Dr Nicola Relph “It’s ok to not be ok”

We put our questions to Dr Nicola Relph, Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Health and Social Care. She tells us about the challenges she faces in her role and not allowing personal barriers to hold her back!


Tell us a bit about your current role

My current role is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Health and Social Care at a university. My role is made up of lecturing, I lecture undergraduate and postgraduate students, offer pastoral support, manage and administer several modules and most excitingly; research. My favourite part of my job is conducting research and I’m currently leading a research project that considers the incidence and experiences of musculoskeletal injuries in groups that are new to exercise and physical activity.


I am also leading another project that considers footwear and running injury with eight other authors including some who are more senior than me, it’s challenging but a great opportunity for me to learn new skills.


How long have you had this career?

I’ve been working in academia for the past 12 years.


What was your first job?

I had a part-time job in McDonald’s!


What made you choose this career path?

It chose me really! There were limited opportunities for graduates in sports science, so it really was a case of applying for everything and seeing what I got.


What qualifications helped you to get to where you are now?

BSc, MSc, PhD, PgCLTHE…To get to this role you do need to have qualifications, so you need to love to learn!


What has been your biggest knockback?

I didn’t get the A-level I was hoping for but luckily, I still got in to my first choice of university. I have also had some problems with anxiety, particularly when I was writing up my PhD, this was my biggest knockback.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

I make sure I have a long-term plan of work, I may have crazy busy weeks or months, but I always try to have some quality time with friends and family. I’m also learning how to say no to things!


What do you think the most important skills are in your role in order to be successful?

By being both critical and being able to take criticism. I get criticised in every part of my role; students complete module evaluation forms, editors review my research and managers revise my work performance. I am also expected to be critical to students, fellow researchers and management when required. It certainly is a skill I am still working on!


What barriers have you faced in your career?

Personal barriers have potentially been my biggest type of barrier. “Imposter syndrome” is something I have talked about with many of my female colleagues, this idea that you will get found out soon and that you aren’t actually good enough to be in the job. Another barrier that comes to mind is a boss that created a bullying working environment that fueled this self-doubt, even more, making it very difficult to succeed or progress.

What motivated you to keep going?

I have a strong moral belief that I should always do my best and work to my maximum, therefore, I am motivated to keep going to reach my full potential in my career.

What do you think we need to do to break down barriers in the workplace?

I think we need managers and colleagues who understand people (even a bit of social psychology perhaps). In my experience, when colleagues and managers appreciate the differences in how people work, they are in a better position to break down barriers and support progress.


Why is #YesSheCan important to you?

I am passionate about people reaching their full potential, and I feel part of this is ensuring people have equal opportunities to fulfil their aspirations. Women should allow themselves to have the same aspirations as men, I think #YesSheCan will help this.


What advice would you give to young females starting their careers?

Don’t be afraid to challenge or disagree with people “above you” if it is important to you.


What would you say to your 16-year-old self now?

I would tell my 16-year-old self that it’s absolutely 100% OK to not be OK sometimes, it’s OK to say no to things, it’s OK to put yourself before other people when you need to and it’s OK to not always have the right answer.


What do you hope to achieve in the future?

I hope to continue to progress in academia, upwards from Senior Lecturer to Reader and maybe even one day, Professor! As well as Nicola, we have many inspiring women who are also bringing us amazing content. You can find more here, also check out our jobs here.

Connect with Dr Nicola Relph:

Twitter @DrNicRelph

Linkedin: Dr Nicola Relph

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