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(S7E4) Meet the Culturositists: Introducing Taryn Bell and careers
Research Culturositists Episode 428th February 2024 • Research Culture Uncovered • Research Culturosity, University of Leeds
00:00:00 00:16:32

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In our Research Culture Uncovered conversations we are asking what is Research Culture and why does it matter? This episode is part of Season 7, but we go back to the format we used in Season 1 where we got to meet the hosts in a bit more detail before they hosted seasons on their specialist topic. In this episode of Research Culture Uncovered, host Emma Spary introduces Dr Taryn Bell, the newest member of the podcast team.

Taryn discusses her role as a researcher development advisor with a focus on career development at the University of Leeds. She shares her personal experience with career challenges and the importance of comprehensive career support for researchers. Taryn also previews her upcoming episodes, which will focus on fellowships, funding, and the emotional side of career development. You can connect to Taryn via LinkedIn

I ask Taryn what she thinks the biggest challenges are for researchers, what we do well at Leeds, where she thinks we can improve and what she hopes to see in the future. Her main messages include:

  • the challenge of getting researchers to prioritize career development alongside their research responsibilities
  • the perception of long-term career development workshops being a significant time investment for researchers
  • overcoming fear and discomfort associated with career planning and development
  • Taryn's excitement about launching the Fellowship Accelerator program for postdoc researchers
  • the importance of early intervention and support for fellowship applicants
  • the emphasis on incorporating emotional support into career development initiatives

What will she be covering in her upcoming episodes:

  • a focus on supporting researchers in fellowship applications and managing unsuccessful funding applications
  • AI and its impact on career development
  • the importance of "bedrock skills" in the future workplace and the link to AI and careers

Be sure to check out the other episodes in Season 1 to find out more about the hosts Emma Spary, Ged Hall, Tony Bromley and Nick Sheppard with a few special guest appearances.

All of our episodes can be accessed via the following playlists:

Follow us on twitter: @ResDevLeeds (new episodes are announced here), @OpenResLeeds@ResCultureLeeds 

Connect to us or leave us a review on LinkedIn: @ResearchUncoveredPodcast (new episodes are announced here)

Leeds Research Culture links:

Transcripts

Intro:

Welcome to the research Culture Uncovered podcast, where in every episode, we explore what is research culture and what should it be? You'll hear thoughts and opinions from a range of contributors to help you change research culture into what you want it to be.

Emma Spary:

Hi, it's Emma, and for those of you who haven't met me yet, I lead the researcher development and culture team at the University of Leeds. My podcast episodes normally focus on research culture and research leadership, but today I'm going back to the format that I used in season one, where we got to meet the research Culture Uncovered podcast team. I'm really pleased to be able to introduce Dr. Taryn Bell, our newest podcast member. And today we're going to find out a bit more about Taryn and also what we can expect from her episodes. So, Taryn, do you want to do a quick introduction to yourself and tell us about your role at the university?

Taryn Bell:

Yeah, of course. So thank you so much for having me. First of all, it's really exciting to be here. Having listened to loads of the episodes, it's nice to actually get involved in the podcast as well. So my job title is researcher development advisor with a focus on career development. So I work very closely with Ruth Winden on all things career development. So I'm really interested in supporting researchers and staff at the university to think really carefully about the career that they want to have, the steps that they want to take, and how we can support them in doing so. Now, I used to work at the University of York, where my specialism was in fellowships, research fellowships, and that's something that I'm hoping to bring to Leeds over the next few years.

Emma Spary:

Brilliant. Thank you. Now, in all of the other episodes that we did, all the other meet your team member episodes, we got to find out something about them that wasn't work related. So, can you give us one interesting fact about you?

Taryn Bell:

Okay. My interesting fact is that this is not my only podcast. I have another podcast with some friends of mine that focuses on archaeology, which was what I did my phd in. And if I'm honest, I don't talk about it very much because I hate listening to the sound of my voice. So I am always terrified to tell anyone else about it. But given we're on a podcast, it feels like the most relevant fact to tell you.

Emma Spary:

That also increases the pressure on my side, a professional podcaster on the other side. So, as I said, you're a relatively new member of our team at Leeds, and we know you're going to be supporting the careers of our researchers and also our fellowship applicants. But what is it that really interests you in that area of work?

Taryn Bell:

I mean, for me, to a certain extent, I find careers as a whole an absolutely fascinating area. And looking back, what I find quite funny is that I've been doing careers work for years. I just didn't realize I was. I've always been the person that friends have come to when it comes to applying for a job, doing their cv. I've mentored a lot of people. For example, during my research, I mentored a lot of other researchers. But for me, I guess for me, there's a personal stake in this. When I was doing research, I'm going to be really honest, I felt that there was only one thing that I could do, that I only had only one option, and that was academia.

