Going back to University – a Professional Doctorate

Once I had decided that I wanted to pursue a professional doctorate, I admit to taking the easy option in assessing the ‘how’.

In 2008 (pre-pregnancy) I had begun talking to Salford Uni about doing a doctorate at Salford Uni once I’d completed my MBA. It was an easy option: I lived locally, and had been working closely with them on a couple of work-based projects, it was easy to make enquiries. Professional DoctorateIn 2015 my first option was to approach my nearest university- Cardiff. I had approached them last July, before all the redundancy stuff became real, thinking the time would soon be right with the boys starting school in September. The university was really responsive in what was possible. And it was positive. This university offer four options in the school of social sciences, two of which offered possibilities for me. But life got in the way, I started a new role at the end of August and found my substantive role was to be made redundant in October.

In February of this year I started exploring with my organisation the possibility of applying to stay. This included what was important to them and what was important to me.

Fortunately they agreed that my desire to undertake a research project was beneficial to both the organisation and me. And alongside my application for a job I also started building my thought process around a research project at Cardiff, and undertaking a doctorate.

Once again, the university was quick to support me. Helping me understand the commitment expected, the work that had to be undertaken to be accepted onto the programme, and my options now and moving forward. The school also worked with me to understand what I wanted to achieve within my research proposal. I was surprised by the work I needed to undertake for my application, especially being outside of academia with limited access to journals and papers. But I needed to demonstrate why my research proposal would add value, and also allow the university to assess whether they were best placed to support me. Fortunately a supervisor came forward and it looks like my research is really possible.

Being successful in my application to stay at work happened quickly, the process of gaining relevant permissions to undertake study not so much. 

Again, the university was understanding. Typically I worked literally to the deadline to submit my application on July 15th.

Which meant – fortunately- there wasn’t so much of a wait to find out if my application had been successful.

On August 4th an email popped into my inbox- an unconditional offer to undertake a Professional Doctorate in Social and Public Policy at Cardiff University.

I may have celebrated with a bottle of Prosecco.

I realise now that unconditional is logical, I’m not undertaking any current study to make it conditional. But wow, do I remember how envious I was who anyone who received an unconditional offer back in the day.

Then the hangover and reality dawned.

Five years of reality.

Going back to University – again

University is one of those really odd prospects.

When I was younger, I think it was just a given that I would study for a degree.

I don’t think it was as much a given for my older brother but he did, he took the decision to study in England. Now, too many years on, he has built a successful career on the back of his degree, and since he graduated has probably only spent a handful of years living in the UK.
My younger brother didn’t go to uni, and I believe his success outranks mine and that of my older brother. My little brother is a creative, an innovator, and appears to have work life balance completely in control.

I think about my children, and whilst currently there are no university fees in Wales, I can’t help but think this won’t be the case long-term. I consider now that going to university has to completely align to an aspiration of going into a profession, given the debts it is likely attendance will stack up. Compared to a degree-level apprenticeship, where in the right occupation you will earn more and be more credible by gaining employment whilst you earn rather than going to university.

That said, like any amazing parent I don’t practice what I preach.Back to universityI think I was in one of the final years in the UK where a non-profession based degree had currency in employment. In more recent years I have found myself recruiting people with higher academic qualifications to do lower level jobs. There seemed to be a time where academia became overrated.

It would seem for being born at the right time (even as an August baby!) I am grateful.

I graduated from Cardiff University in 1999, in the same year I also graduated from Glamorgan University. The former with a BA (Hons) the latter with a HNC.

In 2001 I started working for the organisation which still employs me- despite everything. My degree was not relevant to my role, but the commitment to achieve it obviously had currency.

And fortunately the organisation invest in its people. In the time I’ve been employed I have added a string of qualifications to my bow which have stood me in good stead.

The one of which I am most proud is my MBA. I am not really sure what inspired me to commit to it, but I gained so much through the achievement.

It saw me through some of my toughest times personally and professionally. It saw me gain a promotion. It allowed me to understand fully the camaraderie of classmates. All of us in jobs trying to get a work-study balance. Many with families, many gaining partners, and families. It also enabled a once-in-a-lifetime study trip (ahem) to Beijing, where I think I spent the first days in complete disbelief of where life had taken me. MBA university students in BeijingIt saw me become pregnant, and trying to balance work and a dissertation with my impending due date. Fortunately CM went overdue which meant I managed to graduate, and graduate with my 4 month old daughter. MBA university graduation with 4mth babyAnd that was it.
My life became absorbed with family.

And whilst I have done a few courses since- and loved them, I have tried to sign up to longer term qualifications and  known at induction that I was not committed to them- you have to want to study, there will be compromises. And up until now I haven’t been able to make them, I haven’t wanted.

But with impending redundancy came reflection.
I remembered that before the dream of a family was the aspiration of a doctorate.
Thoughts cemented around a research area.
With compressed hours, living back in South Wales, and the children now immersed in education. 
Well, it seems the timing is right.

Life Lately #6

It was as if I’d been waiting for a perfect time. There wasn’t going to be another Life Lately update until a few things had happened, the planets had aligned.

It’s been taking more than a while for the planets to align. It still hasn’t happened.

And so many times I have wanted to write stuff, but have been put off, “you could, but wait for that one more thing first.” – until you just have to stop.

Because in the last month things are back on course.

The last few weeks I have hated my job with a passion. 

And oddly, I have come to appreciate that this in itself is good.Life LatelyEarlier this year I made a list. I made a list of everything I wanted in a job, realistically. And it turned out the job most closely aligned to it was the one I was doing.

What a wally.

After telling everyone I was taking redundancy, after more than three months of conviction that I was leaving, I had to admit to my boss that actually, if it’s ok really, I’d like to apply for my job.

And it was odd, because the job I then had to apply for was the job I had spent the last six months doing, but not the job from which I was being made redundant.

I placated myself that no-one had got the job in the first round of interviews, no-one who wanted it had been offered it, so I wasn’t taking it from anyone. But how odd would it be that after six months of doing a job that it would come to be that I wasn’t considered able to do the role permanently. Thankfully it turned out ok.

And I truly don’t regret staying.

My job offers so much: personally, professionally, financially.

It offers a work-life balance, and allows one of us to be a stay-at-home parent.

It allows me to be the person I want to be, to not compromise on ethics and values.

But I’ve spent so long hoping that I wouldn’t come to regret my decision, not wanting to admit I had made it,

That I was completely floored a fortnight ago when I became despondent about my job.

I can cope with resistance and negativity, within the organisation or outside the organisation. In fact, I sort of thrive on it, for the best conversations about why and how what we do will make a difference.

It turns out I can only handle one at a time.

And so when faced with both I hibernated.

I began to question things, including my decision.

Opening my daily ‘Guardian Jobs’ emails again.

And then it occurred to me.

I love my job.

But really?

What kind of job exists that you didn’t hate it every now and again?

What kind of perfect was I building myself up to?

How do you build up resistance if your job doesn’t challenge you?

And the truth of it is, in the face of challenge,

My work-life balance has been restored.

We’ve managed to get back to Church.

I look at my lounge and love it again, for it is tidy.

I’ve finally managed to box up all the baby clothes to go up to the attic.

And I’ve spent time with my children.

Life is as is, and we’re living it, with little steps, that sometimes, every now and again, has rhythm.