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Paramedic
What do you do for a living?
Paramedic. I currently work within the education and training deaprtment.

How did you get interested in what you do?
I completed my degree and wanted to go into healthcare, the ambulance service were advertising so i decided to apply and was lucky enough to be accepted.

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today?
I completed a BA (hons) applied social science before joining the ambulance service. I then completed an IHCD technician and paramedic course – these are both courses run internally by ambulance services. I then continued to complete a community practitioner course with the university of derby. Since moving into education i have completed a Post Graduate certficate in professional and higher education with the Queen Margaret University. I am due to start an MSc in September. I have completed many CPD type courses, ALS, PHPLS, PHECC, ITLS (instructor), PHTLS,SMHFA (instructor), dementia champion, silver commander.

Talk us through a day in your life
As a Paramedic, you resond to calls as dispatched by ambulance control, these can range from emergency, urgent or transfers. My current role within education i manage a team of practice placement educators and we look after all the students within scotland, arranging all their placements, visiting them on a regular basis, and supporting them until they achieve the required standard to qualify in their job role.

Was this your planned career when you were 18?
I wanted to be a vet when i was at school but wasn’t clever enough! Police force was my second career choice.

What did your parents want you to do?
My parents weren’t keen on me joining the police, however they didn’t have any other career advice.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?
It’s not like casualty or any other TV show around the ambulance service! It can be very demanding both physically and mentally but also very rewarding.

What other career directions could you go in?
Managerial roles, special ops. response team, clinical advisers, critical care (helimed), education,

Pharmaceutical director
“The most exciting phrase to hear in Science, the one that heralds new discoveries , is not “ Eureka ” but , “that’s funny?”
(Scientists at GSK discover the on/off switch of genes affecting Heart Disease while looking for something completely different!) Picture of DNA Helix.

What do you do for a living?
My last job was Regional Director for an International Pharmaceutical ( Medicine) Company.

How did you get interested in what you do? What advice was available to you when you chose this career direction?
Interestingly it was via my University Careers department. I graduated in life sciences and had a post graduate teaching qualification too. They told me about this whacky thing I actually couldn’t pronounce properly or had ever heard of! Both I and a friend decided to give it a go!

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today?
Medicine companies usually look for a Science degree or medical, pharmacy background but not always. There are lots of different roles in the industry e.g. Finance, Engineering, HR, IT, Secretarial too and everyone gets great terms whatever your job. However. For my particular role Science is important and luckily that is what I studied.

My post graduate teaching course was a big help as it gave me confidence in communication and taught me skills in education which were a big help later on when managing people. Although I did my teaching practice I didn’t teach full time but I am so glad to this day I did it. (I also earned some dosh tutoring in holidays when I was broke!)

Find a company that is very interested in training and developing people, I was lucky both Beecham (now merged with Glaxo) and GlaxoSmithKline had very high expectations. Don’t be afraid of that -you will stretch along with it if you try your best.

There was lots of medical training, later lots of training in Management ( e.g. we did external courses at Cranfield University) working with external consultancies in “change management” ( e.g. when we merged or acquired a new company and we had to redesign the business) Examples might be Boston Consultancy Group ( for you business studies folks – the famous Boston grid guys!) or McKinsey – they really challenged me to rethink how I worked and I used to genuinely hope if I stood close to these clever people some of their brains would jump into my head!

I also studied for a post graduate diploma in Marketing at Uni the year before I got the Directors job as I had never worked in a pure marketing role and my career progression relied on me knowing marketing science. This course also teaches you about International Business which ended up being handy too as we increasingly worked closely with our European colleagues. I did this course in the evenings.

How the job progressed-first of all I entered in the sales organisation and during that time I was trained over a few months in classroom environment on a residential course. Once out calling on customers which I did for 18 months (Hospitals, GPs and pharmacists) you then need to study in your own free time for the professional standards exam. (ABPI)- done within 2 years of coming into the industry. It wasn’t hard to pass as you know it already from your company training but it was hard to get a “distinction” which is was what a good company asks for and tough as you are working during the day.

Career progressed from Medical Sales (18 months) to working with only Teaching Hospitals (about 2 years) and then I was able to become a Manager in charge of 8 staff in Nottingham. After that I moved company and became a Business Manager (in charge of 30 people) and the whole of Scotland. Lastly I became Regional Business Director with about 195 staff responsible for Scotland, Ireland and Northern England but based in London at head Office. The business was about £200 million in turnover. In addition the role put you in charge of a speciality across the UK (this is called Matrix management) in my case this was Health Policy (i.e. all the political issues affecting health) which was good as I was able to go to political party conferences which I enjoyed.

