This interview, and the others to follow over the next few weeks, are with the employers represented at the recent King’s College London Arts & Humanities PhD careers event. They have been written by PhD candidate Valeria Valotto, to whom we are very grateful!
From Cultural Studies and Media Phd to Academic Services Research: the other side of Academia
Dr. Laura Speers
Current position: Laura is Post-Doctoral Associate at Queen Mary University London. She works in the Post-Graduate Training and Knowledge Exchange Unit.
I received a BA in Philosophy at the University of Newcastle. Prior to beginning my PhD at King’s, I studied for an MA in Telecommunications at Indiana University.
First turn – Temporary Research Position
Immediately after finishing my PhD I was not sure whether I should pursue an academic career. I got a temporary research position through my supervisor. This was at 53 Million Artists, a collaborative project between KCL Cultural Institute and an external organisation. My role involved helping shape the research agenda of the project, synthesising academic and policy literature for research reports, and devising evaluation activities to assess project progress.
Second turn – Post-Graduate Training and Knowledge Exchange Unit
My position, for which a PhD is a requirement, entails researching, developing and co-ordinating the delivery of research training and knowledge exchange activity for the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences as an associate member of the London Arts and Humanities Partnership (LAHP), which is an AHRC-funded Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP). The role involves the planning, programming, organisation and delivery of knowledge exchange activities by working closely with academic Schools, external partners and cultural institutions both in London and overseas.
I am very happy with the change. This postdoc position offers the best of both worlds (academia/outside) as I’m still in Higher Education so have university affiliation and library access (I’m in the process of publishing my PhD). I’m doing something new by applying my PhD experience and knowledge to researcher training and development. Researcher development is satisfying because it’s people-focused and you’re making a direct difference to the working lives and experiences of PhD students and ECRs.
How did you make it?
I encourage a twofold strategy to career transitions: hunting for information on the short run and chasing one’s interests and passions on the long run. Before applying for jobs I would make sure to shadow and interview people in that position, to understand better what the role implies. My active participation to extra-curricular activities led me to discover Post-graduate Training. As a PhD student I attended training sessions, which gave me the opportunity to understand the importance of Postgraduate Training and to understand how this service could be improved. At King’s I was Humanities PhD Students Representative, in such a capacity I organised workshops and gained valuable experience in chairing meetings and events. This made me realise that I enjoyed managing people and facilitating ideas exchanges. I had been cultivating these skills since her time at Indiana University, where I was an associate instructor, research assistant and served on the Graduate and Professional Student Organization (GPSO) committee.
For an in-depth interview to Laura and for pratical tips about how she made the transition, see the following article on King’s Careers Blog.