As big data, high performance computing and cognitive technologies start to appear in more newspaper articles, TV shows and pop up on social media hashtags, it seems to me to be more important than ever to start talking about our science and technology and the impact it makes on society.
Before I start to write the main content of this blog post, I should confess that although my background is in biomedical science, I prefer talking about science rather than actually doing it. So much so that I decided to study towards an MSc in Science Communication. This means that I spend a lot of time thinking about science and its relationship with society by reading about insights from history and the media as well as about innovation and policy research. At the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), I really enjoy working closely with those at the forefront of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), facilitating relationships between academia, industry and publics by highlighting how our work impacts businesses and the UK economy. Essentially, I enjoy answering the “So what?!” question about research.
Having worked in public engagement over the last 5 years, I am going to address some of the common misconceptions I’ve heard along the way.
Continue reading “Who are the public, what counts as engagement and why should we care?”
“Life is like a large pond, you are surrounded by lilypads and depending on your capabilities and circumstances you have to pick the next one to step onto.”
When I was younger, growing up in Wigan I was mainly interested in three things: football, computers and radio control cars. At school, I decided to study A Levels in maths, physics and chemistry and then went off to study chemistry at the University of Leeds with no fixed idea of what I wanted to do or where I was going afterwards.
After a period of unemployment, I was lucky enough to get a job as a Research Chemist with Crosfield, a Unilever company at the time. This involved working with Crosfield silica to remove protein from beer, essentially increasing the shelf-life of the product. To me, this was great, I was a beer scientist at the age of 21! I enjoyed the challenge of working on new formulations and eventually discovered a way of improving the shelf-life of beer using 50-70% less material than previous methods. At first, the brewers we worked with did not seem to buy in to the idea so the sales staff invited me out with them to explain the process to our customers. That was my first taste of sales and I really enjoyed it so I started to try to go out with the sales team as much as I could.
My next ‘career leap’ was in to telesales and this turned out to be a terrible idea as it really did not suit the way I liked to work and how I liked to develop customer relationships and insight. From there, I went to work for Dionex in a regional sales role with a remit for selling chromatography columns that separate chemical components. It was this position that helped me to recognise that I was actually quite good at sales and learned an important point:
“people do not just buy kit, they buy answers to the problems they want to solve.”
This led me back to my interest in computing where I taught myself how to use a macro-based scripting process that increased the efficiency of the sales process, helping me to match solutions to customer problems.
Continue reading “From a Computing GCSE to being Deputy Director”