Lois | Archeology | University Teaching.

Lois shares insights on maximising opportunities, delving into the journey behind her PhD and candidly discussing the merits and challenges of her current role. Providing a glimpse into the world of academia, and why she loves it. Lois reflects on her initial expectations for her PhD’s trajectory and navigates the transitional phase post-PhD, shedding light on its significance to her. She elaborates on her unique networking strategy within her field, recounting her experiences in the realms of PhD and teaching along with her viva experience.

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

The Background to Lois’s PhD
Lois’s Expectations
Anticipating an academic career?
The meaning of the PhD
The PhD experience
Networking strategy
Finishing a PhD
The viva experience
Moving into teaching
Lois’s current role
Advice for those doing a PhD

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Career Pathway

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Turning Points

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Audio Interview

The Background to Lois’s PhD

When you were thinking about doing a PhD, well, first of all, when was it, you know, where had you been, what you been doing? What kind of age were you?

Okay. Well, I went pretty much straight through. I did a degree, I did a master's, I did a PhD, and I did not take any time out. In fact, I went straight from school to doing a degree. So I did not even have a gap here. In retrospect, that might have been a mistake, you know, I think maybe I could have done with seeing a bit of life in the world and that sort of thing. But still, that is the way it happened. And, you know, I, I do not think it has been very disadvantageous to me. So I did a degree in Archaeology and Geography. It was a joint degree. I did my degree in Ireland actually, where joint degrees are much more common. And then I, I kind of did not really know very much what I wanted to do, but I liked maps. I decided I liked maps, so I went and did a master's, in, at, in, it was called Top Graphic Science, but it was basically digital mapping. And then I found I really missed Archaeology.

So I thought, well, I would really like to go back to doing Archaeology, either working in Archaeology, but using some of the skills, some of the, the mapping, the digital cartography kind of skills that I had learned, but using them in Archaeology. Because those, the, those two disciplines sit alongside each other quite nicely. And then I also thought, well, you know, maybe I, I would quite like to do a PhD and just very fortuitously, a there was a studentship available that happened to combine, combine, the period in Archaeology that I was very interested in and that the need for digital mapping skills for using geographic information systems.

Because, I did my degree in Ireland, but then I moved to Britain to do my Master's. And getting funding to do my PhD was going to be quite difficult because any of the normal funding channels would not have funded me because I was not a UK resident formally, although I was living here. But I did not meet the residency requirements. But this, this studentship that was being advertised at the time, was separately funded. It was funded by, historic Scotland. And I was eligible for that. So it was just real coincidence, that it was actually something I was interested in. It combined my, my two sets of skills, if you like, and I was eligible for the funding. So I think I thought, well, this is too good an opportunity to miss, you know, it seems to be just made for me. So I applied for that and, and got that and, did the PhD.

Lois’s Expectations

Did you have any idea about where the PhD was going or Why you were doing it?

Absolutely not. No. I was doing it because, I enjoyed Archaeology, I enjoyed mapping and I wanted to do some more of it. I had the vague idea in my head that it might lead to something in heritage management, that kind of area, but I had not investigated it. and even significant way through my PhD, I had not investigated it, which looking back now was madness. Really. I do not know what I was doing, not planning my career anyway. I think I was just absorbed in what I was doing at the time.

You were absorbed in what you were doing?

Yes. Yes.

In retrospect you say you were mad for not thinking about, do you think that that is important at that, at that stage in life to be thinking about where things are going?

I do think it is important, because I think there are additional things that you probably could be doing while you are doing your PhD or as part of your PhD that would put you in a better position for going on to follow whatever direction you wanted to, to follow. I mean, if I had thought that I was going to go in the direction that I have gone in, I would have, found more opportunities to do teaching, to build up my teaching experience because I had very little teaching experience when I came to this position.

And, I, it would have been useful to have it. I think I, I, it would have been easier for me if I had had it, because it was pretty nerve wracking coming into, this job to teach a, a new group of students, a new group of mature students as well. So I was the youngest person in the class teaching them. and I now know that very many mature students in your first class, they are able to test the lecturer to see whether the lecture is any good, to see whether they know their stuff. I mean, it, it all went very well as it happened, but you know, they, they, they want to know that they are getting their money is worth, from you as a lecturer. And I think if I had had a bit more teaching experience, it probably would have made it less nerve wracking, I think.

