Helen | Chinese and German | International relations.

Helen offers advice on finding a career that truly interests you, drawing from her own experiences. She reflects on how her PhD studies influenced her current career, detailing her current role and comparing her expectations of the PhD with the reality. Helen discusses the challenges of balancing work and family life, and shares how her teaching experiences shaped her views on academic careers.

She also contemplates the significance of her PhD to herself and her colleagues, and candidly discusses moments when she considered not finishing her degree. Looking ahead, Helen explores potential future career paths and revisits the motivations that drove her to pursue a PhD. She also reflects on the jobs she held before starting her doctoral studies.

Explore Helen’s journey further by clicking the links below:

The reasons behind her PhD
The meaning of the PhD
Helen’s expectations
Helen’s PhD topic
Experience of work prior to the PhD
Thoughts on giving up
Finishing the PhD
Helen’s current role
Connections between the PhD and work
Building a career
Where her career is going from here
Feelings towards an academic career
Balancing her personal life
Helen’s advice



Career Pathway



Audio Interview

The reasons behind her PhD

Why did you do a PhD?

I think I just drifted into it because I wasn't quite sure what else to do and I'd done well at university and I'd done a Masters and also done well. So the only people around my mentors were people in academia and they said, “Why don't you stay on?”, and I thought that would be quite a good option and potentially an academic career would be quite a good option.

So you had an open mind about the prospect of an academic career when you started the PhD?

Yeah. Yeah, and, and that was the only definite career that I could imagine myself doing at that point. So, yeah.

The meaning of the PhD

What does the PhD mean to you?

Now, it's, it's been very useful in my, in my most recent job working in China. It really has been useful. It's given me a lot of kudos 'cause a PhD in China is seen as having a lot of status and being a woman and relatively young. I've seen the impression that it makes when I hand somebody my pic, my card and they go, “Oh, Doctor!”. So that has really made a difference and it means, and I knew that would make a difference long term if I did want to work in China already.

So that probably was another reason in the back of my mind where I wanted, why I wanted to finish the PhD. My sister's a medical doctor and I just, you know, gone on this route also to become another type of doctor and I, I didn't want to fail to achieve it. So it does give me a sense of achievement and I do now use the title on my business line, so I'm proud of it.

It does mean that I think it shows that I'm academically competent, but it, it makes me feel like I'm more intelligent or something, something like that. And among all the people that I work for in the Royal Society, a lot of them assume that I've got a science degree. I, I think, and at the British Academy too, when I started using the title Doctor, it just made people think that I wasn't just an administrator. That I was somebody who had something in common with them.

And yeah, I, I'm glad about that.

Helen’s expectations

Did you have any expectations of where you might end up after the PhD when you embarked on it?

No, not really. I was just doing it at that time for the reward of it itself.

And then when would you say that you started to think about what you do after your PhD?

Well, I think it was, it was long time before, it was during the second year when I was, when I first got an office job in Taiwan, where I was facilitating other academics doing meetings and, networking among each other and, and other sort of general office type work that I realised that that was an environment that was much happier in than in a university environment.

And so it was right at that point that I thought, ah, this is what I'll do. I'll work for someone like the British Council when I finish. And I don't think I had any very clear, I still thought I'm gonna go back and finish my PhD. And it potentially, I could have still stayed in academia, but I had realised by that time that I liked an office environment and I liked facilitating rather than doing cerebral work and, and teaching.

How did you end up in Taiwan?

That's, that's where I'd gone to study in my second year as an undergraduate when I was doing Chinese and German. And so I just chose there rather than mainland China. 'cause less people went there from my year group. And you'd be more plunged into the local culture. And I made friends during that year. So Taiwan, I kept going back every summer.

I'd had a, I had a boyfriend in Taiwan, so that was why I kept going back to Taiwan and why I chose it as the topic of my PhD, specifically Taiwanese literature.

So you went there to do some research during the second year of your PhD?