Talk me through a day in your life… what sorts of things would it involve?
Long days and lots of travelling. I loved the fact that very few days were the same but hope you like the inside of hotel rooms as you will see lots of them!

In my last role it involved (when in Head office) lots of meetings to design how we are going to do our very best for our customers who are medical professionals trying to make people well. People might have you believe business is all about money, THINK AGAIN most people are doing this job to make people well otherwise they would work in another industry.

There were lots of visits to see customers (out in my Region) listening to what they wanted us to do more of or get better at. I had lots of meetings with my team and helping them manage their business. We did lots of business planning, lots of number crunching and lots of brainstorming /new ideas and creativity in our marketing planning. No day passed without learning something new. There was a lot of “paperwork /admin stuff” too but what job doesn’t? – Boring! By the end of a day your head usually hurts as your hard drive is full!

Was it your planned career when you were 18?
I was advised at school to be a Science teacher.

What did your mum and dad want you to do?
My Mum and Dad wanted me to get a good education as they always felt you enjoy life when you understand the world around you. I wanted to go to teacher training college but my Dad thought best to go to University as it would give me more options later then go on and do teaching as a post grad and he was right- isn’t it annoying when adults are right? I look back now and realise it was the best thing.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?
Get a good all round education – if you want to work in the Medicines business then life sciences are a good bet. (Biological subjects/chemistry or physics). Find someone who works in the industry and ask them all about it. Then you can apply direct to the company or via a recruitment agent who specialises in the sector. Get any work experience you can working with people in any business or working in the sector. I had a job one summer in a wholesale pharmacy- whew all I did was lug about great boxes of medicines but it was a good insight.

Here’s one website to have a look at one UK company and get a feel for it:

http://www.gsk.com/

What other directions could you go in /work in within your field other than the job you have chosen?
Business Management, Project Management, Marketing and People management are very transferrable skills. Interestingly after a while the knowledge of a sector is the quickest thing to learn, it is the skills of how to do things that take the longest. Also many people worked all over the world for short or long spells. If you have worked for a great company- in this case Britain is a world leader -then you can open doors all over the place.

If there is anything you have not covered about your area of expertise, please feel free to add here.
At school take the opportunity to learn as much in IT, it makes your job easier and quicker .You will find, particularly in a job where often you are dealing with people far away, these skills will be worth their weight in gold.

In addition the competencies looked for can be learned in lots of settings e.g. During the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme, volunteer work or summer jobs e.g.:

Teamwork

Personal Accountability (i.e. do you need to be told to work or do you do it on your own)

Leadership

Communication skills

Planning

Personal Organisation etc

Photographer
I’m a self employed professional portrait and wedding photographer.

How did you get interested in what you do? What advice was available to you when you chose this career direction?
I’ve always loved photography from when I was 12. I think you need to start with a fascination for the actual process of taking pictures. I did not get any career advice with regard photography during my years at high school. I had several brief and unproductive meetings with my school careers officer about becoming a vet. And also an accountant. Their misplaced focus (back then) was not on what you really wanted to be. But on how best to get you into a course, any course in further education.

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today?
20 years ago, I left Uni with a degree in Accountancy (not a bad background for any entrepreneur actually) I decided not to be an accountant. And do something I really enjoyed. So I worked for other established photographers for very little money and often for nothing at the weekends. Just to be around people who have are ‘doing it’ successfully and are able to make a living from wedding and portrait photography. Life was hard for the first few years earning very little. But all the time, you’re learning, observing and most importantly getting hands-on work experience. Gradually you’d pick up your own clients and word of mouth spreads.

Talk me through a day in your life… what sorts of things would it involve? 
see diagram. pretty accurate reflection.

Was it your planned career when you were 18?
No. I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do until I actually left uni. University or any form of further education is a wonderful life experience. From that point of view, I would encourage any child to live it. But in terms of the value of the qualifications themselves (particularly photography qualifications) and how further education prepares you for the next stage of your own life (i.e. making a living in the outside world), it’s absolutely hopeless.

What did your mum and dad want you to do?
Be an accountant or something just as safe. 

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?
There are so many people in love with the IDEA of being a photographer. Don’t be one of those!!! It’s not glam. It’s not cool. But it is rewarding for those who actually want to learn and want to get better at their craft. Go into it with your eyes open. Try get unpaid work experience with working photographers to see first hand the hard work that is required every single day just to get work in. And simply to survive. Time is split between admin tasks/marketing yourself /improving your photography (see diagram). It’s not a joy ride, it’s not an easy option and certainly not a glamorous option.

