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Naomi Tyrrell, Research Consultant (Episode 39)

    Naomi Tyrrell, Research Consultant (Episode 39) | Naomi has found freedom and fulfilment in an Alt Ac career

    For this episode of the Research Adjacent podcast Sarah is talking to Naomi Tyrrell, director of research consultancy business Research Your Way.

    Coaching for a new career

    Naomi started her career in academia because she wanted to make a difference, but found the glacial timescales and ballooning workload challenging so pivoted to start her own consultancy business.

    I thought, I know that these skills and my knowledge and experience is valuable beyond academia.
    Do I really just want to swap though and go into employment? And I thought, not really, I love having freedom and independence. So I started slowly, went self-employed, part-time, from home.”

    Naomi found that coaching was transformative in helping her to understand her skills, strengths and values giving her the confidence to step into something new. She has built her business slowly and deliberately around her family commitments, figuring it out as she goes along.

    And it wasn’t a snap decision, it was a process. And I didn’t have it all figured out, but I knew that it was okay, because what do we do as researchers? We find things out. It’s just taking that next step. You don’t have to have everything figured out.”

    Championing alternative academic careers

    While following this new path Naomi has found connecting with a community of like-minded people online a huge support. Noticing a gap for UK-focused conversations around alternative career pathways for academics she set up the Alt Ac Facebook group which now has over 2000 members.

    “The pandemic was a strange time, I think, for a lot of people and that sense of reaching out and not feeling isolated and being able to do that through social media mechanisms was really important for a lot of people and people investing time, even if they’re not in real life relationships, just time in those virtual relationships and supporting each other.

    With her interest in alternative career paths she has realised how important it is for academics to be able to recognise and ‘sell’ their transferable skills beyond academia.

    If we’re hesitant, because of our training to talk about what we know and how we can help, others come in and fill the gap and the end product isn’t actually as useful or as valuable for the client as it would be if we had highly skilled, highly trained people delivering that service.

    Making a real difference

    Naomi’s consultancy work focuses on research and evaluation for social enterprises and charities. With a initial goal to ‘work with nice people’ her focus has been on investing in personal relationships and building trust, leading to steady growth through referrals. She particularly loves helping organisations which are making a real difference to their communities, providing actionable independent evaluation to help them develop and secure continued funding.

    “I can give them a report and within two weeks, they have restructured or brought something new into their service based on what we’ve been finding out through the evaluation. Not 18 months for paper, not reviewer 2 saying it’s not good enough, not a 2% chance of getting a funding grant. No, a real difference to people’s lives. So it’s hugely rewarding. And I just love that kind of work.

    Freedom to make decisions

    As well as feeling like she is making a real difference in the world, Naomi also enjoys the freedom of running her own business and creating her own vision of success. She has even learned to delegate.

    “What’s really lovely is thinking actually I don’t have to listen to advice from anybody else. I can make decisions my way and what suits me. And that’s really refreshing if you’ve been in a system that has, you know, over time felt quite oppressive.”

    Having found a sense of freedom and fulfillment in her own life Naomi would use her magic wand to bring hope via properly funded public services.

    “In some areas, there’s just nothing. There’s nothing for families, there’s nothing for young people. There’s nothing if you’re experiencing a mental health crisis. This is 21st Century UK, the sixth richest country. So my magic is all in that direction of trying to make society happier, better for people.”

    If only that magic wand was real, Naomi!

    Find out more

    Theme music by Vitaliy Levkin from Pixabay

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