Yeah. And in, and what happened then is that I got a job and so I suspended my PhD studentship for six months while I was working. So I, I did part-time study, part-time collective of resources and, and I was actually still working full, full-time for me for probably about 11 months of that year.

And then I went back to the UK at the, at the end of that year to carry on with my PhD.

Helen’s PhD topic

Can you tell me a little bit about your PhD research?

It was on, modern Chinese literature, so I, I had done a degree in Chinese and German and liked literature. I'd spent a year after I'd finished my degree on a language scholarship in Taiwan where I'd done a lot of reading of fiction. And so that's what I chose for my topic. It was gender studies, sort of sociological analysis of literature. So the main interest really was that I liked reading the fiction and so I thought I might like writing about it too.

Experience of work prior to the PhD

Had you worked at all before you started on the PhD?

Not, no proper jobs. I mean, I'd had lots of waitressing jobs and holiday jobs, things like that, but I hadn't ever had a full-time post before that.

Thoughts on giving up

So after I'd come back from Taiwan, I spent one year back at university doing some part-time research, annotation work, and a little bit of teaching and tutorials. But with, before that year was out, I saw a new job opportunity that was just circulated around my networks for working at the British Academy as their China assistant. So again, it was using Chinese and it was an office job, which I knew I'd liked. So I took that job up against the advice of my supervisor, really, who knew it would slow down my progress on the PhD and decided that I would just try and finish my PhD part-time.


So this was clearly, because already at that point I knew I didn't really want to do, really wasn't enjoying my PhD that much, and I'd already decided I probably didn't want to be an academic. I just didn't want to not finish my PhD.

Did you ever think about not finishing the PhD?

Yeah. At various stages during, during my, the two, three years employment at Bush Academy, I thought I could, I could or should give it up.

And it came to crisis point in something like Christmas where I knew I would either have to give up my job for a while in order to finish full time, or I'd have to just decide I wasn't gonna finish a PhD. My employers did give me an unpaid sabbatical of nine months, so I took that and spent it in London. So relatively unconnected from my university and from my base.

So I didn't have any other colleagues around me. I did go to a few lectures and seminars at universities in London, who, who, who run these sorts of courses. So I wasn't totally isolated in an academic sense, but relatively isolated. And I did a lot of work on the PhD in those nine months, but still didn't quite finish it by the time I went back to work. I think at that stage I knew it would be possible to finish, but it still took me another six months from that day. And the only thing that really pushed me to actually finish was that there was a university deadline and if I hadn't submitted by Christmas I wouldn't have been able to get my PhD.

How important was it to you to finish it?

Clearly it must have been quite important to me. I think the, the factor was failure and the feeling of guilt if I had given up on it because my parents had helped fund me for one year and I had had a two year arts and humanities research board, studentship, so I would've felt guilty about wasting their money if I hadn't finished.

And there was the nagging doubt that if I gave up, I might myself feel like a failure later. There was, I've never not achieved anything that I'd set out to achieve before, so I did just want to do that, but I really did want to give up at many points. I can remember hearing Robin Cook on the radio saying that he'd started a PhD and given it up and how glad he was. And that really nearly did it for me, but in the end, I, I didn't, I managed and I'm very glad about that.

But it wasn't easy at the time.

Finishing the PhD

How did you end up in Taiwan?

That's, that's where I'd gone to study in my second year as an undergraduate when I was doing Chinese and German. And so I’d just chosen there rather than mainland China. 'cause less people went there from my year group and you'd be more plunged into the local culture. And I made friends during that year. So Taiwan, I kept going back every summer. I'd had a, I had a boyfriend in Taiwan, so that was why I kept going back to Taiwan and why I chose it as the topic of my PhD, specifically Taiwanese literature.

So you went there to do some research during the second year of your PhD?

Yeah, and in, and what happened then is that I got a job and so I suspended my PhD studentship for six months while I was working. So I, I did part-time study, part-time collective of resources and, and I was actually still working a full, full-time for me, for probably about 11 months of that year. And then I went back to the UK at the end of that year to carry on with my PhD.

