The ’15 minutes with…’ blog series aims to provide a glimpse into the career paths and personal lives of the researchers and employees at NDPH and showcase the wide range of roles and science conducted. In this blog series, we ask researchers, non-research staff and students, nominated by the students themselves, to reflect on their career to date – their proudest accomplishments and their lowest points – and how they came to be where they are today.

Today, we continue this series with an interview with Sarah Laseke, BDI Training and Development Coordinator.

Describe your current role in one sentence.

I manage and coordinate a training programme for health data researchers at the BDI.

What’s your favourite thing about it… 

I mostly enjoy the variety of tasks in my job – no day is the same! One day I might be analysing training metrics, such as number of registrations, attendance, cancellations, for a termly training report and the next day I am discussing exciting new training opportunities with colleagues from across the University. In addition, I am also involved in projects such as setting up new internship programmes at the BDI and working closely with the members of the BDI Coding Community Committee.

…And your least favourite? 

Collaborating with busy researchers means that planned training session often get pushed back or do not happen in the end because the prospective facilitators move to another University, which means that unfortunately, it isn’t possible to realise every single training opportunity.

What science are you most excited about/ interested in in your own work? 

Coming to the BDI from a Humanities background meant that I quickly needed to familiarise myself with the research that’s going on at the Institute, in order to succeed in my role. This meant meeting as many PIs as possible and finding out about their areas of research, and learning how broad the field of Health Data Science really is.

And beyond your own work? 

I’ve always had a connection with science in some way (although my degrees were in English/Medieval Literature) – I studied Physiotherapy for a while before switching to English, worked in the Chemistry Department for a while, and managed the peer review process of a number of science journals when I worked at an academic publisher. What has always fascinated me is how fast-paced the science field is.

What’s the thing you are most proud of in your professional life… 

Being offered my current job! After having gained some experience in coordinating training in previous roles, it had been my aim to work as a Training Officer.

… And your biggest failure or disappointment? 

The COVID pandemic meant that a lot of the events I had planned to hold could not take place over the past year, which has been disappointing, especially as some of the people who’d volunteered to run the sessions are now no longer working in Oxford.

What was your route to where you are today?

After my Masters’ degree in Medieval English Literature at the University of Oxford, I pursued a distance PhD degree in Medieval Manuscript Studies, while working part-time in various fixed-term roles across the University of Oxford. One of these roles was being a Training Coordinator for AHRC-funded DPhils in the Humanities Division. I had a great line manager who knew I wanted to gain more experience in this field and gave me some great opportunities to develop my skills, such as coordinating a training pathway in Digital Humanities. I decided I wanted to work as a Training Coordinator full-time and quit my PhD studies. When my contract expired and there were no jobs in training available at the University, I worked in academic publishing, another area that had always interested me professionally. I realised that working in the publishing industry lacked the opportunities for creativity I had hoped for and I decided to move back into a training role. I was very excited when I saw my current role being advertised and thought I’d give it a shot!

Tell us one thing about you outside work

I have a 1.5 year old daughter and I love going on adventures with her on Thursdays, which is my day off!

If you could give one piece of advice to your 18 year old self, what would it be? 

You don’t need to have your career figured out at 18 – it’s ok to try out different roles and things will often fall into place. I gained experience in training coordination by chance, in my thirties, it was one of the fixed-term roles I worked in whilst being a PhD researcher and it turned out to be my work passion.


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