and more.

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And the way that we develop essentially digital etiquette.

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So, you know, how people develop those kinds of informal connections is going to become increasingly important.

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You know, it's relatively easy to put together a podcast or a webinar that is one way broadcast content,

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but creating those connections that those networking events are really valuable for.

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There are very few ways that people are good at that right now. But I think increasingly that's a thing that people will get good at.

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So I'd say look for opportunities in that space where you can not only watch a piece of content,

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but also in some way contribute to an ongoing dialogue and meet people through that kind of a mechanism.

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I'm trying to think of other examples of good kind of asynchronous or at a distance ways that people can learn and connect with one another.

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I subscribe to a lot of newsletters about such just some interest to me professionally as well.

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Usually reaching out to someone and saying, I read this thing or I have a question about whatever it is,

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you won't always have a hundred percent success so that people will get a lot of demands on their time,

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particularly as they get more skilled or experienced in their space.

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But often people are again willing to talk about something or willing to connect with you,

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you know, to answer a question or to be involved or engaged in something.

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People are typically very generous with their time, you know, especially if you're only asking for 10 minutes or, you know,

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whatever it is, a small or small chunk of time is usually a good way to go in, particularly if you can be specific about your ask.

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That really helps people to engage with you quickly is instead of being like, hey, I read your thing, will you be my mentor?

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That's that's often too open ended. But if you say I read your thing, it was interesting.

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Specifically, I have a question about blah. You can often then open a dialogue in that way.

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Yeah. So it kind of being specific and kind of very much time limited when you're asking of people.

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And yeah. And it's really interesting to think about kind of non sort of Face-To-Face in person ways you can do networking.

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I think a lot of people think of networking as you got to go to this event and a lot

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of PGRs are part time or they have caring responsibilities and they just think,

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oh, I just can't do that. Actually, there are all these other ways that you can get involved.

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Yeah. And like I say, I think that those kind of online and asynchronous abilities are where the necessity for those

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is going to become increasing over the next few months and probably years after that as well.

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You know, because businesses have long been looking for ways to encourage less business travel, for example.

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And it's always, oh, it's too hard. There's no way to do this. It's impossible.

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And one of my current research areas is how digital technologies are actually changing the physical spaces that people work.

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And so right now is a real kind of fascinating live experiment for me to watch the way the businesses are responding to the current pandemic crisis.

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And I think that that really will change a lot of the things that we're thinking about.

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In particular, you look at things like slack channels for technology.

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Conferences have always been very popular, but.

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It's going from that being a kind of adjacent thing to the event, to being that is the event.

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You know, video conferencing again. It's not like that's a new technology,

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but the way that people get comfortable with using those things in particular in large groups is going to be really interesting.

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I think how people understand the visual and audio cues that they're getting on multiple person calls is going

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to be interesting because you often have these kind of slightly weird signals where if you were in person.

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So, of course, you know, we're probably sitting about four or five feet apart as we're recording this podcast.

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And that has a particular kind of etiquette about the way that we do distancing

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But if you're in a video conferencing situation, people often have the camera at a slightly weird distance.

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So you either feel like you're too close or you're too far away.

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And that gives different cues to how you perceive that interaction, where they have the microphone to close it.

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It's like they're breathing on you. I don't know if you've had that experience. I'm sure everyone has.

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And it's that really sets up a very different kind of interaction.

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And I think that as these technologies become ever more ubiquitous,

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people are going to have to be getting better at understanding what those implications

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are of sound and eyesight and what that means for people's comfort level of distancing.

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So that for me, is very fascinating subject right now. Yeah, yeah. There's so much to explore.

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And it's going to be interesting how it develops like over the next couple of months especially.

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Definitely. And you mentioned that he thought networking would be particularly with people in the early

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stage of their PhD just in terms of finding out about what different entities are doing,

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how things are moving and trends,

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and then they can use that to think about what skills do I need to pick up and develop and see if someone was interested

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in doing the kind of work that you do like as a digital anthropologist and all the various things that that's include

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What kinds of experiences would be useful for people to try and pick up alongside or as part of the PhD

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I think one of the it's important to focus on one of the reasons that I think it's important

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to do this early in your academic career is because when you are working in academia,

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unless you are doing something part time or you have prior experience outside of academia,

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the people who are teaching you so often don't have the experience of working outside of academia.

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So they are simply not in a very good position to advise you about if you want to explore non-academic options.

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What that transition looks like, what kinds of skills are being looked for.

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They can't really advise you on the kind of non-academic lingo unless they themselves are also doing some of this stuff.

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This is all, of course, very context dependent.

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You have some departments who are very different or you have university support services which can help you.

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But in general, my experience when I was a PhD student was that of many others that I spoke to was that they simply weren't

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able to bridge that gap into the commercial realm because they didn't have the right advice at the time.

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And being an anthropologist and someone who does a lot of ethnography

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I always think that the best way of learning about something is going to immerse yourself in that thing and then experiencing it for yourself.

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So finding an internship or some kind of work experience, I know it's less common for older people to be doing those.

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But you can usually find something. And there are often places that will offer short work placements even to postgraduate students,

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although it is you know, sometimes they're not quite very well set up for that. But, you know, there are definitely places that are doing it,

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especially if they're interested either in your area of research or the kinds of creative skills that

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you can bring to the situation that you're looking at and doing those fairly early on in your career.

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Gives you an opportunity to understand more about yourself, what you like and what you don't like instead of waiting until the end and thinking, hey,

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I'm just going to sit out in the wide world and having this wonderful badge of my degree is going to

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tell people something about who I am and the kind of skills I have often in a commercial setting.

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You know, you might recognise the value of a PhD, but you won't understand how that applies to your business.

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So particular for early people who are just out of the PhD

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It's a hard sell because in essence, from an employer perspective, they're seeing it was just a regular graduate who is a little bit more expensive.

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And that can be challenging to overcome that.

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You know, I'd say after your first job or first couple of jobs, when you move it to either a more managerial role or more strategic looking role,

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then people begin to value your active experience more than they did when you were first out of the gate.

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So that's really tough because that's kind of the biggest hurdle is is getting into your first job.

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It's a very much kind of a catch 22 situation. But coming in from your your postgraduate experience, having had some commercial experience as well,

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puts you in a much stronger position than to be looking at a commercial role because people can

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people make assumptions about your commercial experience when they're reviewing your CV or your,

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you know, as you're being in your hiring process than they will about someone who's just coming with no experience.

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That's obvious to them. Yeah. So it sounds like it's really important.

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First, few roles to really think to really keep in mind that someone else won't know, understand what a PhD is.

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Also all the skills involved. So you really have to work at both getting other experiences,

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maybe then also how you kind of market those things, I guess what those skills mean from your PhD.

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It's not just I did this degree and there's nothing about it that makes sense.

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Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And also, it's worth remembering that in a commercial setting, the word research can mean very different things.

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So I'm doing some doing a little bit of research on what is the commercial we're looking for and what do those kinds of roles do.

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And if I'm if I'm right. Gosh, the PGR resource that I'm forgetting the name of.

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But it's like academia to ac-doc or something like that. Yeah.

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I can find it to be linked. That would be awesome. Thank you. So.

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So there's some good kind of role descriptions of, you know, what does a U x designer do.

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And what does a commercial analyst do.

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And things of that nature that are just kind of general descriptions of jobs that are out there in

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the market and getting an understanding of what the language is that's used around those roles is

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really helpful because you can then tailor your CV to reflect those skills specifically and in

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particular to take some projects that you've done and demonstrate how those skills relate to that role.

