Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Successful seminar series co-organised by PhD student Yuhua Wang

A seminar series on post-PhD career development and opportunities outside of academia was successfully held on Wednesday 6th June. This event was co-organised by Yuhua Wang, a PhD student from Information School, and Youcao Ren, a PhD student from the Landscape Department. The PGR Forum of the Faculty of Social Science funded this event. This event has also received generous help and support from iSchool Society and Campus Capital, with Marc Bonne, president of the Society, chairing the seminars and Itzelle Medina Perea helping during the sessions.

Initiated by Yuhua and Youcao from as early as 2017, this event was designed to offer a variety of information on and insights into the job world outside academia, to help PhD students and graduates make more informed career decisions. Opened by Dr Darcey Gillie, an experienced careers adviser from The Researcher Development Team of the University, the event welcomed PhD students from a variety of departments including the Information School, Landscape Department, Management School, and Department of Sociological Studies for intriguing and informative sessions from a good variety of invited speakers, including industry practitioners, start-up founders, careers consultants and professionals from the domains of social enterprise and venture capital.

Dr Alice Mathers is the Head of Research and Explorations from Good Things Foundation, a leading UK digital literacy NGO. As an external member of our School’s Advisory Panel, Alice is committed to helping PhD students make better career choices, especially at the outset. Alice’s presentation, entitled ‘Parks, books and digital: from academia to industry’, shared her journey from the time when she first stumbled into the digital charity with little knowledge about what ‘digital’ implied after her PhD in Landscape Architecture, when she found the beat of research in industry and applied her transferable research skills to the real-life projects, to when she created a research team in the organisation. Now 10+ years into her journey, she has proven the impact of research in industry, and is continually leading the team to evolve and improve. Reflecting on her career, Alice suggested that it is important to keep curiosity and openness; good researchers’ qualities. Her experience gave the audience a living example of the possibility of continuing research in organisations, even if sometimes it is not one’s area of expertise to begin with.

Dr Alice Mathers delivering her session.
Elena Yang Liu, founder and director of Yang for Young, an R&D based company for social issues within health care and disability sectors, shared her experience of career development after obtaining her postgraduate degree. Displaying a sample set of her first product line (Brailler for children with visual impairment) during her presentation, Elena explained why she chose a difficult path of building a business from scratch over accepting a paid job. Being more in control and getting more satisfaction from self-worth realisation, she concluded, were the main driving factors. For any postgraduate students who have sparkling ideas and the potential to make a contribution to the betterment of the society, maybe Elena’s pathway is worth considering.

Elena Yang Liu addressing audience questions during networking lunch
In addition to the above personal journeys, following information sessions answered the questions of ‘H’s and ‘W’s for the audience, including: ‘How did people get where they are (and how do I get there)?’, ‘What qualities, recourses, teams should I gather so that to get there?’, and ‘Where are these resources?’

Stephanie Ward, manager of Vista Mentoring; Darren Chouings, network chair of SSEN (Sheffield Social Enterprise Network) and social enterprise specialist from the USE (University of Sheffield Enterprise); and Anu Adebajo, investment manager from British Business Bank gave very informative sessions. Stephanie introduced how to find a mentor (PhD graduates in industry) to discuss one’s career plans, which is an important feature that is often lacking in traditional careers consultancy. She also amazed the audience by revealing that she is not only in the role of managing such a big platform, but also a PhD student herself, now in her writing-up year.

Darren delivered an interactive session which introduced what a social enterprise is like and how to gain the necessary support to start one of your own. The real-world cases of social enterprise that Darren shared were in very different segments of society and have rather differing rationales behind them. This greatly inspired the audience who were from diverse backgrounds. In contrast to social enterprise, Anu explained what a VC (venture capital) is, how it differentiates itself from other funding sources and how to pitch ideas and get funds from VC investors. In addition, Tom French from Good Things Foundation, and Tristan Westlake from Campus Capital also shared their thoughts with the audience at the networking session that followed the seminars, which has also received very positive feedback from the participants.

Darren Chouings giving a session on social enterprise
As Darcey stated at the opening, these cases and stories from our speakers show that one could do almost anything with a PhD, so have your eyes wide open to the vast job world both inside and outside academia, learn from others’ experience and utilise all the resources that are available to you. Research is everywhere in the continuum of PhD/academia and industry and has many faces - find yours.

Slides from the seminars are available here

Blog written by Yuhua Wang

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

PhD student Shuyang Li wins Student Employee of the Year Award

PhD student Shuyang Li recently won a Student Employee of the Year Award at the University's SEOTY awards 2018.

This is a national award, coordinated by the National Association of Student Employment Services (NASES). The award recognises and promotes students who successfully undertake a part-time job alongside their studies and who make an exceptional contribution to their employing organisation.

Shuyang was nominated by the Student Jobshop, part of the Careers Service, as she worked part time as a student ambassador and recently as a part-time researcher at the Careers Service.

Shuyang Li receiving her award from Wyn Morgan, Vice-President for Education.
"To me, this award means recognition for the work that I have conducted and trust from my employing organisation", says Shuyang. "As an international student, I also feel more confident at the working environment."

Find out more about the awards here.

See the full results listing here.