What other directions could you go in /work in within your field other than the job you have chosen?
With talent and experience as a photographer you could turn your photography skills to most things. The idea is to try and specialise early on so you become known for being excellent at one thing e.g. commercial work, product shots, babies, pets, press & PR, interiors, weddings, stock photography, landscapes, fine art.

If there is anything you have not covered about your area of expertise, please feel free to add here.
In terms of a list of attributes crucial to (as far as possible) ensuring success and longevity as a portrait and wedding photographer.

In order of importance –

1. A willingness and the ability to work long hours and extremely hard on a daily basis. Be it on improving your photography skills or on all the often mundane tasks related to running your own business. It’s daily and it’s never ending.

2. You must must must be a people person. Be patient, likeable and fun to be around. The ability to mix freely and communicate confidently in any situation is something that can only be gained with experience, I’m afraid.

3. Actual talent for photography or photography qualifications (is deliberately 3rd – and most certainly nowhere near as important as the top 2).

And in all honesty, when I interview students etc looking for an assisting role, I only look to the first 2 attributes.

I don’t even care about number 3. I know given time, I can teach number 3. 

Physiotherapist
What do you do for a living?
Physiotherapist

How did you get interested in what you do? What advice was available to you when you chose this career direction?
I was always interested in sport when I was growing up.

My Father worked in a Management Role in NHS and so I had an interest in Health Care.

Initially, however, I chose my work experience placement in an engineering role since I also had an interest in this field and enjoyed maths and physics. However I did not enjoy my work experience, as I realised I wanted a people focussed role in my future.

Careers advisors at school and a friend of the family suggested Physiotherapy. I obtained information about the University Courses and then organised independent work experience with two different physiotherapists – one working on hospital wards and one working in an out-patient clinic and I really enjoyed both experiences therefore decided to follow this path.

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today?
I went to school in Northern Ireland so at the time the requirements for entry to Physiotherapy Courses were 3 ‘A’ Levels, 2 of which had to be sciences. The required grades were 3 B’s. I then undertook a 4 year BSc Honours Degree course. All the courses in Scotland (Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen) are now 4 years Honours Courses.

I qualified in 1991 and consolidated my knowledge by taking on a junior physiotherapy role at a large teaching hospital in Northern Ireland. This is a great way of starting your career because you are in a rotational role, which allows you to spend anything between 4-8 months in each clinical area.

Physiotherapists have many different roles:

· Sports Injuries in an out-patient setting;

· Neurological Rehabilitation – helping people regain function after a stroke, traumatic brain injury or neurological condition such as Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson’s Disease;

· Chest Physiotherapy – helping people with Cystic Fibrosis or breathing difficulties such as asthma or Obstructive Lung Disease;

· Orthopaedics and Trauma – helping people regain function after joint replacement or a broken bone;

· Care of the Elderly- helping elderly people to stay as independent as possible and deal with health issues;

· Paediatrics – working with children:

· Lifestyle Management Programmes – helping people to manage long-term conditions using their own resources and local community assistance – reducing their dependency on the health-care system.

After working for two years to consolidate knowledge Physiotherapists will then often choose one of the specialities to work in and will then progress their career in this field. However there is scope to change as many of the skills learned are transferrable. I for example first specialised in Orthopaedics and Trauma but then changed to working in Neurology and have now taken those skills into Lifestyle Management and Private Practice Role.

Throughout your career there is a responsibility to stay up-to-date with the latest research and evidence based practice so Continuing Professional Development and attendance at post-graduate courses is essential.

I have gained qualifications in acupuncture, mobilisations and manipulations for treatment of joint and spinal conditions, specialist neurological treatment techniques and have also trained as a Pilates Instructor especially for people with joint and back problems.

Once qualified there is also the opportunity to travel. I have worked in both Canada and Australia, however to practice as a physiotherapist in both of these countries now does require you to sit further exams set by their registration bodies.

Talk me through a day in your life… what sorts of things would it involve?
I have various roles

My role within the NHS is on a Lifestyle Management Programme for people with myalgic encephalomyelitis or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome so is very much an education role where I am assisting people to tap into their own resources to manage the multiple symptoms that this condition presents with. I work as part of a team with Psychologists which is proving very interesting. I assess people and find out how their symptoms affect them, I then work collaboratively with these people over a few weeks to relieve the impact of their symptoms and use health behaviour change techniques to educate them on how best to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

I also work on the weekend rota on the Orthopaedic and Trauma wards assessing and treating patients following joint replacement surgery or musculo-skeletal injuries. This involves teaching people exercises to regain muscle strength and range of motion and to mobilise/ walk independently again following surgery.

