Category Archives: Careers

Challenges and ambitions for career progression that supports diversity.

Personal Histories: Adetunji Otemade

October was Black History Month, a month dedicated to celebrating black people in the UK. Through this Personal Histories blog series we hoped to honour our own staff and students at Newcastle by speaking to them about their interests, likes and dislikes and aspects of their culture, to learn more about their stories and histories.

For our fourth and final blog in the series, we had a very interesting chat with Dental Sciences Teaching Fellow, Adetunji Otemade to find out more about his interests, perspectives and career.

How did you end up in Newcastle?

When I saw the job application I was in the process of relocating to New Zealand actually, to work in New Zealand and well… things changed! I’ve always wanted to go into academia and obviously how I applied was a last minute thing, but I got the interview, got the job and it’s been great since then. I’ve always been around in the North East because I did my bachelor’s degree at Teesside University and went on to do my masters at Teesside as well, so I would consider myself a Northerner.

How did you become involved in your role?

I trained as a Dental Hygienist and Therapist and after my first degree I worked in practice for a while, then worked within communities. I’ve always felt a keen interest and a spark when it comes to research, so I went ahead and did a master’s in Public Health. When I finished my master’s degree I worked down south in London with an NHS Trust where I  was involved with various dental outreach projects which include dental care for the elderly in care homes, dental care for the homeless and primary school visits. After my master’s degree I wanted to do a PhD which was a reason why I was looking to go abroad, but then this job came up and I just feel it’s a perfect fit.

When it comes to pursuing a PhD degree or research in general, in our profession as Dental Hygienists and Therapists, we don’t necessarily have lots of people going ahead and doing PhDs – we do have a couple staff around here that have got their PhD and it’s actually following their footsteps and doing something worthwhile, but at the same time doing something that you enjoy and contributing to the profession as a whole. So yeah, it’s been a long journey; I actually started as a dental nurse back in 2007 which was when I moved up to the UK from Nigeria.

What are your main hobbies and interests outside of your role?

I love photography, and I do a blog – a men’s style, men’s fashion blog, just taking photos and writing about how to dress and stuff. Hopefully it’s still working because I can’t remember the last time I posted, with my workload and trying to balance that. I enjoy photography as well, grabbing my camera, going out and taking shots and pictures. But yeah, my main hobby outside of the University is basically fashion photography and blogging.

I love music as well and I’m trying to combine my love for music with the kind of research that I’m doing in terms of music therapy, or how music affects our brains when it comes to managing anxiety in patients.

What would you regard as your proudest achievement?

On a professional level I would say getting to where I am today; it’s been a long journey considering the background that I came from. I’ve always been in an academic environment as my dad taught at a higher institution before he retired, and my mum as a primary school teacher and eventually as a head teacher before she retired. However, it’s not been an easy journey. I had to leave university during the first year of my animal science degree back then. My reason for leaving was because I was young and dumb; however, the constant university strike that was rampant in the country back then did not really help either. I was lucky to have my aunty who happened to come over to Nigeria from the UK on a visit and thought the environment was not really ideal or working for me and made plans for me to come over, all of which only took about 4 months. So finding myself in this environment from somewhere where you’ve struggled in the past and it’s taken you loads to actually get to know yourself, to get to a place where you have a master’s degree and hopefully start your PhD… It’s a great achievement.

Aside from my work and academics I would say it’s having a family, having my kids.

What’s the biggest challenge you have faced?

It’s a difficult one, you know. In terms of challenges I would say looking back it’s been very difficult to climb the career ladder, so to speak, and I think it depends on the level that you are, for example if you’re starting from scratch.

In terms of my profession, being a dental nurse back in the day used to be mainly dominated by females so I’ve experienced sort of, like, discrimination along the lines. Things are changing now but we still have a long way to go in the UK and the world generally when it comes to making things equal for men, women, people from different races and backgrounds, sexual orientation and everything. Sometimes it’s very difficult to cope with the fact that you’ve lectured, you’ve taught students here, you’ve mixed with lots of people, and on your way home you still get racially abused. In 2019. So yeah, so that’s a very big challenge.

What inspires you?

