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Technician: telephone
What do you do for a living?
I’m a network diagnostic technician for the telephony network.

How did you get interested in what you do?
I was always very practical and had an interest in electrical things. There wasn’t a lot of advice from school at the time so I researched different types of work in my general field of interest and asked a lot of questions of people I found who I thought would be of help. My parents helped me with this at the time.

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today?
I didn’t really want to go to university so I chose to take up an apprenticeship instead and learn the job by doing it. However, I was expected to get more specific qualifications in the field and I gained my HND in electrical and electronic engineering by going to day-release college courses and night school classes.

Talk us through a day in your life
Due to the nature of the network I help to maintain there is always a need for my colleagues and I to be available 24/7. We have the opportunity to do differing shift patterns but I choose to cover the day shift as this suits my personal life. I have an earlier start than most but I’m finished by 4pm. My work is office based and I ‘drive my computer’ during this time. The entire telephony network is electronically monitored for incidents and major customer faults. When a problem arises I diagnose the problem and fix it remotely if possible. If I’m not able to do this I arrange for site engineers to attend with instructions on what they need to do to repair the fault. I also provide them with phone back-up advise and instruction should they need any help.

Was this your planned career when you were 18?
Yes and no. I knew I wanted to be an engineer but wasn’t fully committed to a very specific path. That became clearer as I continued to work through my apprenticeship.

What did your parents want you to do?
They wanted me to be content and happy in my working life and have enough money to do the other things I loved to do! Both of which I’ve managed to do over the years.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?
The industry I work in is much more diverse than when I started in it. The telecommunications industry has a major part to play in almost all parts of modern life (mobile phone, the internet, TV, etc). There are so many different paths to chose. Pick subjects which would give you a good potential grounding, like maths, physics, computing and so on.

What other career directions could you go in?
I’m lucky to work with a large company who cover most aspects of the telecommunications engineering business. I would be free to apply for many different posts in many different parts of the business all without having to leave the same company.

Tennis Coach
What do you do for a living?

Tennis coach

How did you get interested in what you do? What advice was available to you when you chose this career direction?

I started playing tennis when I was in Primary 4, competed all through my childhood with a local club and for county and continue to play today. There was lots of advice available through the LTA website and also the head coaches at Craiglockhart tennis centre helped me a lot. The website has all the information on how to become a coach and develop yourself as a coach.

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

I left school with 7 Highers and one Advanced Higher (including PE and Biology) which allowed me to attend Edinburgh University and do my undergraduate degree in Applied sports science.
After this is went on to start a Masters Degree in Sports Performance Enhancement but while here decided I wanted to get back into tennis and start coaching. So I quit the course after a couple of weeks (couldn’t be doing with writing more essays!) and contacted Craiglockhart and the coaches I knew from when I trained there as a junior. They put me in the right direction and I did my level 1, 2, and 3 coach qualifications. While on my level 2 course I met my now business partner and we decided to start up a coaching business in the Borders. Now I coach classes to a variety of players in Tweeddale (from 5 years to adults, and from beginer to district level).

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

Coach a ladies improver class from 9.30 to 11am (must be one of the best ladies classes I have ever coached, soon to be professional!). May coach a private lesson after this. Then start coaching again at 3.45pm and finish at 8pm (these are junior classes for players aged 5 to 16 years). I coach at different outdoor clubs in Tweeddale, also do some schools coaching, and coach indoors at Craiglockhart.

Was it your planned career when you were 18?

I wanted to go to university and do applied sports science……then have a job in sport! I didn’t realise when I was 18 that I could have a career as a tennis coach.

What did your mum and dad want you to do?

Mum and dad were great! They never pressured me towards any career but think they always imagined I would do something in sport…..possibly become a PE teacher.

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

Get as much experience as you can coaching or assisting a tennis coach. You do not need a degree to become a tennis coach however I strongly believe that a sports based degree gives you an in depth understanding of the subject and helps you focus your coaching (I am quite techincal as I did a lot of biomechanics at university…..some people may have a greater interest in sports psychology, nutrition, or physiology).

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

Potentially could go back to university and do a 1 year course to become a teacher. Could also look into a sports science job – research or hands on.

