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Case studies


Case study one: Professor Felicity Boardman


Like many early career researchers, I had always aspired to progress as far as I could in my academic career, with a view to one day reaching the rank of professor. However, I was also acutely aware that the path from early career researcher to professor can be challenging, and inevitably impacted by the seemingly unpredictable nature of research funding decisions.

Despite the high levels of uncertainty, I was nevertheless motivated to keep pursuing my research interests. Keeping a focus on my passion for my research area was key to coping with some of early instability of my employment. On top of this, having a line manager who prioritised my career progression and directed me to pursue activities that would strengthen my CV, was also pivotal. Having a more senior academic look at your CV in detail, and provide input on which pieces of work to say yes to, and actively pursue, and which to decline, was really important in terms of ensuring I was meeting the requirements for promotion. Having always struggled with saying no to work opportunities, I greatly benefitted from having a line manager who understood this about me, and was able to provide guidance on how I could most effectively develop skills in areas I most needed them, whilst letting go of opportunities that would not maximise my chances of career progression. I was also fortunate in WMS to be surrounded by many successful women who had progressed through to the rank of professor and whose careers I admired. Exploring their unique pathways through promotions underscored my belief there is no set ‘template’ for career progression: it looks different for each person. Whilst there are set promotion criteria against which our careers are measured, every person’s trajectory is unique to them. Learning not to compare my journey to that others (which often led to me erroneously assuming that I was lacking skills or experience), but instead viewing the careers of others as a source of inspiration given their diversity, spurred me on to apply for promotion at the earliest opportunity I could.

Hearing that my promotion was successful felt like a defining moment in my career. Within academia, promotion to professor is often regarded as somewhat of a rite of passage, a shift in identity and title that brings with it a sense of legitimacy and authority- a sense of having ‘made it’. For me, it felt politically important. As a female with a disability, I have long been aware that others with my characteristics are under-represented within the ranks of professors. Being both physically and virtually visible in this role, and supporting others to reach their goals of promotion (particularly those who face additional barriers), is now highly important to me, as it was having that support provided to me that enabled me to flourish.

Case study two: Professor Sian Taylor-Phillips


I was recently promoted to Professor of Population Health at Warwick Medical School. It felt great to be promoted, because I felt the University demonstrated that they value my work, and recognise that I’m working at that level. Two things really helped me along the way, having a wonderfully supportive line manager, and the clarity of the University promotion criteria, so I knew what I was aiming for. I had applied for an advertised job at Professorial level within the University, and was told that whilst I had interviewed very well and my career trajectory was steep, it was only two years since my promotion to Associate Professor so it was too soon. In post-interview feedback I was advised to wait another two years before applying in the internal promotions process, because I needed to prove that I could sustain achievement at that level. I read the criteria for promotion, and disagreed with their assessment. I systematically went through the criteria estimating my scores in the four areas, and asked my line manager to check my scores. She backed me all the way and said I was ready and so I put in the application and the central committee promoted me to Professor. I have learned about inherent biases through a series of meetings of the Women’s academic network, and that empowered me to just go for promotion, rather than wait until I was sure they would say yes or until I had everyone’s approval. I would encourage anyone considering applying for promotion at Warwick to look at those criteria, and remember they are examples of how to demonstrate your work at that level, and not all of them will be applicable to every person.

Case study three: Flexible, family-friendly working for an early career researcher (female)

I am an early career post-doctoral researcher, a physiotherapist and a mum. I started in my new role as clinical lecturer while I was pregnant and I was fully supported by my department in planning my maternity leave, which was due to commence after only five months in post. My immediate line manager was expecting her third baby at the same time as me and there had been lots of celebrations of recent new arrivals amongst staff. I felt relieved to be employed by an organisation that values qualities such as being driven to produce outstanding academic achievement while also nurturing a family friendly working environment.

Many elements of my working life are ‘family friendly.’ I work part time (29.2 hours per week). The process of obtaining approvals to reduce from full time to 80%FTE on my return from maternity leave was very smooth and easy to navigate. I have been impacted by many Athena activities across WMS. These activities have included simple things to make my own working life easier, such as providing a fridge for baby milk so that new mums can continue breast feeding their baby on their return to work; and encouraging line managers to support flexible working which allows me to collect my baby from nursery when she is sick and make up the hours at other times.