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So essentially, it means you as the person coming into the job,

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you have to be a bit more forward stepping and thinking to to to the commercial

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person to give them an understanding of what you want them to see about that.

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That relates to their job that they have on the market.

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And that can be challenging because, again, sometimes the language is, you know, very jargonistic in particular.

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And, you know, if you've worked in a commercial setting, you might understand the particularities of what they're looking for.

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Whereas if you haven't, you don't really know what they're looking for.

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But trying to get informal interviews with people just to understand what they're specifically

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asking or getting in examples of prior work that other people who are in that field have done.

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So that's why networking isn't just about learning from people who are already hiring managers.

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It's not just about trying to find people who are looking for, you know, who have jobs on offer,

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but also about meeting people in those roles and finding out what their backgrounds are and how they got into that role.

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So it's really important, even just pure networking, can be super important to to understand how they bridge that gap and how they got into that space.

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Yes, I say there's a lot to do in terms of not having assumptions yourself.

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Someone else will understand what you're talking about then not assuming that

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you also know what they're talking about when they say research and you say, I've done this research,

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you might be talking about two completely different things and you might not either

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have a good match or they might not realise that you might be a good match. And talking to other people,

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who are in the field and their experiences can really help to sort of reach those gaps and find that language like you say,

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before you're fully immersed in whatever field. Is that kind of thing.

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Yeah. Yeah. Precisely. Yeah. So you say if someone was applying to work with you with that particular things that you are looking for in

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terms of how people put those things across or things you'll particularly like not looking for things like,

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nope, don't do that. Yeah. Let me answer that question in two ways.

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So where I work now, we are essentially a small consortium of researchers who have very different skills.

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So you can think about in an academic setting as being like an area skills department where you might have an economist and an anthropologist

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and a musicologist and whoever else that are all working on either a particular geographic region or some kind of conceptual region.

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But they all have very, very different skills that they're bringing to the table.

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And they might not even work very closely together, although they might on some projects. So that's really where I work now, is like that.

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We all have very specialised skills. I'm the only digital anthropologist on the team.

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The other people who have more skills that are focussed on looking at things like digitisation and cloud

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technologies and organisational strategy and some in some cases software engineering concepts and things like that.

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So we all have very, very different goals.

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So when we look for someone, we're typically looking for someone who has different skills and what we already have.

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I would say in the roles that we're doing, if I was hiring someone to be an assistant to me, then I probably would be looking for.

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Usually I've done that in a kind of short term project way.

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So in that case, it will very much depend on other project is when we hire into the the LEF.

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More broadly, we probably will be looking for somebody with a fair amount of commercially experience already.

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So I probably wouldn't see that as a good was a good starting role for somebody who has a PhD.

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But, you know, I've managed to make it there eventually. So I think if you want to work in an organisation that's like the one that ours is,

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then it's a matter of figuring out what kinds of steppingstones you need to put him.

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Along the way to get there.

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So to answer the question more from the perspective of my old job, when I was doing a more kind of data science y data analysis, background.

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When we were first hiring people who were typically coming straight out of their degrees for junior analyst roles.

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That was a very quantitatively oriented department.

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So we were typically looking for some examples of statistical knowledge, some potentially familiarity with statistical package software.

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And interestingly, there's not a lot of crossover between academic usage of those things.

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So you typically might be doing SPSS or quite a lot of stuff with, ah, potentially some stuff with Python.

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And what commercial organisations use in those spaces.

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Obviously all the maths is the same, but they simply are using different kinds of software packages.

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So we wouldn't always be looking for some experience in those commercial packages,

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which are things like Tableau and Click View and software package called Looker.

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But if they had some, that was usually perceived as an advantage.

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But if they had Python, our other stuff, we knew that they'd worked with statistical package software before and that was OK.

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We also were looking for people who at the time, again, very quantitive were all but we wanted people who could look at a set of data

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and see where there were irregularities or unusual things happening so that

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they could then raise a challenge in terms of either how the data was being collected or an anomaly of some kind in what was happening with the data.

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So you needed to have a bit of an investigative hat. And I would say my role there as an anthropologist was much more about assisting

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people with the kind of more ephemeral qualities of questioning those things.

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So while I did have a very quantitative role when I was there, I wasn't necessarily doing a lot of the kind of data sciences side of things.

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A lot of it was more of the summary statistics. And then, OK, we've noticed that there's an unusual pattern.

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What are some creative ideas we can think about, about in terms of why that might be?

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So you needed that mixture of people who could do the the crunchier side of the maths,

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but also say things like all the schools are on holiday this week or there's been a strike in Chicago teaching in the Chicago teaching union

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And so therefore, we're having less people who are logging on to share their stories with us this week or whatever it might be.

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So there is kind of that social side in terms of understanding what you know, if you see something unusual, what might it be?

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So a lot of my role in the end was really about training the newer trainees so they would come in with a more kind of hard sciences background.

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And then my role would be to help them. Question. When you see something unusual, why might that be so they can answer a lot of questions about this.

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Looks weird, but they didn't necessarily know what to do with that information. And my role is to help them understand that.

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Know how could you then question this more broadly? Yeah.

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So it's kind of, um, combining those that kind of hard science, the social sciences types together.

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Precisely. And I would say if you depending on the size of the organisation you're with, you often find that you get blended teams.

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So and that can be a real strength when you're able to when you're able to have people who have strengths in different areas,

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it allows you to see information in a different way than if you are just one person is looking at it in one way.

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And of course, there's always the wonderful idea of having everyone have all of the skills.

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But people are simply going to have different strengths.

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And recognising where they can contribute the most is really important for any organisation to do.

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Yeah. Yeah, sure. I know I say sounds like you're saying your current role and maybe that's a person that's listenings dream.

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Well, they want to work in a team, but it's a case that you won't necessarily do that straight away to think about the kind of work.

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What are the steps and experiences I need to get to that point. If that's the kind of thing I want to be aiming for.

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Yeah. Precisely. So a good example would be like, there is no way that I would have the job I have now,

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even though my role is much more qualitative than it was previously.

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If I hadn't had my experience where I was doing essentially the kind of hard number crunching for the past six years before that,

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because it gave me experiences like managing a team, give me a lot of organisational operational experience.

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So I understood the different parts of what most businesses have in terms of the kinds of ways that they're set up.

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Give me a lot of experience around kind of standard ways of doing commercial modelling for different kinds of things.

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So then when I go into businesses now where where I'm advising them, I usually understand the organisational setup pretty well.

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Because, you know, though, of course, there are differences, there are definitely commonalities in terms of how large organisations are always set up.

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So if I hadn't had that experience,

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I wouldn't simply I've simply wouldn't be able to kind of stretch to putting myself in the shoes of the organisations I work with.

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So so, yeah, it's definitely that kind of sense of, OK, if I want to someday work in a think tank or work in a research.

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organisation or something of that nature or go into a kind of political policy organisation.

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What do I need to do so that when I get there,

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I have the right mixture of skills and background and essentially area knowledge so that I can really provide the most value in that kind of role.

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Yeah, yeah. And when you were moving to your first role at tes, like, how did you find because obviously that was quite different in terms of quantitative,

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in terms of applying for that role, how you sort of sold your skills in that setting mixture thing.

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So I had applied for several different things around that time.

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I specifically remembers applying for internship and publishing as well. And I was applying at that time as well as it has.

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And the tes connection was actually through a personal friend.

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So, again, networking, it comes down to, you know, it absolutely is about what you know, because, you know,

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when you show up in the room to be the one who is in the interview, you have to you have to pass the bar.

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But in terms of the knowledge about what roles are available and out there,

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it really is helpful to not just be depending on job boards and kind of publicly available information.