Life. Knowledge. And self. I just see life as a journey, and I feel we need to appreciate knowledge and cherish it. Once you’re knowledgeable – well, you can’t know everything – but once you’re more knowledgeable it makes you much more informed and when you know your rights and you know what’s right for you then that can be moved through life, knowing that you know. And in terms of life, as we all live on this planet, we are all human beings regardless of where you’re from, your sexual orientation, religion and everything and as long as other people are happy then you can be happy. So that’s what inspires me, and seeing everyone achieving their full potential is something that I cherish a lot. I think that that’s what brought me to this role because you want to inspire knowledge and inspire the next generation of young kids who will go ahead and do greater things.

Can you give me a selection of your favourite things from your culture, favourite music, films, food, literature etc?

Food! Being a Nigerian man, we don’t joke with our food. So local food, I know lots of people talk about jollof rice and stuff like that, but personally for me, a food called iyan which is yam flour meal, pounded yam, or you have eba (made from cassava). I think they now call those types of food swallow – that was something I heard recently – I went to Nigeria last year but it’s been a while and things have changed since moving over here, emergence of these new things. So swallow is any food that is made like maize meal, cassava meal, those types of foods and you eat them with spicy sauce, vegetables and stuff with meat, fish; that’s a big thing. So food is very important and special. Then it’s just the culture, the music and swag; I don’t know if people are aware of it but African music is poppin’ right now. The likes of Burna Boy, Davido, Wizkid, Runtown, just to mention a few, are popular at the moment. So yeah, definitely the food and the music.

What do you think about when you hear “Black History Month”?

Obviously because my early education is not from the UK I don’t really know much about Black History Month, whereas if you ask my son or my children they will know as they’ve been taught. But having lived in the UK for quite a while now I understand that from a Western perspective Black History Month is basically to celebrate the achievements of black people in the UK, to look back and see how far they’ve come, the struggles and how far they still need to go as a community.

In terms of the context of Black History Month here it’s all about the achievements of black people through the Windrush and I think that’s the lens that we normally use. But as Africans, or western Africans we have a different history even compared to the Caribbean and everything. For example, as far as I’m aware in my family we’ve had great great grandparents or family members who migrated to the UK around the 1920s and there is little that we know about it – what I’m trying to say is that there’s lots of different ‘black’ history and I don’t know… To try and pull everything together and celebrate a month, I don’t think that works. But having said that, if that’s something we need to do for the purpose of equality which includes every race, then we just have to do it and keep working with it.

As a Nigerian I would say I don’t see myself as black and I have never seen myself as a black man until arriving in the UK. I am a human being who is fortunate to be born in the part of the world I was born. I just feel I’m now in an environment where we have these labels and systems. However, this is where we are now and in order to make a change and spread the message that we are all human then I need to make my voice heard. We have blacks, Caucasians – we’re all human beings. I think I’m at that stage where I’m still trying to understand why we have to have this month – what about people of Chinese origin, Asian origin – are we going to have history for everyone? But this is what we’ve got now so we’ve got to work with it.

Thank you so much to Adetunji for doing this interview with us – we are so grateful, and really enjoyed hearing his perspectives. And the music recommendations have not gone unappreciated!

That’s one of the best parts about celebrating one another and sharing our stories or ideas with others – you never know what you might learn, or the impact that a fresh perspective could have. We hope that you’ve enjoyed our Personal Histories blog series, and we would encourage you to get involved

If you would like to speak to us about yourself, a topic you’re interested in or maybe even an event you’re involved with, we would be more than happy to share it on our blog. The more interactive the better, so don’t hesitate to contact us.

Personal Histories: Sara Elkhawad

This October is Black History Month, a month dedicated to celebrating the history, achievements and contributions of black people in the UK. To honour our staff and students here at Newcastle, we’re continuing our Personal Histories blog series to learn more about them and their stories.

In this blog, we spoke to Sara Elkhawad, the current NUSU Equality and Welfare Officer, to learn more about her interests, aspects of her culture, and what she thinks of Black History Month. Sara has been working extremely hard this month running her campaign, Black Is Gold; so far it has included a culture-filled fashion show, a panel discussion in collaboration with the Great Debate Tour, campaign series to educate on the impact of racism, and the finale this evening with a closing party run by student DJs. For more details about these amazing events, click here.