Did you get to that work in Taiwan?

It was through a friend who had also, it was through a university undergraduate colleague who was now working there. So she just let me know that there was, there was a possibility of maybe part-time work there as an education counsellor. And so once I'd gone there to see, to talk to them and see what opportunities they were for working at first I took a part-time job and then they liked me and I liked them and they said, would you take full-time and take on some more tasks than I did?

What did that, what did that part-time job involve?

The, the first one was education counselling, which basically meant sitting in the public offices of the British council, giving people advice who were thinking about going to Britain to study. And then when they saw that I had sort of gender interest and academic interests and they, they saw that I was, you know, quite a good worker, they said, did I want to be a projects officer? Which meant various different tasks.

One was, designing, group study tour trips to the UK and getting insurance partners and travel agent partners for it. And another was organising a gender studies mission. So again, it was very, it was central to the topic of my own research really was getting people who did gender studies in the UK to come out to Taiwan to talk about gender studies and women's studies as a, a potential topic for postgraduate study in the UK. And there was quite a lot of interest in that in Taiwan at the time.

And I knew that because I was studying gender issues and I, so I, I could network for them in that. And that was one of the big projects that I ran.

Were you using, were you working through, were you working through Chinese?

No, mostly English. I mean in the office, the, the language, mostly English. But when I went out to meet contacts or talk to people about the mission, then I would be doing some things in Chinese here and that was definitely an advantage. So at the end of that one year full-time contract as agreed, that ended and I went back to, my university in Scotland to carry on with a PhD.

So then it must have been a year, yeah, about a year that I spent back at the university also doing part-time work annotation on a research project, for somebody in another department in cognitive studies department, little bit of tutoring. And then at the end of that year I got a job at the British Academy. So again, I, I was still halfway through my PhD, nowhere near finished, but I knew that I'd rather have a job than just be studying.

So I moved to London, so just about mid of midyear three of my PhD to take up another full-time job.

What was the job that you applied for at the British Academy?

That was an international relations assistant, requiring somebody who spoke Chinese. So it was circulated among all the Chinese departments in UK universities.

And that's traditionally how they advertised this opportunity. It's a job that usually has been done by people who have just graduated. So I, I saw this and knew that, that that would be the sort of job that I would like to do an office environment where you're interacting with academics. 'cause the main purpose of that role is to network UK academics and give UK give grants to UK academics to travel to and network with people in China.

And do you think that the experience that you'd had in Taiwan during your PhD really helped in getting you that job?  

Yeah, I'm sure that one of the reasons why I got the job versus other applicants who possibly also could speak Chinese who had undergraduate degrees is that I really had a research interest. So I fitted more closely even than normal graduates in Chinese. I fitted the profile of somebody who cared about the work of the British Academy, which is supporting postdoctoral research.

So for sure, not necessarily the time I'd spent in Taiwan, but the fact that I was a postgraduate doing some research in that area meant that I was attractive to the employers and, and my main stakeholders would be other academics with whom I would have quite a lot of shared interests. So that was a very strong factor in me getting that job.

What was the interview like?

Very friendly and easy. I'm, I'm generally pretty good at interviewing anyway. I didn't know that at the time because I, I hadn't had many job interviews, but there were two people there.

The person who, who would be my boss and the Head of HR, they had a fairly set series of questions and it was just clear to them as much as to me that in almost every aspect I would really enjoy this job. The only thing that they were worried about is that I would find it too menial if I wanted to be an academic, would I really be interested in doing day to day boring routines of keeping up Excel spreadsheets and entering grants, details into databases, something like that.

And I, I told them I would be, you know, more than happy to do that sort of thing. And that in fact that's what I wanted. I wanted to get away from being purely academic to doing something practical and to having feedback from other people and helping other people. 'cause I had realised that this was more how I felt rewarded than by doing academic work. So they were quite reassured and I was right, you know, I, that that is true of my personalities. I was delirious happy for at least a year within two or three years I was experiencing frustrations at that organisation and how things work there.

