Tell us about your career journey so far
I came to Brunel to do a PhD later on in my career to pursue my interest in the assessment of research as part of effective research management. Alongside my PhD I also worked as a research assistant for the dean of my faculty which was a really varied role and included providing support for the new Research Assessment Exercise (which later became the Research Excellence Framework, REF). As I completed my PhD, I was keen to progress my career within university management and took a role as a university school manager working on a range of institutional projects here at Brunel University London. Since then, my interest in planning and data analytics has grown and I moved into research planning, management and assessment roles with increasing levels of responsibility and am now the Director of Strategic Planning.
What are the main activities in your role?
I lead a planning team who are responsible for supporting the delivery of the University Strategic Plan and coordinating the annual planning cycle for all academic areas and central services. We are responsible for monitoring Brunel’s performance using, for example, key performance indicators (KPIs), as well as providing senior management and university committees with benchmarking information, data analysis and business intelligence. The department also covers managing the University’s risk register, the implementation of the research strategy, and monitoring of research performance, including preparation and delivery of the REF.
What skills and training from your PhD particularly prepared you for this career path?
Resilience is very important in academic life, and it is a skill that you certainly gain during a PhD! Throughout my PhD and Research Assistant role I learnt much more about the academic environment and how decisions are made. In particular, this gave me an insight into the importance of evidence-based rigour in assessing options and how to take onboard ideas and feedback from others so you can tailor your communication to find the best solution for all.
What approach do you take for job-hunting and career progression?
My job-hunting approach was not always very linear or structured, but my aim was to seek out and experiment with new and interesting opportunities. When I took my first job after my PhD as a university school manager, I knew I wanted to progress and take on new responsibilities within the university environment. I consistently sought to stretch myself by volunteering to take on a variety of additional projects which then allowed me to move into roles that were a fit with my longer-term career goals. Over the years, I’ve found that building a strong network with professionals in and outside Brunel is key to productive working and staying up to date with the latest sector developments. Finally, having completed a PhD later in my career, I believe that following the professional route in higher education has allowed me to more quickly reach a higher organisational level than might have been possible via an academic pathway.
What is one piece of advice that you would give to current Doctoral Researchers at Brunel university?
The job market is evolving very quickly, and new career areas are being created all the time, so my advice would be to stay curious and explore the exciting range of career opportunities that are emerging.