How did you end up in Newcastle?

I didn’t really know what I wanted to do for a while – I didn’t have that kind of vocational dream of doing medicine or whatever, so I chose to do English literature at Newcastle quite last minute. But then I went to the visit day and actually really liked it, so I put it first. My mum was really happy because she was an alumni so she was like, ‘Wow my life is now being recreated through my daughter!’ But I really love it here so it was probably the best decision I ever made, even though it was a last minute decision.

How did you become involved in your role?

I studied English literature at university and it’s something that I thought about a lot during my third year, so I applied last year really hoping that I’d get in. I guess Welfare and Equality Officer’s always been something that I’ve been interested in because of the charitable aspect, the mental health aspect of it and I love doing events and stuff so the campaigns aspect too. Also, being the first black woman that had ever gone for this role and the second person of colour that had been on the team was a big motivation of mine because I felt like I could represent the voices that I related to. So I applied, and since then I’ve realised that it has been the perfect job for me because I get to do lots of stuff to do with wellbeing and mental health which is something that is close to my heart, but also campaigning for people that are underrepresented. Not just black people, but people of marginalised genders, LGBT+, disabled people, etc. It’s been really, really eye opening for me and even showed me where a lot of my strengths and weaknesses are, so I’ve learnt a lot as well.

What are your main hobbies and interests outside of your role?

I like writing poetry – I actually haven’t recently because I’ve been so busy, but yeah, I write a lot of poetry. For my dissertation, instead of doing a dissertation I did a creative portfolio so I did poetry for that. I do spoken word as well as written poetry, I guess it’s to do with finding an emotional release sometimes. I’m not a good singer or anything so I like to kind of rap through written words instead.

What would you regard as your proudest achievement?

I guess Black History Month. Obviously I haven’t been in this job for that long, since June, but it’s been really successful – on our opening night, 200 people turned up which was amazing! Any event at the Students’ Union that gets that kind of turnout is incredible, and since then we had a really good turnout at the debate that we had. We’ve had really good feedback from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and high up in the university which has been amazing. Lots of students have got really involved as well as the local community so that for me has been really amazing because it’s something that I’ve put a lot of time and effort into. It’s also kind of controversial; with it being called Black is Gold and focusing on black achievements and black excellence, I think some people who aren’t within that ethnic group feel a little bit triggered by it, or have their own opinions about it, so I’ve obviously had some controversial comments too but in general it’s been a very positive campaign so I’m really happy.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced?

Being the only person of my background and sitting in a room where everyone else is white and predominantly male; you don’t have that set of privileges, and sometimes you feel not as confident to use your voice and you come across natural barriers to stuff. Not everyone agrees with your way of thinking or agrees with the same issues because they haven’t been through the same things that I’ve been through, so when I try and articulate what black people need or what black people want, it hasn’t necessarily always had the immediate response that I would expect from someone that was black. So it’s the kind of feeling that I’m the only one that will ever fit my shoes in this university realm and in the union as well.

I guess just adjusting to the role in general, too – there’s so much to do. Being a trustee of the union which is essentially like chairing a charity, making sure that the union is well governed… there’s so many aspects that I didn’t realise I’d have to do so I’m maturing a lot!

What inspires you?

The people around me inspire me a lot. I think the liberation officers (the people who voluntarily represent marginalised groups) like the Racial Equality officer, LGBT officer, are amazing because they’re the kind of people who are standing up directly for those voices. They make me learn a lot about my own knowledge and privileges which is great. In terms of other people, probably people like Akala who’s an inspirational speaker and rapper and understands the ins and outs of blackness, and the myths about it as well.

I think also my environment; the fact that I’ve grown up in quite a diverse area in London meeting people who generally have the same political outlooks on life, but also the same kind of music and cultural interests as me. Coming to a city that is a little bit less diverse has been quite eye opening in a negative and positive way, because obviously I have felt discriminated against and had prejudice against me but also I’ve been able to use my race as a platform to make sure we improve as a university in terms of that kind of stuff. That’s been interesting because I think when I came to university I didn’t really have the same racial consciousness that I have gained now from being at Newcastle, so that’s been quite inspiring.