But never any regrets about not doing university teaching. I like the structure and the social life of an office much better than the structure and social life that I knew in the academic environment that I'd been experiencing.

And on a day-to-day basis, what, what did the job involve and what were you doing?

Running grant schemes for people who were, wanting to go to, to get money to go to China.

Running meetings and minuting those meetings and action and following up upon action points of a China panel, a committee for the British Academy, and then organising incoming visits of Chinese academics who were coming to Britain. So some of them would have rough ideas of what they wanted to do and what research area they were interested in. And I did research on their behalf about who would be relevant academics that they could go and visit and see. And I would organise a visit program for them sometimes that was also for delegations of, of people.

So really all sorts of details from airport pickup to hotel bookings to travel arrangements and recommendations and making contacts with UK academics about areas they could study it. And that was in then all areas of humanities and social science research. It wasn't necessarily connected to China.

And then you decided to move on from that job. What happened?

I had been increasingly frustrated in the job, but hadn't I, I, no, I'd, I think I'd applied for one or two jobs during that time.

One, I'd applied for BBC, Chinese radio service post and then another job at the Great Britain China Centre, which was running projects, small projects funded often by the SEO or Europe. So I had actually applied for a couple of jobs and then another opportunity came up at the Royal Society just next door. So I heard about the opportunity 'cause I knew and worked with colleagues who were in the international department there.

And so it was just another application for a job which would involve Chinese. And this time I, I got it.

Could you tell me about the interview for that job?

Yeah, again, it felt slightly, it felt fairly easy. I knew the two people who interviewed me for the job because I'd been working with them relatively closely as, as colleagues from a, a similar organisation previously. So, so it was almost a, a sort of collegiate jokey atmosphere I'd prepared fairly well for it.

And I had, I knew a lot about what the role entailed, so, so I did have quite a lot to say about what I thought should be done in the job and, and how I saw the role and why I would be good for the role. So it, it felt fairly informal. They went through a series of structured questions and again, my experience really was quite well tailored to this job. I've been doing a very similar job in very similar field, previously.

Did your PhD come up at all in either interview?  

In the first one, the, the main question had been “How are you gonna manage juggling a PhD and this job?” And I said, well, I'll just do it part-time and I'm not necessarily that committed to finishing it anyway. So their main worry had been, also whether I would be happy with doing routine admin work when I was basically interested in research and I'd let them know that my priorities lay more with the office than with the research. But by the time the second job, I'd already finished my PhD.

So it, I don't recall that it featured at all in the interview. They probably will have noted that I had finished it and I made the case in my application that, that being able to juggle doing a PhD alongside a full-time job was one of the examples of how I could multitask and, and do lots of things at once. And that I was genuinely interested in academic endeavour, which is what the Royal Society does. So, so I was still using the fact that I had academic background and academic qualifications as a strong push for getting this job.

And what did this job involve?

Very similar to the British Academy. It's networking scientists, UK scientists, and Chinese scientists. So no grant administration in this role. It was mainly about, higher level relationships, delegations to and from partner academies in China and in Taiwan and organising some networking events. So devising strategy for how the organisation could, could raise its profile with Asian partner countries, not just China, also India, Japan, Korea, and, doing some networking of scientists and events and delegations.

Did it matter, do you think that you had an Arts and Humanities background when you were working with scientists?

Not particularly. As, as my role was manager for Asia in the international policy section. The fact that I knew Asia, political, cultural, that sort of environment was more important. The job advert did say that they hoped for somebody with either some scientific background or an international background and liaison with Asia.

So they were open as well at that point to hiring somebody who might have less knowledge or understanding of Asia, but be more proficient with science. But I argued in my interview quite convincingly, I think that even if I had been a scientist, it would've only been in one field of science by definition.

