NU Women Upcoming Events – Autumn 2020

NU Women/Wellcome Trust Reimagine Research Culture – Virtual Café
Date: 30th September
Time: 10-11.30am
Location: Virtual (Zoom)

We are pleased to announce the second of our Reimagine Research Culture Cafés, which will take place virtually via Zoom on Wednesday 30th September, 10-11.30am.

In January, the Wellcome Trust shared the results of their Reimagine Research Culture survey. Wellcome developed a Café Culture kit so people could discuss the survey findings, and propose solutions. NU Women is running several of these cafés to think about how to better support members of our community, and contribute to a more creative, inclusive and honest research culture at Newcastle. These are open to the whole NU Women community, regardless of area of work, role or grade – everyone contributes to research culture and everyone’s voice matters. 

To register for this event, please follow this link: https://forms.ncl.ac.uk/view.php?id=9174013

Due to the virtual format, there will be a maximum of 20 attendees – if you are unable to attend or cannot get a place, please use the link on this page to register your interest for future cafés.

Carly Jones MBE: Autism in Women
Date: 14th October 2020
Time: 12-2pm
Location: Virtual (Zoom)
NU Women are proud to present Carly Jones MBE, a British Autism Advocate who will be speaking on the experiences of autistic women and girls.

To register for this event, please sign up at this link: https://forms.ncl.ac.uk/view.php?id=9174589

Moving into lockdown after maternity leave as a PGR

As part of our blog series where we share experiences, tips, and tricks of living and working during lockdown, Philippa Carter a third year PhD student in Geography studying landscape, sense of place and intergenerational memory in North East England, discusses the challenges of returning to her PhD after maternity leave shortly before lockdown began.

I tend to work from home a lot of the time, so when the announcement of lockdown came in March it might not have seemed like such a big change for me compared to many others. Except of course, that my ‘office’, which already doubles up as the family dining room, then also became my husband’s office and my two-year-old daughter became our only other co-worker (unless you count the cat)!

I had my daughter in the second year of my PhD and getting back into the project after a year of maternity leave was tricky. A month before lockdown started, I drafted my first full findings chapter and I felt like I was finally finding some momentum and getting into the flow of the thesis. Six months on that is certainly not how I’m feeling.

In some ways it has been an anxious time for me, particularly before I had my extension confirmed; getting that sorted out was a massive weight off my mind. But whilst there have been a whole host of worries and stresses, it has also given me a different perspective on my research. My work focuses on the small details of family and community life and how these things impact on our sense of place and identity; spending so much time with my immediate family and getting to know my local area so much better has helped me think about this differently and realise again just how important place can be.

Overall, I’m sure when I look back on this time, I will think how lucky I was to have spent so much time with my daughter and we have had some great times, but at other times it has been hard to keep that perspective. I have missed immersing myself completely in my work (which is difficult even in normal circumstances with a young family). My daughter is back in nursery now and in the next few weeks my husband will be spending a couple of days a week back in the office so hopefully over the coming months I will begin to get more space – both physical and mental – for writing as I get closer to my completion date.

NU Women listening workshops: Understanding the concerns of colleagues and PGRs

NU Women invites women colleagues and postgraduate research (PGR) students from across the University to join us in online listening workshops aimed at addressing any questions and/or sharing concerns they have around returning to campus and/or  the University’s adjustments as a result of COVID-19.  These listening sessions aim to help address any questions. There are individual sessions for colleagues and for PGR students, reflecting the different concerns and needs of these groups.

Colleague session:

Date/Time: 8th September, 12.00 noon – 1.30pm

Delivery: Online via zoom (link to follow)

Duration: 1h 30min

[book now]

PGR session:

Date/Time: 17th September, 10.30am – 12.00 noon

Delivery: Online via zoom (link to follow)

Duration: 1h 30min

[book now]

Attendance at the sessions will provide colleagues and PGRs with an opportunity to share confidential views and opinions in a safe space, with a view to driving change and better support for colleagues and PGRs.

Session format

  • In part one you will hear from colleagues from Health and Safety, Occupation Health, and People Services who will answer any questions you might have relating to campus reintegration or adjustments being made in response to COVID-19.
  • Part two of the session will be in a ‘safe space’ format and led by some members of steering committee of NU Women. It will provide individuals with an opportunity to confidentially share their concerns and thoughts in the current climate. The notes from these sessions will be anonymised and used to inform change and provide better support for colleagues and PGRs at the University.