Anticipating an academic career?

At the beginning of your PhD, did you envisage an academic career at the end once you got started?

No, I did not. I did not. I thought, right, well, I am just doing this. I am just staying on at University for another while doing a PhD, and then I will go get myself a proper job, a proper job in the real world. So no, I did not envisage the staying on. My father is actually an academic, and so I was quite familiar with that in a certain way. And I actually for many years had said now that I was not going to do that, I was not going to be like him. But I think the lure was too great. Because there are so many attractions to, to working in academia.

I was talking to my husband about this last night. He is also an academic. But yeah, there are, there is a lot of freedom, freedom in all kinds of ways. Flexibility in terms of, you know, you do not have to clock on and clock off and, you know, you are, you get to choose to a large extent what you teach, you get to, there is just so much choice that you do not get in in other, jobs. I think, not that I know very much about other jobs, but, you can, you can choose your area of research. Of course, it depends on how your institution is run and how your local park within it is run. But, you know, you can sometimes get to choose the balance of what you do. Do you really focus on research or do you focus on teaching? Do you balance it 50 50? Is it 70 30? You know, so in that sense, you can, play to your strengths.

If you are a really good teacher and you want to do a lot of teaching, then in, in some institutions, there are the opportunities to do that. Although research is still very highly prized. But more and more teaching is becoming, more important in what we do. But if you are more of a researcher, then there is lots of scope to go out there. Research projects, you know, you are really in charge of building your career, and taking those opportunities when they arise. Whereas, the impression I get is in many other jobs. You know, it depends on you being put forward for promotion and, maybe the opportunities are not so much in your own hands to develop.

When you look back now at how your life has fitted together, does it surprise you? Is there, if you, if the person that you were 18, was to look forward to where you are now, would it be surprising?

I would be astounded actually. I have no idea that I would have ended up doing something like this, enjoying something like this. And I, I like to think being quite successful at it, I, I would just have had no idea. I have, I have never really had a sort of career direction, you know, I mean, everybody I think at school thinks at one point in time they want to be a teacher down. They, and I mean that, that is about as far as it went. I have had interests in things like I was interested in maps, I was interested in geography, interested in history, interested in archaeology, and I have just pursued those interests. And then I think opportunities have arisen as I have been pursuing those. And I have, I think I have usually taken up opportunities and when they seemed right, I have usually taken them. Which has then kind of led me further down the path or on a slightly different path.

So I think that is kind of how I have got where I am today. But I would never have envisaged it really. I would, I would not have envisaged that I would be an academic. I certainly would not have envisaged that I would be in this lifelong learning sector. But I am really glad that I am because I really enjoy my job. I have this constant conflict in my mind. Should I, should I work part-time because the children, or should I work full-time and I keep coming back to, no, I like my job, I am going to work full time.

The meaning of the PhD

When you look back at the PhD now, do you think that you see it differently than you saw it at the time or near the end?

The PhD experience or?

Yeah.

I don't know, occasionally I, I have colleagues that haven't got PhDs because the nature of lifelong learning, not everybody will have a PhD before they become a lecturer in lifelong learning. And they very often say, oh, I'm thinking about doing a PhD. And I always say to them, well, you know, think very carefully about it. you know, obviously I have one and I'm glad I have one. but it is a huge, huge commitment. And, I say to them, I am not sure that it actually will help you in your job that you currently have because you are already doing this job.

So I am not sure that you need to do it in terms of developing the skills to do this job. There may be other reasons that you want to do it, which is absolutely fine. But you know, it, it's, it's a big project. It's a big thing to take on, especially if you're thinking about doing it part-time, which my many of my colleagues would be considering doing. It is, it's a big chunk of your life and, do you really want to take that on?

So in that sense, what does your PhD mean to you?

It says in many, anyways, it's a badge of honour. I have been through that, I have done that experience and survived because I think it was very hard actually doing a PhD. And it is one of the hardest things I have ever done, I think. so, you know, it's a symbol that I have, I have, I have, I could do that. I have done it, I have survived. And I think it, it built, it built my confidence actually. It really did build my confidence. Because I was not a very confident, student, undergraduate student. I was not the kind of student who would ask questions or, you know, I very much kept myself and my friends. But doing the PhD did really build my confidence. I think that is one of the big things, actually. I had not thought about that until now, but it did do that.