Taryn Bell:

And when I realized that being in academia wasn't for me, it led to such a crisis of confidence. I had no idea what it was that I wanted to do. And having good careers advice and good career support made a huge difference. So I know from a personal perspective how important it is to have that good career support and what a difference it makes. I think the thing as well that really interests me is that I think traditionally ideas about researcher careers tend to focus around academia. But as Ruth will say and has said in the past many times, it's not just about careers and academia. There are so many options. And so for me, obviously, I focus a lot on fellowships, but I love having those conversations with people where we explore the options, we think about the wealth of options open to them.

Taryn Bell:

And I think really, this is what it comes down to. For me, careers work is about more than just talking about jobs. It's such a wide berth. We talk about skills development, we talk about what are your values, what are your strengths, what do you want to be, where do you want to go? So really, for me, I really enjoy supporting careers because it's a really varied area of research development and it's one that covers many of the other areas that the team does, whether it's impact or responsible research or supervision or all these different elements.

Emma Spary:

You're absolutely right, it's a huge area and I know it's one that Ruth has been desperately trying to get more support in. So I think the two of you are going to be quite a formidable team, actually. But I said it is big and there's a lot of areas that you can cover. But what do you consider to be the biggest challenges for our researchers?

Taryn Bell:

Honestly, I've thought about this for a while because this is a tricky question. I think for me, if I'm being really blunt, one of the challenges that we face, not just at Leeds but at universities in general, is getting people to make career development a regular part of their working life. We're a signatory to the researcher development Concorda and the technician's commitment. And so on paper we have these commitments to make sure that people are spending time regularly on their career and their professional development. However, in reality, I'd be really interested to see the numbers of postdoc researchers, for example, who use their ten days a year for things other than technical skills. I think for me this is something I face up against regularly. I ran a workshop really recently and someone said in the feedback, this felt like a long time to be out of the lab and it was a two hour workshop, so that wasn't a very long time. They also said, thank goodness.

Taryn Bell:

I really enjoyed it. This was a really valuable use of my time. But I thought it was really illustrative of the challenge we're often up against in getting people to take what we.

Emma Spary:

Do seriously and to make it part of our culture as well. And I know both you and Ruth are going to be working on not just our researchers, but our managers and the institution and how we can really build that culture of having good career conversations and career planning.

Taryn Bell:

Yeah, absolutely. And I understand why to a certain extent it's scary planning for your career and it's not comfortable. I mean, this is literally my job, and yet every time I have to update my cv, oh, I don't enjoy it, I don't really look forward to it. Don't tell Ruth I said that, but it is kind of nerve wracking and quite an emotional process. And so I think a lot of people, sometimes it can come from workload, but sometimes it can just come from a lack of understanding about what's out there and the options open to you or just fear about what's to come. One of the most instrumental things for me over the last few years has been understanding that a career is not just about finding something you're good at, it's about finding something you actually enjoy as well. So for me, we have a lot of work to do in supporting our researchers to take into account not just what they're good at, but what their values are and what's important to them, and finding a career that fits within that. And I think that's a real challenge from a career development perspective, because we don't often think about our values and our kind of career anchors or our strengths and things like that.

Taryn Bell:

We just think, well, what am I qualified for?

Emma Spary:

Absolutely, and I completely agree with Ruth. I wouldn't tell her that my cv is well out of date and I think it took her about twelve months to get me to update my LinkedIn profile as well. Yes. Now, over the other episodes, I have put people on the spot and I've asked them what they're prioritizing. So you've agreed to join this podcast team. There's no backing out now and that in itself I think is brilliant and exciting. But what do you think is the most exciting thing that you're working on at the moment, or what are you most excited to get started on?

Taryn Bell:

So I think the thing I'm most excited about at the moment is I'm just about to launch a program called Fellowship Accelerator, which is aimed at postdoc researchers who want to submit a fellowship application at some point in the next nine to twelve months. This is based on some work I've done previously, but really, really expanding it. This is on a long scale, this is a really intensive long term program and I'm really excited for it because we often work with people when they're already at their I'm applying stage. And if there's one thing I know about researchers, it's that they always start too late. So what this program is going to allow us to do is to capture people really early. So that's the first reason I'm excited about it, because it's going to give me the chance to work with small groups of researchers over a longer period of time. But I'm also excited about it because I've tried to build into the program elements other than fellowships themselves. So the people who attend this course will be looking at things like research, culture impact, what's responsible research.

Taryn Bell:

And all of these things are things that we would hope they would be familiar with, but they often aren't or they just don't have the time or they've never actually dealt with it. So for me, I'm really excited to see how this goes. We're going to pilot it this year and see what happens. But I think personally it's a really exciting opportunity for us to support our postdoc researchers at a much earlier stage than we usually do.

