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Interview with Nadege Minois

PART 1Displaying nadege minois.jpg

1. What was the stimulus that caused you to switch your interest from Biology to Management? 

There was some dissatisfaction about where I was going in my career in Biology - I couldn’t see how I couldn’t see how I could progress my career further. I don’t think anybody really inspired me to make that move - it was more of a slow realisation that I liked things about management. So when I was considering stopping Biology, I stopped and thought: ‘Okay, what would I like to do?’

2. Was it difficult to change? What difficulties did you expect and what was the reality?

To make the decision itself wasn’t difficult. However, implementing it was much more difficult, especially when you apply for jobs in an area where you don’t have any experience. In job interviews, people will ask: ‘Are you sure you want to change? Are you sure you know what it means?’ I think, in the end, I was lucky to be able to switch career in the same institution. I had a history with St Andrews, so it was easier for people to assess me more objectively, so I think that made it easier. But if you’re trying to change everything, I think it’s going to be quite challenging.

3. Do you think you made a good decision? Would you do the same today? Don't you miss working as a scientist?

Yes! Definitely, I would do it again.

PART 2

4.  Do you see your ability to switch career orientation as a proof that today's degrees are concentrated especially on transferable skills useable in any profession? Is this a good thing or can it be limiting in the detailed study of specific fields?

Yes, I do think it’s very good thing. There is a difference between knowledge and skills. Your degree with bring knowledge within a specific field, but what you are doing in that degree will bring you skills that you can use somewhere else. Students are probably not going to be aware that they are getting these skills. For example, you probably think that writing an essay is boring and useless. Think about it this way: ‘How will it help me to gain some skills that I can put on CV? How can it help in doing what I want to do in the future?’

5. Do you see any parallels between the skills needed in Biology and Management? Any differences?

When it comes to technical skills, obviously, that will be much more restrictive to your specific project. For example, knowing how to measure the concentration of the protein is not going to help you to manage a project. However, within a research project, you may need to lead and to manage. That’s a skill you can reuse, and I made a good use of that. In my career, I had to manage several quite big projects. Whether they are scientific or commercial projects – the platform was the same. That’s how I realised I liked management. 

6. Generally, people working in commercial services do not have academic titles. Did you notice any reactions on your PhD in the labour market? Is it useful or is it a burden? 

I actually don’t think it’s a burden. It works the other round sometimes – because you have a certain qualification, you are more likely to get a certain type of job. So I think it’s always an advantage: it shows that you’re smart, you’ve encountered some problems which you’ve got through. However, in most cases you don’t need to use your title, so choose to use it carefully. For example, I use it to bridge the gap between academic staff and administrative units: it shows that I’ve worked with both, and I can understand both worlds. 

PART 3  

7. What professional skills are a must for a good

a) leader of a scientific team,

b) manager in a commercial company.

Leadership and management are two different skills. Management skills are really more professional skills – how you get things done, knowing when and who and how is going to do them, so it’s more focused. As a manager, you’d say: ‘We are going to do this experiment, you are going to finish this paper and come back to me in three days and tell me how you think we are going to do it and how much money you think it would take’. That is management. 

Leadership is about leading people. It’s about having a clear vision, having people who want to follow you. You can force people to follow you, but you will never be  leader if people don’t want to follow you. As a member in a scientific team – I was working in Biology of Aging – I would say: ‘We are going to help people to be healthier and to live longer’. That’s a vision. That’s how you bring people with you.

8. Is it possible to become a team leader or you must be born a one?

 There are innate things that might help. Obviously, if you are naturally a very very approachable person, for example. However, you can learn a lot. You can be a very shy person, but you don’t have to be loud in order to lead. Leadership can be much more subtle. So really, you don’t have to be a born leader. I am still learning myself!

9. How much do you think natural talent/features can help or prevent development of professional skills?

I think the important thing here is awareness of your natural talents and weaknesses, so having or not having something is an excuse to do or not to do certain things. So it can help and it can prevent to begin with, but then it’s a matter of being aware of things and working along them.

10. What would you recommend to students finishing their studies, who are undecided between two or more career paths, for example: academia, commerce or entertainment?

Firstly, list everything you want in a job and everything you don’t want in a job. Then, decide which one has most advantages and disadvantages. If you are not sure – most people are very happy to have a conversation, so don’t hesitate: find people working in the area and ask them to it is like to be working in these areas. Finally, keep on learning! In whatever job you will have, you will probably have opportunities for learning. You might realise after 20 years of doing a job that you don’t like it anymore. Never think that you’re stuck in a decision you’re made, but your way out is always to keep on learning. 

Contact

Catriona Wilson
PSC Coordinator
CAPOD
Phone: (01334) 46 2558
Email: profskills@st-andrews.ac.uk

 


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