Ahead of attending the session, attendees will be given the opportunity to send in questions they may wish to explore.

We are aware that the times may not be suitable for everyone. If you are unable to attend a session, but still have issues and concerns that you would like to raise, please send your questions to the Organisational Development email address below, and we will ensure that these are answered during the sessions.

If you require any further information, please email organisational.development@ncl.ac.uk

Moving (and working from) home during lockdown

As part of our blog series where we share experiences, tips, and tricks of living and working during lockdown, Rachel Pattinson, who manages digital research programmes in Open Lab in the School of Computing, reflects on moving and working from home during COVID-19.

Like many of my Newcastle University colleagues, I’ve been working from home since the middle of March. And along with 27 million others, I watched Boris Johnson announce the UK’s lockdown live on 23rd March. But I was one of the few who listened to the Prime Minister tell us all to ‘stay at home’ – the night before I was due to exchange and complete on the purchase of my first house.

Last autumn, when I’d had my offer accepted on my new home, Coronavirus didn’t exist. And I was working full-time in the Urban Sciences Building. So beginning an indefinite period of working from home, during a pandemic, and attempting to buy and move home at the same time, caused a number of unforeseen events:

  • I spent the first couple of weeks of lockdown pretty stressed out. Because it’s difficult to ‘stay at home’ when you’re not really sure which home you’re going to be living in…
  • I ended up on the front page of BBC news. Which made my colleagues, friends and family laugh quite a lot!
  • I spend the first of the University’s ‘pause Fridays’ in April exchanging and completing on my house purchase. I was so grateful to the University for giving me the time to get everything finalised!
  • I couldn’t get essential furniture (like a fridge) delivered to my new home during lockdown. So, I had to delay my move and arrange to stay and work in my old house for an extra couple of months.
  • About 75% of my stuff was in boxes for three months. Including some of my work files. And it meant my working space looked very minimal during March, April and May…
  • In June, the internet moved house (a while before I did). And promptly stopped working. So for a few days, I had no internet in either house. I completely used up my mobile phone’s data allowance, I bought a top-up, I bought another top-up…
  • … and I had a day or so where I had to work mostly offline in the new house while I waited in for essential furniture to finally arrive. I did my best, but I definitely attended a few meetings where I’m told that I sounded much more dalek than human(!).
  • I eventually got internet in the new place, but I was still staying in my previous home, so I spent a week commuting back and forth between the two locations.
  • And then I finally moved house! Since moving, I’ve been redecorating and unpacking whilst working full-time. I’ve now worked in four or five different spaces in my house, so my colleagues have collectively seen an interesting tour of my new home.
Rachel ended up on BBC News as a result of her move during lockdown.

It’s not what I planned. But living through and working during a pandemic wasn’t something any of us predicted.

And, looking back on lockdown, I really appreciate the support I received from my colleagues and from Newcastle University to make a major life change like this during a time when the UK stood still.

Balancing Working from Home and Working for Home

As part of our blog series where we share experiences, tips, and tricks of living and working during lockdown, Sathya GunasekaranSenior Developer/ Analyst with NUITshares her experience of juggling childcare and work during lockdown.

If I look back at the last four months of working from home, it was not as easy as I initially thought it would be.  I prepared a to-do list in the beginning of April, which included things like exercising and learning a new skill.

Though I had a proper workstation set up at home, having my husband also working from home and having to home school my 8-year-old daughter were very new to me. I neither had a syllabus to teach her nor the skills needed to be a good teacher! The long list of links to various resources sent by her school was a bit overwhelming. I had to sit with her for her online homework every day. She even had her weekly cello lessons on zoom which meant we couldn’t take any calls during that time (not even from the back garden!). We ordered some books and subscribed to Disney+ and did not know what else to do to keep her engaged while we were busy working. I felt guilty about either having to leave her on her own or at times not being able to concentrate on work as much as I wanted to.

Despite saving 2.5 hours every day by not travelling to work, I did not learn a new skill, I did not teach my daughter much and I could not exercise enough! My to-do list lies somewhere untouched. So, if you have not done an awful lot during the last four months and just managed ticking along so far, it is okay, you are not alone.

Working from Home at NUMed Malaysia

As part of our blog series where we share experiences, tips, and tricks of living and working during lockdown, Dr. Clare GuildingDean of Academic Affairs at the NUMed campusshares her experience of lockdown in Malaysia.

Tell us a little about your job role.
I am the Dean of Academic Affairs at NUMed Malaysia, which means that I manage the academic matters for the MBBS programme. I oversee the delivery of the teaching and the curriculum, support student progress and student wellbeing, and oversee the Student Association, as well as helping with staff development.