Textile Conservator
What do you do for a living?
I am a self-employed textile conservator, dealing with the care and preservation of historic textiles for museums, organisations such as the National Trust, and private individuals. I also undertake short contracts for organisations such as the National Museums of Scotland, when they have particular projects ongoing that require additional assistance.

How did you get interested in what you do? What advice was available to you when you chose this career direction?
I found out about this career option when at school doing a needlework O-level. However, I went to a very academic school and needlework was discouraged – they wanted to produce scientists! – so there was literally no advice available about this career. I found out that the only training available at that time was a post-graduate qualification so I did as I was told and concentrated on the sciences to get a degree, intending to go back to conservation once I graduated.

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today?
I have a very science-based education, with A-levels in Maths, Further Maths and Physics. I then went on to do a degree in physics at Warwick University and, on graduation, was offered a job as a broker with UBS in the City of London. I sort of ‘forgot’ about the conservation and I really didn’t know what I wanted to do when I graduated (though I’d worked out I didn’t want to be a physicist!) so I’d applied for all sorts of jobs and, to be honest, the broker’s job paid a lot more than the others I was offered, so I took it! Mistake – I could do the job OK, but I didn’t like the pressured atmosphere and the constant need to be cold-calling possible clients – I felt I might just as well be selling double glazing, but with much more pressure! After about two and a half years, I left and went into conference management – again, quickly obvious it was not for me, but I’m glad I did it as it enabled me to travel and work in countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Australia. Finally, at the grand old age of 26, I went back to the conservation option, applied for the post-graduate course and was accepted. It was a 3-year, full-time, post-graduate diploma course and had to be entirely self funded so I managed to obtain a bursary for the fees and several small grants from charitable trusts (lots and lots of letter writing!) for living expenses, but I also had to work through all the holidays plus a shelf-stacking job at M&S in the early mornings, before college, to make ends meet.

The training course was brilliant, recognised the world over as the only way into textile conservation and, when I did it, it was based at Hampton Court Palace – so every morning I walked up the drive to ‘the office’, not quite believing I was there! The curriculum covered all the appropriate treatment methods – including sewing – as well as the chemistry required to understand degradations processes and possible reactions to treatments. History and context of textiles were also studied as you need to know how and where an object was produced in order to understand how it was likely to have been made. All of this could impact on the suitability of various treatments.

Continuing Professional Development is now an essential part of being a conservator. Generally, it is a self-regulated profession with ICON (the Institute of Conservation) overseeing standards via the accreditation process. This involves submitting a portfolio of work and having an interview with assessors (the great and good of conservation) to prove that your methods are well thought out, carefully executed and appropriate. This is an on-going process, with reviews every 3 – 5 years, and being accredited has a huge impact on the amount of work you can do as many organisations and institutions are only able to commission conservation work from accredited conservators.

Talk me through a day in your life… what sorts of things would it involve?
If it’s a workshop day, I might be working on an object in my workshop at home, undertaking a treatment that has been discussed and agreed with the client. Typically, objects would be relatively small in size – embroidered samplers, a chair, items of costume, flags or banners. Treatments are as non-interventive as possible as we’re aiming to preserve what is there rather than restore an object to its previous glory (restoration is a different career!), and we also aim to make any treatment reversible as a better way of doing it may be found 5 years down the line. Everything has to be photographed and fully documented, so that future conservators can easily identify what is original and what I have done/added. I also may be preparing estimates – I have to examine an object, propose a treatment, then break down how long that will take and what materials will be required, cost the materials and finally sum it all up with a price for which I would be prepared to undertake the work. Some of the larger organisations put work out to tender, so there is a constant pressure to do the work as cheaply as possible.

If it’s an ‘in-situ’ day, I could be visiting clients at a museum, church or stately home and working on the object where it is. This often happens if an object is too large to move, or requires such a small treatment that it isn’t financially sensible to get it back to the workshop. It can mean working in difficult situations and conditions, such as standing all day in a freezing cold, stately home trying to stop my hands being too numb to stitch a giant curtain, or up a ladder while the visiting public pass by below and enquire what you’re doing. I’ve worked crammed into the very small space in the footwell of a carriage, and I’ve climbed up the scaffolding supporting the giant tapestry at Coventry Cathedral. I’ve been very lucky to visit parts of these places not generally open to the public.

