I am delighted to introduce myself to you in my freshly minted capacity as Deputy Director of the Future Leaders Fellows Development Network. I will have responsibility for the themes of enterprise and self-leadership, and I am working with several of our consortium partners to bring these plans to fruition in the coming months. You’ll find out more about these themes, plus the leadership model which underpins them, at the first Research Encounters event next month, and I’m looking forward to meeting some of you in person through the programme of bite-sized ‘bridging’ workshops, which is already well underway. Before all of that, I am working intensively with our external consultant, Tracey Stead, to finalise the development of a 360° feedback tool, specially designed for this FLF community. In other words, you probably don’t know my name just yet, but we are on the cusp of getting to know one another.
This Network is my first formal engagement with the FLF scheme, but I have been supporting research fellows for twelve years. I have worked as an Adviser in the Postdoc and Fellows Development Centre at Imperial College London and, for six years, in the Postdoc Careers Service at the University of Cambridge, where I specialised in academic careers in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. I wrote a series of pieces on these topics for The Guardian, and I have contributed to several books on writing successful job applications. My current job is Head of Researcher Development at Cambridge, where I support a number of leadership programmes for research and academic staff.
In amongst these legitimate undertakings, I also took a fairly eccentric career break, in 2014-15, to run a luxury ski chalet in the French Alps for a winter because – whisper it softly – after fifteen years’ studying, researching, and working in universities, I felt that I needed some time away from higher education. A change is as good as a rest, they say – which is lucky, because running a chalet six days per week is definitely not restful. I mention my career break mostly for the sheer novelty that I am probably the only member of the team who can discourse at some length on the many ways that sponge cakes don’t bake properly at altitude; and because I thought that this post would look more elegant if it had three paragraphs.