And as the Royal Society represents all fields of science, it wasn't necessarily the case that that would've really been of any particular advantage. Whereas knowing about Asia when, and having lived in Asia and works interculturally was, was very important if you were gonna network with China because that, that is more difficult country to network in if you don't have any understanding of the culture or the language. So for sure that that had a plus factor in terms of me being selected for the job.

Going back to the first job, how did you manage to juggle the PhD and full-time employment?  

Well, most of the time I just didn't do the PhD. I just neglected it. And otherwise reading in the evening and spending at least one day of a weekend doing some work on the PhD, not taking so many holidays because I, I had to carry on with the PhD, but my general perception of those, that time is that for large periods of time I just neglected the PhD completely and then worked on it intensively in short bursts.

I had holiday I took nine months sabbatical from my job in order to finish. 'cause it had become clear to me that I was never gonna finish unless I would. So I took those nine months and got incredibly depressed. Didn't do very much work on the PhD at all, mostly just sat at home and smoke cigarettes and, and wondered why I was doing this. And it was quite difficult for my husband too because, well, we weren't married yet, but it meant he had to support me and my parents supported me through part of that nine months.

But at least by the end of it, I had nearly finished. So I, I went back to work after my agreed nine months non-paid sabbatical, and I took two, three weeks holiday, went to a friend's house and spent something like 15 hours a day writing and probably wrote about 40,000 words or something like that, about half of the thesis during those three weeks and then handed it in.

So it was all a bit of a rollercoaster.

And then how long did you have to wait between submission and viva?

Not long at all. They, they gave me the viva early or mid-January, so it was very quick after that.

So can you then talk me through what happened post submission in some, in some detail?

Okay. So I, I handed in, I had minor corrections, which were, were doable in just a few months.

Very, very small corrections. And so in terms of career, nothing had changed. I'd got my PhD, but I was still in my full-time post at the Bush Academy. And I wasn't in a particular hurry to move on, although I had started to become a bit frustrated with that job. So I was networking to see what other opportunities there were. And my perception always was that there weren't too many jobs which involved Chinese, but I was open to opportunities with organisations, say like the British Council.

And, and in the end what happened was, my close contacts at the Royal Society, which is the sister academy to the Richard Academy, let me know when there was a job opportunity there for Chinese. And so I, I applied for that.

When did your time as manager for Asia in the international policy section for society come to an end? And how did you move on from that?

Well, in fact, I'm still employed by the Royal Society. I'm on secondment to the research councils UK.

So again, this was an opportunity that came up from within work networks. So like my move from the British Academy to the Royal Society. While at the Royal Society, I knew about the plans of various other stakeholders, government and not government about engaging with China. And I heard that the research councils were going to open an office in China. So I immediately called one of my contacts in one of the research councils and said, “Oh, I've heard about this policy”.

I knew he could speak Chinese and had some experience in Hong Kong. And I said, “Are you going to be applying for the job? Tell me more about it”. And he explained this, the, the scenario and I, and, and that in theory, only one post was gonna be created to go out to China to help set up this office. And I said to him, “Of course you should apply for this job and you need an assistant and that should be me. So I think you ought to tell them that there needs to be two people at least setting up this office just for the initial stage”. And, that worked out.

He, he did do that, he did apply for the job and he was tasked with helping develop the business plan. And he wrote two people in it. And I then interviewed when the post of deputy director was advertised and clearly was, was a very, was very well positioned to do it. They were only interviewing internally, meaning among the research councils or close partner bodies. And probably that's because they knew that there was an interest from close partner bodies 'cause of my interest. So they advertised, I think just, just among the research councils, the British Academy and the Royal Society for a secondment opportunity.

And they got a fair number of applications, but not that many people with the right profile of administration plus an interest in research. So I again, probably quite easily slid into that post. And so I've been doing that. The initial terms of the secondment were for one year. I then extended it for a second year but have become pregnant.

And so we've terminated the secondment early and I'll be, I'll be starting maternity leave now and then going back to the Royal Society when I finish.