Can you give me a selection of your favourite things from your culture?

I am half East African, so half from Sudan. It’s quite a different environment from what other people understand as Africa; a lot of people understand ‘black’ as West Africa and the Caribbean. One of my favourite bits is the sense of family and community, it’s like no one ever leaves you alone! Which is hard because Britain is such an isolated culture in comparison, people like their downtime and like just spending time by themselves but you don’t get that in Sudan. There’s a lot of eating together; you have this big round plate that everyone spins and eats from, and there’s about a million weddings so you’re always seeing people which is really lovely.

Falafel is quite a big part of my diet – obviously I don’t eat falafel on a daily basis, but my family have created this sort of secret family recipe from it, so that’s a big part of my East African culture. We’ve got beautiful pyramids in Sudan – everyone thinks that Egypt have all the pyramids but Sudan actually has like three times the amount and no one ever goes there. When I went to go see them, there was literally no one there apart from the people who were leading us and the camels, so that’s pretty cool.

What do you think about when you hear Black History Month?

I think what other people think they hear Black History Month is that they automatically think of slavery and civil rights, so when black people were slaves and how black people got over slavery. Especially within that, African American history so we’ve got people like Martin Luther King who fought for civil rights and did an amazing job, but again it’s not British black history.

So now when I think of Black History and what this campaign Black Is Gold is meant to do, I sort of want to draw away from slavery and unearth narratives that like have been silenced by slavery. Before slavery and since slavery, black people were kings and queens and are kings and queens; we have Meghan Markle for example, who is literally in the royal family in the UK. Or within the Roman era, you had Nubian empires with black East African kings and queens. So I guess for me it’s about black excellence and beauty, rather than black colonialism and slavery, and yes black British history in the past but also now. The people that are paving the way, like Stormzy, or singers like Jorja Smith and Akala are really important black figures that are informing British culture and making history, even though we don’t really see it like that.

Thank you so much to Sara for taking the time to speak to us during this busy time! The work she has been doing this month is admirable, and we hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about her story and perspective. #BlackIsGold

If you would be interested in talking to us about yourself as part of this series, or know someone else who would, we would love to hear from you! To take part, please contact Claire Bailie.

Personal Histories: Anne Oyewole

This October is Black History Month, a month dedicated to celebrating the history, achievements and contributions of black people in the UK. Although we should honour the successes throughout the year, it provides a special focus on their lives and experiences. 

We want to honour our own staff around the University, by learning more about their interests, likes and dislikes and aspects of their culture, to get a sense of their stories and histories. 

For our first blog, we spoke to Anne Oyewole, a Research Associate currently working with the Stroke Research Group, to find out more about her.

How did you end up in Newcastle?

About 13 years ago I applied for an MRes at Northumbria University and ended up being awarded the post which was a collaboration with a chemical company, so that was unique and fun. I thought at the time because I was coming up from London that I would only be here for a year, but one year evolved into thirteen years! Since then I have completed my PhD at Newcastle University and held a few postdoc positions, so it’s great to still be here.

How did you become involved in your role?

I completed my PhD in Dermatology followed by a couple of postdoc positions in this department. I then joined  the Neuromuscular team within the John Walton Muscular Dystrophy Research Centre (based at the Centre for Life) as the Post-marketing Surveillance Coordinator. In this role, I was responsible for supporting pharmaceutical companies with Phase IV studies for their licensed therapies. I was keen to gain more hands on experience setting up and delivering a clinical study, so I moved to the Stroke Research Group, where I am coordinating a clinical study evaluating the diagnostic accuracy of a point of care device. All the expertise, knowledge and experience I have gained over the last decade have been extremely valuable and helped me to secure my new role (which I’ll start in December 2019) as the Programme Manager for medical devices, diagnostics and digital technologies within the NIHR-Innovation Observatory, the national medical horizon scanning facility based at Newcastle University.

What are your main hobbies and interests outside of work?