I also work in a Private Practice where I teach Pilates to people after back or limb injuries or to people with Neurological Conditions. Pilates is used to regain core/ abdominal muscle strength and balance and help people move more easily. I also treat people with Neurological conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease or Stroke or Brain Injury. This treatment is often about gaining movement and strength/ control of limbs affected by the condition. It can also involve teaching exercises to help with Balance or walking ability.

I also work for a Case Management Company writing reports for legal cases for people who have sustained injuries and need on-going Physiotherapy. This assists the Courts in deciding how much funding a person may need for on-going care. This involves assessing clients and reporting on the effects of their injuries and how this will affect them in the future and therefore what Physiotherapy Care they may need.

This means I have a very varied career and goes to show some of the different roles a carrer in Physiotherapy has to offer.

Was it your planned career when you were 18?
I had considered a career in Engineering but decided it was not people focussed enough to hold my interest.

Working as a Physiotherapist has been really enjoyable and my career has changed a lot over the last 10 years allowing me to try lots of different things.

What did your mum and dad want you to do?
Mum and Dad encouraged me to work as a Physiotherapist. They both believed it would be a very rewarding career – and they were right

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?

I would say arrange a work-place visit with a physiotherapy department and get a feel for what the job involves. Try to arrange this visit at one of the bigger hospitals so you can find out about all the different specialities that Physiotherapists work in.

What other directions could you go in /work in within your field other than the job you have chosen?

As outlined already there are many different roles within Physiotherapy itself.

Physiotherapist 2
What do you do for a living?
Chartered Physiotherapist specialising in musculoskeletal problems.

How did you get interested in what you do?
Initially I was a regular attender at sports events and noticed I started to spend more time watching the physios and medics on the pitch than the game
itself! I knew I wanted to have an active job working with people but was uncertain what direction I wanted to go in.I had a strong interest in human biology particularly the muscles and how they work. Limited advice was available to me however my mother was a PE teacher and had similar interests and encouraged me to visit a variety of physio departments for more information. From there I was hooked on the idea.

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today?
I applied for Physiotherapy training in Aberdeen. My training took 3 years but it is now 4 years. Competition for a place is high and training is demanding. I was expected to work clinically in Hospitals as well as attend lectures in University. There was a lot of practical work. When I qualified, I applied for junior jobs and experienced different fields of physiotherapy before deciding I wanted to specialise in musculoskeletal conditions.This includes having worked for some sports teams and abroad. I have done some post grad training and now am in a senior position at my work.

Talk us through a day in your life
My case load is varied and works on an appointment system.
Predominantly I see people with bad necks or backs but regularly see people who have been in accidents and are ready to start strengthening and moving
their joints and muscles. I may spend part of my day in a hydrotherapy pool or even in a gym. In the last number of years I have been trained to specialise in people who have persistent pain. A high proportion of what I do is educational but also may involve manual therapy or exercise management.

Was this your planned career when you were 18?
Definitely. I was initially keen on all the sports side of physiotherapy but as I have become older I have digressed. I wanted a job which I found rewarding. This is still the case for me today.

What did your parents want you to do?
They were keen on me following this career.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?
If you are a good listener, enjoy being with people and are prepared to work very hard then I would recommend this career.

What other career directions could you go in?
Physiotherapy is a very diverse profession. I could change direction and work with people who have neurological conditions, respiratory issues, heart problems, lost limbs,burns or hand injuries etc I could go into private practise or perhaps branch more into NHS management. I could even work out in the community and visit people in their own houses. I could also choose to return to sports physiotherapy and could have applied to work at the Olympics or Commonwealth games.

Anything you have not covered about your area of expertise?
As medicine and evidence improves Physiotherapy is having to evolve. Physiotherapy is taking a greater role within health care support. It is not unusual now to see physios working with doctors in clinics. We can send people for scans and injections and physios are now alowed to prescribe drugs. Its is an exciting time for this profession.

Police Commander
What do you do for a living?
Police Officer – Local Police Commander – Lothians and Scottish Borders Division

How did you get interested in what you do?
I wasn’t given any career advice at school and ‘drifted’ into policing. However, this is not the message I’d want to portray to students!!!!

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today?

