As a kid I loved reading anything that could help me to understand the world, past, present and future. In university I studied English Literature and critical theory and learned to see the world through the lenses of feminism, post-colonialism and socialism. Intrigued by the carnival traditions which stretched back to medieval Europe and beyond, and unconvinced by scholarly explanations of their meaning and importance, I decided to pursue a PhD in Medieval Studies at the University of York in 1993.
Studying the past doesn’t mean turning your back on the future: on the contrary, studying the pre-modern period gives you a radical perspective on the present and future. You come to appreciate how much of what we take for granted is novel: ideas of the nation, gender roles, family structures, labour systems, democracy. Our ancestors first had to imagine the world that we have today, in order to build it, and in turn we can imagine a fairer and more sustainable future, and work towards building it for future generations.
Although successful in winning a British Academy post-doc after my PhD, I was unsuccessful in my search for an academic post, and as my post-doc drew to an end in 2000 I jumped ship and struck out in business. As soon as I got into an office with a diverse bunch of techies, creatives, educators and sales people, working for a start-up e-learning company, I knew there was no going back. Now on my fifth job since leaving academia, I’ve survived two redundancies and worked my way around Europe, from Ireland to Estonia, finally ending up at sustainable banking pioneers Triodos Bank.
In classical economics, the banking and insurance sector merely lubricates the wheels of the real economy: helping consumers, companies and governments to buy, sell and borrow. Since the 1980s, the financial sector has become a part of the economy in its own right, inflating a massive credit bubble that burst in 2008. As a society we desperately need to embrace a greener and fairer model of banking, one where money works for the broader social good, providing a solid and sustainable base for businesses, charities and families to flourish. As a project manager I can help to make that future happen.
In my spare time I write a blog for PhDs and graduates, about how to make the transition out of academia and into another sector of the economy (Jobs on Toast). So when Michelle asked me to write a series of posts about my week at work, I was delighted! I hope my posts can serve as a source of guidance and inspiration for others who are thinking of making the transition, and wondering what life is like post-PhD, as a post-academic.