Tag Archives: Career development

What to do after a PhD? (University of Manchester Pathways 2011)

10 Jun

Today, Friday 10th June, I am taking part again in the University of Manchester’s PATHWAYS 2011 Career event for PhD students and Research Staff.

The event takes place over three days and is designed to support delegates in making career choices, exploring future plans and discovering the breadth of opportunities available to them.

Over the three days, Pathways comprises:

I am one of the 77 Panelists who will address questions such as:

  • At what point in your PhD did you / should you really begin to think about the next step in your career?
  • How did you decide on which careers to follow – what other careers did you consider or would you consider as a next step?
  • What other jobs do you know of which have been filled by PhD researchers?
  • How did you / should PhD researchers go about the process of looking for employment?
  • How did you / would you successfully market a PhD to potential employers?
  • How are PhD researchers perceived in the job market?
  • At interview what types of questions were you / could you be asked about your PhD?
  • What was your first job after your PhD?
  • How did you find that job?
  • Was that job what you expected? What was different?
  • Did you use the skills / knowledge from your PhD in your first job / in your current role?
  • What did you learn during your PhD which was useful in your first job?
  • Is there anything you learnt during your PhD which you use in your current job?
  • Is there anything you wish you had learnt or done during your PhD which would have helped your career?

I really enjoyed being a Panelist last year, as you will witness from my older blog post: “The Loneliness of the long-distance … VUI Designer!“. So  I am really looking forward to sharing some insight this year again into the world of Industry, the thrills and perils of start-ups, the luring flexibility of freelancing, and the dos and don’ts of Project Management.

P.S. Not sure who added those 2 extra lines in my profile that don’t make sense with the rest but it wasn’t my fault!

Inspirational Manchester women

12 Apr

March was a very inspiring month!

Already on the 4th, I was most honoured and really proud to take part in the photoshoot marking the 100th anniversary of  International Women’s Day (IWD) (@IWDphotoshoot and @ManchesterIWD on Twitter). The event was organised by Emma Beck of Lollipop PR (@lollipopprlady) and Naomi Timperley (@naomitimperley) of Social Media Boom and Baby Loves Disco with the aim to “bring together a group of ‘Women Who Impact’ from all walks of life, to launch the IWD programme with a group photograph at Manchester Town Hall.

On that freezing cold but gloriously sunny Friday, I stood on the steps of Manchester Town Hall for a non-glamorous but still exciting and exhilarating photoshoot. There were a few famous women among us, as it has been reported in the print and online media (such as Manchester Evening News and Inside the M60), but most of us were less-known business women, Academics or Creatives who keep on keeping on! So I felt incredibly honoured to have been invited in the first place and of course to be photographed next to some of the “City’s Top Women”, “inspirational” “luminaries” who “impact”! I guess my long association with automatic speech recognition and voice-enabled IVRs can get me anywhere 🙂 And having my own consultancy nowadays also got me the baptism of fire in the Business world.

Here is a representative photo of all 50 of us (I’m in the front row, 5th from the right, the one with the beige coat on)

50 of Manchesters Top Women 🙂 (photo as appeared in “Inside the M60”)

Some of the inspiring women I personally met there were:

  • Dr Marieke Navin (@lisamarieke), Particle physicist turned science communicator at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) here in Manchester (seen here in the 2nd row, 3rd from the right)
  • Dr Manjir Samanta-Laughton (@drmanjir), medical doctor turned author of “Punk Science” (seen at the back next to the woman with the white hat)
  • and Gráinne McElroy (@DemWorkingMum), Technology Research Analyst and self-professed geek, who got me in touch with the organisers of the photoshoot (Thank you!) (seen here in the 2nd row, 4th from the right, just behind me and to my left)

Despite the still lingering euphoria however, I agree with Coun Suzanne Richards, Manchester Council’s lead member for women (quoted from M.E.N.):

“We still need more women politicians, we still need more women in the board rooms.