So did you feel differently as you were going through the PhD or was it once you had been through your viva and I mean, was there something about your sense of identity that was changing through the thing?

Yes, I think so. I mean, I think I was probably still quite timid and not very confident as a person, but also in my academic abilities at the beginning of it. And then that, that did develop and towards the end of it I was much more confident. so yeah, it did develop, but then after the viva it, it then sort of leapt ahead.
It, it was quite different than looking back on it.

How did you feel that in different contexts, people responded to you as someone who was a PhD student? So for example, at home or amongst, non-academic friends?

I think it was a bit of a mystery really. because I suppose there are not that many people in the world that are PhD students, other, so I think they just hear the word student and assume that you are a student and that you go to classes and you take exams. So I do not think they really had much of a, a concept really. I think most of my friends that, you know, that I would, I would meet on a regular basis in the place where I lived. they were all either PhD students or, master's students. so they, they would have a good idea of what it was about. Friends say like school friends or something, you know, when I would go back home to my parents at Christmas or something, they, they would have no concept of what it is about. They, they would ask me a bit about it, and what was I going to do in the future? And I think usually I would say I do not, I do not know really.

Did it bother you that you did not know?

I do not remember it bothering me. I do not, I really do not. And, and I, I find that incredible that it did not bother me. I don’t know what I thought I was going to do, but, I don’t know. I suppose I, if I was desperate, I probably could have gone back and lived with my parents while I thought about it. I suppose there was always that, that security there, but, I, I have no memory of it bothering me at all. I do remember worrying about money, but that was during, during, during my PhD when, you know, coming towards the end of the term and there was no money left, you know, and having to get overdrafts. And I do remember being very worried about that, but not about what I was going to do when I finished.

And was there any pressure externally from anywhere about what you should be doing?

No. No.

Because your father is an academic?

Yeah, no, he did not, he did not pressure me at all. No, no. My partner at the time pressured me quite a lot. Because he, he thought I should be doing a proper job, real job. so, and yeah, so he, he did not understand actually that, that's an interesting case in point actually. He, he did not understand. I, I am now no longer with him, but, he did not understand my reasons for doing it. and he, I think he begrudgingly accepted that I was doing it, but that I was just going to do it for three years and then I was going to get a proper job in the real world. And I think when I actually then got a job in university, he just could not cope with that. He did not, he, he had, he had no respect for what I was doing actually, I, I now realise, so that, that was a bit of pressure that, that, that did make me quite unhappy for a while. But, but well over that now.

Did it affect any of the decisions you were making at the time or, or your sense of self or purpose?

I think if he had been more supportive it would have been much more comfortable. and, I probably could have been a bit more productive in my work so it would have been nice if he had it been much more supportive and I, I don’t know what really what that would have led to. But, he was not, and, but I do not think it, it really affected any of the decisions that I made because I knew that that is what I wanted to do. I wanted to complete the PhD and, and that was it really, in a way, I suppose I recognized that that was kind of more important than, than he was if he was taking that, that view.

The PhD experience

Can you tell me a bit about your experiences of doing a PhD?

Yes. I think I was lucky, to be doing a PhD related to a wider project, where there was at least one, I think, well, no, possibly two, actually, two other, PhD students that were doing their PhDs related to this project. So, you know, we, we very much had each other to talk to about how things were going, which I think is quite unusual for an arts and humanities where you're normally fairly isolated, apart from your supervisor maybe, certainly in terms of the, the content of your, PhD.

So that was, that was very useful to me. I think at various points in your PhD, I think everybody struggles. Sometimes at some stages it goes brilliantly. You get good results, you find something really interesting and you reading it all fits together. But at other points it is a, it is a real struggle. And I think many people go through that, oh, I cannot do this, period.

And I, I definitely went through that. I made the decision I was not going to do it, I was going to stop, but my friends, my supervisor, these other students talked me around, and said, you know, just carry on for a while more. And that was the right thing to have done to carry on. So it was useful having that support, and it was challenging at times, very challenging at times, I think.

