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Pathways: Josephine Mumford


Can you tell us a little about your career and the path you took to your present role at FoDOCS? 

After I graduated, I moved to London to work for an education consultancy but within a year of being in post they decided to move their headquarters to Manchester. I wanted to stay in London for personal reasons and so I decided not to transfer with them (this was long before hybrid working was possible!)

I was looking for jobs and took a 3-month contract with the Department of Clinical Neuroscience, at the IoPPN, to do some project work for them. I had been there a short time when they lost their Clinical Trials Coordinator. As my project work could be paused, I was asked if I would be interested in taking a secondment whilst they recruited a replacement. This was coordinating Stage 3 & 4 commercial drug trials; I had never worked in a clinical setting before, I have an M.A in History, and it was a steep learning curve but one I enjoyed and following this I took a permanent job with the department as a Section Administrator. I stayed for a year before moving to the Institute of Education to work in school placements and partnerships.

I was there for 4 years. It was a very different type of role and although probably closer to my original experience, I really missed being in a research environment. I applied and was successful for a job back at the IoPPN. It was a fixed-term contract and a sideways move in terms of money. My post at the Institute of Education was permanent and I was made an enhanced offer to stay. The logical step would have been to stay where I was, and I was nervous about putting myself in an insecure position, but I knew that if I didn’t take the opportunity then I was unlikely to in the future.

I took the job and over the next 7 years worked in different roles within the IoPPN eventually progressing to be Head of Administration for the School of Mental Health & Psychological Sciences. In 2017 I undertook a post-graduate qualification in Higher Education, Administration, Management & Leadership.

I was very fortunate to have supportive line managers who were willing to be flexible to enable me to take opportunities as they arose, this included working for 2 years as a .5fte Strategic Programmes Manager in Strategy, Planning & Analytics, and when, at the end of 2021, I applied to be interim Director of Operations in FoDOCS. I was pleased to be successful and recently confirmed in the substantive post. It still feels a bit daunting and I’m learning new things every day but I’m glad put myself forward. 

What, if any, challenges did you encounter along the way, and how did you navigate them? 

Within Professional Services there is no promotion criteria or established pathways which can make it a bit harder to see progression routes. Universities are such large entities and many opportunities are available but it is not always apparent. It can also be hard to know whether we have the right skill set, and how to develop it if not, or whether something will fit.

I think it is important to remember that not all experience and skills are gained in the day job. For many years I volunteered for a mental health charity and through this organisation acted as a mentor long before I had any formal line management experience. Within the University I volunteered for committees and groups which interested me and where I thought I could add value

The support of colleagues has also been key for me. It can feel a bit vulnerable at first, and I have not always been very good at asking for help, but I would have found my pathway a lot more difficult without it. Whether it is asking for someone to go for coffee or sending a quick message on Teams asking if they have a minute, having trusted people to bounce ideas off or ask for advice has been invaluable. Likewise, I am always happy to be a sounding board for someone or to listen if they want to talk a problem through. I think the more we share and support each other the better it is for ourselves and the organisation.

If you could, what advice would you give your younger self at the start of your career? 

80% will be good enough most of the time! I still struggle with this a little, but I think we need to let go of the idea everything must be perfect. Sometimes you just need to get something done and off your desk.