Technical Careers – The Sky’s the Limit


The IST is keen to explore the array of careers that can arise from a start in the technical field.  We are hoping that members and non-members alike will be able to tell us about their career paths from the outset of their life as a technician (via our comments form below or via twitter @istonline using #techncareer).  For example our newly elected Treasurer Joan Ward started her career as a trainee technician.  From these beginnings her career path is not what many might expect.

Case Study – Joan Ward

University of ManchesterHaving started as a trainee at the University of Manchester with minimal science qualifications Joan worked in a number of their bioscience labs whilst gaining additional qualifications in science subjects up to degree level (Open University).

Following on from her basic grounding in teaching/research she then spent  10 years as a Lab Superintendent/Manager, during which time she secured over a number of years approaching £1m in grant income to support the development of trainee technician programmes (in collaboration with a local FE College). In addition she also helped develop and roll-out a bespoke software package designed to handle HE departmental/faculty accounts and research grants – the software ultimately becoming adopted by over 600 departments across the country/sector. As a consequence of departmental/faculty restructuring she then moved into Finance/Admin full-time where she set up a new faculty finance, purchasing and research administration unit – also completing an MBA (Open University) during this time.

After spending several years consolidating the new integrated unit and helping roll-out the model to other faculties she decided to take advantage of a University early retirement scheme and ‘jumped ship’ to set up her own consultancy company, which she continues to run today. Her company provides consultancy support for admin systems development and website design/development. Having joined the IST during her time as Lab Manager she continues to support the work of the Institute in a number of ways.

Joan WardJoan states:
Having a career plan is always a good idea, but if you are not sure what you want to do my advice is to be proactive and do as many things you can until you find something you like, volunteer on committees, take on new responsibilities, stand out from the crowd.  If you grab every opportunity that comes your way, not all will work out but some will and it is that approach that can pay dividends in terms of both career progression and job satisfaction. 

Joan is not alone in taking a non-conventional career path, in her time at the University of Manchester she witnessed technicians going on to become H&S Supervisors, Building Managers, Hospital Managers, Accountants, Academics, HR Professionals/Trainers, Company Directors, to mention but a few.

The IST Role in Technician Careers

The IST has long recognised that career structures and progression opportunities for technicians has been of continuing concern within the workforce.  Terry Croft IST Chair, and Director of Operations at the University of Sheffield is keen to emphasise the work these two organisations are doing in partnership to address this problem:

Terry Croft“We have a number of initiatives that address creating clear technical career paths as well as tackling the ever growing issue of the need for succession planning. “  However the technicians themselves must recognise that they also have a role to play “We can’t keep talking about moving into dead man’s shoes I expect our technicians to be proactive in terms of their development and be prepared to move on if they want to progress.  Yes this means I will lose some talent but I may gain from elsewhere and a workforce that knows it has opportunities is more motivated, engaged and effective.  It’s a win win situation for everyone”.

Help us find the vast array of careers that technicians have pursued – tell us about yourself or others by submitting a summary via the comments box below (all contributions will be subject to review before they appear on the website). Alternatively why not tweet us at @istonline using #techncareer.