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Having some knowledge about, you know, roles that either are not being advertised explicitly or in particular this role.

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When I first was applying, it has had a very hard time filling the role.

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And that's partly because it was a slightly unusual setup for the role.

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So a lot of the people that they were interviewing either had one side of the job that they were looking for covered already,

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or they had the other side that they wanted.

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So in this case, they wanted somebody who could do a lot of the kind of analysis and Day-To-Day reporting.

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But they also wanted someone who they could eventually train to do some of the the actual programming of the reporting tools.

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And what they were finding at the time was that they could they could find someone who was one of the other very strongly,

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who had a commercial background. But they were really struggling to find somebody who either had both or wanted to do both because it was unusual,

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you know, expectation, especially for that level of role. And of course, I come in as a newly graduated PhD and like, I can do anything.

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I'm willing to do whatever it takes to succeed in this job. And sometimes that extra flexibility of simply saying, hey,

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I'm willing to learn it can it can sometimes put you in a better position simply because other people whose careers were

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fixed or have a very focussed career path in mind might not be interested in having that kind of broad range of skills.

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And so, you know, for you to come in then and say, I can learn things very quickly and I'm very experienced in part of this or I am

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very thorough in the way that I go about learning things can be a real advantage.

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And so that was eventually what happened was because they'd had such a hard time filling the role,

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they were then willing to look slightly differently at what kinds of mix of skills they needed. So essentially,

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I showed up at the right time when they were looking for someone who is a little bit different than what they had initially had in mind.

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And then when I was doing the interviewing, clearly they were impressed by the research skills that I had,

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but also some of the ways that I was thinking about or questioning some of the stuff that they were putting forward that made them feel like,

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OK, this could be someone who can approach this role differently, which is really helpful for them.

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And interestingly enough, when I went to then move to the leading edge forum where I work now,

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I knew that I was ready to move on from a role that was very quantitative.

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And I wanted to get back into some of those more kind of core research skills that I developed.

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And when I was here at Exeter and I was having a hard time because my role at that point was so quantitive that all anyone could see in me was,

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oh, she's an analyst. She's an analyst. And so it was very hard for them to see that the qualitative skills that I'd amassed

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in the previous simply weren't things that in their mind were showing up for them.

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When I was trying to put myself forward.

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So but the leading edge forum was specifically looking for someone who wanted to do a digital anthropology programme for them, programme of research.

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So again, it was just the right thing at the right time. It just matched up. That was what I wanted to do and that was what they needed.

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And again, they'd been having a hard time filling the role because they had a lot of people who either had a

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lot of commercial experience but didn't really have the kind of core research skills that I had.

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Or they had a lot of people who had been doing very academic research for a long time,

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but didn't have the commercial experience and the context to operate in that world.

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So, you know, it's just about finding the right the right match at the right moment, I think.

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Yeah. Yeah. And this only about. Throughout kind of the importance of networking,

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finding out about jobs that are available in any kind of different people's experience and backgrounds in these industries.

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And it sounds like that makes it experience between the academic and the kind

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of commercial industry industry type stuff and get having both those things.

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And I said maybe trying to get some of these experiences durinf your PhD really helpful.

427
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Yeah, yeah, absolutely. It can be really powerful if you want to move into a commercial role.

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And I I'd say also what I've observed. Is there an increasing number of public private partnerships or academic quasi

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academic research skills or or things of that nature where there's some kind of,

430
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oh, hey, we, the university have a lot of research skills or a lot of scope for doing like innovation lab style stuff.

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But what we don't have is a lot of the commercial side of things.

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So they develop these like digital hubs or innovation hubs in different parts of the world, in different country.

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And so there are often roles that are available that are kind of quasi academic, but also really depend on the commercial experience as well.

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So, you know, I haven't really had an experience of fighting for those,

435
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but it's something I've observed as I've been thinking about my my future career path.

436
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It's something that I've observed is out there in the market. So there might be something like that. You know,

437
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if you're thinking about perhaps wanting to stick a bit closer on the academic

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side and maintaining those academic credentials and publishing and all that.

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But also having a bit of commercial experience that would let you be that kind of linchpin between those two those two things.

440
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So I'd say that's an interesting potential career path as well. It's adjacent to but not exactly the same as the way that I've gone.

441
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And would there be any other kind of final tips you'd give someone kind of in the middle of

442
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your PhD or something you wish you'd done a bit differently when you were doing your PhD?

443
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I think the only other tip.

444
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And again, it's probably something that is spoken about perhaps a bit more than when I was a student, is prioritising your own self care.

445
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And I mean that not in a fluffy bubble bath kind of way, although if that is something that works for you, then great.

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But really look after your own mental health and your own physical health.

447
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Because if you don't have a working as a working instrument, then it's going to be very difficult for you to play the sonata, basically.

448
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And I'm hoping that there are a lot of resources out there available now to enable students to to really

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care about those things and to look after themselves and also to develop those habits early in life,

450
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especially when you're in the kind of pressured environment that a Masters or

451
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PhD is that will put you in extremely good stead for later in life when you

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have pressured roles or are dealing with different kinds of pressures like

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balancing work and family or what or financial concerns or whatever it might be.

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So developing those habits early on, when you're at what might be the most pressured moment of your career, ultimately will then help you.

455
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Everything else beyond that will seem like a piece of cake then. And that's it for this episode.

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Join us next time when we'll be talking to another researcher about their career beyond their research degree.

 

Episode 3 - Gemma Edney, Graduation Coordinator at St George’s, The University of London

Episode 3 - Gemma Edney, Graduation Coordinator at St George’s, The University of London

March 30, 2020

Welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast from the University of Exeter Doctoral College! The podcast about non-academic careers and all the opportunities available to you... beyond your research degree! In this episode PhD student Debbie Kinsey talks to Gemma Edney, a University of Exeter alumni. An experienced project manager and events manager, Gemma now works at St George's, The University of London. 

 

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

Podcast transcript

 

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

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So I'm Gemma. I did my PhD in film studies finished last April.

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So April 2019 was when I was awarded. I submitted the September before that, so I sort of stopped the actual physical researching and writing 24/7.

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In September 2018, immediately after submitting, I got a job at the student information desk.

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Here I am organising graduation. Which sounds more stressful the more I think about it.

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But I actually think organising graduation is actually quite stressful.

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But so I did that.

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So I did that immediately after submitting completed my corrections while I was doing that, and then continued doing that for a little bit.

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I was looking for jobs here and there.

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The plan originally was academic jobs, so I was looking for those.

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There weren't very many. So and the more I looked at, to be honest, the less I wanted any of the jobs that did come up looking.

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So then in October last year, I decided to apply to the civil service fast stream scheme.

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And finally, it's the longest application process ever. But finally, I found out in February that I've been successful.

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So I'll be starting there in September, which is about the change of direction, but is, I think, a good move for me.

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So, yeah, that's kind of where I am in my journey at the moment.

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Yeah. So you were initially you working kind of in university, you know, you said.

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Well, yeah, initially looking for research type jobs but now decided to move outside.

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Yes. Yeah. So I worked throughout my PhD anyway, um,

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part time at the university and then that's sort of how I ended up with the job that I ended up with once I had submitted.

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I wasn't in a position I could once I'd finished, just do sort of a seminar here and there or like one or two seminars a week.

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I needed an actual job full, full time hours. I did.

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Originally, I was offered teaching in the year that I, I submitted, but it was only one seminar a week.

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And so I had to say no because I needed more than just one seminar a week and I

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wasn't able to take a full time job and also do a seminar a week because funnily enough,

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the university don't like to employ people or more than a full time contract. So.