My working life has also been enhanced by Athena activities, which have been implemented at a wider level in WMS. For example, in 2018 I attended a health and wellbeing event and since then initiatives such as yoga in the work place and lunchtime walking groups have continued. I can see that embedding strong health and wellbeing beliefs and values within the workplace can reduce practices that may otherwise feel ‘expected’ such as regularly working late and scheduling evening meetings. Such practices can otherwise become engrained so it is wonderful to see the impact Athena has had not just on making changes that are easy to see, such as providing a fridge, but also on organisational culture, which is harder to measure.

I am now expecting a second child and I am due to go on maternity again in March 2019, returning in March 2020. The opportunities for professional development and career progression that have been afforded to me have remained wholly positive throughout my second pregnancy. My line manager is supportive of my role as an Athena SAT member and I have contributed extensively to the silver application. I am completing a teaching course (fellowship of the academy of higher education) and the interruption of maternity leave is being accommodated by an extension to allow me to finish on my return to work. The mentorship scheme has given me valuable support outside of my immediate line management. My mentor is a senior female academic, who also has young children, and it has been inspirational for me to see what it could be possible for me, and others in a similar situation, can achieve.

Case study four: Career progression for an Associate Professor (female)

Since joining WMS, I have worked with many teams across different departments and have, at all times, been fully supported in my pursuit of a fulfilling and worthwhile career. In my early years, WMS training supported my progress on various projects, leading to enjoyable international collaborations; and subsequently my Doctorate. At a pivotal time in my career, the support from WMS enabled me to develop as an independent researcher and Health Psychologist. Throughout my journey, my enjoyment of health science research has continued to grow, with WMS encouraging and funding participation and engagement with numerous (internal and external) training opportunities – e.g. grant writing, leadership training and most recently a visit to the Houses of Parliament to learn more about implementing research into policy.

My biggest achievement to date has been leading a large multi-centre trial; undoubtedly facilitated by the years of excellent support, nurturing and guidance received from my many WMS colleagues. Such a significant and ‘newsworthy’ trial has brought with it many new challenges, and once again the support from WMS has been outstanding: from chief- investigator training to UoW media training skills (put to good use during interviews with local and national networks). Support and guidance from my line manager and mentor – both of whom had personal experience of media engagement – has been crucial.

WMS provides many excellent networking opportunities - facilitated by, for example, school wide seminars and interest groups. Such connectivity has allowed me to be creative in my thinking and research, and to develop a new research stream (e.g. de-prescribing of medication).

My current role is split between academic and clinical work; WMS supports a flexible working pattern, which allows me to achieve a successful balance between these roles, and to enjoy a fulfilling work-life balance too.

There have been challenges along the way, but the many support systems within WMS have enabled me to both overcome and to develop further through reflection and learning. I am proud of my achievements and know that WMS values and celebrates the accomplishments of all staff. I am looking forward to the next stage of my career, confident in the knowledge that WMS will continue to provide great help and support on my journey.

Case study five: Anish Patel, Trial Co-ordinator

I started end of May 21, and joined as a trial coordinator for the ARTISAN study. I applied to Warwick as I was looking for a role where I was more involved in the hands on of clinical trials and the trial coordinator role being advertised was exactly what I was looking for. This is in addition to Warwick having a great reputation and from also knowing current staff members who had highly recommended to work here. Since I have started working here, I have had no regrets, the training has been great, staff have been friendly and there is a clear career pathway. I plan on staying at Warwick for a long time and highly recommend others who want a career in clinical trials to apply.

Case study six: Jeremy Rodrigues, Associate Professor

Previously, I held an honorary position at Warwick Evidence for three years alongside a NICE Fellowship, so I had some experience of Warwick before I moved here. I had been impressed by the contemporary and progressive culture and organised systems in place. When an opportunity to move came about, Warwick was a natural choice for me.

I was attracted by the transparency and the inclusive and flat leadership here. I've been really well supported in integrating into the team already, and my contributions welcomed.