When I first got the email confirming my place on the prestigious Welsh Crucible programme for developing ‘future research leaders of Wales’ my initial thought was; “great that will look good on my CV”. However, over the following six days of Crucible Labs held across Wales, I came to realise that the programme is much more than a tick box process for padding out your résumé. It’s a well-crafted induction into an new way of thinking about a long term career; one that I found inspiring and exhausting in equal measures as I was taken on a journey far from my comfort zone.
As a group, we worked hard to examine and improve the way we present ourselves and our research to others: academics outside our field, journalists and policy makers. This included, for example, giving evidence at a mock Parliamentary Enquiry and pitching our research to a panel of media experts. We exchanged ideas to formulate collaborations with people from completely different backgrounds – scientists, psychologists and historians alike, and found that we had unexpected commonalities. We talked about how to make the most of what we’ve already achieved, what we’d like to achieve over the next ten years, and how to make that happen.
These discussions lifted me from the practical daily, weekly and monthly forward-planning of a contract researcher; to think a bit more carefully about my long term direction. As someone who has never had a research contract longer than three years, these types of discussions were incredibly enlightening and valuable. All made possible by the dedication, time and effort of the team who run the Crucible, including the three Lab facilitators. A huge amount of thought and energy clearly goes into making the Labs genuinely useful and meaningful for career progression. The process was anything but a tick box process, and has enabled me to develop a ‘Cruciblee mindset’ that will stay with me well into the future.