I have been a police officer for over 30 years spending some 20 years in the Metropolitan Police as a detective; latterly specialising in Murder and
Serial Sexual Crime. I transferred to Lothian and Borders Police in 2005 as Detective Superintendent, holding the portfolio for Major Crime Investigation, Drugs and Surveillance. I then progressed to Head of Special Branch prior to being promoted to Divisional Commander for West Lothian.
I was appointed Local Police Commander for the Lothian and Scottish Borders in April 2013.

I have attended numerous specialist courses as I progressed through the ranks including Senior Investigating Officer, Firearms, Kidnap, Counter Terrorism, Sexual Offences, Leadership and Management. I attended a Leadership in Counter Terrorism Course at the Kennedy Business
School, Harvard University. I hold a BA in Business Studies from Napier University, which I recieved
after studying on a part-time basis.

Talk us through a day in your life

No two days are the same!!! I normally hold a morning Tasking and Co-ordinating Meeting to review crime and operations over the previous 24hr period and ensure that resources are suitably tasked for the proceeding 24hrs. I attend a wide range of meetings on a daily/weekly basis which included a
number of business areas including Divisional Management, Event Planning, Criminal Justice, Child Protection and numerous partnership meetings across the four local authority areas.
During Serious or Critical Incidents I convene Gold Meetings to determine the strategic direction of the particular incident or event. Although my role is prodominantly at a strategic level, I still get involved in operational issues and regularly work late evenings and night duty.

Was this your planned career when you were 18?
No – I wanted a career but I was unclear exactly what I wanted to do.

What did your parents want you to do?
Get a job!!!

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?
It’s a very interesting and rewarding career, with so many opportunies.

I intend to stay within policing and may seek promotion to the next level.

Police Officer
How did you get interested in what you do? What advice was available to you when you chose this career direction?
Previously, I worked for a building society (now a bank) and was bored of the daily grind with each day being far too similar. I had a good think about what occupations offered more variety and found lots of advice and guidance available from the police recruitment department.

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today?
I didn’t give any thought to my current occupation while in my formative years. Having left school at 16, I was employed by a Building Society in Edinburgh. After carrying out various roles there, I decided to do something completely different and at the age of 23 became a police officer.

Talk me through a day in your life… what sorts of things would it involve?
It depends upon your role, you have no idea what incidents are going to happen at any given time, providing advice and assistance to anyone in need of it. You may be sent to a serious road traffic collision, a pub fight, domestic dispute, theft or a large public event.

Was it your planned career when you were 18?
No

What did your mum and dad want you to do?
I’m not sure.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?
Complete your education first, or do another job first. Generally, the Police prefer to wait until someone is about 23 years old before employing them. The reason for this is that it costs a lot of money to train a police officer and younger people are more likely to leave the service. It’s best to have seen a bit of life and then be sure this is the correct career path. You can join the service as a Special Constable before applying to join, this gives you a flavour of what to expect.

What other directions could you go in /work in within your field other than the job you have chosen?
Once you are in the service, there are many options, community policing, road policing, CID, surveillance, forensic computer examination

Primary School teacher
How did you get interested in what you do?

As a child I remember being keen to go into teaching. At primary school I had a teacher who really inspired me and I wanted to be like her! During 5th year at PHS I was choosing subjects and aiming my education to help me get into university to study Primary Education. The school was helpful in that they allowed me to use a study period to go and gain experience in a local primary school and gave advice on open days and prospectuses for courses available to me. .

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today?

As mentioned earlier, I chose my Highers to support me in my aim to be a primary teacher. I took 4 Highers because I felt that would be what I could manage to achieve with quality grades and used my spare study periods to visit a local school. I visited some open days, at that time to decide my subjects for 6th year, but was told that if I achieved my expected grades there was really nothing for me to do in 6th year. As a result I applied and gained interviews, which the school helped me to prepare for and finally secured a place at University.
My career has since followed the normal path of gaining a Bachelor of Education with Honours, probation year, temporary job and finally permanent. To further extend myself I have recently been undertaking my Masters in Education

Talk me through a day in your life… what sorts of things would it involve?

I work with one class planning, preparing and delivering lessons which I hope will excite and enthuse the children. There is then the assessment/marking and follow up planning to cover any issues, I manage support staff within the classroom and work closely with colleagues. There are also meetings; both in school and with other professionals, training to improve in certain areas and of course cups of tea and chats at break and lunch with my friends and colleagues.

Was it your planned career when you were 18?

Yes

What did your mum and dad want you to do?

I was lucky in that my mum and dad were keen for me to follow the path I had chosen and they pushed me and supported me in my effort to achieve this.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?

Find out what the universities want in terms of grades, keep up to date with any current news about education and find some way to get practical experience as the job is a very practical one and that can really help make you stand out from the crowd

What other directions could you go in /work in within your field other than the job you have chosen?

