J: Can you tell me about what your job entails
M: There are two main aspects to my work. Obviously there is teaching, because I am a course director for a postgraduate course and I do undergraduate teaching. Then also I have some research roles that I’m developing. 18 months ago I completed my PH, so I’m keen to develop my own research nationally and internationally. I’m currently leading onto two big bids with a team of researchers here in faculty. One is around clinical science masters, so it would be good for Coventry if we secure it. The other ones my own research around mental health and well being for people with learning disabilities. That keeps me busy for work in a day-to-day job.
J: What was the process like getting to where you are now? Do you have any experiences in the field that you work in?
M: I worked in the NHS for 15 years, I’ve worked with people with learning difficulties in various roles. I started as a nurse after training in the 80’s and that lead on to different positions specialising as a practitioner. Normally with Nursing you can progress into management, research or you can diversify to find something else. I was lucky enough to get sponsored to do a degree full-time and that really launched my academic interest. It lead to me conducting my own research as a practitioner which in tern lead to me getting a series of awards. That then showed me the potential; if as a nurse, you undertake applied research that related to your population group it can make a difference to their lives, and that’s quite rewarding. You move away from being a nurse that delivers hands on care and makes a difference in that way, in comparison to making a difference with research.
Although I’ve had a lot of experience, the PH gives me some sort of kudos in university settings. Obviously from that I’ve built up an expansive network throughout my career which goes right across health and social care to local advocacy institutions. Being involved at a local level keeps me close with people who have learning difficulties and the management come help teach which is nice.
The job itself is nice, as long as you keep focused with what you are doing and applying your research to then it improves and transfers knowledge to people who are more aware of difficulties that people with learning disabilities have. It is easy to loose sight of what you’re doing in an academic institution, you have to keep yourself grounded as a professional, that’s really important.
J: You’ve mentioned three different areas there that help you progress your job, your experience, studying and the contacts you pick up. Would you say that all three are pivotal in getting where you are today or would you say there is a specific one that student need to think about more?
M: You have to stay motivated, you have to network widely and that’s on an individual and a professional level, because you can be very isolated. The group we are dealing with are a discrete, misunderstood group so you have to empower yourself to make sure that your network is wide so you can help the group of people you are working with.
J: Could you give any specific advice to a student who wants to get where you are?
M: When you are in the NHS its very easy to follow a linear career progression, which is like a rat race. If you look at career development, that’s not always the best way to get where you want to be. Spiralling is better, you could take side-way steps as long as you feel that you are moving forward and learning a new skill set. If you are motivated at what you do, you will inevitably progress.
J: Do you think there is something about Coventry University facilitating students with work placements that makes it special and more equipped to students needs in getting jobs?
M: The course is 50% academic and 50% practise, that’s embedded within the curriculum. The University aspirations are global and modern, the benefits of that are passed on to the students so that they can ride with that ambition of being a modern university. You will get those opportunities elsewhere, but our students are living and breathing the Coventry experience. Us as lecturers are in a fortunate position because we know what else is out there with our networks. There are undoubtedly strengths that Coventry have and that’s what students benefit from
J: Do you feel that students being on the course with a structured curriculum won’t get the extra mile?
M: As it is a structured curriculum, it is laid out for three years, then naturally there is a built in support system to that, but it depends on the student whether they go the extra mile or not.
J: Some people do drop out of university after the first year, so I want my project to be for students to see externally to motivate them
M: The tutorial support that you may get from lecturers might be better than other departments and there is an expectation that we will give that. I believe that in other departments in other campuses there isn’t that support or that sense of nurturing. I know with other universities that the staff won’t do the hours.
J: I get a lot of support from my lecturers and from talking to others on the campus, they have the same. I get a sense its something to do with the culture of Coventry University; they offer a lot of support to help the students individually.
M: I think that’s one of the reasons why Coventry’s metrics get such high student satisfaction. There is an embedded culture here, which is positive, very positive. It has loads of benefits in terms of the league tables. That culture would be controversial if you went to a rustle group university, you wouldn’t get the student contact time. I’ve got a mate working at Warwick University would prides himself on giving that student aid, but he stands alone and he is seen as different. The university is measured by other outcomes, but he thinks differently. There teaching is very traditional but he is more entrepreneurial.
J: If you could name 5 things that would help someone get your job what would they be?
M: Clearly confidence is important in whatever you to. Communication is massive on a personal level, how you communicate to others is really important. Organisation is important; it’s the key to success. Enjoyment and fun and the ability to motivate yourself and others.