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So I wasn't able to do that, which was a shame, because I do really I do miss teaching is one of the things I really miss.

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But I carried on looking. I was constantly looking for jobs.

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I was never under the impression that I was gonna do graduation organisation forever.

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That's not something that I thought was on my future plan, really.

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So I did carry on looking for jobs. But the more I looked to be honest, the more it's they were all fixed term.

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They were all part time. Some of them were fixed term and part-time. And it just wasn't something that I wanted.

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After doing four years of PhD, I was ready to just actually know where I was going and where I was gonna be and have a bit more stability.

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And it was just one of those things that gradually I came to the realisation that actually,

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although I would have loved to stay in academia, it wasn't the top of my priority anymore.

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And I think that's okay. I think that's fine to have come to that realisation.

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It took me a while to come to that to come to that realisation.

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But yeah, it's not something that I have no regrets about stopping looking for academic jobs.

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There was a point where I just anything came up I went, I didn't want that job.

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I just looking at the looking at the job description and looking out the work involved and things, that's not I don't think I want it.

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And when that just kept happening, I thought, yeah. I didn't want any of these jobs.

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So I started looking outside. And to begin with, I was a bit sort of I felt a bit lost in the.

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I had been aiming at this for so long and done this one path.

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And then I thought, OK, what am I going to do now? What do I even do?

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And so I look for things sort of within universities and I'm sort of more student support kind of roles and things.

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But again, there was just nothing that really struck me. I got there were a couple of jobs.

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I went for that I think I would have really enjoyed it, but I came second for all of them.

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Which was lovely that they told me that. And also awful that they told me that because I'd have rather come last and just been told, no, it's not so.

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But then I sort of thought, well, maybe I don't need to work at a University at all.

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Maybe all other things. And I actually started looking more at graduate schemes and thinking more.

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Is there anything that also like PhD I'm still a graduate.

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II can still apply. And there are various things there.

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And there are various schemes that actually sort of market themselves.

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at PhD graduates, as well as other graduates of other levels as well.

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And so I started sort of looking at much more widely than I had been before.

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And I actually heard about the civil service scheme on a train.

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Just people behind me were talking and I was really nice. So they were sort of just talking about their current roles and everything.

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And I was thinking, oh, like sounds interesting. Like what the scheme that they're on.

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And I had a look at it. And it's actually designed not just for fresh undergraduates that are leaving university

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but for a career changes and people are all different stages of their careers.

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And I quite liked that.

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It specifically says we are not just a graduate scheme and we're not just for 20 and 21 year olds that have just finished their degrees and things.

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So I sort of looked into it and to be honest, just that and an application on the off chance.

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And then, I mean, it's a very long process. So the longer I went into it, the more I said I actually really want this

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I want I want a place.

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And so, yeah, it was as soon as I sort of got more more involved in the process and through the application, the more I thought, yeah.

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I think this is a really good move for me,

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something that I think I can apply myself to and having a bit more experience beyond sort of having through my page.

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The experience I've got and through working elsewhere as well, I think we'll actually be really beneficial.

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So, yeah, there are absolutely no regrets on the journey I've taken to get to this point.

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But it just took me a little bit of time to come to come to the realisation of what I sort of wanted and needed.

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To be honest, this is for my own personal wellbeing.

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I think this is a really good decision. And ever since I've sort of had the plan of life.

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Now I know that I'm going somewhere else. I'm going off in this direction. Sort of felt almost lighter.

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Yeah, this is great. I haven't felt that for a while. So that's where.

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Good. This kind of thing where it's important to think that not just the things you enjoy, that you really enjoy teaching.

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So what kind of life you want. Yeah. And a lot of the academic opportunities and I like them around you and finding just didn't fit with the kind of life.

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Yeah, absolutely. And I'm like, I think there are people that can say, yeah,

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I'm happy to go through a few years of temporary contracts in the hope that I can then go on to a permanent one eventually.

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And that's great. And that is originally what I thought I would have to do.

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But the more I thought about it, the just the more I think I don't I don't want to have to.

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As soon as I go into a job, I start looking for another one, because that's pretty much all I have done.

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So throughout my PhD, I was on sort of temporary contracts anyway,

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which didn't matter because they were part time and I was always, always able to get another one.

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But then I was immediately looking for jobs as soon as I had finished and then immediately looking for other jobs.

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Once I got the one I was in and I was just done with the job search.

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If I'm honest, there's only so many applications I can start and then maybe fill out.

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And then the competition obviously is always so high.

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So just for my own for my own sake, I thought it's okay to have priorities the on going into a research job or an academic job.

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I still I've still continued to do some research when I have the time.

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I mean, having a full time job makes that less likely. But I've got an article coming out soon in a journal and things like that.

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I still really like my research. I haven't completely fallen out of love with everything I've done, but it's much more.

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I can do it on my own terms. There's no pressure or I can do what I want when I want.

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If someone likes it, they'll publish it. Great. But there's no sort of expectation that I have to get so many publications out.

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I have to get this experience in order to get this job. I might only have for six months.

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And that's having that knowledge as much.

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It's just so much calmer in my life. Yeah.

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And it sounds like looking at said you were feeling a bit lost when you made that decision.

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Like when. Sure. Went to. Yeah. Graduate schemes. Kind of gave you that structure to that.

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It did. Yeah. It was never it was never something I had even considered at all.

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I thought, no, I'll stay if I do. I'll keep looking for academic jobs.

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And if I don't get an academic job, I'll still look in sort of student support

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And it was only when I thought, why, why do I have this weird thing that I have to stay?

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Within a university, maybe I don't have to work at a university. It was only then.

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And obviously there are so many jobs and you have to try and structure it somehow.

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Then I sort of thought, well, maybe let's look at the schemes out there.

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And there are, as I said, there are some that do actually market themselves as PhD level.

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And they say that they'll give you like a salary increase if you've got a PhD over a bachelors or a masters, so that there are schemes out there.

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And I was when I discovered that, then I thought, oh, okay, well, maybe I can look at some of these.

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I mean, investment banking isn't what I'm actually interested in. So I didn't apply for quite a lot of them.

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But there are still schemes out there that value these.

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There are there's more resources, I think, for science PhDs than there are for humanities PhDs

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In terms of moving into industry or moving outside of universities.

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But there are schemes out there and there are there are people that have made the move, too.

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So, yeah, I think discovering that was was really good as a way of at least starting to structure my search.

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And then I had just a lucky train journey. So what was the process like?

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You said it was quite an involved process. Yeah. So it's a really involved process.

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So I sent the initial application in in October and then I had to go through two rounds of online tests,

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which are so it's not really verbal reasoning or anything, which is why I expected it to be.

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It's kind of they give you a scenario and you have to say which decision is more more valid or you have to sort of say what you would do,

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that kind of thing. And then if you pass that, there's a video interview,

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which is one of the strange experiences I've ever had because there wasn't a person on the other end.

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It's just a pre-recorded question, which then you have certain time to answer the question in and then off your recording goes.

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So I was sitting in my kitchen sort of looking at my wall, trying to answer, trying to answer questions was a very strange experience.

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But I did that. And then after that, there's an assessment centre where you actually meet people for the first time

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and you're with lots of other people that are also applying to the scheme.

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You go through various tasks. And and then after that, I waited for 10 weeks and then eventually found out the outcome because they have so

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many people that they have to they have to set marks for each of the different schemes,

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because within the within the whole fast stream scheme, there are fifteen individual streams that you apply for.

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So they have to sort of set pass marks and gradually narrow the bands and until they have the right number and things like that.

