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Fiona has been with DPAG since May 2003, joining us with the Clarke Group from the old Biochemistry Tower. She's now Executive Assistant for Gero Miesenboeck based at the Tinsley Building and is responsible for providing a full range of administrative support to the various research groups at CNCB, alongside developing a whole host of responsibilities outside of her official capacity, including being a University Harassment Advisor. Interview on Tuesday 19 November 2019.

Fionacropped.jpgHow did you get into this line of work?

I did a Medical Secretary Course at College and as part of the course, I attended the Plastic Surgery/Craniofacial Department at the old Radcliffe Infirmary one day a week to gain work experience. I stayed on after college helping out with their clinics and then the position of PA to one of the Consultant Plastic Surgeons came up. I applied for and got the job. I enjoyed all aspects of the job and in particular the interaction with the patients and as some were receiving long term care, you got to know them and their families pretty well. I also like being organised and organising so a PA/EA job is perfect for me!

Following on from this, I worked for a Land Agent at Carter Jonas and for Thames Valley Police.

What brought you to DPAG?

I first came to the University in 2001 as part of Kieran Clarke’s group when she was based in the old Biochemistry tower, before we moved over to DPAG in 2003. In 2008, I also started doing some PA work for Gero Miesenboeck. Shortly after, Gero got a grant from the Wellcome Trust and the Gatsby Charitable foundation to set up the CNCB, and I left Kieran’s group to work for Gero’s group full-time in 2010. We moved over to a new space in the Tinsley Building in 2011 and I’ve been here ever since.


What were your first impressions of DPAG?

My lasting impression and first real memory of DPAG is how friendly everybody was. A lot of people who were there when I first started have left now but people like Cathy on reception and Gary in stores are still going strong!

What does your job entail?

My job is made up of many different aspects and no two days are rarely the same. My main job is EA to Gero but over the years my job has evolved and now I do a variety of tasks including HR, arranging the CNCB seminar series, helping out the other group leaders in the Centre, placing all of the orders via R12, dealing with building issues, keeping the CNCB website up to date and much more!

I work closely with the HR, Finance and Research Grants teams and keep in touch by having weekly meetings. I also meet up with other PAs and professional staff over coffee once a week which keeps me linked up with what’s going on with other members of the department.

What do you most enjoy about your job?

I enjoy it because it’s so varied. There’s always something different to think about and something new to learn. For example, somebody will come to me with an HR problem that I’ve never dealt with before, so that’s a good opportunity for me – I’ll either talk to the girls in the HR team or look for information online. I also work with a great group of people, so I’m very lucky.   

If everybody goes home happy, to me that’s a job well done. 

What has the highlight been for you so far?

One was the opening of the Tinsley Building and moving in. When I first started working for Gero, the Tinsley Building was just a shell and it was great to see it emerging over the months into the Centre it is today. 

We have also had some high profile seminar speakers over the last few years, including Eric Kandel and Jim Rothman, both Nobel Prize Winners in Physiology or Medicine. 

What do you do outside of your job?

I have been a Harassment Advisor for about 4 or 5 years, which means I am a first point of contact for people who have experienced bullying or harassment, and people from any department university-wide can contact me. It normally starts off with a meeting where I can advise them. If they decide they want to take it a little bit further, I can help arrange for them to see other people, such as the Head of Department. I’m also one of two first aiders at the Tinsley building.

In the spring of this year, the Athena Swan Co-ordinator was looking for volunteers to sit on a new group that was being put together in DPAG, the Departmental Cultural Working Group. The main reason I joined the group is because I’m interested in employee engagement and organisational culture. It’s very important that people are engaged in their work and that the organisation has a culture that relates to everybody. The more motivated you are, the better you will be at your job. 

One of the first things we did was to run a survey in September to gauge the level of engagement, particularly focusing on events and communications, in the department. We are currently looking at these results to see how we can address some of the issues that cropped up.

Hopefully we can do some good things!

What’s coming up for you this year?

The University offers some great training and personnel development opportunities, online and classroom based, so my aim is to utilise that over the next 12 months in order to expand my knowledge and skills.