How did you find the experience of moving to working from home?
It was actually relatively smooth – being based in Malaysia, we already do quite a lot of video conferencing as we have regular meetings with the UK. It’s one of the things that we have found to be a positive – normally we would be the only ones video conferencing, which has sometimes been difficult to manage what with the sound quality and the rapport. Now, with everyone using Zoom, it’s a lot easier to communicate together.

Have you had to adapt your working day with the lockdown?
On campus teaching at NUMed stopped shortly before it did in the UK so there was a period of rapid adjustment for everyone to fully online learning. In the first week after lockdown we uploaded pre-recorded sessions and materials for the students, then began adding in live synchronous sessions as our online delivery skills improved. There has understandably been a lot of anxiety from the students, so we have been making sure to focus on student well-being. Our medicine degree program has a very structured academic mentoring system where the students meet their mentors between six to eight times a year, so these have been continuing. We also sent out a survey to all of our students to ask them about what kinds of things they had access to in terms of technology (laptops, cameras, internet connection), and we heard back from every single one of them.

How has lockdown impacted your daily life?
In Malaysia, we’ve been under something called a Movement Control Order, which from the 18th March closed almost all businesses and severely restricted movement. I’d been training for the Great North Run, so when all the gyms closed I had to start running outside which was difficult – daytime temperatures here can reach over 35 degrees with high humidity (and spiders hanging from the trees!). However, after 2 weeks it was made clear we were not even allowed outside for exercise, a ruling that continued for over 5 weeks, and I found this particularly hard.

The schools closed here in March, so my husband has been running the home-schooling for our 7-year-old daughter. I know a lot of people have struggled with home schooling but I’m lucky that my husband can manage this, and it’s actually been really nice to spend more time with the family.

Do you have any tips for people working from home during lockdown?
I would say that maintaining a routine is important. We have a team meeting every morning which I really value, as it’s vital to keep that kind of structure and check in with colleagues.

I would also say that people should give themselves time between meetings if they can: it would be ideal if we could all start meetings at 5 past the hour and end them at 5 to, so that we can have a transition period to pull everything together for the next meeting – or to grab a cup of tea!

Keeping Colleagues Socially Connected in a Time of Physical Distancing

As part of our blog series where we share experiences, tips, and tricks of living and working during lockdown, Cat Button, Senior Lecturer and Degree Programme Director of MSc Urban Planning, explains how the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape keep socially connected whilst physical distancing.

Many colleagues were sad about not seeing each other when lock down happened. In the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape we are a sociable bunch who like to see each other and meet regularly. Very quickly I formulated a plan to keep us in touch, crucially without increasing email. The simplest solution for us was MS Teams, as colleagues were quickly getting to grips with it and everyone has an account via the uni, meaning no new accounts or sharing of personal details like phone numbers. So instead of introducing a different platform I cobbled something together on Teams (There may be slicker apps, and I’ve heard other groups are using WhatsApp or Slack).

Now APL has a virtual ‘café-bar’ for staff and PGRs to meet, chat, share interesting links and set up social events. We meet on Zoom every Wednesday after work. Everyone brings a beverage (tea, wine, water, gin, whatever you like) and we have a chat. One benefit is that the drinks are cheaper than in a physical café-bar! It is much more child and pet-friendly too. In fact, turn-out to the online meet ups has been higher than when in real life. Perhaps it is a more inclusive type of social event, or at least a more accessible way to meet, or else people are needing it more.

It is lovely to have a social catch up with colleagues once a week, even when I’ve seen some of the same faces in formal meetings that very day. I know online meetings can be exhausting, especially due to the dissonance. It can also mean that more informal social interactions feel like work meetings. We have been having fun with virtual backgrounds and playing with snap camera filters in the social gatherings though. Personally, I try to do the social calls on a different device and in a different room to where I work in, but I know that is a luxury.

We have just had some new staff start in our school (recruited before lock-down). It is so nice to be able to direct them towards an online social space, that they don’t have to wait until we are back on campus to get to know us. It can never be the same as bumping into someone in the corridor and having an impromptu coffee, but it is good to still be able to have a chat!

NU Women Upcoming Events – Summer 2020

Five Things Career
If the current situation has prompted thoughts about where you want to go next in developing your career, we are offering some opportunities to listen to and talk with some senior women colleagues to learn from their experiences and exchange ideas. Women’s career paths are often different to those of our male colleagues, and we have developed strategies for success which have often emerged as we responded to challenges and barriers we faced along the way.