I think PhDs are difficult things to do and I think PhDs test your perseverance and your stamina, as well as your academic ability. And this, I do not think there is anything else like doing a PhD. I think it is a pretty unique experience, certainly this sort of arts and humanities type of approach, where you are a lone researcher doing a project for three years, which is now you realize after doing it, you realize that that is quite a luxury to have had that length of time to do it full time, but you know, I certainly developed the stamina, I think through doing it. And, and the research skills, obviously just the, the, the basic research skills, which, I now realise that I had not very well developed those before I did my PhD. I had a lot of learning about, sources and how to track things down and, and that sort of thing.

And of course when the, the web was just taking off, so we did not really have the, the whole internet sources, to and, and e sources, you know, EURs and things like that. We did not have those and gosh, I wish we did have them at the time. It is great to be able to sit at your desk at home or in your office and to be able to access journals, but yeah, I mean, I, as said, I found parts of it challenging, parts of it, very enjoyable, just being able to immerse yourself in the, in the research, sit in the library day after day, reading things, discovering new things.

What was life like outside of the thesis writing?

It is, I do not think there was much life outside it. I think it was pretty all absorbing really.

Did you do any extracurricular stuff?  

I did. Well, I did things that were not involved with my PhD, but were involved with archaeology, but that was really all in, in support of the, the PhD. I did not do that much extracurricular things. I think it is really difficult as a PhD student coming into a new institution to, to find out about all those things. You know, as an undergraduate or even a, a taught postgraduate, you are with a group of people and you are all new all at the same time, so you are all discovering things and you share that.

I think, you know, you go and you queue up to register for something or other and you talk to people in the queue and you discover what kind of clubs they are joining and they are going along to, and, and you think, oh, maybe I will go along too, you know, 'cause I will know that person. And, so I think that is, much easier. You know, I have, I have been to three institutions as a student now, and I definitely found it much easier to get into those things as an undergraduate and a taught postgraduate.

And I did not do that. at the institution where I did my PhD, I did not get involved in clubs and societies and, other activities in, in the university. and again, maybe it was something I should have done, but I, I did not.

What was your relationship with your supervisor like?  

Do you want the honest answers to that? At the time I thought it was very difficult. Looking back now, it probably was not that bad. I probably did not have any appreciation of the pressures on him being a lecturer in a department, having to teach courses and to do research, having to do all those things now that are pressurising me.

And maybe I expected more from him than, than he was actually really in a position to give. On the other hand, you know, he did, he was quite good at, getting me to talk about what my plans were. So he was quite an active supervisor in that respect and what my plans were, what I was working on, when I was going to produce material, whether that was chapters

Networking strategy

You are talking about PhD life as the way you described it sounded fairly isolated and very self-directed.

Yeah.

So I am wondering if you found strategies to deal with that sort of, isolated existence.

It was sort of academically isolating and I think I dealt with that through, building up a network of other PhD students. So they, they kind of, you know, we all understood what we were going through, and all supported each other. I mean, I did go to conferences, not, not a huge number. I do not remember going to a huge number. But I did go to conferences and that was very useful to meet people, that I have continued to come across, later in life. So conference opportunities were very important, but, the whole, as I said, the whole web and email thing is he was just, just taking off at that time. And I think probably now it might be easier to make those connections with electronic discussions and things like that mailing list and that sort of thing.

Finishing a PhD

When I was coming towards the end of my PhD funding, which is always the crunch point, and the PhD was not finished as it rarely is, I think. So then I had to work out, okay, well how am I going to fund myself until I have, finished it? And my supervisor and the other staff in the department were very helpful. And it was actually, them that identified the opportunity for me because I had, I had the computing skills and I had the Archaeology skills and they, the, the lifelong learning centre at that at my institution was currently looking, coincidentally for two people, one for computing and one for Archaeology.

So again, it seemed like too good an opportunity to, to pass up because I had those two skill sets. So I was interviewed for the job and got it, but I was probably more focused on, you know, I need funding, I need an income rather than, am I really, able to do this job, but as it turns out, I, I was very able to do it and I, and I very much enjoyed it right from the beginning. Although the first year was, was a struggle because I was doing new teaching. It was a new job, but I was also trying to finish my, PhD at the same time. It was a blur between the transitions of getting a job and finishing a PhD. Yeah, I suppose the transition was actually that final year of the fourth year of my PhD.