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So it takes a long time, but it was thankfully worth worth it in the.

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It has been it was a long process. But Handily, I found out that it was two days after my birthday, which was nice.

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And also the day before I had an interview for another job, which is fixed term until August.

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So that's just doing is doing graduation at another university in London.

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So that was it was quite. I applied just because it was it's more money than I was.

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I'm on at the moment. And I thought, well, why not? And then but I probably wouldn't have taken it because it's only fixed term until August.

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Without the guarantee that I'll have somewhere to go afterwards.

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But I then yeah, the next day I had the interview and I said, yes, I would take this role if asked, because I've got time, I've got somewhere to go.

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And so I say things kind of all fell into place,

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which was nice because before that things hadn't really felt like they were falling into place at all.

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But yes. So that kind of brought my leaving Exeter forward by quite a large, large amount of time, which I will obviously be sad to do

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I've been here for a really long time. But yeah, I think it's a good move for me to sort of just go.

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And for once, it's kind of I'm just putting myself first completely as a completely selfish decision that

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I'm just gonna leave and do something else for five months and then go and do something else.

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So it's yeah, it's good for me to have a bit of change of scenery and and work out work out what I'm good at again.

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Yeah. Did you find, say, during the process of applying anything, you applied things from your so p h d time.

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Yes. Anything learnt skills or how did you sort of transfer this sort of university academic speak I guess.

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Yeah. Different industries. So I mean I think being able to write well is something that I don't think you can

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under estimate writing applications and being able to talk about your experience from

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when you go to conferences and people say also you also tell me about you tell me

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about your research and you have to suddenly think of something that you hadn't.

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Considered and this really High-Powered person is asking you about you and you think you need to make yourself sound intelligent.

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That's really good for interview. So I'm sort of thinking on your feet about examples of things you've done is really helpful.

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The most helpful thing, though, I think, is just the general project management of doing a PhD.

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A PhD is a project and it goes on for a really long time.

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And you have to manage your time. You have to manage the individual tasks that make up the whole and knowing how to do that.

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And just that process is so helpful not just for applying and telling people that you're good at project management, but also for in the workplace.

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I would not be able to organise graduation without any kind of experience of project management.

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So it's things like that that I think people don't realise that you're not just go to writing articles and researching a very niche topic.

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You're also good at thinking more widely and planning really far ahead.

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Projects go on. These projects go on for years and you know where you are at any given time and can sort of even if not to other people, to yourself.

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You can always, you know,

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roughly when you think you might be finished and sort of you might tell you might tell people that it's a slightly different time.

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I know I did that. I think I would give a date and then in my head, maybe not that day.

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But that ability is just so helpful and is an example.

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that I give in interviews all the time. When people say, oh, tell me about how you manage your workload.

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Okay, let me tell you a story. Let me tell you all about my PhD

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So that is by far the thing I apply the most.

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And just in general, I think having a bit more experience of communicating with people, of having interviews,

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of applying for things, applying for grants or sort of travel scholarships, things like that.

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And just a bit more experience of how that process works in writing about the benefits of certain of certain ventures and just in general helps.

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I spoke to some people at the assessment centre for the Civil Service.

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And I mean, I was very flattered because to begin with, they said, what are you studying? I thought, oh, nice.

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And they said, you know, they'd found the interview really difficult because they weren't sure what to say.

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They didn't have any concrete examples for things and they weren't sure what to

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expect when in a one to one situation with an interview or anything like that.

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But as a student, you have one to one situations all the time with your supervisor.

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And I mean, I don't know about anyone else, but my supervisor used to ask me questions.

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I did not know the answers so that I had never I hadn't considered before then.

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And actually that was a real benefit that I had had that experience. I am quite good now at thinking on my feet.

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When someone asked me a question, I don't know the answer. But that's not something that everybody has.

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So it's it's those little things that actually can help in terms of applications and talking to people and communicating,

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which I don't think you think about very often when you're doing a PhD

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It's kind of thinking about these sort of general skill terms think about it Like what you're doing is actually project management.

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Yeah. Not just working on a PhD. It's this way. Yeah, exactly.

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Like, really useful generalisable skills. I think sometimes when people say if they I know that when I spoke to family

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who didn't know what a PhD was and I found it really hard to explain to them.

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And it's only sort of since finishing that I go it's a really big project and it

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takes three to four years and you have to plan each individual task and they go,

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oh, okay. But sort of while I was doing my PhD, I'd say, oh, it's like a big essay like that doesn't cover it at all.

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And, you know, trying to explain that, I'm sitting at my computer reading books and writing and people.

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Okay, I don't really understand what that is and how that counts as work. Yeah.

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So it is only sort of since finishing I have been able to explain my PhD in terms that aren't just academic.

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So kind of finding something to be useful if people thought about how to articulate what the individual which is generally just what is a PhD

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Yes. Is what it is. Exactly. And I think I don't think there's enough out there.

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I don't think people focus on these transferable skills much.

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There's a lot of emphasis on transferable skills, undergraduate level,

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because the range of subjects that people do, as I've asked, but I think there is a PhD level,

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there's less of an emphasis on it because there's an expectation that you'll go on to continue researching, even though so many people don't.

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That was another thing I felt when I. Was first coming to the realisation that I didn't think I wanted to stay in academia.

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And I was thinking, well, does this make me a failure? Am I now a failed academic? Is that what I'm going to be called?

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No. It was only when realising actually how many people I knew that had moved outside of academia.

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I know more people that have moved outside of academia than have stayed in it.

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And it was only when realising that realising that I didn't call them failed. Actually, it was it it was fine.

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But we do I think we need to have a bit more focus on the fact that lots of people

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don't continue in a university role or in a in a research based role after their PhD

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And that that's okay.

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And that a PhD is more than just a research degree is is a feat of product management and time management and managing your own workload

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and your time and managing to work independently while also having the stresses of the institution or trying to do some teaching.

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Or if.

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If you've got funding bodies that want to know exactly what you're doing and when, then it's there's so much more to it than just the actual thesis.

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Yeah. Like, I think sometimes it's couched in terms of being like, oh, this is research training, this is your training.

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But actually I'm pretty sure the majority of PhDs don't go on.

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Yeah. Become academics. Certainly the majority that I know aren't academics and some have.

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And that's great. Yeah. But lots haven't

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And they've gone into all kinds of different industries.

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And I think. Yeah. I think we need to talk about that just a bit more really.

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Because it was when I found myself Googling like, what happens if I don't go into academia with a PhD

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And then like there's a few blog posts and a few things saying, oh, you know, this is what your PhD actually means in terms of skills.

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And I went, oh my goodness, I have skills. I'm just writing about film studies.

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So which I knew, I knew I had skill film studies, but.

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But it's nice to actually have that. I have someone to say it's fine.

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Yeah. There are other jobs and other jobs that will value your experience as well.

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Yeah. That will value your experience. And they might like especially like say in your case, fit better with your life.

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Yeah. Like, yeah. I think it's okay to put yourself first,

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which is something that I didn't do during my PhD really at all and wasn't something that I was doing when I first started looking for jobs.

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And it was coming to the realisation that I had absolutely no desire to apply for a job that was called what was it called?

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It was called an unestablished teching fello. I like the fact that that job title even exists, made me go, oh, no, I don't think so.

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And I think it's okay to come to that conclusion, I think.

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But that's not what I want to say. Yeah.

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Like, I've got a partner, I'm ready to maybe buy a house,

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but actually plant down some roots somewhere rather than constantly wondering where I'm going to be next.

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So that's that's an okay realisation that I have come to.

