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Jenny Brady, Coach & Facilitator (Episode 16)

    Jenny Brady, Coach & Facilitator (Episode 16) | Jenny wants to give researchers permission to show up authentically

    “What’s the point? Why have you done that? And it’s a blunt question, but ultimately the principle is important so that people feel that they’re valid, that they’re doing something that’s been noticed, recognised for its worth and is usable, productive, irrespective of the teeny tiny niche that some folks find themselves in.”

    For this episode of Research Adjacent Sarah is joined by researcher developer and coach Jenny Brady. Based in North East England, Jenny has been freelance since 2021, but has been helping to train and support researchers for over 15 years.

    Jenny specialises in personal and professional growth including self-efficacy, innovation and entrepreneurship, problem solving, resilience, leadership and collaboration. These are certainly skills she’s needed to navigate her own ‘squiggly career’ which has included running bars, launching an award-winning gift shop, and working as a start-up business adviser before finding her way to the research-adjacent world.

    Letting go of the need to know

    Jenny joined Newcastle University to work alongside researchers as an Enterprise Advisor. Although initially intimidated by the academic elite, Jenny began to realise that her ‘outsider’ perspective was a real strength. The turning point came when she gave herself permission to not understand the detail of the research, reframing her role as an opportunity to help and to learn.

    Her own experience also helped her to see how much imposter phenomena there is in academia, with seniority offering little solace. That is why she feels her own work is so important because it helps researchers take a step back from their work and consider the possible real word benefits. This helps to give researchers a deeper sense of value and purpose that goes beyond vanity metrics.

    One of the things I’m most proud of is working with researchers to enable them to see not just what they’re good at, but actually what are you good for? So what’s the purpose of this research? What are the benefits that you’re trying to achieve for the rest of us?

    Permission to play

    A career highlight for Jenny was a residential program that she put together with colleagues across the North East called the Northern Accelerator Innovation Accelerator Project. It supported researchers to develop collaborations and explore commercialisation. The joy for Jenny was not about the subsequent research or funding success, but the way it affected the individuals who took part.

    We had the priority and the focus of what we began to call permission to play. So this was inviting researchers to be proud of what they’ve accomplished in terms of their academic success, but remember what it is to be curious and creative, almost like being childlike again and saying, you know, how big could this be? How fast could this fly? We gave them permission to show off as well, to say, I’m proud of this. I’m personally proud that we gave those people a chance to say it out loud and it did them good. Their shoulders went back, you know, they were, their voices were louder in every sense. So that was absolutely brilliant.

    Showing up authentically

    If Jenny could change something about the research world it would be more focus on creativity and collaboration, and less on metrics and competition. All of this would be with the overall aim of making researchers feel more appreciated for showing up as their authentic selves.

    What’s the benefit that we will all gain from you doing this work? And thank goodness, you showed up to work today and you’ll make a difference. And I think really focusing, shining a big bright light on that would be my magic wand moment. There needs to be an awful lot of supporting stuff around making people feel credible and valued.

    As well as being an all round lovely human, like Sarah, Jenny also lives in Whitley Bay and has excellent taste in posters!

    A zoom screenshot of Sarah McLusky and Jenny Brady with matching Whitley bay posters

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    Theme music by Vitaliy Levkin from Pixabay

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