Fiona Denney

Fiona completed her doctorate in marketing, and is now Head of Graduate Development, Kings College London.

The following text is a transcription of a career story collected by interview.

"My name is Fiona Denney. I am the Head of Graduate Development at Kings College, London. So my PhD is actually in Marketing. Basically I am in charge of training and development for research staff and research students at Kings. Which involves putting together and providing a central programme of training and development opportunities for researchers and working within the organisation to support erm, anything, any activities that might support their training and development. I'd done a similar job at Queen Mary University of London, and at Queen Mary I'd worked as a development advisor for research staff, and that just grew, and my workload grew enormously, and the job at Kings was really a natural progression from the job at Queen Mary.

"My career path was, was a little unusual, in that I did a BA in American studies at the University of Nottingham. I left the University of Nottingham in 1994, which was around the time of the last recession, which was not a great time to be leaving university with a degree in American studies. So I then went and did a conversion Masters degree in management studies and picked up the marketing aspect of that. Following that, I went and worked in marketing and fundraising for a charity, and then took the position of a teaching assistant in marketing at what was then the University of Luton – which is now the University of Bedfordshire.

"And I was offered the opportunity to do a PhD in marketing at the same time as doing a fair amount of teaching, and also in-company training as well in the marketing area. It was something that I'd always assumed at some point I would do, because I grew up in a household where my father had a PhD and that was quite sort of a motivating factor for me. The subject itself is less important now than the actual process of doing the PhD. So the area that I'm working in is the development of researchers, and in order to develop researchers I think that you have to understand the research process. The opportunities for people with a PhD in academia are many fewer than they expect. They have to recognise that a career in academia is not guaranteed just because they have a PhD. And the kinds of people that we see at Kings, because it's a world class research led institution, the people tend to come to do their PhD at Kings because they are assuming that they are going to go into a research career in academia, that's really what they are aiming for. So it's an uphill struggle to get them to consider other, other avenues.

"I think they have tremendous potential to pursue careers in almost any walk of life that they choose.

"But the most important thing that they need to recognise is that they are developing a wide set of skills at a more advanced level than perhaps they would do at an undergraduate degree. What we really need to do, is actually to improve the dialogue between employers and PhD students and people supporting research, researchers in academia.

"I had the opportunity when I went to Kings to start up the research, what's now called the Research and Development Unit, and the Research and Development programme of training and development opportunities. I am somebody that is very motivated by challenge and so I was very motivated to start something new. There were lots of things that we had to overcome within the institution. I am very focused on getting the unit up and running and, really trying to change the culture within Kings a little bit more, so that it's a little bit more focused on the development of researchers instead of them just being there to do the science or to do their research project.

"I feel very positive about my future, I'm very excited and enthusiastic about the things I am doing at the moment and where that might lead."