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And yes, I do miss the teaching. The teaching is the part of it that I do miss.

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But there are so many in any of the jobs that I would have applied for.

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There was so much teaching, plus that it's never just teaching.

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And that's the same in any teaching profession. And that's not just universities that's teaching in general.

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And there are always parts of it. I went, oh yeah, I don't think I want that.

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But I'm going into the say the stream I'm very into in the civil service is HR.

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So it's still really people focussed. And I'm gonna be training,

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I'm going to be teaching people things and I can use my skills in those ways rather than rather than teaching undergraduates specifically.

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Yeah. Is again, thinking about it, the skills and the things you enjoy in broader terms saying, yeah,

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teaching is not just in schools and university yet it's also training, you know, everywhere.

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Really. Yeah. And it was sort of when I was thinking about that and I was thinking, yeah, I want to work with people.

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Definitely I want and I would love to be able to have some kind of teaching role in that.

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But I don't want to be a school teacher. I know lots of school teachers and I think it's admirable, but it's not something I could ever do.

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So and I think, oh, well, what am I going to do then? And then I was thinking, well, actually, I've gone to training, such as in my job.

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So people run those. That's that's a thing that people do.

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And yeah. So it was coming to the conclusions. Really?

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I just needed to start thinking outside the box a bit more.

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And there aren't just certain jobs that you have to go in to that there's all kinds of all kinds of roles that

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you can fulfil and still work with people and still train people and have pass on knowledge and things like that.

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So, yeah, that's. It's been a long time coming, but it's realisations that I gradually made over sort of the last year.

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Yeah. And if, say, someone else, or even just know your past self kind of in the middle of their PhD trying to figure out what they want to do next.

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Is there any kind of experience you can recommend them getting or anything that you think would be helpful for them to think that would do?

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I think just thinking about overall what you'd like from a job.

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So I'm in very broad terms, so I'd like to be able to manage someone or I'm not interested in management,

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but I would like to work with people or in some kind of training capacity.

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So very broad terms that on are neither academic nor non academic.

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First of all, just to give you a better idea of any kind of sector that you might be able to go in, cause I certainly to begin with was very limiting.

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I was I limited myself to sort of higher education. It's a sector I feel really strongly about.

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And so I thought, yeah, fine, higher education.

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But there are so many different roles within higher education that you still need to have sort of an idea of what you want to do.

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And I think it's okay to be choosy about jobs.

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There was a period of time where I sort of just applied for anything I thought I was vaguely qualified for.

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But then I thought, actually, would I want this job at all? And I really thought about it.

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The answer was no. So having an idea of at least the kind of role you want and then having a look at what's out there and thinking,

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okay, so I want to work with people, well, that can mean what kind of people do I want to work with?

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And then that can point down all kinds of different roads that sort of aren't what you expected.

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I certainly three years ago would never have said that I was gonna go into H.R. and the civil service.

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That's not something that I had ever considered, but sort of just don't feel like you need to limit yourself.

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And thinking in those broad terms can help that, I think.

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But it can be a it can be a scary place to try and just go. I need a job.

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I don't know where I am. So, yes, I resisted the urge at one point just to sort of send out a CV and say needs job wll, travel.

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But yeah, thinking about that in more broad terms and then being able to pinpoint your sort of top five.

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So I wanted a permanent job or at least something that would lead to a permanent job.

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And that was really high up on my list of priorities. And then as soon as you've got those priorities,

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you know sort of what jobs you can apply for and what jobs really aren't worth the application process,

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because often, especially with academic jobs, I found I was putting my absolute all into an application only to be turned down.

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And there are only so many rejections you can take before you start taking it personally.

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00:28:32,000 --> 00:28:38,000
So I think and on all of those, I have seen no doubt that really my application,

281
00:28:38,000 --> 00:28:43,000
if you read if you read between the lines, you could see that it was not the job that I wanted.

282
00:28:43,000 --> 00:28:49,000
And churning out applications will do that sort of you'll become very generic.

283
00:28:49,000 --> 00:28:55,000
So having those sort of top five things that you're looking for that you won't compromise on.

284
00:28:55,000 --> 00:28:59,000
So I want a permanent job. I want to work with people.

285
00:28:59,000 --> 00:29:05,000
To be honest, they were my top two things. I wasn't really that fussed after that.

286
00:29:05,000 --> 00:29:13,000
But at least something, at least some kind of priority will then help you draw your line as to what you apply for and what you do.

287
00:29:13,000 --> 00:29:18,000
Yeah. So just spending some time really reflecting on what matters to them as well.

288
00:29:18,000 --> 00:29:22,000
Yet priorities and and thinking about whether you stay in academia or not.

289
00:29:22,000 --> 00:29:26,000
Like, where do those priotities fit in. Yeah, absolutely.

290
00:29:26,000 --> 00:29:34,000
And I mean, to begin with, one of my priorities was I want to be able to carry on my research.

291
00:29:34,000 --> 00:29:41,000
And flexible working options are certainly that that covers that.

292
00:29:41,000 --> 00:29:46,000
I have no desire to completely give up research altogether.

293
00:29:46,000 --> 00:29:52,000
I've spent so long researching and it's part of what I do. And I think it's part of me as a person.

294
00:29:52,000 --> 00:30:02,000
So I have no desire to completely stop. But the ability to do it in my own time and research exactly what I want when sort of inspiration

295
00:30:02,000 --> 00:30:08,000
strikes is I think will be better for my research as a whole and better for me and say.

296
00:30:08,000 --> 00:30:13,000
A flexible working option is always better.

297
00:30:13,000 --> 00:30:19,000
So I at the beginning of this year, in my current role, had flexible working, approved where I worked.

298
00:30:19,000 --> 00:30:27,000
Condensed hours. They worked longer, longer hours on four days and then had a day off each week, which meant that I could do whatever I wanted.

299
00:30:27,000 --> 00:30:31,000
I didn't have to do research. There were days I did not.

300
00:30:31,000 --> 00:30:38,000
But then there were also days that I sort of sat down with my computer again and got my academic head back on and.

301
00:30:38,000 --> 00:30:45,000
And I've got an article coming out hopefully soon, depending on whether they accept my recent corrections.

302
00:30:45,000 --> 00:30:51,000
But yeah. So that's that's something that I've been able to keep hold of.

303
00:30:51,000 --> 00:30:59,000
And and sort of keeps part of my academic identity in a way, because it is an important part of me.

304
00:30:59,000 --> 00:31:04,000
And it's not something that I haven't. As I say, I haven't grown to hate my research.

305
00:31:04,000 --> 00:31:13,000
That's not what's happened at all. But those priorities have sort of helped change the way I look at the job search in general.

306
00:31:13,000 --> 00:31:18,000
Yeah. So kind of spending some time reflecting on your priorities.

307
00:31:18,000 --> 00:31:26,000
And then also revisiting them in case they do. Yeah. Like, originally, your priority was to get an academic job that kind of shifted and then.

308
00:31:26,000 --> 00:31:29,000
Yeah. Thinking about how you can integrate all these different things.

309
00:31:29,000 --> 00:31:33,000
So it's not like if you do still want to research, you won't necessarily have to just shut a door.

310
00:31:33,000 --> 00:31:41,000
Yeah. Absolutely. No one. I don't know anyone, not even academics who only research for their entire time.

311
00:31:41,000 --> 00:31:51,000
And then they go. This is my researching time and that's it. So sort of you don't you don't have to close doors to anywhere.

312
00:31:51,000 --> 00:31:58,000
I think there's absolutely nothing that says that you have to be a lecturer at a university in order to be published as an academic.