I’m very passionate about dancing. I love dancing, in particular Bollywood dancing which I do at Dance City. I also enjoy ballroom and Latin dancing and Afro Mix, which is a mixture of different African styles of dance. I love cooking dishes from all over the world and I’m often inviting friends over, so that I can cook and bake for them. Over the last few years, I’ve set myself cooking/baking goals and this year my goal is to improve my bread baking skills as well as perfect my pastry techniques. So far this year I’ve enjoyed making croissants, naan bread, shortcrust pastry, bagels, Challah and all sorts.

What would you regard as your proudest achievement?

Though I have a lot to be proud of, one that stands out for me is having done my A levels and not getting the grade that I was expecting. Getting a lower grade meant I didn’t get into my first choice university and I remember at that time feeling my whole world had crumbled around me, it seemed very difficult to see how I was going to move forward. My family were all very supportive, and said, “It really wouldn’t be terrible to go to your second choice!” Although I wasn’t expecting to go to my second choice university, I continued and had a great time there. My passion and joy for science didn’t diminish in that time – if anything it increased, and so I was inspired and encouraged to go on to pursue postgraduate studies.

I think the thing I am proud of is that at the time it was difficult to see how things would come together, but actually things have turned out really well. Something that my parents instilled within me was to appreciate my education and to be disciplined and work hard. Being disciplined has been a real blessing as I’ve been able to go on from my Biology degree to complete my MRes (Masters) and PhD as well as to go on with my research career.

What’s the biggest challenge you have faced?

Completing my PhD thesis!

I think some of the challenges I experienced before and during my PhD journey helped me to develop a good measure of resilience, which was so important in getting me through the writing up phase of my PhD, along with a supportive supervisor (Prof. Mark Birch-Machin) and my family and friends. Obviously in life there are always going to be challenges we face that don’t always lead to a positive outcome but I’ve been reminded recently through personal challenging circumstances I’m facing, that these times can be good opportunities to learn and grow.

What inspires you?

One of the things that shapes me would be my Christian faith. My trust in and love for Jesus inspires and encourages me to look out for and love other people. My faith is also the reason I love science – I love learning more about our universe and understanding more about the human body.

Can you give me a selection of your favourite things from your culture?

I mentioned dancing and that’s definitely something from my culture as well as listening/dancing to Afrobeats, there’s a real joy in being able to move so freely and rhythmically to the beat – I love that! I love wearing colourful clothing and eating Nigerian food such as jollof rice with plantain and moi moi. Growing up in London meant that I was exposed to a lot of different cultures, so as well as enjoying eating food from other countries I enjoyed learning about different cultures too.

In the Nigerian culture it’s very important that you respect your elders and this is instilled within you from a child. I’m really thankful that this is the case, as It’s sad when I see older people in our society not being respected or just ignored because their ideas, opinions, knowledge, expertise and life experience are not seen as valuable, which is not the case! Older people have so much to contribute to our society.

What do you think about when you hear “Black History Month”?

Firstly, I think of the legacy left by great heroes such as Martin Luther King Jr and Harriet Tubman and countless unsung heroes. It’s great that we have the opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of so many black people throughout history this October. Whilst there is lots to celebrate, Black History Month is still a reminder that there is still lots to be done to bring about further change. Going forward it’s important to see more engagement and open dialogue on current racial issues across all sectors of our society, as so many people today still face discrimination because of their ethnicity.

Thank you so much to Anne for taking the time to speak with us. We hope you enjoyed getting to know a bit more about her and her story (and maybe have been inspired to try some baking?).

We’ll hopefully be running this blog series for the next few weeks, so if you would be interested in talking to us about yourself, or know someone else who would, we would love to hear from you! To take part, please contact Claire Bailie.

Demystifying Leadership: New Director of EDI (Simon Forrest)

A few months ago, we published the first blog in our Demystifying Leadership Series, in which Professor Candy Rowe chatted to us about what her role as Faculty Director of EDI had been like, to help potential replacements decide whether it was the leadership role for them.

And it worked! 

We are pleased to introduce our new Faculty Director of EDI, Professor Simon Forrest! Have a read of his Q&A to get to know a bit more about him, why he applied for the role, and what he’s most looking forward to:

Tell us a bit about your background. What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?

Like a lot of academic careers, mine sounds like a series of wise choices when I tell in from where I am now. But, in truth, it has largely been about a combination of luck, when opportunity has spoken to my passions.