In fact, I suspect that having more women politicians could be the solution to many of this and other countries’ socio-economic problems!!

We’ve partnered with Growing Ambitions!

12 Jul

Exactly a year ago (in July 2009), I joined Growing Ambitions as a volunteer Speaker, offering to visit for a few hours per year Schools , Further Education Organisations and Universities in the UK and talk about my career choices and development to date, my Industry and the career options available to pupils and students in IT, Software Design, Linguistics and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Today, my Consultancy, DialogCONNECTION Ltd, became an official Partner organisation of Growing Ambitions, committing to spreading the word about this scheme to our customers, partners and suppliers at every suitable opportunity. I am all for encouraging young people to be as ambitious and visionary as they fancy, so I find it a great idea to provide such a convenient and accessible forum for discussing options, possibilities, and hopefully, generating dreams.

I’m looking forward to my first speaking slot and all the grilling questions I’m sure I will get from the pupils / students! In the meantime, join Growing Ambitions yourselves and spread the word!

Please Click here to Visit the Growing Ambitions website

The Loneliness of the long-distance … VUI Designer!

13 Jun

On Friday 11th June, I took part in the “Pathways” event organised annually by the University of Manchester Career Service to support PhD researchers as well as research staff in “making career choices, exploring future plans and discovering the breadth of opportunities available to them“. I was Guest Panellist at 3 different Sessions:

  1. Opportunities for Engineering and Physical Sciences
  2. Working as a Freelancer or Consultant and
  3. Enterprise, Entrepreneurship and Business Start Up

The University of Manchester Logo

As a University of Manchester graduate (well, technically UMIST, I felt compelled to take part in those Question and Answer panels in order to give some insight on how a career can develop: from a Bachelors in English & Linguistics in Greece, to a Masters of Science in Machine Translation and a Doctorate in Automatic Text Summarisation in the UK, to a Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Spoken Dialogue Management and a position as a Research Project Manager in Germany, to working in Industry both as a full-time employee and as an external contractor as a Voice User Interface (VUI) Designer in Germany, the UK, Switzerland, the US and further afield. It’s been a fascinating journey for sure! And I probably would never have arrived where I am now, if I hadn’t done those degrees or taken up those jobs in those specific places.

Have a look at the Guest Speaker profiles, including mine (p. 24), here: http://www.careers.manchester.ac.uk/media/media,172749,en.pdf

Some very inspiring career journeys!

I have to say I have thoroughly enjoyed the whole journey, the projects I have worked on, the people I have met on the way, the different organisational cultures I had the chance to experience. Plus, I wouldn’t change what I do now for the world! I love working as an external contractor and coming in to design speech self-service systems and voice-to-text services from scratch, or optimise existing ones, and the whole development, testing and tuning cycles:

  • writing functional specification documents
  • defining the system persona
  • drawing call flows
  • crafting system messages and coaching voice talents for the recordings
  • writing speech recognition grammars and pronunciations
  • devising and carrying out Wizard-of-Oz tests and Usability tests (including recording test subjects on video and interviewing them afterwards!)
  • transcribing and analysing phone calls
  • writing tuning reports

Everything is a lot of fun! It’s also great to be bringing in the same VUI Design processes and skills in different organisations and projects, and also getting to work at different places in the world at any one time! I love the variety of work and location of work, as well as the flexibility to work anytime and from anywhere! (Yes, working on your laptop – iPad soon – from a beach in the Caribbean is no longer a daydream but a realistic plan! :))

working on a deserted beach in the Caribbean is no longer a daydream!

Okay, it does get lonely. No gossiping in the kitchen during coffee breaks and no Christmas office parties. I still get to have probably as many face-to-face project meetings and conference calls as the average office worker though. We all have to work independently and in isolation, when analysing data or composing a report anyway. Only office workers have also got the hectic running-around of their colleagues and lots of intrusive and loud phone calls they have to unwillingly witness in silence. So my loneliness is a very content one! 😀