Emma Spary:

I'm really excited about this one as well. I think we've been doing fellowship support at Leeds for a while, but this just feels like a new energy is coming in, so I can't wait to see where you take it. That being said, I'm slightly biased, and I think that we do things pretty well at Leeds, but I think as a team we recognize there are always things we could be improving. You're relatively new, so what do you think is on our improved list and what are your priorities going to be?

Taryn Bell:

I mean, I completely agree. Obviously I'm also very biased, but I also think that what Leeds is doing is really excellent just because of the breadth of what we do. There is so much opportunity for researchers to take things up, to develop in whatever way they choose. There is always areas we can expand and as our team expands, we're quite a creative team, so I have no doubt we'll do more and more exciting things. One of the things that I think is really interesting for me is relates to fellowship accelerator. For me it comes down to that sort of pre award support. So I work closely with our research office in terms of supporting fellowship applicants and things like that. But what the research office just don't have the time to do, and we have the space, I think at this moment to do, is to capture people early, to capture people before the calls are out, to capture people when they only have the beginnings of an idea.

Taryn Bell:

And not just that, but to catch the people who are potentially not so good in putting themselves forward. They might be a little shy or they might be a bit nervous about sharing their ideas. And I'm hoping that with the resources I can create and the programs we can run, we can open fellowships and funding to a broader number of people. Now, alongside that, my sort of secondary interest is also improving the work we do with the emotional side of what we do in professional development. And this. I'll be joined by our colleague hellith on this one, who I know is also really interested in this because I think we're really excellent at giving practical support and practical advice. But I still think there's a lot that we can do to acknowledge the emotional work involved in careers. So I've talked about it already, whether that's if fear is getting in your way or maybe you're struggling with a kind of impostor mindset or all of these things.

Taryn Bell:

And I think often, given that for me, for example, I think about fellowships and funding day in, day out. So it's not something that I have any sort of negative feelings towards. I really enjoy it. But for many people it's a time of real, not emotional, turmoil. That's definitely way too dramatic. But it's a time of real nervousness and it's a time of doing something that can be uncomfortable. And I think we potentially are at a point, particularly among discussions about research, culture and thinking about the way people feel while they're doing these things as well, and how we can support them to kind of shake off the fear, all the negative feelings and feel positive about their careers.

Emma Spary:

Brilliant. Thank you very much. So we're almost out of time, but we haven't yet discussed what you're going to be covering in your episodes. What can our listeners expect from the episodes that you're going to bring to us?

Taryn Bell:

So I've got two episodes coming up, actually, unsurprisingly, focusing on fellowships and funding. So I'll be talking with Anna Piltz at the University of Edinburgh, talking firstly about how can we support researchers applying for funding, and secondly talking about how we help researchers when they're unsuccessful with funding applications as well. So I think that's really going to cover my two real interests, which is both fellowships and funding, and also managing that kind of emotional side of things as well. I think a lot of my episodes will relate to those fellowships and funding, and I'm hoping to do a little bit of stuff on the kind of emotional work as well. And I realize I haven't mentioned it at all, but something else I've been thinking about really recently and reading all I can is AI. I'm obsessed with AI and careers right now. I'm reading all sorts of stuff going to every course I can. So I'm hoping that we'll be able to get on some interesting guests who'll be able to talk about the link between AI and careers development and all the exciting changes that are going on in that sphere.

Emma Spary:

Too exciting or terrifying, depending on which side you want to look at it from any initial insights into the pros and cons of it.

Taryn Bell:

I think the one key thing that has come out of everything I've done so far on AI is that more than ever, what is going to be important in the future of the workplace is soft skills, or as I prefer to refer to them, bedrock skills. You know, the things like your communication, your teamwork, your presentation skills, all of that kind of thing. I find it really fascinating that the people actually creating these AI tools and careers professionals as well, are really on the same page. They say the future is not having those technical skills, the future is knowing how to use AI and then knowing how to use your soft skills to work with other people. That's really what's going to stand people in good stead in the long term.

Emma Spary:

Wow. Thank you. I can't wait for that episode. Or episodes. So 20 minutes goes so quickly and we do try and keep these short and snappy. So I want to thank you very much, Karen, for joining me not only on this episode, but also on the podcast. And I'm going to hand it over to you for the final word.

Taryn Bell:

Oh, do you know what? I never had to say the final words. I think the final thing for me to say is that I feel incredibly lucky to be a researcher developer at this point. I feel like we're at a real crux at the moment when it comes to both researcher development and research culture. I think as this podcast shows, there is so much going on that is just fascinating and interesting and exciting both at Leeds and at other places. So I'm really excited to be a part of the podcast and long may it last.

Intro:

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Links

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