Stephanie Thompson
Research Data Management Specialist

StephThompson2What did you study (at school, college or University)?

I studied three sciences at A-level as I wanted to go into either medicine or marine biology for a career. I chose biology, chemistry and geology – I didn’t get on with physics and I was very interested in fossils which linked well with biology. I then went on to study biology for an undergraduate degree, an MSc (Masters) in marine biology and then specialised further by doing a PhD in cell biology of a marine organism. So, 7 ½ years in total at University which is longer than a degree in Medicine!

What do you do in IT Services?

I work in the engagement team within the Advanced Research Computing group (also known as BEAR). I used to be a researcher in biology and my role involves talking to researchers about data management and how to store their data safely as well as telling them about all the different BEAR services that may help their research such as our supercomputer BlueBEAR. I also teach on training courses to help researchers use our services such as ‘Introduction to Linux’ and I’ve started up a series of events called Digital Research Conversations, where we have a series of talks from our researchers around data management topics. On the more technical side, I create storage and assist when researchers have problems with our sync and share solution, for which I’m currently testing a new version before it is released to our researchers.

How did you get into technology?

After a career break from post-doc research to look after my young children, the lab I was working in moved due to the PI’s retiring. My only option then was to apply for my own funding through a fellowship, which are highly competitive or to apply for a further post-doc, which are highly specialised and usually require moving institutions to find something that matches your research background. The lack of part-time positions advertised was also a problem. When I heard IT Services were looking for someone from a research background to engage with researchers about data management, this sounded ideal as I would still be able to use my problem-solving skills and hear about research but also be in a role where I would get to interact with more people – something I had enjoyed through my voluntary work whilst on a career break.

What advice would you give to girls considering a technology related career?

There is huge demand for people with technology training, particularly in the research field as data science is becoming increasingly important with the large amounts of data being generated. You don’t have to just study computer science, all science subjects involve key skills that are needed, so study the subject you are most interested in. We also have members of the team from Arts backgrounds who have used big data and web databases, technology is relevant to all disciplines.

What advice would you give to women thinking of working in IT Services at UoB?

There are many varied roles within IT Services ranging from highly technical through to more communication-style roles. Don’t be put off applying for a job if you don’t exactly meet the person specification and it is not exactly what you are looking for. There is often some flexibility (I was able to negotiate to work part-time) and often in technology jobs they are not able to find the ideal person for that job as there is a lack of highly skilled technology staff. If you are willing to learn and attend relevant training courses then you can make yourself fit the role. I’ve found IT Services to be open to flexible and part-time working and there are lots of opportunities for training such as ITIL and attending relevant conferences. There are a number of ways to meet others in IT Services socially through sport (badminton and yoga), lunchtime walks and newly started pub meetups after pay day.

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Professional Services