#sheffvista 105 Dr Brenda Gonzalez-Ginocchio, Researcher,the Workforce Development Trust

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: Researcher, The Workforce Development Trust: incorporating Skills for Health/ Skills for Justice/ SFJ Awards / National Skills Academy for Health

Approximate salary range for your type of role: NHS pay band 6/7

Graduation 2019

The most valuable lesson I learned from undertaking my PhD was that I really enjoy conducting research in different settings and for diverse projects. This realisation drove me to seek a research career outside academia, as I feel it allows me to have a closer look at the direct impact of the research, explore more diverse lines of research in different sectors, and work as part of a team, collaborating with people from very different backgrounds as experienced during my fieldwork.

The field research was truly inspirational and exciting as it reminded me of the reasons behind choosing to conduct research on the social drivers of drug violence in Mexico in order to understand the nature of the relationship between poverty, inequality and the violence in question.

I had to try different workstreams and job roles before realising what type of work I find the most interesting. Before coming to study my MA in Globalisation and Development and PhD in Politics in Sheffield, I worked in Mexico and the USA in the private sector, ranging from General Electric Aviation to the Walt Disney World Company. Whilst studying my PhD, I worked at the University as a Research Assistant and as a Graduate Teaching Assistant delivering seminars and workshops at the University.

As my PhD scholarship funding ended, I decided to undertake a PhD placement at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to gain further work experience and to be able to support myself financially. This 3-month internship became a full-time contract for almost two years as a Social Research Analyst. Working both full-time whilst studying the PhD is not something I would recommend; but given my circumstances, it was the best option, and I was lucky to have a very understanding manager and flexible working hours, which helped substantially.

This working experience reminded me of how much I value being part of a team with shared goals, having a fixed workspace, and being involved in different projects at the same time. This provided me with some very needed mind space to focus on other work projects rather than just my PhD thesis. The workstream focused on the labour market, in-work progression, the future of work, self-employment and employer engagement. Afterwards, I worked on a project for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government building a model to estimate housing equity and demand for local provision of specialised housing.

Work meeting in 10 Downing Street

Following on from my positive experience working in the Civil Service, I applied and was offered a permanent position in the Department for Education. Unfortunately, I was unable to take up this offer given the Civil Service nationality rules and their application to family members of a UK national, as the specifics on proof and length are not provided within the document and should be consulted with Cabinet Office *.

After submitting my PhD last year, I started working on a research project at the University of Sheffield investigating pluralism in political studies alongside concentrating on my job search. After a few weeks, I was offered my current job as a Researcher at the Workforce Development Trust, a not-for-profit organisation.

I have always been interested in working in the Third sector and I came across this job given the nature of the role. During the recruitment process, I was very pleased with the research team’s diverse and international background and the remit of the projects and clients that include central and local government, the NHS, the armed forces and emergency services across the country; as well as international organisations.

In my current role, I support the implementation of the organisation’s research programme conducting qualitative and quantitative research, information and intelligence gathering, evaluation and information for internal and external stakeholders, and producing and disseminating reports.

The work generally involves projects in the health, education and justice sectors which makes the work stimulating and diverse, as well as sharing a common ground with my previous academic and government work experience. I’ve only been working in this position for six months, but the role has already included: conducting surveys, consultations, interviews and focus groups; preparing and delivering workshops; data analysis and report-writing; desk research, case studies and document analysis. The research and evaluation projects have involved: analysis of workforce planning, health needs, labour market information and population intelligence; reviews of apprenticeships and licensing projects; evaluation of frameworks and programmes; training delivery of learning needs analysis; thought pieces; gender advisory services; amongst others.

My office desk

My work environment is flexible with the opportunity to work from home in some instances, dependent on the team’s responsibilities and workload. There is some UK travel involved, usually on a monthly basis to London or Bristol, the other office locations; as well as other locations depending on project delivery demands.

Our Health Heroes Awards 2018 programme

One of the most rewarding experiences in my current job was participating in the shortlisting process for the Health Heroes Awards, a truly inspiring event recognising and celebrating the healthcare workforce. There were a few tears shed after listening to such remarkable stories

My career tip for researchers leaving academia would be to not limit yourself to the remit of your PhD research or your academic background. One of the things I enjoyed most about my PhD studies was taking advantage of the opportunities provided by the University to attend workshops, conferences, training and development that were outside of my PhD sphere but that I found very interesting and helpful. There were numerous occasions when I was asked what I was doing in a particular research event, only for the person to realise my research was completely unrelated to the event’s subject matter. I believe trying and learning from these different types of opportunities help us figure what we enjoy most and open new possibilities to explore on a professional setting. I have confidence that keeping an open mind about job opportunities and being flexible about your job pathway is a helpful way of thinking about your career, as I believe our professional interests and preferences change throughout time and we should allow ourselves to discover new possibilities.


* “Exceptionally, the family members of a UK national who do not themselves meet the Nationality Rules may be eligible to join the Civil Service if the UK national has triggered his or her freedom of movement rights under European Community law (normally by working elsewhere in the EEA for a period). Where a department or agency thinks that an individual may be eligible on these grounds, the Cabinet Office must be consulted in the first instance” (Cabinet Office, 2007, p.4).

Where can researchers look for jobs like yours? LinkedIn, BOND, Indeed, The Guardian

What professional/accrediting bodies, or qualifications are relevant to where you work? A postgraduate degree is essential, although not necessarily a PhD. ‘PRINCE2’ and ‘Social Return on Investment’ qualifications are desirable.

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