Helen’s current role

Can you tell me what your current position is?

I'm currently deputy director of the Research Council's office in Beijing. So, this is a new office that was set up which is representing all seven of the UK research councils in China.

And in some detail, can you tell me what your job actually involves?

The first tasks in the first six months were basically setting up the physical infrastructure of an office.

So we were setting up legal registration, financial systems, hiring staff, renting an office and, and fitting out this office. The main task and the commitment is for five years is to start building up relations between the UK funding agencies, the UK funding councils and the Chinese funding agencies. So we're there to find out how the Chinese funding system works and to explain that to the UK, both individual scientists and the research councils, and then try and work out ways in which the UK research councils can put money together with the Chinese funding agencies to enable joint applications by UK and Chinese scientists and social scientists to do substantial joint research projects.

So until now, really the only opportunities that have been available are small amounts of money for travel and networking. And the need is for larger sums of money to enable larger collaborations and more joint publication and authorship of papers.

'cause as China increasingly becomes a leading scientific nation and makes a large contribution to global research, we know that the UK research community needs help to access that pool of, of talented research.

In a typical day, what might you be doing?

I might have a meeting at the Ministry of Science and Technology in China to discuss a joint call, for example, on a priority area like new and renewables energy.

So we would be discussing the details of the mechanism whereby we might be able to work together on this. And that means trying to understand where they're coming from and what their constraints are. Is it possible for us to have a joint call or will they just badge part this joint call? So I would meet with them. Then I might receive a visit of somebody from a UK university who's passing through, who wants to know what we are doing and what funding opportunities are available and to brief us on their China strategy and get some advice and context.

And then I might email with people in the research councils in the UK about scientific workshops that they're organising or about one of these potentials for a joint call. Or I might be writing a briefing explaining to them how Chinese National Science Foundation funding works and what opportunities I see there for, potential engagement.

So you are based in China and you are working through English and Chinese.


What are the challenges of, living in, in China and living through Chinese?

Well, for people who don't speak Chinese, it's very alienating to go to China and suddenly have to start working there. And people do get culture shock and don't understand how things are working and it's often assumed maliciousness then on the part of people who are not cooperating with you properly or something like that.

In fact, for both me and the director, because I had spent three, four years living in Taiwan before and the director had spent 20 years working in Hong Kong, we both hit the ground running really and have found it very easy to engage. I will usually in the office, the environment is mostly English speaking. We have three local staff and two UK staff. and in terms of reading and writing and web searching for things in Chinese, we will usually delegate that to them 'cause they can do that much more quickly.

But it has meant the fact that we can speak Chinese does mean that when we have meetings with contacts in some of our partner agencies, the relationships we've been established much, much faster because we can speak to each other in their language and apart from the language, just the level of engagement and interest. So when they know that I have a PhD in Chinese literature, then they're, then people will joke, “Oh…”, you know, you, “… you know about this more than we do”. Or, you know, “Your Chinese is better than us” then “'cause we don't know anything about our own literature” or, or something like that.

So, so that has made a real difference, I think, to the impact that our office has had because the challenge for a lot of foreign agencies going to China is that there's now a lot of interest in China and many different countries are approaching the same partners to talk about opportunities for working together. And if there's no personal feelings of warmth and reciprocity, then it's much harder to get institutional connections going on. So it's been quite handy.

Connections between the PhD and work

Do you feel that you are using your PhD research area, and or PhD experience directly or indirectly in your current position?

Not really, no. So I think the main benefit to me of having done the PhD is that it's given me status among other people who do work in academia, and it's given me status, particularly among contacts in China. But in terms of the actual content of the research that I was doing in the PhD, that has been neither here nor there in my career.

It's, it's, it is one topic of conversation when people want to find out what I did. But the actual, the experience of, of having done that research was not that relevant. Teaching experience and public speaking, giving lectures maybe has been useful because I do have to do some public speaking and preparing of PowerPoint in presentations, but that could have been gained by other, other sources than a PhD.

