Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Feeling welcome, getting lost and being my own woman: My first week as a Professor

Posted by Dorothy Newbury-Birch

On Monday last week I was asked to introduce myself to a room full of fellow new starters at Teesside University. For the first time, officially I said: ‘I’m Dorothy Newbury-Birch, Professor of Alcohol and Public Health Research’. WOW!!
Making the news
I remember when I started my last post as a Senior Research Associate at Newcastle University, seven and a half years ago and I was asked to do a presentation to introduce myself to the department and my very clever (I thought anyway) title was ‘I’m a criminologist let me into here’. I’ve been thinking about that presentation a lot over the last few days – not least because I am going to give a professorial inaugural lecture on the 26th January (have you booked yet?). What it has made me realise is that unlike when I have started jobs in the past this one is different.

You know that feeling you have in the first week you start a new job? The feeling of not fitting in; being afraid that people are going to realise you don’t know what you are doing? That feeling of wondering what you are supposed to be doing? That feeling you have that says, please let me in, please accept me which I think is what I was asking in my presentation all those years ago.
My new office
Well I’ve been in post for a week and for the first time in my career I feel that I have fit in from day one; that I do know what I’m doing (well mostly!) and that I am in the perfect place in my career, my institute and my life. I’ve been wondering why that is? Of course it’s because I have been made to feel so included and welcome in my new department. It's also because I was lucky enough to have a colleague come with me at the same time so we were able to share the asking of questions, and spend an hour driving around Middlesbrough looking for a car-park that we had been assigned and laughing so much about not being able to find it. But it's more than all this, it's about knowing that the time is right for me to lead the work I want to lead, to develop my own team to lead work that makes a difference to society. I’m also lucky to have told by my line manager that ‘I am my own woman’ in this job. What does that mean? Well for me, it means that I can spend some time working out a plan for my research and developing a team of likeminded people. I want to be moving forward, to interact with the people who can help me do this and I know that I will be supported to do this.

I can only see good things ahead. I will let you know in a couple of months how it is going and remember if you are at Teesside come and say hello – I’d tell you where I’m based but I keep getting lost!

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