And I probably did not do that much work on my PhD for about the first six months probably of getting the job. So, you know, I would have started in September or something. I probably did not really return doing much on the PhD until about the Easter because there was just so much with the job getting my head around it, preparing, teaching, you know, that was, that was a full-time job. So yeah, the, if you like, that was, that was the job.

And then I kind of came back to doing the PhD in the summer term and over the summer vacation. And that was pretty intensive then to, to get it finished. But as for the transition between being a PhD student and then becoming a working academic, yeah, that was sort of very spread out really, because I have stayed in the same institution as where I did my PhD. it is, it, that, that year was quite interesting because I was having to deal with people in the department where I was a student.

But I was a member of staff in another department. and that was, that was quite interesting because they still regarded me as being their student, but actually I was taking on a very different role and I was sort of being an ambassador for, for the department I was working for actually, and having to make that professional Link with that department for my students who were also studying that discipline.

So that was, quite interesting. And it is still quite interesting actually, and I think I have been doing this job for 10 years, I think now, and it is still quite interesting because the people in that department, I sometimes feel that they still treat me a bit as, as a student, and I, that is probably just me feeling that, which, which is, is negative, but also quite positive because they, they are quite interested in what I am doing because I am an ex-student from that department. So they are quite interested in, in, what is going on here in relation to that discipline.

The viva experience

How did you feel about the Viva?

The Viva? The Viva was fine. I had a very friendly internal examiner, which was nice, that I knew from my department, which was nice because I felt supported by him going into it. So that was good. So that was only the external to worry about. And so I obviously, I was very worried about it beforehand. I was very, very nervous about it. but it was, it was fine.

And it, I was told at the beginning of the Viva that they were going to pass it, so that was fine. So that, that, that made things much easier. Because I could, I could talk without worrying was like putting my foot in it. and actually I found it very rewarding then it was really nice to get the opportunity to talk to somebody new, who wasn't my supervisor, who had different ideas to my supervisor about the project in detail and in depth, you know, because it was whatever, two hours or something I think it was.

And, I do not think you get that opportunity very often with your PhD. You are living and breathing it and sick of it probably by that stage. and your pH your supervisor is very familiar with it and probably already has set ideas about it. So it is really nice to have that opportunity to talk to somebody in detail and, and afresh about it. You get that a bit at conferences, I suppose, but you do not usually get the opportunity to talk in, in depth. And certainly the people that you are talking about have not read your material in as much depth and do not therefore understand it as much.

So I think, I think the Viva was very rewarding actually in that sense. and I think, I think I have, I have spoken to other people who have had PhD vivas that were really short and it, sometimes people say, oh, that is great, really short, you do not have to go through it for hours. But actually they felt a bit short-changed because, and I think it was because they did not have the opportunity to talk in, in detail about it.

So I think, I think the vibe is very important, end to the PhD and if you, and if you have a good vibe, we get that opportunity to, to really talk to somebody even if they do not agree with you. I think it is very important finishing of it.

Moving into teaching

Can you tell me a bit more about your teaching experience and why you didn't take up opportunities or do more teaching and how you felt about teaching when you were doing your PhD?

At the beginning of my PhD, I was not very keen on doing any teaching. I just wanted to get on with my project, and I was very worried about it actually. Probably, my only experience of doing any teaching was doing student presentations, and I think I only ever did one of them in my life, and it was awful.

I look back on it now, and it was so bad, so badly done, and I just felt so bad about it. So I was not very interested in doing that again. But through doing my PhD, because it was quite technical, because it was computers, I built up a lot of expertise. I kind of learned through just doing things generally about using computers. So in the department where I was based, they used that quite naturally, and they got me to do demonstrations for other students coming in, whether they were undergraduate students or whether they were new PhD students.

And I think I developed a bit of confidence doing that because it was not like standing up in front of the class; it was in a small computer room, and you are sitting down, you are not standing up. And it was just showing people things on the screen. But I think I have built up a bit of confidence doing that. So that was crucial actually. And I realized that that was really crucial, A to building my confidence, and B to getting me to think about, well, what do these people need to know?

