What ASD Did For... Dr Valeska Ting

Dr Valeska Ting is a Reader in Smart Nanomaterials in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. When she was encouraged by her Head of School to apply for the WISE Career Development programme she already had a track record of leadership in her current role (involving supervision of 1 PDRA and 5 PhD students, securing and managing grant funding and teaching in thermodynamics and materials) and had won national and international awards in recognition of her research into materials for sustainable energies.

Here Valeska tells us about the impact a place on the WISE programme had for her:

“The WISE programme was offered as a one-off, EPSRC-funded career development activity to address the marked under-representation of women at professorial level in STEM subjects. This lack of female role models is especially conspicuous in engineering, but can also be seen in STEM subjects where there is a high number of female undergraduate and postgraduate students. Greater levels of diversity have been shown in FTSE 350 companies to lead to greater productivity, creativity and innovation, with associated financial benefits. Therefore the University was keen to target female Senior Lecturers/Readers for this course, to encourage them to aspire to contribute to the university at a professorial level.

Initially I was sceptical about signing up to the considerable time commitment of four full-day workshops over 3 months. The standard programme modules were on effective communication, personal branding, career planning and presentation skills, the last module being something I (as an academic) felt I already had a lot of experience with. The other participants were found to have similar apprehensions, but a discussion with ASD revealed a refreshing willingness to listen to concerns and an understanding that the programme was in fact being adapted to the needs of the participants where possible.

A quick survey of participants prior to the course indicated that there was an appetite for learning how to effectively manage larger projects or groups of people, so the Skills4UK trainer suggested substituting the session on presentation skills with one specifically on leadership. To gain the perspective of someone in a senior management role, ASD arranged for the brilliant Professor Kate Nobes to drop in to discuss her career path, her day-to-day responsibilities as a Head of School and to answer questions about her career progression.

The four full-day workshops were delivered to a small group, which allowed plenty of time for personalised development and discussion as well as peer support. Workshops were understood to be dedicated time for participants to focus on their career development, analyse their approaches to situations, plan and reflect on their career choices and identify the concrete actions needed to attain their goals. Each session started with a review of progress from the previous session and thus built upon the session before.

The trainer was extremely knowledgeable and experienced and had worked with a large number of people in top management positions in industry and government, as well as in academia.  She was able to provide insightful and clear guidance on how to deal with various challenging situations in the workplace.

All of the participants have noted successes due to their participation in the workshop in excess of their initial expectations and report greater confidence in their abilities and a motivation to contribute to the University at a more senior level.

As well as creating an on-going network of senior women in STEM at Bristol, the outcomes of the training course have included a report on organisational barriers to progression of women to senior roles, with recommendations for changing the culture, such as having senior male colleagues raising awareness of the benefits of diversity and visibly supporting these initiatives, provision of mentoring and identifying where unconscious bias may be influencing promotion and succession planning decisions.

While opportunities like the WISE programme have shown Bristol’s dedication towards providing a more diverse and inclusive culture, there is still much that can be done. All participants felt strongly that if this programme was offered to more women at the University, it would empower a great many more women to take on the challenges of senior management roles and become future leaders and role models.”

Comments from Delegates

Thanks very much it has been transformational! I have been galvanised into action on many fronts

This is the first training course I have done in the University that really impacted on my behaviour

This is an excellent programme, highly recommend! The trainer was highly skilled as a trainer, she has lengthy experience and a clear constructive answer to every question.

This course should be made available more widely across the University. It is one of the few courses that I’ve done where I genuinely changed my behaviour within 24 hours and saw results. A real pleasure to finally have the chance to develop the skills that work. The University need to send more people on this

It is a really valuable course, it is one of the best I have attended. It has a very personal aspect that has made a substantial and constructive improvement to my professional and personal attitude and behaviour

Best career development programme I have done to date. Really appreciated the willingness by the University and facilitators to tailor training for the cohort. Lots of practical actions to take forward. Great network to maintain. Thank you!