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Joanne - do you have any regrets about leaving academia?
Name: Joanne
PhD discipline: History
Area(s) of work: Publishing
Year of graduation: 2002
Date of Interview: 18/06/2008

Now Playing: Joanne - do you have any regrets about leaving academia?
Joanne explains why she chose not to pursue a career in academia and reflects on why this was the right decision for her. She offers some advice to those about to embark on a PhD.

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Do you have any regrets about moving beyond academia? 

Well, it's because my boyfriend's just starting to do one and I do, I speak to academics all the time that's what my job you know involves and so I do you know. I can remember why I wanted to do it, it's a fantastic thing to do, you know and to have as a career and such an interesting kind of career and so yeah I do look at it and think 'yes, that looks like a nice career'. I mean I really love what I'm doing now and yeah there are things, the way that I can still be involved in it, be intellectually engaged with it I really, that's, similarly to when you're doing your own research, you can bring that to it and I really like that but again, I do like that it doesn't take up your whole life and the career stability of it I like. You know, I'm not sort of worried about my next, you know, that I'm only working on short-term contracts or having to move all over the country as a lot of people I know have done. So it's not like I was unsavvy about how to build a career, I've done it really well in publishing and I've become a commissioning editor pretty quickly and you know I'm really glad about that because yeah, I was worried that this was going to take me a long time and I'm, I was already in my early thirties when I started and I didn't want to be hanging around. I wanted to get there quite quickly and I have done that you know. So I wasn't like completely oblivious to how to build a career so maybe it was that, yeah, it was a bit subconsciously that, you know, I didn't really, I didn't have that although I love doing it and that there was lots of things, I loved the teaching, the research and the writing. You kind of think those were the three key things to building an academic career but maybe I just didn't have it enough, or didn't have that sort of confidence, or didn't have the utter passion that means that confidence doesn't matter, in a way that you're so immersed in it and so love it, you know, that it's not an issue of confidence or that just sort of doesn't come into it. So, yeah I think maybe what I, what I like is something a bit more structured I guess and academia didn't seem to offer, didn't have that for me I guess. So maybe I found it a bit difficult to sort of find my feet in that sort of bit more unstructured world although I think now if I was looking at it again, I think I would know ways to make it structured for myself. And I can, and looking at my boyfriend who's about to start his PhD, I mean it's always easier to tell someone else what to do but I can clearly see you know what he, how he should be building his sort of reputation and experience in doing certain things. When I meet new authors or people who've just passed their PhD or you know – I feel it's not my place and I don't – but I feel like I could really give them some, you know I could tell them what they needed to do to make their proposal you know to what they how they should structure themselves or present themselves. It's all about marketing yourself really and how you could do that I could see how you could do that a lot more. I'll be bossing my boyfriend about, telling how to do that.

What would you tell him to do?

Well, he needs to you know, sharing his work with other people in his field. Just emailing them, you know sort of off the bat, and asking if they would comment on his work. So not just his supervisor, he needs to use the contacts that his supervisor has, go to all the conferences his supervisor goes to and make sure that his supervisor introduces him to people. He should go to all the, you know, conferences in his field and try to get on to, you know elected on to the committees, you know in any kind of capacity, make sure he's sort of joined up to all the sort of right mailing lists, make sure he should be submitting articles but he should, to the big journals but also to mainly the more you know smaller more sort of parochial journals. You know, just sort of building a name for himself so he can, on his CV say he's written for lots of different things but so, maybe thinking for writing for History Today or you know something that's maybe so academic but that he can have on his CV. He needs to be giving papers quite early in his career and getting experience of doing that and making sure that he's, that he's you know, he has kind of, that he's doing seminar groups with his other PhD students so he gets a community of PhD students so he's not isolated and on. And arranging conferences with them or you know, putting together edited collections or publishing online or you know having a blog of his own where he's talking about his own research (laughs). Show that he's not sort of scared of marketing himself in those ways.

When you're dealing with all of these authors and manuscripts, do you ever wish that you were writing the book?

Umm, (sigh), I don't envy them writing a book really, I don't think it's, I think it's quite, you know, I know what a kind of task it is in a way but when I, you know, look back on my favourite parts of my PhD and certainly writing it up at the end and I was in the British Library everyday and you know I had a very strict discipline of writing a certain amount of words per day and I really enjoyed that. I really relished being in that kind of zone of writing you know and being focused on the writing so I know that there's a real joy in doing it you know if, when it's going well. You know, and I'm certainly now looking at, I've just done like courses on history of art and I'm looking at doing more courses and those kind of visual culture kind of areas so, umm, so I'm looking at, so I'm sort of still looking at learning in a way and I'm hoping to be able to do, at the moment I'm just doing individual courses but I want to do something a bit more structured and bigger later on.

Are you doing evening classes?

Yes, yeah at the moment but I'm in the back of my mind it's something I would want to do an MA or an MPhil in so, so do I?

You have a certain intellectual..?

Yes, yes, exactly so I'm still looking at, I'm still wanting to be involved in that really actively myself and I suppose in the back of my mind I haven't a hundred percent ruled it out, returning to academia, you know. I don't know how, that's probably pretty unlikely that that would actually happen but I kind of feel maybe I am, I would know how to do it much better and now I've got the security of my job you know it would be a sort of, I could sort of develop it as a hobby on the side maybe. Or see if it went anywhere but yeah so I want to be involved in my own research still I guess – or still learning in a way that I was before.


It's so, it's so vague and you know I'm very much focused on my career and where that's going and what I'm doing now. And yeah at the back of my mind and even though it's probably, you know, just a bit of wishful thinking on my part – but I definitely want to be doing you know, I'm looking at doing some Open University courses and maybe you know in five years an MA or an MPhil and then who knows. And I think that's one of the nice things about academia is that you don't have to have just got into it at twenty three and after that it's very difficult – that it's probably a bit more flexible.

You think you could, it would be something you could get back into?


I don't know, I don't think it would be easy but I think you know it's like that, I don't rule it out, at the back of my mind, maybe one day.

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