We are offering two events with different speakers and will be capping numbers at 50 participants per session. Please note that we will be offering similar events for colleagues in Professional Services later in the calendar year, although everyone is welcome to participate in the events described below.

Session 1 – Tuesday 21 July, 2-3pm
Speakers: Janet Wilson (FMS), Jenny Read (FMS), Karen Corrigan (HASS), Rose Gilroy (HASS)
Facilitator: Karen Ross (HASS)

Session 2 – Thursday 30 July, 1-2pm
Speakers: Hayley Fowler (SAGE), Heather Cordell (FMS), Janice McLaughlin (HASS), Eileen Kaner (FMS)
Facilitator: Karen Ross (HASS)

You can register for either event here.

There’s something I’d like to ask you…
We are offering an opportunity to have a more focused one-to-one conversation (~15 mins) with a senior woman colleague on the following times and days.

Janet Wilson – Thursday 16th July, 10-11am
Karen Ross – Friday 17th July, 10-11am
Karen Corrigan – Wednesday 29th July, 1-2pm
Eileen Kaner – Wednesday 29th July, 4-5pm
Janice McLaughlin – Tuesday 4th August, 10-11am

You can register for an allocated time slot for any of the hosts here. There are a maximum of 5 slots per session, and it is first come, first served. There will be further one-to-one sessions over the summer, so if your preferred session is full but you would be interested in attending future sessions, you can choose to be added to a reserve list and will be contacted when new slots open up. Please note that future sessions will likely have different hosts.

For further information on any of the above events, please contact Karen Ross (karen.ross@newcastle.ac.uk)

Finding a routine in lockdown

As part of our blog series where we share experiences, tips, and tricks of living and working during lockdown, Claire Hutton, Research Technical Team Lead, explains how she overcame some of the initial anxieties of lockdown by establishing routine and connecting with people.

I started as Research Technical Team Lead in January, and like everyone else I had lots of plans for the next few months. I really wasn’t prepared for working from home – I didn’t expect the University shutdown to happen as quickly as it did – and I felt like I’d been swept along in a bit of a tidal wave in that last week at work!

Luckily I have a work laptop, but doing everything on a small screen is challenging, and working via RAS (the remote working tool) isn’t ideal! I found the first couple of weeks really stressful – lots of emails from people looking for answers that I didn’t have. I’ll also admit that the idea of getting used to new software like Zoom and Teams made me pretty anxious! I have 2 boys aged 13 and 14 who were also suddenly at home and having to get used to doing work remotely. It all felt a bit too much.

I decided that having a routine would help, so we get up at a set time every morning and start work at 9am, with regular breaks through the day. I have meetings or “coffee time” with colleagues most days, as keeping in touch makes me feel less isolated – I’m a Zoom and Teams expert now!! I go into work once a week to flush taps, check on equipment and make sure there are no issues with the buildings – it’s strange that a trip into work feels like an outing these days!

One of the main things that is helping me is taking part in regular gym classes via Zoom, doing some exercise gives me a lift, and doing it via Zoom means that I get to see my gym buddies as well. I’m also decorating, cleaning and gardening to stay busy.

NU Women/Wellcome Trust Reimagine Research Culture – Virtual Café

In January 2020 the Wellcome Trust shared the results of their Reimagine Research Culture survey – the largest ever on the experiences of research culture. A series of Town Halls took place across the country to hear directly from the different aspects of the community, but Wellcome were conscious that not every voice could be heard in this way – they developed a Café Culture kit so people could gather in smaller groups to discuss the survey findings, and propose solutions.

NU Women will be running these cafés virtually in order to inform how we can better support members of our community, and contribute to a more creative, inclusive and honest research culture at Newcastle. These are open to the whole NU Women community, regardless of area of work, role or grade – everyone contributes to research culture, everyone’s voice matters, and so everyone is welcome.

We are running two of these initially, at different times and different days to best accommodate people in different situations. We aim to host these in June and September to best capture the changes and challenges we experience as we emerge from COVID19, and the different ways we can be better allies of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Our first Reimagine Research Culture Café will be held on Tuesday 23rd June at 11.00-12.30 via Zoom. Please follow this link to register. There will be a maximum of 20 attendees at this event due to the virtual format – if you are unable to attend the cafe on June 23rd, or the event has reached its capacity, we encourage you to register your interest for future cafes.