Matt Lane

Matt has a doctorate in music. Having discovered an interest in training, he is now working as the Postgraduate Transferable Skills Training Officer at the University of Cambridge.

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

"My name's Matt Lane and I'm the Postgraduate Transferable Skills Officer for the University of Cambridge. Basically I help and facilitate PhD students and generally postgraduate researchers with their transferable skills. Er, most obvious example of that is through doing or facilitating training courses for them.

"First of all I have a PhD, so I've been through the process itself, and I'd like to think that the qualification I bring to that is a certain amount of empathy. The other thing as well is that I do have a background and interest in training – during my PhD I was a teaching assistant for a couple of years.

"You basically as a PhD student, particularly in the arts and humanities which was my own background, learn to manage yourself very effectively, you are your boss. What happened halfway through the PhD was I realised that I didn't want to be a researcher as such, but what I was able to do was apply those research skills that I had got and also the trainings that I had been on in networking, for example, and looking at my values, or looking at what I wanted from the job. So the decision really was what, I was able to see what the researcher role was demanding and that didn't appeal to me.

"There were many low points doing the PhD and a friend of mine, a very able historian who did his PhD at Cambridge, said, ‘But surely, Matt – to do a PhD in the arts and humanities is. you know, to live in a state of anxiety.' What I got out of the PhD was the qualification itself, that was probably the first thing I got, but I also learnt a huge amount, not only just about the subject matter, which I found fascinating, but also what I learnt about myself. Just the times and experiences were immense.

"There are several mentors that I've had and again I think it goes back to the point where I've said to people, I want to do what you do. The first one was my university lecturer, at Royal Holloway where I did my undergraduate studies, and also he was my supervisor there as well. And I remember saying to him at the start of my second year of my university, actually I think it took a lot of courage to er, to say that. I felt at the same time just a huge relief of having said it – 'I want to do what you do.' And my second mentor in all of this, probably the person that I hold up, the reason why I'm doing the job that I am now, is a woman called Sara Shinton, and she was the Director of my GRADschool in Barnes in 2004, and I remember her doing an opening plenary discussion and just actually just sort of, not blanking out but not really listening to what she was saying and thinking, I want to do what you do, and that for me was quite an epiphanal moment.

"I am happy that I followed the course that I did, basically because without the PhD I wouldn't be doing the job that I'm in now. I mean one of the things for me is having a credibility with the students of how can you say, you know, this is how you get a PhD when you don't have one yourself.

"The added value for me is that I am a more rounded person as a result of the process. I would like to think at least it's made me a better thinker and it's made me ask a more probing question."