Robin Henderson

Having previously worked in academia, Robin now works full time as a consultant, delivering a range of projects where he enjoys the freedom of managing himself.

"My undergraduate degree was in materials engineering at Newcastle University. Towards the end of my undergraduate degree I was offered a job with the research arm of the company, who sponsored my undergraduate studies. However, when I visited the organisation I noted that having a doctorate was almost a prerequisite for progressing into a managerial role. I therefore decided to stay at Newcastle University and started a PhD exploring the behaviour of ceramics composites when they are heated rapidly.

"As a result of my PhD supervisor getting a professorship, I moved to Aberdeen University at the end of the first year of my PhD. Overall the move was positive, as it helped me focus much more on my PhD – which had not got the attention it deserved when I was in Newcastle. During the last year of my doctorate, I got involved in writing a number of funding applications with my PhD supervisor, and I spent two years working as a postdoc on one of the projects which got funded. This period was very productive, and I published some high quality papers as well as developing software which is still utilised by the company which part funded my postdoctoral research.

"Wanting to progress my career, I applied for some lectureships away from Aberdeen – which encouraged the University of Aberdeen to look at how they could retain me. A lectureship was advertised by the department, which I was then appointed to. Whilst a lecturer I continued my research, and also managed a centre providing materials engineering consultancy to the oil industry – as well as teaching, which I really enjoyed. Quite early into my time as a lecturer, I realised that this was not a long-term career for me – so I started exploring career options. To give me some flexibility, I undertook a part-time MBA, as my interests started to move more along the lines of management, teaching and training.

"After four years as a lecturer, I made a decision to leave and resigned without a job to go to. My first thought was to get a full-time job as an engineer but, by chance, the university was looking for a staff developer to work on enhancing teaching quality. I took on this role on a part-time basis. At the same time I set up my own facilitation and training consultancy. After one year I left the university and focused full-time on my business. My work now is very varied, and includes project management training and a lot of work with universities and academics. Over the past few years my business has grown, and I now use associates to deliver some contracts – so I see myself as running a business rather than as a freelancer. The main things I’ve found challenging have been finding the confidence to believe you can do things, and finding creative ways to deliver things... to make the business seem larger than it is! I enjoy the freedom and challenge of running my own business, with the option to work in a way which works for me."