#sheffvista 48 – Director, Music Education Solutions® Limited, Dr Elizabeth Stafford

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.

@musicedsolution @DrLizStafford

Job title and company: Director, Music Education Solutions® Limited

Approximate salary range for your type of role: Ha! When you own the company, anything from £0 to £onehundredtrillion!

E Stafford.jpgI never meant to do a PhD. I arrived at Sheffield for an MMus interview, thinking I would use that to pass the time while my voice matured enough for me to gain a place at music college. At interview I was offered a full scholarship if I applied for an MPhil leading to PhD rather than the MMus, and that was that!

I really enjoyed doing my PhD, but due to the fact that I had never intended to do one in the first place, I was still really focused on my ‘end goal’ of becoming a professional singer. My PhD was in Performance Studies, so it was contributing to this, but I knew that I would also need to move to London and study at music college if I were to be successful.

After my PhD I moved back home to Birmingham to work as a teacher for a year while I auditioned for, and saved money towards the fees for, music college. I was awarded a place at Trinity College of Music in January, to start in September. At this stage I had only done a term of teaching, and I was still really focused on my career plan, but once I had secured my place and was able to clear the fog a bit, I noticed that I was really enjoying my teaching work more than I had expected to.

In September of 2003 I moved to London to start at music college but quickly realised I had made a horrible mistake! Being one of life’s over-achievers (hello, unintentional PhD!) I chose to stick it out rather than admit my mistake, and after graduating the following June, moved straight back to Birmingham and resumed my old life!

Four happy years of working as a peripatetic teacher for Birmingham Music Service followed, during which time I completed a part time PGCE to make myself an officially qualified teacher. I loved working as a teacher, but the hours were long, and the financial rewards scant. There was no career progression available in my role, so I looked around for a change. I had already been involved in mentoring other teachers by this point, and was really lucky to apply for and be appointed to the leadership team of the KS2 Music CPD Programme, a government funded national training scheme for music teachers.

The KS2 programme was only funded for 3 years, and I quickly came to see that something would be needed to replace it, so I established Music Education Solutions® to fill the gap once the programme ended. I slightly undermined my own plan by having a baby just as the KS2 programme closed (!), but by 2013 I was up and running with my own company.

E Stafford.png

Music Education Solutions® provides consultancy services to the music education sector, and as director I am responsible for the day-to-day running of the company as well as our strategic direction. As we are a small business, I also deliver a lot of our work personally, so my days can vary from being in the office looking at our social media accounts, to flying out to lead training in another country!

One of my personal missions is to support and develop other women, so our roster of consultants includes a large number of women, many of whom are in the early stages of their career. I am also committed to diversity within the workplace, but music education is a very white, middle class dominated sector, and I have found it difficult to make my workforce as diverse as I would like – this is definitely still a work in progress for us.

One of the perks of being the boss is that if I don’t want to go to the office, I don’t have to, so I often work from home. For a working mum, this is a godsend, as it means I can get a wash on, and the tea in the oven at the same time as making conference calls and planning our strategic vision!

No week is the same for Music Education Solutions® so I could literally be anywhere, doing anything, from one day to the next. As I write this blog I am contemplating my next working week, which involves trips to Birmingham, London, Leeds and Belgium! And last week I spent 3 days in the Channel Islands, which I am not for a minute going to complain about!  We are currently working on two big projects creating music teaching materials for primary teachers. One of these involves a user-testing study, so my accidentally acquired research skills are being put to good use!

Running a small business requires you to be a jack-of-all-trades, and I feel that my PhD experience prepared me really well for this. With a PhD you have to work out how to do everything yourself – yes you can get advice from others, but it’s fundamentally up to you to make the magic happen. PhD researchers develop discipline, independent working, presentation skills, written communication skills, and tenacity which are invaluable skills in an entrepreneurial role. As a company offering consultancy, we are often asked to research projects for our clients, and it has quickly become clear to me that this is one of the easiest ‘sells’ for our company, since no-one except researchers really understands how to carry out research!

At the moment we are at a really exciting time as our company turns 10 in 2018. We have lots of celebrations planned, and are looking forward to looking back on how far we have come in a decade! Coincidentally in the same month that the company turns 10, I have a ‘big birthday’ myself. I have joked to my colleagues that creating a business from scratch takes so much out of you, that really it’s not fair to count those years, so I’m looking forward to turning 30 again in June!

Where can researchers look for jobs like yours? Create them yourself! But the Arts Jobs website gives a good indication of what projects and services are frequently required.

What professional/accrediting bodies, or qualifications are relevant to where you work? A PGCE is a must if you want to be taken seriously in (schools) Education.

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