Each Friday we post a new v i s t a profile, a career beyond the academy story (use the tags at the bottom of the post to find the entire list). These posts accompany our curated events to support post-PhD career transitions, v i s t a mentoring, and also #sheffvista on Twitter.
Job title and company: Assistant Departmental Administrator (Projects), University of Cambridge
Approximate salary range for your type of role: Grade 7 (£29,000-£34,000)
I completed my PhD in History at the University of Sheffield in August 2015 and moved straight out of academia. I submitted my thesis on the Friday and got my first job on the Wednesday following! I’d worked on a lot of different projects in public engagement and on studentship boards during my doctoral studies and I was keen to see where these different paths could lead.
My first job out of my PhD was working as Outreach and Impact Coordinator for the Departments of Music, Architecture and History of Art at the University of Cambridge. The public engagement projects that I’d run as part of my PhD had given me a good idea of the demands of the Impact agenda, and I also had quite wide-ranging experience in working with young people and student recruitment, which set me up well for the role.
The job was very varied but centred around two main goals: encouraging prospective applicants from low socio-economic backgrounds to consider applying to Cambridge to study Architecture, History of Art and Music, and, working with academics to plan and deliver public engagement collaborations associated with their research with a view to REF2021. It was a great job and allowed me to develop skills in events management, strategy and planning, and communication.
In January 2017 I started a new job as Assistant Departmental Administrator (Projects) at the Department of Geography, also at the University of Cambridge. This was a step up from my previous role in that it combines work in communications and external engagement with work on Departmental administration and strategy, Athena SWAN, and Alumni engagement. The work is wide ranging and requires lots of different skills: undertaking primary research into new programmes and practices, creating and working with complex databases, planning and delivering engagement programmes, drafting copy for different audiences, managing our social media and communications channels, and serving committees. Each day I will be working on a number of projects at the same time, and I often have to juggle multiple deadlines.
I find that I use the skills I developed in my PhD on a daily basis, in particular in handling and analysing complex sets of information and managing my own workload. While having undertaken doctoral study isn’t an essential part of what I do, it has given me an understanding of the demands of an academic workload, which I think helps me to work with academic staff productively, as well as the confidence to work independently and strategically to deliver my projects and undertake research. As the demands of nationwide review programmes like REF, TEF and Athena SWAN expand, universities need highly trained, strategic administrators to help navigate complex bureaucratic processes and ensure that academic staff continue to receive the space and resources to undertake their research.
Where can researchers look for jobs like yours? Jobs.ac.uk or university job pages
What professional/accrediting bodies, or qualifications are relevant to where you work? There are a number of organisations for Academic Administrators or for Development Professionals such as the AUA (Association for University Administrators) or CASE (the Council for Advancement and Support of Education). My training is ongoing on the job: recently I’ve undertaken training courses in Excel, Data Protection and Unconscious Bias.