I began as a professional musician and got very interested in the sociology of health because of the advent of HIV/Aids, and the way that changes in sexual attitudes, behaviours and culture that came about because of that, and the way they were represented in the ‘pop’ culture of which I was part. I met and got involved in very early community responses to HIV through peer education with young people, and the mobilisation of gay men and MSM. That evolved into 30 years of work on sex, sexualities, gender and sexual health.

I am still engaged in advocacy, which often feeds my research, but also some more sedate pastimes, such as bee-keeping.

How did you first become interested in EDI? What are some of the aspects of EDI you are most passionate about?

I can’t imagine how anyone can be involved in the social aspects of sex, sexualities, gender and health and not have EDI running through their work.

I have seen the way that public policy has failed people and also then worked to improve people’s lives. I have seen and, I hope, been part of influencing great positive changes in the recognition sexual diversity, in seeing that the greatest threats to people sexual health and wellbeing are often about failure to provide that and promote respect and equality. What I’ve learnt is EDI is about listening; hearing and making sure we give voice those who get left behind or are disadvantaged by social attitudes, policy or organisations – mobilising their potential to change things for the better for everyone.

What drew you to the position of Director of EDI for FMS?

It’s very simple – FMS is a natural champion of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

All our contributions are about making everyone’s lives better, healthier, and happier. We have the opportunity, especially because of the values of the NHS and our other stake-holders, to put that at the heart of what we do. Who wouldn’t want to be able to contribute to that?

What has been your favourite thing about the role so far?

Finding my feet with the fantastic EDI team, both within FMS and across the University, hearing people being so honest about the challenges in their work and lives, and the energy right across the Faculty, from top to bottom, to effect real culture change so that it heartbeats with EDI.

What are the main things you hope to achieve in the role? Tell us what you’re most excited to get involved with?

To continue the amazing work done so far, and to see that recognised in further external recognition and accreditation.

I want to be an advocate, to empower, and mobilise the skills and expertise in the Faculty and our wider community, and to enjoy the debate, discussion, planning, and work we can do together.

What aspects of being FMS’ Director of EDI do you anticipate will be most challenging? What previous learning experiences do you think have helped prepare you to take on these challenges?

Universities are complex places and knowing how the system works and how to make the system work can be a challenge. I think I have had a lot of experience now and know something about we go about creating transparent and effective structures that support EDI.

What do you hope to learn through the role?

No day goes by when one doesn’t learn something about oneself and other people.

Universities are all about conversations and because I might see students or staff, do some engagement work with our community, and much more in a typical day, there’s always going to be a conversation out there which will make me think. It might be someone asking me a question I don’t know the answer to (that’s very common) or telling me something amazing about their lives that makes me stop and think.

Thank you so much to Simon for giving us a bit of insight into himself and how he’s feeling about his new role. We can’t wait to see all that you do as Faculty Director of EDI.

Demystifying Leadership: Head of the School of Psychology (Gwyneth Doherty-Sneddon)

As part of our Demystifying Leadership blog series, we’ve chatted to staff in a variety of leadership positions across the Faculty. To help you find out more about what a Head of School role might be like, I spoke to Professor Gwyneth Doherty-Sneddon about her job as Head of the School of Psychology in FMS.

What are your main responsibilities in your role?

I lead and manage the School of Psychology. My role is quite diverse, but it primarily focuses on the learning and teaching experience. I work with approximately 35 academic members of staff (whom I manage directly) and about 11 or 12 admin staff to run and deliver a number of Undergraduate, Postgraduate Taught and Professional Training programmes under the School of Psychology.

What does an average day look like for you?

I don’t think there is an average day, to be quite honest. The largest amount of my time is spent strategically, making sure our School’s teaching plan is on track, and working with external organisations to ensure we have the right partnerships in place and that we’re developing new professional placements for students.

Another important part of my role is the leadership and mentoring of staff (academics, in particular). I review their personal development and manage any day-to-day issues, as well as the relationships between them. Due to the School’s recent growth in student numbers, I’m also often shortlisting or interviewing new academics to teach.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I particularly enjoy the mentoring of staff. Since beginning working with them, I’ve seen a number of them be very successful and receive promotions on the basis of learning and teaching. This makes me particularly happy, as it shows the University values the learning and teaching advancement process.