If it’s a museum contract day, I will be working at the NMS Conservation Centre at Granton in their workshops. Recent projects have included the re-display of the Royal Museum, where I was responsible for the textiles in the Ivy Wu Gallery (lots of kimono!) and, some years back, the military museum at Edinburgh Castle (where there is an amazing ‘camp bed in a trunk’ which some poor soldiers had to carry around so that their officer could sleep in comfort while on campaigns!).

Was it your planned career when you were 18?
No, but I was aware of it as a possibility. As the only training course in textile conservation in the country (and the world!) was a post-graduate course, I knew I had to get a degree and physics was my natural subject – then I just got distracted into other, glamorous-sounding jobs before I realised conservation was what I really wanted to do.

What did your mum and dad want you to do?
No pressure in any direction, but I think they always knew I’d end up working with textiles, despite the circuitous route!

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?
Check out the various options with ICON – www.icon.org.uk – which should lead you to the appropriate training. Each specialism (textiles, paper, paintings, sculpture, furniture etc) has a very specific training, although there are some courses that address conservation more generally, with the possibility of specialising later on. The place to study textiles is the Centre for Textile Conservation, now based at Glasgow University. There is no substitute for practical experience so try and do some voluntary work with a museum or other heritage organisation (or even a paid job if you can!). Training courses in this area have a huge number of applicants so any indication of commitment is very valuable. And I must say that it is unlikely you will ever get rich – generally, conservators and curators are considered to do the job because they love it and salaries are not high.

In terms of subjects to study at school/degree level, sciences have proved invaluable to me. A degree in physics made me stand out from other candidates when applying for the training course and I am quite sure this helped me get a place. This background has also given me a different, more analytical approach to problems to my colleagues (almost all textile conservators have an arts/history background) and this means I can work really well with others, covering all the bases between us.

What other directions could you go in /work in within your field other than the job you have chosen?
I could have chosen to work for a museum as a conservator – usually a wide variety of objects, but much more workshop based, and under pressure of time from curators/exhibition managers. Many of the larger organisations have a departmental career structure, which enables a conservator to rise at least as high as a departmental head – although this would usually entail doing so much admin that you become distanced from practical work. Conservators can also become consultants to the heritage industry, working closely with exhibition designers (to try and reconcile what the designer wants with what is possible!). However, for me it is a love of the objects that keeps me in practical conservation, and the ability to be my own boss that keeps me self-employed.

If there is anything you have not covered about your area of expertise, please feel free to add here.
I love it! I feel really lucky to be able to work with so many beautiful objects and visit such lovely places (though you do sometimes find yourself doing condition surveys of 1920s underwear that may not be too clean, or dealing with curtains that are suffering from the attentions of dogs peeing on them!). I’ve worked on mummy wrappings, archaeological fragments, a Partick Thistle flag from the club in the 1990s, a shoe reputed to have belonged to Mary, Queen of Scots, couture costume and military memorabilia – it is very varied,and never gets boring.

Trainer: financial services
What do you do for a living?

I have three jobs at the moment. I am a Training and Development Consultant working mainly within the Financial Services sector. I am a Crew Manager in the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (retained) and I run my own Antique and Curios Shop.

How did you get interested in what you do? What advice was available to you when you chose this career direction?

I started out in Financial Services purely by chance. When I left the Royal Air Force I had no idea what I was going to do and a friend said I would be good at selling and got me a job as a Financial Adviser. It sounded like good fun and the money was very good, so I thought why not! I found out I was very good at it and was asked to train other people and pass on my skills, which got me into training and development. I found out very quickly that I really enjoyed training people and for some reason I seemed to be very good at it.

There was no advice for this, as with most of my life I look at the opportunity and see if I can make it work and go for it. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t.

I joined the retained Fire Service because it sounded good fun and I had a fear of heights and enclosed spaces so I thought this was a good way to overcome these fears. I had never thought about being a firefighter till I saw the advert, but the adrenaline rush is hard to explain. Again there was no advice but I started this when I was 30 so I probably didn’t look for any!