You can advance up to Depute Head and Head Teachers, then possibly further within the council. Also there are opportunities to be involved with education organisations if you have an interest in a particular area.

If there is anything you have not covered about your area of expertise, please feel free to add here.

I love the fact that when I am working with the children, everyday is different. I find it exciting to investigate new ideas and gain new knowledge along with the children.

Project Manager : Royal Bank of Scotland
What do you do for a living?
Essentially I am a project manager working as part of the Property function of a large financial organisation. I work as part of a team looking at ways we can be as flexible as possible with the way we work. This could mean flexibility in terms of the hours we work, the location we work from or the equipment we use.

How did you get interested in what you do? What advice was available to you when you chose this career direction?
I didn’t really choose this career direction is just sort of happened. I joined the bank in 1999 as a Purchasing Manager and was heavily involved in tendering contracts for the Property Department. I found it a diverse department which encompassed topics as varied as industrial cleaning, air conditioning, catering, physical build, interior design and mail rooms. Although I did not come from a property background I found it easier to be in negotiations on contracts on the topics mentioned above than buying for example IT equipment or services, where I was clueless as to the “lingo” and so I kind of began to understand a bit about commercial property and how such multi-occupied premises were run and quite enjoyed it. As a result when a position came up working within Property itself, I applied for and got it and have kind of not moved on since!

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today?
I think my “journey” to the role I’m in today was one undertaken without a map! I have never been one of those people who knew what they wanted to do when they grew up (still don’t but that’s another issue). I used to be envious of my class mates at school who could say with certainty.. “ I plan to be a ….doctor/ lawyer/ teacher etc) I was pretty OK at most subjects in my mid-teens and so when it came to narrowing down to 3 subjects for A level I found this really difficult as there was no subject I particularly excelled at. As a result the advice I was given was to take sciences as they meant I would have greater flexibility in choice of degree and or career choice at a later stage (when presumably a light bulb would go off in my head and I’d “know” what I was meant to be). Looking back this was disastrous as my leaning was much more towards an “Arts” profile rather than a “Science” one, but I just didn’t recognise this at the time.

I took Chemistry, Physics and English at A level and let’s just say results day was not a happy one! I ended up re-doing a year at 6th form college and taking English, Economics and Sociology A levels instead. This time round was far more successful, not only in my subject choices but also my results. Although painful at the time when I failed my first attempts at A levels I think it was a good learning for me as I had never been exposed to the subjects of Economics or Sociology before then, and ended up really loving them. So much so, that I took a Sociology Degree at Southampton University.

Although a fabulous 3 years away from home, and a subject I enjoyed, I was not certain that a career in social work or academia was for me, and so came the next dilemma….. what was I qualified for with a BScSoc? The answer was I didn’t know, so ended up leaving university with my degree and getting a job as a sales assistant (a job I began to loathe) as I suddenly realised that I was now supposed to be in the working world and had to earn money!
To cut a very long story short, I left my shop job to take a temporary office job with the British Council relocating their London based staff to Manchester – this exposed me to “office life” which was very eye opening after 3 years studying and then hanging around a shop floor. This role lasted some 18 months and meant I became an official London commuter and having had the office experience I then applied (and got) a job with the American Embassy in London working as a Consular Officer. This meant I officially went to work in the USA every day (albeit the USA in Grosvenor Square London) and I stayed there for 6 years. Starting off in the Consular office working with Visa queries (of which there were thousands daily) then moving to take a role as PA to the Head of the Consular Department. My boss was a lady who had been one of the hostages in the US Embassy in Iran in the 1980s interestingly enough and from this role I got a much broader view of what other jobs there were in the Embassy as I had to liaise with all departments outside of the Consular section. As such this was a very educational stepping stone to my next role which was as a Procurement Manager with the US Embassy London.

Here again I wasn’t really qualified in purchasing, but decided to gain a post graduate qualification from the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply by studying at night. I learnt a lot on the job and had to buy and write contracts for an array of goods and services including freeze dried meals for the US Marines, building & construction works in US Embassy official’s homes including that of the Ambassador himself and photocopiers for Presidential visits. I regularly liaised, and sometimes visited other US Embassies abroad and was sent on training courses regularly to the State Department in Washington – a nice perk of the job! In 1995 I was part of a team sent across to Belfast to support the serving US President – Bill Clinton’s visit to Belfast. Long hours, hard work, but an interesting experience!