313
00:31:58,000 --> 00:32:03,000
So it's a there's you shouldn't limit yourself.

314
00:32:03,000 --> 00:32:13,000
I don't think. It's okay to say I'd like to be sort of a casual research and do it as a hobby rather than rather than do it as my only job, I think.

315
00:32:13,000 --> 00:32:18,000
I think in many ways I would be better as a casual researcher.

316
00:32:18,000 --> 00:32:28,000
So, yeah, I think just keeping being mindful of what you want and what your initial reactions are two things.

317
00:32:28,000 --> 00:32:34,000
Certainly when I started realising I was looking at jobs and going, there's a job that I could apply for.

318
00:32:34,000 --> 00:32:36,000
Do I really want this job?

319
00:32:36,000 --> 00:32:42,000
And suddenly realising that I was hesitating so much more on job applications and going, maybe I should listen to myself a bit more.

320
00:32:42,000 --> 00:32:48,000
I clearly don't want this job. Let's not spend three days working on an application for it and sort of just.

321
00:32:48,000 --> 00:32:52,000
Yeah, being aware of what your own gut feelings are about things,

322
00:32:52,000 --> 00:33:03,000
because I started realising that actually being happy in what ever job I was doing was actually much more important to me than the job itself.

323
00:33:03,000 --> 00:33:10,000
And it has made such a difference since having something fall into place.

324
00:33:10,000 --> 00:33:17,000
I have been like a different person and everyone has noticed.

325
00:33:17,000 --> 00:33:28,000
And I will be so sad to leave Exeter and I don't know what I'm going to do when I actually have to leave because I will have to probably be prised away.

326
00:33:28,000 --> 00:33:35,000
But it's it's good to stretch out of it and go in a different direction sometimes.

327
00:33:35,000 --> 00:33:40,000
That's what people need. Sometimes I think it's okay to have you can feel both these things.

328
00:33:40,000 --> 00:33:44,000
You can feel a desire to move to something else and still feel sad. Yeah.

329
00:33:44,000 --> 00:33:48,000
It's not like, oh, you should only look elsewhere if absolutely hate it.

330
00:33:48,000 --> 00:33:59,000
Yeah. I think was the thing. You don't have to sort of taking a change of direction doesn't have to be out of loathing for what you currently have.

331
00:33:59,000 --> 00:34:06,000
It can just be, you know. Well, I think it would be really great if I did this for a bit, and that's fine.

332
00:34:06,000 --> 00:34:13,000
But I don't think I don't think we really talk about any directions in terms of when people are doing a PhD

333
00:34:13,000 --> 00:34:21,000
It's kind of. Finish your thesis and then all after that, you'll go into a researching post, which is not the case.

334
00:34:21,000 --> 00:34:28,000
It's not as easy for anyone, but it's kind of the expected trajectory.

335
00:34:28,000 --> 00:34:34,000
And yeah, I think no one ever sort of mentions that sometimes people don't want to do that, and that's fine.

336
00:34:34,000 --> 00:34:40,000
And maybe we can maybe we can talk a little bit more about what people might do if they

337
00:34:40,000 --> 00:34:44,000
decide they don't want to go into a  PhD can be used as a trial at the end of the day.

338
00:34:44,000 --> 00:34:55,000
If you don't if you decide at the end of it that you don't like the process of researching, then you don't have to stay in research.

339
00:34:55,000 --> 00:35:01,000
And you said you worked part time alongside doing a part-time PhD

340
00:35:01,000 --> 00:35:09,000
Did doing that help at all with you? Kind of. I think it kind of helped me.

341
00:35:09,000 --> 00:35:20,000
Come to the realisations that there was other work that existed and kind of helped keep me grounded in the real world as well as in academia.

342
00:35:20,000 --> 00:35:31,000
There were certainly times when it was hard to juggle my two my two identities of academic and not academic.

343
00:35:31,000 --> 00:35:38,000
But I think it did help to a certain extent that I thought, well, I've been doing this throughout my PhD anyway.

344
00:35:38,000 --> 00:35:41,000
There's clearly nothing wrong with doing the two.

345
00:35:41,000 --> 00:35:50,000
So why can't I do the two forever? And just because my PhD is finished, it didn't mean that my interest in research finished.

346
00:35:50,000 --> 00:35:59,000
But it certainly made me more aware of the fact that there are other roles that I am suited to.

347
00:35:59,000 --> 00:36:03,000
I absolutely loved all of the all of the temporary jobs I did during my PhD

348
00:36:03,000 --> 00:36:10,000
There was nothing that I thought I never doing with ever again. And so it did help to a certain extent.

349
00:36:10,000 --> 00:36:16,000
There was also, I think, the fact that I was working and then I needed a full time job.

350
00:36:16,000 --> 00:36:23,000
Obviously, there was left. I had less time to think about whether I would go into a teaching post where research pays.

351
00:36:23,000 --> 00:36:28,000
There wasn't anything that was immediately available as soon as I finish my PhD

352
00:36:28,000 --> 00:36:32,000
And therefore, it was going to be non academic. And I knew that and that was fine.

353
00:36:32,000 --> 00:36:38,000
I still continue to look for academic jobs, but it was certainly quicker in that immediate period.

354
00:36:38,000 --> 00:36:42,000
I didn't have sort of any time at all. I didn't have months of going.

355
00:36:42,000 --> 00:36:47,000
OK, well, I've got this very small amounts of teaching.

356
00:36:47,000 --> 00:36:52,000
Will it maybe go anywhere else? Like, could I try and extend it in any way,

357
00:36:52,000 --> 00:36:59,000
which I know that I know people that that they've had to do that process where they've had sort of two seminars a week or a few hours teaching a week.

358
00:36:59,000 --> 00:37:02,000
And that's been fine for a little bit. And then they've got to the point where they've gone.

359
00:37:02,000 --> 00:37:06,000
Well, now I need something more than that. But I don't know if I'm gonna be offered it.

360
00:37:06,000 --> 00:37:14,000
And I don't know if if there's a process for it. So my my sort of immediate cut was very I was much quicker.

361
00:37:14,000 --> 00:37:19,000
I said, well, I need a full time job. There isn't currently one available. There's one here.

362
00:37:19,000 --> 00:37:30,000
And that's where I went. But again, it's it's still my skills hasn't changed because I've left academia.

363
00:37:30,000 --> 00:37:33,000
I am still the exact same person I was when I was doing my PhD

364
00:37:33,000 --> 00:37:40,000
And I think that took me a little while to realise that actually doing a non-academic job didn't make me a different person.

365
00:37:40,000 --> 00:37:49,000
I was still a doctor and I still have that vocation and I'm still using stuff from doing a PhD

366
00:37:49,000 --> 00:37:55,000
So, yeah, that took me a little bit longer. The acknowledgement of the non-academic world was quick,

367
00:37:55,000 --> 00:38:01,000
but the acknowledgement that I wasn't a different person in their world was quite a long time, really.

368
00:38:01,000 --> 00:38:04,000
Then that came. That came afterwards.

369
00:38:04,000 --> 00:38:11,000
So kind of thinking about your identity as an academic and what it means if you're not in academia and your interests and skills.

370
00:38:11,000 --> 00:38:17,000
And I guess a bit like you were saying before, you have you develop all these generalisable massive generalisable skills in a PhD

371
00:38:17,000 --> 00:38:22,000
which aren't necessarily always talked about as much they should be. And I guess the same goes for your identity.

372
00:38:22,000 --> 00:38:25,000
Yes. Like, you are just a human.

