What’s your background?
I completed my PhD in 2013 and that was a project that belonged to an EPSRC consortium. It was based in Leeds working on the impact of climate change on natural water resources. My PhD was embedded within a collaboration with multiple universities. In my case Oxford, Leeds, UCL and Loughborough universities were involved. As part of this, there were plenty of opportunities to work with consultancy companies and within industry.
I then did a postdoc at the University of Cambridge for two and half years, working on a project that involved geospatial tool building. This helped me use my existing data analysis skills (programming and modelling) and also develop new analysis skills (e.g. geospatial analysis).
After Cambridge, in 2016, I moved to a consultancy company based in Warrington for a year. From there, I found this role at IBM research and have been there since 2017. At IBM, I found the balance of doing research and having an impact.
Why did you move beyond academia?
After my postdoc I did have the option to stay on but I decided to move due to multiple factors. My ambition was to bridge academia and industrial research. In fact, my PhD and postdoc always had that business element to them, with links to industry, and it always seemed like a natural progression.
I was a software engineer at a consultancy firm working on a specific software product. This role was linked with my postdoc at Cambridge. I was building a plausible solution (e.g. a geospatial tool) to help alleviate flooding. For example, there are co-benefits of building a pond to alleviate flooding while adding to wildlife habitat and blue-green spaces in urban areas.
My husband is an academic and had an offer of a postdoc position in Manchester, so we moved there. Sometimes with both partners in academia the question of finding postdoc employment within each of our fields in the same location is quite difficult and a big ask from academia.
With both my partner and I in fixed-term contracts (when I used to be a postdoc) we needed to consider opportunities in the same location to provide continuing support for our family. I was fortunate to find a role in a company that had multiple branches/locations so there could be some flexibility in asking for relocation should the need arise.