Being at York provided a really solid grounding for my future work in research

About me

Kevin H.
Biology
Biochemistry
BSc
Langwith
2000
United Kingdom

About this profile

Research Manager in Digestive Health
Mars
United Kingdom
Science and research
Large business (250+ employees)
2015
£50k

About the job

What I do

I am employed as a Research Manager in Digestive Health at the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition. My work involves line managing a team of senior scientists working in the field of companion animal digestive health, delivering studies for our key business stakeholders

Skills I use and how I developed them

Managing and engaging my team. Some of these skills were developed in previous posts. My employer also supports continued on the job training to help improve these skills.
Scientific expertise in my area of research. My expertise has developed over a number of years in a variety of roles related to understanding intestinal health and physiology

What I like most

Working at the cutting edge of research and being the first to understand something new about the biological world.

What I like least

Dealing with ambiguity and unknowns is always a challenge and that can be frustrating at times, but that is what drives me forward to understand those!

What surprised me most

The size of the organisation and the number of products.

Finding and applying for the job

How I looked for work

All the usual websites: jobs.ac.uk for academic posts, new scientist jobs, nature jobs. My current post was advertised through a recruiting agency, but these days it is quite easy to find the jobs by searching through Google, so long as your search terms are chosen carefully.

How I found out about the job

Recruitment agency

The recruitment process

The recruitment process was split into 4 phases
Phase I: The agency shared my CV with the employer
Phase II: I completed numerical and verbal reasoning tests on-line
Phase III: I had a telephone interview
Phase IV: I attended for face to face interview

The face to face interview included a number of assessments throughout the day to ascertain my aptitude and suitability for the role.

My career

My career goals when I graduated

To be honest, I wasn't sure. It's quite difficult to envisage one's career straight out of university, though I know some of my peers had it all mapped out.

My career history

I started life working as a research technician and completed a part-time Ph.D. I then worked in post-doctoral and senior post-doctoral roles prior to taking up my current post.

What has helped my career to progress

Being motivated and not giving up.
Hard work and determination.
Being open to change and embracing it.
Not being afraid to take on responsibility.
A bit of luck along the way, specifically around the right jobs coming up at the right time (everyone needs a bit of luck).

Courses taken since graduation

Various home office licensing courses.
Radiation protection supervisor training.
Line manager development courses.

How my studies have helped my career

Being at York provided a really solid grounding for my future work in research and the 3rd year research project (also working in aspects of intestinal health) was the perfect start for my working career and equipped with the right experience and a home office qualification to help me get my first job as a research technician. So even at that early stage, choosing the right project can really help you get your foot on the ladder.

What surprised me about my career so far

It's always a challenge working in research. With the best will in the world and with all the right planning, you still can't rely on experiments to work. Some projects, through no fault of your own, simply don't work or don't produce interesting results. You have to learn to live with that. However the success of those experiments are ultimately how the success of your career is measured, not necessarily how much work you put in for all those failed experiments. That can be frustrating! I learnt that early on, even when I was at York, but it's fair to say, the successes do have a significant bearing on how your career pans out and how quickly you can move up the career ladder. Nevertheless, it's not the only measure and in my current role, some of the soft skills have become much more important and those are not governed by research outcomes!

I would encourage anyone to pursue a career in research, but you have to be ready for the ups and downs and be prepared to go the extra mile to succeed. But probably that can be said of a lot of careers, so it is not unique to science.

Where I hope to be in 5 years

Over the next few years, I want to focus on delivering success in my current role. That more than anything will determine my ability to move further up the career ladder. I think life has taught me that it's best to embrace opportunities as they come up, so I don't like to be too prescriptive about where next steps might take me.

My advice to students

My advice to students considering work

It's not easy, but do spend some time thinking about what will happen when you leave at the end of the academic year. I applied for one job in my final year, which I did not get. I found work quite quickly (a few months) after having left University, but for me, those few months were a stressful period when I felt I had got my education, but did not have a graduate job like some of my friends. If I had been more career focussed during that last year, I am sure I could have spent more time looking for work.

My advice about working in my industry

Same as above really, be determined, work hard and embrace change and opportunity. Expect to fail sometimes and pick yourself up quickly.

Other advice

Enjoy yourself, University isn't all about work. I made sure that succeeding in my degree was my number one priority, but socialising, meeting new people and having a good time were a close second. I have many friends from York who I am still in contact with 17 years later and I consider them to be my closest friends. It's important to set yourself up well for your future career, but you can never get that time back again and I will always reflect fondly on my time in York, both in the classroom and labs and at pubs / bars!

Contacting me

I'd be happy to field any questions on careers in research


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