373
00:38:25,000 --> 00:38:34,000
Yes, exactly. And sort of I sort of put myself in a box of PhD these students, for such a long time and became.

374
00:38:34,000 --> 00:38:39,000
By the end of my PhD So good at trying to explain what that meant.

375
00:38:39,000 --> 00:38:48,000
And trying to justify the fact that it is a job doing a PhD, because so many people don't understand that actually doing PhD is a job.

376
00:38:48,000 --> 00:38:54,000
And it's it can sometimes be draining, saying, yes, I'm a student, but I'm also I'm not really a student.

377
00:38:54,000 --> 00:38:58,000
Well, you think I'm saying when I say I'm a student is not what I am.

378
00:38:58,000 --> 00:39:02,000
And sort of put a I had myself I am a PhD student.

379
00:39:02,000 --> 00:39:07,000
That is what I am. This is what I do on a day to day basis.

380
00:39:07,000 --> 00:39:11,000
Sometimes outside of that, I also go and work and do all of these other things.

381
00:39:11,000 --> 00:39:14,000
But in my head, that was it was just two separate things.

382
00:39:14,000 --> 00:39:21,000
It was two separate completely two separate roles that I did when no, I was still the same person in both of those roles.

383
00:39:21,000 --> 00:39:26,000
And it's just that I did research and one of them and I didn't do research at another.

384
00:39:26,000 --> 00:39:32,000
But I still put I've managed and I still taught people how to do things.

385
00:39:32,000 --> 00:39:40,000
It was just not teaching students about film. It was teaching staff about systems.

386
00:39:40,000 --> 00:39:47,000
You know, it's the same skill and it's still I use the same skills that I did for my PhD for every other role.

387
00:39:47,000 --> 00:39:57,000
But I haven't I hadn't even considered that that was the case while I was doing my PhD which sounds really silly in hindsight.

388
00:39:57,000 --> 00:40:02,000
Of course, I wasn't literally two different people. I can feel like that sometimes.

389
00:40:02,000 --> 00:40:10,000
I think that you can be so involved in your PhD project that it's kind of like looking through a tunnel.

390
00:40:10,000 --> 00:40:13,000
And when you're in that tunnel, there's nothing else.

391
00:40:13,000 --> 00:40:22,000
You're not. You're not outside of it in any way. And everyone that even sort of mentions your PhD or comes into that tunnel with you would never leave.

392
00:40:22,000 --> 00:40:27,000
It was like that's that's the only context in which you in which you refer to them.

393
00:40:27,000 --> 00:40:39,000
But that's not that's not the case. And it's once I realised that maybe I could use the skills I was using during my PhD for other things.

394
00:40:39,000 --> 00:40:46,000
I became a lot more enlightened in my own job search and sort of thinking about what I wanted and

395
00:40:46,000 --> 00:40:50,000
realising that I could use it to my advantage rather than thinking about myself as a failed academic,

396
00:40:50,000 --> 00:40:54,000
which is for a while. Why? So I thought, wow. So yeah.

397
00:40:54,000 --> 00:40:58,000
So it's kind of thinking about what your priorities are in general.

398
00:40:58,000 --> 00:41:03,000
And then also thinking about what skills you actually do have from your PhD

399
00:41:03,000 --> 00:41:06,000
kind of decompartmentalising it. Yeah.

400
00:41:06,000 --> 00:41:12,000
PhD life to actually even though for you you were doing it literally at the same time it still was like this.

401
00:41:12,000 --> 00:41:19,000
Yeah. And I said things are kind of pointing out how you think about what you're doing and how that fits your priorities and what jobs there.

402
00:41:19,000 --> 00:41:25,000
Yeah, absolutely. And yeah decompartmentalising is exactly why I would say because I had,

403
00:41:25,000 --> 00:41:33,000
I had completely compartmentalised my life into little boxes that sort of okay today I'm putting on this hat and then I will

404
00:41:33,000 --> 00:41:39,000
put on another hat and then I'll go home and I might put on another hat because no one wants to talk about the PhD all the time.

405
00:41:39,000 --> 00:41:47,000
So it's realising that actually maybe you can just wear one hat and you're different things with that.

406
00:41:47,000 --> 00:41:58,000
So it is. Yeah, definitely part of my journey especially and has been very helpful in sort of the last

407
00:41:58,000 --> 00:42:03,000
year where I've come to terms with with what I originally had deemed as failure.

408
00:42:03,000 --> 00:42:11,000
And now I have no regrets whatsoever. So now you wouldn't call it academic failure?

409
00:42:11,000 --> 00:42:14,000
No. Something else is there? No.

410
00:42:14,000 --> 00:42:24,000
I mean, someone I know did say I did say to me that there are lots of people in the civil service who are in academic rehab.

411
00:42:24,000 --> 00:42:33,000
But I didn't think I. I don't think I want to call it rehab, because that makes academia sound even worse than I even think it is.

412
00:42:33,000 --> 00:42:38,000
So I don't think I mean, I don't need to go into rehab for academia.

413
00:42:38,000 --> 00:42:42,000
But no, I don't know if there's a word. A word for.

414
00:42:42,000 --> 00:42:51,000
But just there is this there is this idea that if you don't go into an academic job, that you have somehow failed at academia.

415
00:42:51,000 --> 00:43:00,000
I mean, you can't fail at academia. That's not a thing. And everyone has their own has their own journeys and their own priorities in life.

416
00:43:00,000 --> 00:43:03,000
And I think as long as you have found out what yours are.

417
00:43:03,000 --> 00:43:07,000
And it might be that your priority is getting the academic job.

418
00:43:07,000 --> 00:43:14,000
And that's fine. That's there's nothing wrong with that either. But if it's not your priority, that is also okay.

419
00:43:14,000 --> 00:43:19,000
And we although there won't be people around that tell you that that's okay.

420
00:43:19,000 --> 00:43:29,000
Is okay. And having at least having an idea of what your priorities are is just so it's just so important.

421
00:43:29,000 --> 00:43:37,000
Because for for years my priority was finishing my PhD and that was really all I thought about for the whole time.

422
00:43:37,000 --> 00:43:40,000
And then when I eventually finished it, I went, well, what now?

423
00:43:40,000 --> 00:43:50,000
What do I do? And there's the weird interim period anyway, when you submit and then you have nothing to do because you can't read it straight away.

424
00:43:50,000 --> 00:43:59,000
Why? I don't know anyone that would do that to themselves. And if if they were, I would strongly recommend not doing it.

425
00:43:59,000 --> 00:44:04,000
But there's sort of that weird time where you have literally nothing to do.

426
00:44:04,000 --> 00:44:13,000
Until then, you prepare for the viva. And then you invariably get corrections today, which that was.

427
00:44:13,000 --> 00:44:18,000
It was a hard time trying to complete the corrections while also in a full time job.

428
00:44:18,000 --> 00:44:21,000
But I did it and that was fine.

429
00:44:21,000 --> 00:44:28,000
Luckily, my corrections were only minor, so I was able to do it sort of of an evening over the course of a couple of weeks.

430
00:44:28,000 --> 00:44:33,000
And. And that was all fine. And then it kind of all well then just ended.

431
00:44:33,000 --> 00:44:37,000
I thought, well, is that it? Now, why am I not an academic anymore?

432
00:44:37,000 --> 00:44:40,000
And the answer is no.

433
00:44:40,000 --> 00:44:52,000
I am still very much an academic in that I like to do research and I still classed myself as academically minded if there is such a thing.

434
00:44:52,000 --> 00:45:00,000
But I'm just not working in academia and I'm much happier for it, I think.

435
00:45:00,000 --> 00:45:16,431
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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