"I did an applied biology degree at Hatfield college, including a year out in industry. In my final year I started to specialise, then I pursued my doctorate and post-doctorate in a pharmacy department. I had always thought that people with doctorates were really special, but it was only really when I did my year out that I started to get to know them as people. One person I met in particular was really inspirational in a good sense, while other people I met weren’t so inspirational and led me to think that if they could do it then I could too!
"My doctorate was in the area of biological pharmacology, specifically drug absorption. The field was cancer therapy, an area in which many existing drugs are peptide based. Following oral consumption, and in the transfer across membranes, many drugs are broken down, becoming inactive. A lot of my work was on how to ensure that medicines remained active in this transfer process, so that patients could take life-saving drugs by mouth rather than by injection. It was while I was doing my postdoctoral study however that I realised I loved the subject and skills I had, but I didn’t love the mechanics and discipline of being a researcher.
"Following my studies, I was offered a job in technical support in the pharmaceutical industry – which I took. I went from technical support to factory management, to big project and change management. After 11 years I then moved to consultancy, working for a company that managed warehousing and transport for other companies, involving the setting up of logistics operations. So I developed a lot of commercial and change experience, and my skill-set and knowledge-base grew so much in this time. There was no science involved during my work there but, because I had been moving from pure science and much more into operations anyway, this wasn’t a problem for me. Skills such as analytical and critical thinking developed during my doctoral study subsequently stood me in very good stead.
"I am now the Chief Operations Officer at Kingswood Plus, a change and performance improvement consultancy. There are three people employed by the company but I have a lot of associate consultants too – not directly employing people enables me to be as flexible as I need to be. I decided to set up on my own for a number of reasons. I realised that I could do a lot of what I was already doing on my own without working for other people, and I also wanted to have choices over who I was working with. I really love the constant new challenges too.
"It has been the hardest thing I have ever done but very rewarding. Managing the finance and sales has been the hardest thing. While I am a good operator (and this is what I sell to other people!), it is the upfront selling of that which is very important, and also the pure administration and finance stuff which you don’t get taught that is the challenge. I would say to others, focus on the skills that your research has given you, and not just the knowledge. There are many parallels between consulting and the process of being a doctoral researcher – despite what people may think!"