After 6 years working with the Americans I decided it was time to move on and now, fairly experienced in the world of purchasing, I applied for, and got a job with RBS in their purchasing Department in London. It was just before RBS took over National Westminster Bank and so I joined a team of 2 Procurement professionals in London only to be subsumed into a 50 strong team 6 months later when the 2 entities merged.

I have basically stayed with the same organisation since then although have held maybe 3 or 4 different roles in that time. I had the opportunity to move into the area of Continuous Improvement (WorkOut, Lean, Six Sigma etc) Innovation and Best Practice for some years which led to my move from London to Edinburgh and since then I have moved to focus on the Flexible working arena. This subject area I find very fascinating and important since it is not only a relatively new topic in many industries, but one which requires all the skills of a change manager to encourage others to embrace an historically unfamiliar concept, and move away from “line of sight” management towards a more “grown up” style of working. It also requires the bringing together or 3 areas in order to make the concept work – namely Property – we must have flexible offices and other spaces, Technology – we need the IT equipment to be able to connect remotely to our work IT systems and HR – we need contracts and People managers to allow varying options in the way we work. Although I am not saving lives or solving “world hunger” I do get some sense of satisfaction from my role, when I can see that truly helping teams and managers to embrace flexibility in the workspace, can bring not only work/life balance rewards, but also common sense cost savings in these austere times.

Talk me through a day in your life… what sorts of things would it involve?
I don’t think I ever have two days the same, but as with most office jobs I have numerous team calls, downloads, working groups to attend on a weekly basis. On top of this when working on a delivery project I would be liaising with the various contacts in the different businesses within the bank to move the particular project along – whether that would be at the early stages of educating people about the concept or actually mobilising work to undertake utilisation studies etc to see how frequently or infrequently space is used. There is a lot of face to face interviewing of managers to build a deeper understanding of the business unit with which we are working and making sure the right people are communicated with at the right time, with the right message. Currently I am liaising with a lot of university academics regarding a benchmarking piece of work we are doing and that has proved very interesting and eye opening. Not least because everything moves at a very different pace in academia!

Was it your planned career when you were 18?
No, I had absolutely no clue what I wanted to do at 18 but was told by the careers department that, having filled in some questionnaire, I should become a librarian!

What did your mum and dad want you to do?
My Dad wanted me to be a Solicitor or something in the legal profession (as I think secretly he had wanted this for himself). My mum wanted me to be a journalist – largely I think because she wanted me to read the news on TV!?

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?
I’m still not actually sure what my career is – if’ it’s project management then I guess getting some form of qualification in Project Management would be helpful – although not essential – a lot of the time I use “common sense”. I think the best piece of career advice I ever received was to try as many things as possible and if nothing else it will tell you what you don’t want to be and this will help narrow down your choices. I think this was very true for me as I hated being a sales assistant, so a sales role was never going to be on the cards. That said I wouldn’t have known that unless I’d tried it.

I think for anyone I would say in my experience having a degree (albeit a non-vocational “ology”) and trying different jobs – learning from each one – have stood me in the best stead. Unless you are really sure what you want to do from an early age, I think the only way to explore and learn it to try things, talk to others and experience as much as you can for yourself. Often what the job description says and what the job is actually like are miles apart!

What other directions could you go in /work in within your field other than the job you have chosen?
I guess with Project Management you can deliver projects in all sorts of project areas so I could in theory go on to work outside of the Property field and leave my comfort zone of “buildings”. When you think about it most jobs involve some degree of Project Management just to put some order around your “things to do list” so any form of Administrative or Organisational role might also suit. For a while I did some training in Continuous Improvement Techniques so I guess I could look to move into being a trainer of some sort – although that may involve obtaining some sort of accreditation first.

Project Manager: Pharmaceutical
What do you do for a living?
Project Manager for Pharmaceutical Company

How did you get interested in what you do?
When I was at school I wanted to study medicine. I did not achieve the grades, so decided to study Pharmacology as I was really interested in developing new medicines.

I discussed this with my guidance teacher at school, who suggested that I study Pharmacy.

At the time I thought that being a Pharmacist meant working behind the counter in Boots and this did not seem so exciting. I now know that Pharmacy and Pharmacology are actually very similar degrees and if I had studied Pharmacy I would actually have had more options in my career choice, but I really enjoyed my course and love what I do now, so this is not a problem.

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today?
I did a BSc (hons) in Pharmacology at Edinburgh University, followed by a PhD in Neuroscience at Edinburgh University.

My PhD was sponsored by the Pharmaceutical Company GSK so part of my time was spent in the labs at GSK.
This gave me the opportunity to have experience working in a Pharmaceutical Company, which I really enjoyed, so I decided that I wanted to further my Career in a Pharmaceutical Company rather than in Academia.

