What is your current Job Title or Role?
Plymouth Materials Characterisation Project (PMCP) Manager
What advice would you have for young women who are interested in a STEM career or job?
If you see a job that interests you, just go for it. Take it down to its bare bones – if the subject, the role, the tasks resonate with you, then give it a go. I fell into working at the Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre (PEMC) and feel a slight fraud putting myself forward for Women in STEM as I am not technical myself. However, my role is more a translation role – the interface between those new to electron microscopy (EM) and the real experts – and I enjoy that position. Before I joined PEMC, I knew nothing about EM, however, I learnt, and continue to learn as I see electron microscopy used in different ways in different industrial contexts. Project Management itself has tended to be a male-dominated role, however at the University at least, an increasing number of our externally-funded projects are being managed by women – so women looking to enter this area of work must not be put off by such preconceptions. Work has always played a large role in my life, so I strongly believe that by being positive and enthusiastic about your daily activities leads to more opportunities and enjoyment. So my advice would be; take opportunities as they arise. Say ‘yes’ and try something new. Just do it!
How did you get to where you are today?
I studied a generic business degree, leaving myself open for a career in virtually any sector, so STEM was never a specific ambition. I fell into working on projects funded by European money and this led me into a variety of environments, from working on website development projects in the late 1990s in Plymouth, training of the unemployed in radio and print journalism in London, to providing MS Office training in East London. In London, I progressed onto managing KTP (Knowledge Transfer Partnerships) and commercial interactions between universities and industry. When I returned to Devon, I continued this exploration by joining the Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre (PEMC) at the University of Plymouth. At the interview, I could not even pronounce ‘microscopy’, but since then, I have been privileged enough to work with over 150 companies who have explored how they can use electron microscopy to make a difference to their business. I’m no expert in the techniques, but I continue to be fascinated by what the instruments can do, and the expertise and adaptability of my technical colleagues in embracing every company that comes through the door, wanting to see their component or product at the nano-scale.
What do you do on a daily basis in your work?
Managing a project that is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), providing practical support to companies, is an extremely varied job and differs every day. One day I may be preparing a management report about the progress of the project for my line manager, for the funding body, or a committee at the University – or reconciling project expenditure to ensure that we are spending compliantly. On another I may be visiting a company to explore how they could use EM to benefit their company, or speaking at an event, demonstrating how a company from a particular sector has already used electron microscopy to make a real difference to their business.
Who or what inspired you to get into STEM?
There was no real moment of inspiration at the beginning; it was a European-funded project that needed a project manager. However, I am now inspired on a daily basis – I love to see the faces of our industry customers when they see a component or the result of a specific process up close. Or perhaps solving a problem, thanks to the detailed analysis and imaging information that PEMC can provide using electron microscopy.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
Having the opportunity to speak to companies about a service that they can readily access in a University. I’m proud of the fact that a business can contact us and solve problems in a timescale that suits them. Also seeing a company grow in interest, from an initial conversation about how we could potentially support them, to seeing that company representative deep in discussion with one of our Technical Specialists about the intricacies of their production process or product development.
What do you like to do outside work?
I am a lapsed sports enthusiast and currently enjoy pilates. However, I love wild beach walks and exploring at the weekend, and of course supporting my children’s rugby, football, swimming and athletics endeavours!