Additionally, as I know my staff very well, I’m able to look strategically at the School to find projects that would be well-suited to the skill set of a certain staff member. So, to then see them flourish in that project makes me very happy.

What made you want to apply for the role?

At the time, I was an associate Dean for Research at Faculty-level in another institution, where I managed research across a diverse range of disciplines. I had been looking to get back into my own discipline again, so this leadership role was perfect, and I’ve really enjoyed being back in Psychology. I also knew the University wanted this School to grow, so I was excited that there was real opportunity to make a lot of big changes.

What do you think is your biggest achievement so far in your role?

As a result of our growth as a School, the University has invested in a state-of-the-art learning and teaching space within a new building. It will include specialised teaching spaces, such as a forensic laboratory and a psychological therapies clinic. It will be a fantastic environment for all our students and staff.

I feel these new resources are a symbol of our recent success and the University’s belief and trust in me.

What learning opportunities have been available to you in your role?

In much of my career previous to this role, I’ve had to learn on the job, through trial and error, which has been a massive challenge. But within this role, I have done a senior leadership course, which was quite useful, and also a mentoring course, where I did learn a lot, even about myself.

Have you been supported by colleagues, mentors or training opportunities?

I feel extremely supported by the University and the Faculty, and there are some very approachable people with real integrity here. The PVC has been very willing to listen and develop strategic plans. I couldn’t have grown the School to in such a way had the University not resourced more academic posts and invested in a new building for us. This makes me feel as though I’ve been listened to and I’ve been trusted to drive this growth.

The previous Undergraduate Dean (Jane Calvert) has also been fantastic and she was my go-to person when I needed a sounding board. The Heads of other Units also provide peer support and we regularly talk and share advice. Finally, I get a lot of day-to-day support from my colleagues in my school, with whom I have very good relationships and are always there to help with whatever I need.

What has your role taught you about yourself?

My current role has taught me how good I am with people. In my previous job, I was trying to manage 400 people and was never able to get to know them as individuals. So, at Newcastle, I’ve had the chance to realise that I work very well with individuals when I can get to know them, and that I am able to bring out the best in people.

However, management also often involves some very difficult conversations, and I’ve learnt that I can handle this. I’ve become good at knowing exactly when you must put your own emotions aside and how to always maintain my objectivity in tricky situations.

What have you found more challenging in your role?

The diversity of things I have to deal with on a daily basis. We’re a complicated School with 8 Undergraduate programmes (previously we had just 1, when I started). Several of our Postgraduate programmes also involve quite complicated relationships with external organisations such as the NHS, so dealing with the changes in these organisations can be very tricky.

How do you balance the role with your research and/or external commitments (families, hobbies etc.)?

I’m not doing very much research now. I do some through PhD students, but this is importantly their research and not mine. However, I was aware of this when I took the role; it was a very deliberate move for me and I felt it was right for this stage in my career. I do also still do some teaching. In the autumn semester I teach on some of the Masters and Undergraduate courses, and I supervise some of their projects.

In respect to balancing my work with my home life, it’s all about flexibility. I feel I’m getting better at it as my children are getting older. When they were younger I had to work very flexibly and bring them into the office, and also worked at home and in the evenings. So now, by being able to work more in the office, it allows me a better balance and to keep home life more separate. As a School, we’ve agreed to restrict emailing hours, to control the quantity of email traffic being sent in the evenings and weekends. This is something I feel I’ve learnt from my own experiences, which will improve people’s work life balance in the future.

What advice would you give to your successor?

I would tell them to always value and get to know your staff, and to be flexible with them. For the School to flourish, you must get the best out of each member of staff, and this is often done by being willing to be flexible in terms of work-life balance. You can never have a firm rule, you must always do things on an individual basis.

Additionally, I would emphasise to never allow hierarchy within the team from junior to more senior members of staff. Everyone is equal and is respected. As long as they are doing their job to the best of their ability and helping to drive the School forward then I am happy.

Thank you to Gwyneth Doherty-Sneddon for chatting to us about her role! We hope this has given you an insight into what being Head of a School might be like!