Building a career

Did you do anything during your PhD that you might consider career building?

Yeah. Well, really, right from the start of my PhD, the first year of my PhD, I had a teaching assistantship, a teaching studentship, I think they called it, where I did have some tutorials about how to be a tutor, and I gave four to six hours of tutorials every week and a couple of lectures in that first year.

How did you find that, 'cause that's quite an undertaking for someone who's just beginning their PhD?

Yeah, it was incredibly difficult and I had been assigned some courses where I knew very little about the topic that I was teaching. So for example, I had to do tutorials on East Asian civilization, which included ancient China and ancient Japan, and I knew nothing about Japan, so I did feel very ill-equipped, and I spent most of that first year of my PhD in fact, reading up to prepare for that teaching experience and very little time on my PhD itself.

Did you continue that teaching throughout your PhD?  

No, that was just for that first year. In the second year, I then went away to do my research in Taiwan, and then I picked up an, an office job with the British Council. So I, I moved into doing other things and I, I didn't teach, oh, I, I taught a bit again in year three when I came back to the UK. Then I also did, a few more tutorials and a few lectures.

Where her career is going from here

Where do you see your career going In the future?

I hope that I will continue to work in the public services and in, international relations between Asia and Europe. So that could be in any number of areas. So it could be in European institutions, it could be in universities, or it could be in organisations like the Royal Society that I'm already in. So I imagine that that is where I will stick, but it could be that depending what opportunities are available, when I do want to start going back to work after having taken maternity leave, is that I might go into business or some other area of work, but I think I would rather stay in public services.

So that's just what I'm thinking at the moment. But who knows?

Feelings towards an academic career

Did the teaching put you off the prospective academic career?

Probably yes. Yeah, because I, you know, I liked the students and I didn't mind the format, but I didn't feel particularly competent, partly because I was teaching, you know, doing tutorials in a subject that I didn't know too much about, but I didn't get, I didn't feel like I was really achieving much when I was doing that, that that teaching. And yes, it's quite possible then that that would've been what laid the seeds of me thinking, this is not really what I want to do in terms of rewards and incentives.

I wasn't feeling that rewarded by doing these tutorials. I was feeling more worried and stressed about it.

Balancing her personal life

Has there been any personal trade off in living, in Beijing rather than being based in, in this country?

Yes. I mean, my, my personal life has been quite complicated, because I've been following my desires in terms of work and in terms of finishing my PhD. So at the moment, my husband's also an academic and he is in between a UK university and a university in Italy. And I have been living apart from him in China for the last year.

So by pursuing my career, that has meant us living apart and we both knew this would have to be temporary. And I have given up this job in China now in order to have a baby. So I am having to make compromises career wise in order to sustain a family life. I hope that at some point this means my husband will also make those compromises and he may come to China with me. In future years I would quite like to work in China, but that will depend on, on bargaining between the two of us.

Helen’s advice

If somebody coming towards the end of their PhD wanted to follow a similar kind of career trajectory, what would you suggest were the most important things that they consider what they do?

I think the most important thing is knowing what you like to do and what gives you pleasure, in terms of feeling a reward at the end of the day. And then try, and then trying to find out whether there are organisations in which you can work that do that and then read up on those organisations and network within them.

So I made contacts by being part of the British Association for Chinese Studies, which is an academic network, but involves partners from other agencies. So I'd say networking is the key and it's, if you, if you aren't hoping to pursue an academic career, then you really need to make quite an effort to network outside that. You can do it through academic associations and through going to conferences, but, but it does take that awareness of, of looking and then just web surfing and paying attention to places that do, for example, I mean, my job, my, all of my jobs have been with agencies that do fund academic research in the areas that I'm interested in.

So it's not that far divorced from, from academic life. And I still feel that I am engaging with academia and research and that's what I want to do. I just don't want to actually do the research. I just want to facilitate it.

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