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Maria Armaou

Maria Armaou profile image

What degree course did you study and when did you graduate?

PhD, Education (2014).

What is your current role?

Associate Outcomes Researcher (Patient Centred Outcomes), ICON plc.

Tell us about your career story since graduating from Warwick

My career seemed to have followed slightly different trajectories, but it was always centred around research and in the most part it consisted of periods of employment and periods of being between contracts. Over time the former became longer and the latter shorter.

Around the time of my graduation I completed an internship in social media but for a good number of months all my applications were unsuccessful. After a year of unemployment in early 2015 I came across Upwork and for about a year my work involved academic writing, content development for webpages, editing/proofreading and report writing. After a year of bidding and working on projects on Upwork I felt that it was time to seek something with better financial

prospects. That was when I reached out to Unitemps where a recruiter encouraged me to pursue a support role (“database cleanser”) in an NHS R&D department as my CV was highly suitable for that. Two months after completing that short post I secured my first full time fixed term contract as a research assistant in Coventry University (2016-2017) to support a health-related research project (a feasibility study of an RCT of an intervention aimed at improving return to work among cancer survivors).

That was my first fixed-term post during which I feel I learnt a lot about what day-to-day research work looks like, and gained an insight on how my research skills can be applied in an adjacent field and most importantly what kind of skills I need to develop. Moreover, working with an experienced principal investigator further increased my confidence in applying qualitative research methods and publish qualitative research.

I held two more research posts in subsequent years as a qualitative research assistant on qualitative study that run alongside an RCT in Leicester General Hospital (2018-2021), where I also supported numerous activities involving qualitative research, and as postgraduate research assistant in Oxford Brookes University (2021-2022) exploring team experiences of healthcare professionals deployed in rapidly formed Covid teams again primarily supporting qualitative research as well as a systematic review.

During 2017 I embarked on continuing my research training, this time on a part-time basis specifically targeting specific skillset for future career development. Unfortunately, merely being employed in a research post does not mean you can have access to the type of professional development opportunities you need. Depending on one’s finances (and sometimes their employer) it’s an ongoing process that always pays off.

I decided to move on a permanent industry role in ICON (2022) as that specific role fully matches my interests, priorities and ambitions (at this point in my career at least!) and can offer me further opportunities to grow as a professional including working on manuscripts!

How has your time at Warwick helped you during your career?

First of all, my PhD included my first piece of qualitative component of a mixed methods research project. My background is in Psychology but taking the leap at the time to complete PhD in Education (focusing on teachers’ work perceptions!) allowed me to immerse in qualitative research methods among other qualitative researchers and within a research environment where qualitative research methods were the norm in their own right. In subsequent successful job interviews I was given the opportunity to discuss what I did during my PhD.

Secondly, the warwickgrad log-in details allow access to a significant number of journals and I have frequently used those log-in details in my career.

Looking back, I consider the sessions that were organised to support PhD students irrespective of their specific subject to have been the most influential for me. All types of support beyond my department and even being part of societies all played a role to gain access to information about networks, websites and strategies in managing my career. For example, during my time at Warwick I learnt about an internship, while applying for other internships through Warwick Careers’ webpages. During that time, I also joined Unitemps and although at the time I did not secure a job, it was extremely useful a couple of years later and twice I searched and got a job through Unitemps to boost my CV and cover employment gaps!

What ambitions do you have for the future?

To get involved and lead ambitious projects and continue my publications record. I know that my strengths lay in qualitative research and digital health is a broad area that interests me the most. About 4 months ago I landed my first full time permanent research post in the industry focusing patient-reported outcomes, so I fully expect and welcome further twists and turns in my career in the future!

What advice do you have for Warwick graduates who would like to work in your sector?

The single most important thing would be to harness your research skills and your confidence to apply them. Joining an organisation that for example, consults drug companies on patient and clinician- reported outcomes, means you will benefit both from research experience within academia and experience in project work in the private sector and you will also be in a position to judge whether such a company is a suitable employer for you, and how to showcase your skills in your CV to target them. As your experience grows and priorities change don’t hesitate to apply again to employers that you may have been unsuccessful earlier on.

Gain experience and knowledge in aspects of clinical trials and if you have a psychology/sociology background seek opportunities to get involved in any type of project work. That may involve evaluation research within public health, questionnaire development and validation, qualitative/quantitative/mixed methods research, in health and many others as those skills are highly transferable and valuable. It is quite common for people to have a relevant MSc degree and also having experience in “writing for publication” that can also strengthen your candidacy.

What 3 top tips would you give to students looking to find a graduate role in the UK or elsewhere in the world?

  1. Be open to learn about/consider roles that you may have not heard of before
  2. Screen job descriptions and seek relevant professional development/training opportunities
  3. Take a deep breath and try to see your CV through the eyes of a recruiter!