I then did Post-Doctoral work for 2 years at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia for a Pharmaceutical company called Amrad, which focused on trying to isolate the active ingredients from Aboriginal Medicines.

On returning to Scotland I started working for a Contract Research Company. I started as a Study Director, managing studies in the Pharmacology department and progressed within this department to be the Associate Director over a period of 10 years. I was then offered a transfer into the Project Management team, which I really enjoyed as this allowed me to gain experience in other aspects of the Drug Development Process.

Talk us through a day in your life
My job is very varied, which I really enjoy. I am currently managing 3 products which are Commercially available (they are sold all over the world),
a tablet for breakthrough pain in cancer, a testosterone gel for testosterone deficiency in men and a cream for anal fissures (not very glamorous!) in
addition to a new product which is being developed (in clinical trials) for blood cancer.

My job is to liaise with all the different departments (Manufacturing, Quality, Regulatory Affairs, Clinical, Marketing, Commercial, etc) to ensure
that the Projects stay on track with respect to timelines and budgets. I organise regular team meetings to discuss and review the project progress and
to deal with any problems which may arise and I provide reports to the Senior Management team on Project Progress.

Was this your planned career when you were 18?
At 18, I was really not sure where my degree would take me at all, but its worked out quite well.

What did your parents want you to do?
Medicine

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?
Biology, Chemistry and Maths are probably key to a career in the Pharmaceutical Industry, however there are many different types of jobs
within the Pharmaceutical Industry so (for example) if you particularly enjoyed English and Biology then an option of Medical Writing may be something you might be interested in.

Look for opportunities to gain experience in laboratory/scientific work over the holidays.

What other career directions could you go in?
There are a wide variety of different directions my career could go, as a Project Manager I have a good understanding of how the different functions work.

Psychiatrist
What do you do for a living?
Consultant Psychiatrist

How did you get interested in what you do? What advice was available to you when you chose this career direction?
Psychiatry attachments and course as part of medical degree (MBChB)
Intercalated BSc(Hons) Degree in Psychology
I never knew when at school what I wanted to do. I was advised, mainly by family, that a medical degree was a good first degree to have, since there is such a variety of different career pathways within medicine.
It is also harder to change to Medicine from another University course, than vice versa.

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today?
Aberdeen Grammar School (left 1985), Edinburgh University Medical School (MBChB 1991), Intercalated BSc(Hons) Psychology (1989), ‘House jobs’ as Junior Doctor in General Medicine and Surgery (1year 1991-1992,Edinburgh and Livingston), Senior House Officer job in Old Age Medicine (6 months, Edinburgh), BasicTrainee Psychiatry jobs (Edinburgh and Tayside, 3 years 1993-1996): Membership of Royal College of Psychiatrists 1996, Research Fellowship, University Department of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, University of Dundee 1996-1999 (PhD 2003), Higher Training in Psychiatry (2000- certificate of completed training 2006 (flexible training), Consultant Psychiatrist since 2007.

Talk me through a day in your life… what sorts of things would it involve?
Clinical Lead for multidisciplinary team in Substance Misuse Service, Clinics with patients requiring medical/ psychiatric assessment who have a dependence on drugs/ alcohol, Prescribing and Consultative role, liaising and referral to other services, writing letters to/ communicating with GPs, Teaching medical students often during clinics, also lectures, tutorials, workshops, supervising trainees. Clinical Audit, Quality Improvement and Research. Managerial and Governance responsibilities, Attending and Chairing meetings, Continuing Professional Development and Appraisal.

Was it your planned career when you were 18?
No. Except that I went to medical school. I had a vague idea that I might want to end up doing Research.

What did your mum and dad want you to do?
They never overtly commented, but did advise me that Medicine was a good idea if I was unsure, since it was such a diverse field and the job security was good. I come from a very medical background

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?
Speak to as many doctors as you can before you decide. Be prepared to work harder than you might imagine, sometimes to the point of sacrificing other areas of your life. On the other hand, there are big rewards that follow from hard work in terms of job satisfaction and interesting life experiences.

What other directions could you go in /work in within your field other than the job you have chosen?
Many very diverse fields eg. Pathology, Haematology, Anaesthetics, Surgery, Cardiology, Psychiatry, Public Health.
Being a Psychiatrist is very hard work and can be stressful, but it is highly rewarding and is never dull. It is probably the medical specialty where you get to know your patients as people the most. You learn a lot about other people’s lives, which is a great privilege.