What order do I need to tell them things in, just those really basic things about teaching. So I think that was very good. So I at least had that amount of experience.

Lois’s current role

Well, I do not have a very complicated career history. It is quite simple, really. When I finished my PhD, I came to work for the institution that I am now working for, in the, the school that I am now working for a lot has changed around me and my position of has changed quite a lot within that, within that unit. I was a, I came in as a lecturer, a new lecturer with no experience, and moved to gradually taking on more and more responsibility, for different, parts of the school for different programs within the school, different courses. So I have been responsible for, short courses within a specific discipline. My, my discipline is Archaeology, and that is what I did my PhD in. And so I was responsible for courses in Archaeology. and I built that up quite a bit. Increased the number of courses, increased the number of students, you know, I cannot remember.

I did at one point, not by how much, but, something like doubled the number of students that were coming in to do those courses. and then I took on responsibility for, a much broader range of courses that included lots of disciplines, not just Archaeology. So I, I work within the, the lifelong learning sector, if you like. That is a very diverse sector. But in, in my school, it had, at that point, the, the, the overall shape of it was very much an arts and humanities kind of approach. So it was your typical evening classes that retired people tend to go along to, but that is the typical picture that people have of them. In fact, they are, they are much broader than that. So they covered all kinds of disciplines, Archaeology History, History of Art, English Literature, Creative Writing, Science, Languages, all those kinds of things. So I took on responsibility for managing that whole program of about 250 courses every year. and I did that for, I know about five or six years. And then the school grew and became even more diverse. And so we needed somebody to take, take a more strategic role really, and look after all the provision within the school as far as teaching and learning was concerned.

So that is now my position as Director of Teaching and Learning, overseeing all of the provision within a very, very diverse school. So not only is it diverse discipline wise, because we now also have management programs and programs in careers guidance. But it is, so it is diverse in that sense. But it is, also diverse in the, the, the way the courses are delivered. Some are delivered on a weekly basis, face-to-face. one, one of them is actually full-time course, but all the rest of them are part-time courses. and some of them are distance learning, some of them are blended learning. Some of the students are retired, students are doing it for pleasure. Some of the students are doing it for professional qualifications. Some of the courses have professional accreditation and others are basically just leisure courses. So it is really very, diverse provision. So I have sort of oversight of that. So I guess that is probably my career to date.

And what is your life like on a day-to-Day basis?

Ah, right, life. Okay. It is, very diverse. I think diverse is a word that you can use to characterise everything about me. It is very diverse. There is a lot of reacting to things that are happening. There is, a lot of helping my colleagues. So in, in a way I sort of, manage five program directors. So these are people who take more direct responsibility for the different programs that we run and, and are subject experts in those programs because I am not, so they, I support them. They come to me with questions. so I get a lot of questions, you know, we have got this problem, what do we do? We have got this student who has, these particular circumstances, what can we do? You know, what should we advise them to do? So it is, it is, it is very reactive, a lot of it. there is, I do teaching as well.

So I do still teach Archaeology, keep my feet on the ground. And I think that is very important for somebody in my position because, I am telling other people how they should teach, how they should design courses and things. And it is, it is no good if I am not actually doing it if I am not in touch with what actually works in the classroom with the, the students. so I do still teach. So I still have teaching preparation to do and I teach evening classes and so I have marking to do and, and that sort of thing. We deal with a lot of sessional staff as well. So there is a, a big sort of management role there. managing their expectations, training, doing a lot of training with them. and another big part of my role is, to liaise with the rest of the University. I am one of the key liaison persons between the school and the rest of the University. So I spend a lot of time in meetings, University meetings, which I actually quite like most people hate them, but I think I must be quite odd because I quite like them. I like to know what is going on around. I like to know what other people are up to and what developments are happening in the University. And so where we can link in with things. So I do spend quite a lot of time in University committee meetings, and then also just in more informal meetings with my colleagues.

