Where are you based for work and what do you do?
I am a lecturer in entrepreneurship at Sheffield University.
Did you train for a specific job?
Yes and no.
I started a digital platform some time ago, which was about giving young people a voice where they could share their experiences. It was when the recession was just starting in the USA and the impact that had on young people. We have stopped working on the platform now, but that first-hand experience has been invaluable in terms of understanding and teaching entrepreneurship.
I am also working on finishing my PhD in Social Entrepreneurship and that training is important for my job in terms of research skills, especially in a field, such as Social Entrepreneurship, which only started around 20 years ago and has only recently become active as a research field.
My initial degree was in PR, Marketing and Comms, which has also been helpful in working with social enterprises as part of my current job. What I have learnt is that communicating with your volunteers and beneficiaries and the wider world is very important. It’s very important to keep talking about how you are planning to change the world when you are working in a social venture environment.
What are you doing now? What is a typical day?
Right now its in the middle of the semester and I teach at least one day a week – so I have to prepare for those lectures and depending on how much time I have to spend on teaching, I also carry out research in my area of interest. I’m doing my PhD part time and it does sometimes integrate in my daily life. I think it’s easier when it’s part of your job. I also have a research assistant and I am learning how to delegate work, which is more challenging than when you lead diverse teams with very specific jobs and expertise, such as design or web development.
What are your aspirations for your career in the future?
I don’t think I can give you a title as such – my CV is very varied – I’ve worked at a football club, in magazines, with agencies – but I am passionate about working with organisations and helping individuals change communities and that is what drives my career decisions. So could be possibly outside of academia – but academia can enable you to integrate your outside interests within your role. You must conduct your teaching but there is a lot of flexibility within the job.
Can you tell me about a defining moment of your career?
When I applied for the job I have now, I thought I shouldn’t apply – I didn’t think I met the criteria. However, one of my male friends encouraged me to go for it as he said women only apply for jobs where they feel they fit the role 100%, whereas men apply for a role when they fit just 60%. So this encouraged me to be bolder and braver.
The second defining moment was when I started my own co-working, peer coaching support group – with two other women at the same level – it has been incredible to have that community of people to celebrate the successes you have. It helps boost my confidence and understanding of what I do well.
Who else has helped you along the way? Did you have formal or informal mentors?
There are so many people! Some unofficial mentors, ex colleagues for example, and my own advisory group for big decisions. Most of my friends are not in academia – mostly they are in technology, finance, marketing – quite diverse. They are really smart people who keep me reflecting with smart questions.
Have you changed direction in your career? Did you ever swerve off course?
Possibly if you think about the very traditional hierarchical growth and career progression – sometimes I did things I shouldn’t have. But I like to do what challenges me, helps me grow, and I feel passionate about. Every single job I have had has ticked all those boxes.
What are the worst and best bits about your job?
The best is being able to help the next generation to change the world – to give them the skills to be changemakers.
The worst is that it’s a huge responsibility – to be responsible for young peoples’ education.
Have you ever considered a board/NED/trustee role?
I haven’t been invited onto one yet but I haven’t found the time to proactively pursue such a role either – so maybe the timing isn’t right yet.
What helps you to stay interested/excited in what you do?
I think I am privileged to have a job that allows me to work within my passions – I have so much autonomy that if I want to research an area I‘m interested in, I can go ahead. I can be entrepreneurial in the work I do – finding grants or seeking research support. Or I can use the resource I have here already.