Occupation: Senior Lecturer in Celtic History in the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic at the University of Cambridge
What were your favourite subjects and who were your favourite teachers at School?
I loved all my subjects (History, German and English Literature), but I particularly enjoyed History, and I remember very fondly the A-level lessons with Mrs Heap.
What further study have you undertaken since leaving School?
I first did a History degree at Oxford University, then the MSt in Historical Research (Medieval) and finally the DPhil (= PhD) in History. I have always enjoyed distance learning, and I have been studying Scottish Gaelic on and off in that way since leaving school. I recently attained CertHE (= first-year degree level) in Gaelic and Related Studies from the University of the Highlands and Islands by distance learning. I have also studied Modern Welsh with a tutor, and I am now at Canolradd (intermediate) level. I am passionate about languages, and command of medieval Latin and the medieval Celtic languages are important for my job.
What does your job involve and how did you progress to your current role?
I am now Senior Lecturer in Celtic History in the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic at the University of Cambridge. The job involves lecturing, research (and publication of the research) and administration.
I completed my DPhil in 2005, then became a Research Fellow at St John's College, Cambridge. After one term, my current job was advertised and – somewhat to my surprise – I got it. I was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2013.
What/who influenced your career choice?
I have always loved History and just kept on studying it! I have been quite shocked at how hard it is to get a job in the academic world, however – there are few jobs and many candidates. With hindsight, I have been lucky to end up pursuing my interest as a career.
Who/what has been your biggest inspiration?
I suppose I should credit King Arthur with getting me into Celtic history at the age of seven (!) Apart from him, I was fortunate to have two very supportive doctoral supervisors.
Which skills do you consider to be essential for your job?
A love of the subject, tenacity (vital for research) and the confidence to speak in public very frequently. Also the specific research skills to pursue your doctoral work – which in my case included a lot of languages.
What do you like most about your job?
I love public speaking, so lecturing is always fun, whether to students or the general public. Making a significant breakthrough in research after hours of painstaking work (the lightbulb moment) is also memorable.
What is your biggest challenge in your current role?
I have recently encountered the big challenge of combining work with motherhood – I have a young son and another baby on the way. In some ways academia is helpful since the research work can be very flexible, but on the other hand, the work never stops. Academia is as much a way of life as a career, and there are many after-work seminars, dinners and conferences at weekends, plus the need to be part of international networks.
Obviously I need to say 'no' to some of those things nowadays. But I wouldn't change it – I love doing things like taking my young son to Blackpool!
What do you consider to be your greatest career achievement?
Getting my lectureship at the age of 25 – it was daunting because my predecessor was a very eminent professor, but I have survived!
How did Bolton School help you to be successful in your chosen career?
I loved everything about School – I really enjoyed my A-levels, but I also had a fantastic crew of friends, many of whom I'm still in touch with (you know who you are!). The academic skills are very important for my job, but, so too, is the confidence to pursue your own direction.
What advice would you give to our pupils interested in your field of work?
Funding is available for postgraduate study, but the funding competitions are fiercely competitive. Therefore you need to be utterly committed to your degree work from the very beginning.