So it is a lot of talking to people, which in some ways I still have not adjusted to that because I, I often get to the end of the day and I think, oh, I have not done any work today. I spent the whole day talking to people. But that actually is a key part of my, my role. But still, I tend to think that sitting down in front of the computer producing documents is work or preparing teaching, that is work. Whereas talking to people is not so much work, but of course it is, but so yeah, my days are, are, are very different. But a lot of it involves talking to people, dealing with people actually, whether they are students, whether they are the staff that work here full-time or whether they are session members of staff or whether they are people in other departments in University. A lot of email.

What are the best aspects of your job?

The best? I love the, the diversity. I am very much a person who likes to flit from one thing to another. I will have 20 things open on my computer when I am working and I will flip between, you know, I will get fed up doing something, I will be trying to write something and I will be getting a bit bogged down as I think I will have a look at my emails. I will do a few emails and then I will start writing some other documents. So, so I like the diversity and like having lots of different things to choose from. what else is good about my job? I like dealing with people. I do like teaching. it can be a bit stressful at times when there is so much to do because you have to, you have to be prepared, you know, a lot of things you can put off and say, I will do it tomorrow, it does not matter. You know, that deadline will slip a little bit, but teaching you cannot. You have got students in the class in front of you, you have got to be ready, you have got to have your stuff ready. so it can be a bit stressful, but when I am finished my teaching, I always think I am always on a high, you know, I really enjoy that interaction and the light dawning on the students' faces.

So I really enjoy the teaching and I enjoy the challenge of doing new things. I like doing new things and problem solving. I am not very good at doing the same thing over and over. I get, I get bored to be honest. Even teaching the same thing year in year out. I do get bored. I like to develop new courses, which, which is hard work, but I like to develop new courses quite regularly. And I have the freedom to do that. In working in lifelong learning, you have the freedom to, develop courses, and run them for a few years and then stop and then develop another course.

What are the challenges?

The challenges, well I think as everybody who works in academia is dealing with everything that needs to be done. So it is just workload is a challenge. and especially I, I have a family now, I have two young children and before I had them I could work into the evenings and I did work into the evenings a lot of the time. Work was basically my life. I did a few other things, but you know, that was the most important thing in my life. Obviously my partner as well. But, but now having the children, that is much more of a, a challenge. But that, that is the same for everybody I think. And I cannot work so much in the evenings and at the weekends now, so it just has to be squeezed into the day. So that is a challenge. Work sort of dealing with other people, people management if you like, because a lot of my role is a management role, but I do not have responsibility, line management responsibility, not formally anyway. And I think, again, that is a, a very common thing in, in universities. so I am not line managing people, but yet I am still supposed to be leading what they are doing. And that is, that can be quite a challenge. I think, I think I need to develop my skills further in, in managing people, but, it is, it is a challenge, but it is also really rewarding when it works well. Because working with a, a team to develop, say a new program or something, is, is very rewarding when everybody's minds are working in the same way. It is just not quite so rewarding when they are not working in the same way. So, so yeah, I guess those are really challenges, trying to get people to do what I want them to do.

What has been more important to you, do you think? The teaching or research?

Well, the teaching, because I do very little research actually in this, in this job. I could do more research. but it is, it is difficult to do. And this, this job is very intensely teaching. and there is a lot of historical reasons for that, which I do not think I need to go into. But, my job is much more about teaching, but there is a facility there to do a little bit of research and I like to try and, keep that up to a certain extent. because it, it connects me with my discipline. but what I, I am trying to do more of now is, Research in teaching and learning and research in lifelong learning rather than research in Archaeology, because that is more difficult for me to get to do the research in Archaeology because it is so much more detached from my day to day life of dealing with students and dealing with staff. whereas the research in teaching and learning can benefit from my day to day experience. So that is where I am trying to go with my research at the moment.

Advice for those doing a PhD

And somebody, somebody gave me a really good piece of advice, actually. I think it was when I just started my job, but I think it probably applies, it could apply to when you are a PhD student within a department, being a member of that department, an active member of that department. And it was the way to ensure your job security is to, to make yourself indispensable. Do lots of things, make yourself useful to lots of people. So, you know, agree to do that demonstration on how to use access database or, you know, do all those things. Take all those opportunities. And then when people come to consider life without you being around, maybe they will think, well actually maybe we need to keep him or her around because they are actually very useful. And that, that piece of advice was given to me by a very senior member of the university. And it is the one piece of advice that has stuck with me.

 

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