News, Outside Academia

Testing the water

It’s been a while since I’ve been in a classroom. Well, to be precise in a classroom not as a lecturer. It’s a bit of an odd feeling, but also quite relaxing. For the past three weeks, I have participated in a training programme at Queen Mary University of London called QConsult. In this programme, PhDs and Post-Docs get the chance to experience a career outside academia as QConsultants. One of the perks of this programme is its interdisciplinary nature. PhD candidates from the School of Medicine and Dentistry work together with PhDs in English and Post-Docs in Engineering to solve a problem for a real client. Even though we come from different disciplines, our cohort has something crucial in common: a curiosity to experience life outside academia.

Having applied for this opportunity with a – quite frankly – very, very vague idea in mind about what a consultant does and what consultancy is, I have already learned a lot in this short time. Not just about what I’m actually supposed to be doing in this 12-week programme, but also about my skills and my personality.

Week 2, for instance, was a revelation. Split into two groups, our cohort participated in an assessment centre simulation in a 2 ½ hour session. To make the simulation as realistic as possible, we even had a dress code. Safety goggles were swapped for stilettos, band t-shirts abandoned for crisp white shirts. Everyone felt a bit like a fish out of water. Concerns about appearances were however soon dropped, once we were presented with our case study. In teams of four we had to work through a lengthy document and present our solutions on a poster.

assessment centre

The teams were created based on a Myers-Briggs personality test we had to complete prior to the assessment centre. No matter whether you believe in these types of tests or not, I was amazed at how accurate some of the descriptions were. Apparently, I am a protagonist, a natural-born leader like Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Daenerys Targaryen and Morpheus, to name just a few. Don’t get me wrong. Reading the first few lines of the introduction made me doubt the results a bit, but then I could see myself more and more in it. Putting this to test in the simulation, my urge to include everyone in the discussion and making sure that the team was happy with the result was pretty apparent. Our performance in our teams was also evaluated and according the feedback I got, I am a collaborative nudger.

Today, we received our real project brief and met our team members. Now we get to work as QConsultants testing the non-academia water.