The accidental academic
How long have you been doing this job and what first sparked your interest in this area?
I recently celebrated my ten-year anniversary with the university. To be honest, I kind of fell into
academia and stayed. For the decade prior to joining the university I worked at a Big Four accounting firm in the climate change and sustainability services team. At one point I wanted to gain further qualifications and ended up embarking on a PhD in responsible investment and sustainability accounting. To this day, I continue to research and teach in these areas.
What do you like most about the job?
I enjoy the freedom that comes with tackling research questions. One of my current projects is an
experiment examining how professional investment analysts assess climate-related financial disclosures within their valuation decisions.
I also enjoy my role as Academic Lead for our commitments as a signatory to the United Nations’ Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME). We recently launched our second progress report; a showcase of the work we are doing towards integrating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into our teaching and research.
What was the most unexpected thing you have had to do in your job?
Given the current pandemic having to move all of our teaching online within a matter of days was not
something I would have imagined a few months ago. It has been a remarkable display of adaptability
and resilience for all of us; my colleagues and our students included.
How transferable are your skills?
I came from the corporate sector with subject matter expertise that has been transferable and deepened through my academic roles as a researcher and teacher. Academics need a set of diverse skills across their portfolio of research, teaching and engagement; so being versatile is key and a great skill to take to any role.
What advice do you have for people wanting to get into this career?
Academics need to complete a PhD, so find a relevant topic that you are really interested in (as you
could be working on it for many years!) and a supportive set of supervisors. Make sure you enjoy reading academic journal articles and writing, and that you have a “thick skin”. Your work is criticised as is the nature of the academic process; this gets somewhat easier to accept over time. Bringing industry experience is great for research and students love this, too.
What personal skills do they need?
Clear communication skills are needed whether you are teaching students, interviewing subjects or
writing journal articles. The ability to think critically and solve problems is key if you want your research and teaching to be relevant and have impact. The ability to work independently and be self-motivated is important (sometimes researching and writing can be a lonely task). Finally, being comfortable with change and having adaptive skills is vital, particularly at this current time.