Skills Development Scotland PhD Networking Event – March 2019



Networking event broch

Yesterday I was invited to attend and speak at the SDS PhD Networking Event (the 2018 event information can be found here). These events are held each year and are designed to bring students, academics and practitioners together to hear about the work of the PhD students on the SGSSSSDS collaborative PhD studentship programme. The 2019 brochure can be found here and you can see that there are an interesting mix of research projects studied on the scheme.

The day itself went well and we heard from a variety of speakers from SGSSS, SDS and also The University of Warwick too (you can see the full programme in the images attached to this blog post). We were welcomed to the event by Gordon McGuinness, Director of Industry & Enterprise Networks at Skills Development Scotland who introduced our first speaker, Eugene Gallanagh, Senior Director of Enabling Services. Eugene explained how the PhD programme was developed to break down silos, encourage collaboration around research on skills. He continued to explain that there are 21 studentships, 3 graduates with 5 nearing completion (that includes me!). Eugene emphasised the long term investment needed in research and the applicability of this research to both academic and practice (something that could not be done without the support of the amazing set of supervisors currently on the SDS programme – including mine Professor Hazel Hall, Dr Laura Muir and Professor Robert Raeside). Eugene also emphasised the wonderful development opportunities that PhD students can undertake, including the internship opportunities offered by SGSSS (see more info on my experiences here).

SDS Networking Event introductions

We then heard from Professor Mhairi Mackenzie, Deputy Director (Studentships) at the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science (SGSSS). Mhairi focused on the benefits of collaboration as part of the studentships and the impact that the students can have across Scotland (e.g. for policy and practice).  The focus of conversation here was also of the importance of the relationship with SDS and academics. SDS develop the research ideas (i.e. the general research questions) where they feel more research is needed and the academics step in and support this by creating research projects for PhD students to undertake (just like the ones we have advertised in our department here: This collaboration is really important as it helps to bridge the gap between academic work and the application to practice by including everyone in the collaborative proves from the start. Mhairi also explained the student-centred approach from SGSSS and the dedicated team it takes to undertake the work they do. She highlighted this with relevance to the success of the collaborative programme due to input of policy and practice into the development of research themes to be addressed in doctoral studies.

Event programme

Mhairi was followed by Professor Chris Warhurst, Director of the Warwick Institute for Employment Research. Initially, I was not sure whether I would enjoy his talk, until I realised how relevant his work was to mine (and so did my Director of Studies as can be seen in this tweet!). Chris has a current project which focuses on innovation as related to job qualities. Chris spoke about this work (more info on the project here) including the areas in which he and his team have explored on the project, and why. I very much enjoyed this talk, mostly because of the overlap between Chris’s work and my own work. For example, Chris and his team have carried out extensive statistical analysis of the Community Innovation Survey, something which I have done (on a smaller PhD size scale of course, see my poster of the findings here!). Additionally, Chris has focused on qualitative work too to explore some of the factors that influence the job quality and innovation relationship (publications can be found on the tab at the top of this page Although I am not exploring job quality in my work, some of the things that Chris talked about got agreement from me. For example, Chris spoke about difficulties in getting access to data (like I did!) and the complexity of the term innovation (e.g. much work uses different definitions, types and methods making comparability difficult). I recall that in my first year of my PhD making attempts to define innovation was difficult and there was far too much literature to explore. However, I was pleased to hear that Chris mentioned the definitions by the OECD, the definitions which I have used too to help to set the context to my work. I was pleased that Chris spoke about this work as I can now see the relevance of my work to both SDS work and practice, and the importance of the work academically.

We then heard from two SDS PhD student Alumni, Dr Bozena Wielgoszewska and Dr John Mowbray. Both speakers talked about their PhD journeys, the work they did and also the work they do now. Both currently work in academic (John at the University of Glasgow and Bozena at University College London) so we heard about the current work they are involved in. Both (ex) students gave some advice to students on the current programme and I summarise these below:

·         Be persistent (within reason) – it take a lot of time and effort to complete a PhD, persistence is key but also taking a break every now and then is needed;

·         It is important to participate in external/additional activities too as this can help when applying for job in the future (e.g. workshops conferences, publishing, presenting, programme committee memberships, teaching);

·         Undertaking an internship can help to see how research can be applied to non-academic practice (I believe both students did so as part of their PhD journeys).

This advice is something I would agree with to!

Our final speaker was Sandra Cheyne, CMS Policy & Professional Practice Manager at SDS. Sandra talked about people and the current labour market are changing and we need to ensure that people have skills to manage their careers in this environment. Sandra highlighted the importance of lifelong career management skills and emphasised the importance of good career information advice and guidance research as part of career and careers advice development. As a careers adviser myself (in a past life pre-PhD), I completely agree with Sandra and her comments.

I, unfortunately, did not get to see any of the breakout sessions that followed because I was presenting my work in one session instead. From my slides (here) you can see that I gave an overview of my work (e.g. main concepts, literature and methods) and also talked a little about my case study findings. This was followed by some questions on my work. I was asked about my main focus (i.e. individual or collective innovation), my use of a validated scale to measure workplace learning and innovation activities and also about my use of demographics (i.e. whether I am exploring the relationship between demographics and innovative work behaviour). These were good questions as they got me thinking about my methods and why I am doing what I am doing, and whether I should have done something different. Overall, the presentation was well reived although we were slightly behind time during the day so I did not have as much time to explain things in as much detail as I would have liked. That being said, I think the awareness for my PhD and the engagement process involved in presenting my work was a beneficial process overall.


Photo credit Gillian Wylie (Evaluation and Research Executive, SDS).

To end the day, we had lunch (of course) and the PhD student posters were judged. The posters were judged on academic quality, effective and accessible communication of research ideas, and how engaging and thought-provoking the posters are. I am very pleased to say that I won second place prize for my poster (also on the SDS website) which was quite a nice win of the day for our team (we do have a PhD student reputation to maintain in our research group you know!). First prize went to Bozena (I’m sure her poster will be added to the SDS website in due course).

So if you fancy undertaking a PhD like I have done, please do see our two vacancies we have in our research group (details in links below):

Blog post (Prof Hazel Hall):

My own blog post:

You can also find out about out amazing research group here if this blog post has not persuaded you to apply:


(Please note, some specific information was taken from tweets by Prof Hazel Hall, @hazelh)

2 thoughts on “Skills Development Scotland PhD Networking Event – March 2019

  1. Pingback: **Fully-funded PhD studentship opportunity** Natural language interfaces to support career decision-making of young people – Lyndsey Middleton (née Jenkins)

  2. Pingback: The final blog post of the PhD! – Lyndsey Middleton (née Jenkins)

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