I started my own antique shop because I like antiques and history and my dad used to do it as a hobby. When he died he left a lot of stuff so rather than sell it at auction I started a shop to see if I could make it work and it turns out I can. The only advice I had was not to do it, or only people with years of experience can do that. Bring it on I thought and so far so good!

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

Pure trial and error. I left Peebles High School with 2 Higher grades, went on to college and got another 3 Highers ( I wasn’t allowed back for 6 year. I don’t think the Rector liked me). I then tried a University Degree in Social and Management Sciences at Napier but to be honest I spent more time in the Union playing pool and drinking so that came to quick end after 1 year. I then started another course in Film and Photography and even made it to Rome film school. But again I found the course a bit dull and gave up.

I became a barman and DJ in Edinburgh for a few years as well as working on building sites. My girlfriend (now my wife) was not impressed with my career choice at this point. I then saw an advert in the paper saying photographers wanted. Having done half a course in this I thought I was more than qualified so I went along to the address and it turned out to be the Royal Air Force!!! So in order to impress her with my maturity and commitment I joined the Royal Air Force. Nobody I knew thought I would even get in let alone make it through training. I did however and had a great job in the Intelligence world mainly photographic but lots of other sneaky beaky stuff. This was the making of me, it helped me mature and find out what I was capable of and what I could do with a bit of discipline. It’s not for everyone but I loved every bit of it.

After 3 years I decided they weren’t going to let me be the boss so I thought I would move onto something else and thats when I ended up in Financial Services and moving back to West Linton, (something that I had promised myself as a teenager I would never do!!! Ha)

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

As you can imagine my life with 3 jobs can be very busy, no day is the same. On one particular day all three of my jobs were involved which is not uncommon. It went like this:

0200 in the morning when I am called to fire at a large agricultural shed. I spend 2 hours up to my knees in mud trying to pump water up to the fire. I get back to the station at 0400 to sort out all the gear and remember that I have a flight at 0700 to London for a financial services business meeting at 1030. I get home, shower and change and jump in my car for a mad dash to Edinburgh Airport. I attend my meeting where everybody thinks I have been out partying all night as I look rather rough and tired. I then have a mad dash across London with some antique watches to sell to a dealer I work with in London. I finish with a fine dinner in London with friends and nice bottle of wine, thinking who else has a day like mine!

Financial services is very fast paced and exciting environment which is both challenging and rewarding on many levels but most days are about helping people fix problems.
The Fire Service is different every time we go out the station but it normally involves physical hard work, lots of lateral thinking around problems and incredible team work.
The antique shop is all about spotting opportunities, taking calculated risks and more often than not hoping for the best.

Was it your planned career at 18?

No way! At 18 I was going to be a film director and was going to change the world with my amazing vision and talent!

What did your mum and dad want you to do?

Stay out of jail! That is no joke! I think my mum would have liked me to be a minister and my dad just wanted to get rid of me as a financial burden so any job would have suited him! My elder sisters were very academic and stable in what they wanted to do so I was a bit of a worry. I think my parents worried that they would be stuck with me for ever, little did they know that living with them was my worst nightmare and I would have joined the foreign legion to get out the house. However Napier university seemed like an easier option!

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

Have a bash if it doesn’t suit you, try something else and if that doesn’t work try something else and if you keep doing that till your 70 at least you can say you have lived.

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

Who knows, tomorrow I might decide to become an astronaut! I have used my training skills to work with young people and young offenders and if you learn how to sell you can sell anything anywhere/

I remember someone telling me a story (made up I think, but it sounds good anyway). He said that a famous writer was booked to give a lecture at Cambridge University on how to become a writer and to pass on his advice and words of wisdom to students. He had an audience of 300+ wannabe writers waiting for his words of wisdom. He stood up and said ‘Hands up who wants to be a writer?’ which everyone did. He then said ‘Then go home and write!’ and he walked out the door. Sometimes life is that simple, everything we need is there in front of us, we just need to take the first step.

In the case of brain surgery I like my surgeon to be qualified and trained but other paths in life just require the courage to have a go!