Putting Myself out There

"Shy babies get no sweets" but this PhD student got a promotion!



"Shy babies get no sweets" - A phrase I'd never come across before until I saw it on the wine menu of a restaurant I visited last week. They had a greater selection of wines listed by the bottle than by the glass but stated that "shy babies get no sweets", encouraging customers to ask for something they wanted by the glass even if it was only listed by the bottle. Broadly, it just means to ask for something you want. If you don't ask, no one will give it to you, but if you do then you have a chance of being given a sweet.

I was a GTA (graduate teaching assistant) for the MSc Psychology conversion course at Cardiff University last academic year, and I loved it. It's a role I'm looking forward to carrying on throughout my PhD. There were definitely some obstacles: It was the first year the course had run so teething problems were to be expected, but the cohort was much larger than originally anticipated and Wales' ever-changing lockdown status last year meant plans for blended teaching had to be converted to online-only and vice versa with little notice. The logistics of it were definitely challenging at times, but I loved the teaching and the students. I had two wonderful groups of masters students who were all eager to be on the course, incredibly engaged and interactive with seminars and overall just a pleasure to teach. It was a very humbling experience to go from watching a sea of blank faces as I tried to introduce APA referencing style to marking eloquent, critical and insightful essays a few short months later. A huge perk of this role was also that it allowed me to leave the house and go onto campus to lead blended teaching. At times last year, it was really nice just to see other people face-to-face.

The master's cohort was and is, unsurprisingly, considerably smaller than the undergraduate cohort and as such there were fewer masters GTA's. The larger team of undergraduate GTA's had a "Lead GTA" who I'd been in a few meetings with and in touch with a few times last year to share resources. In June, I heard of plans to increase the master's cohort further and bring in additional GTA's for the 21/22 academic year. I reached out to the Postgraduate Research Teaching Co-ordinator to ask if there would be a comparative "Lead GTA" role for the master's programme in the upcoming year but was given no definitive answer as many details were yet to be finalised. I put the idea to the back of my mind and thought no more of it as it was out of my hands.

On Friday evening, I received a very welcome email letting me know the teaching coordination team saw value in the master's programme having a Lead GTA and offering me the position which I, of course, accepted. The role allows me to continue with the small group teaching and feedback sessions that I enjoy alongside organisational and team-leadership responsibilities. I'm now looking forward to starting my new role, which didn't exist a few months ago, at the beginning of October with a new team of GTA's.

Of course, I'm under no impression that my email back in June was the sole reason the role was created. However, lead GTA roles tend to be given to individuals either in the final year of their PhDs or during their Post-Docs, as they will have the most teaching experience. In this case, as I'm only beginning the second year of my PhD, I do feel that sending a prospective email back in June to register my interest in a role before it was even created was a large contributor to my securing the position.

I often thought you could find great things on wine menus, this time it happened to be some great wisdom:
Shy babies get no sweets, but proactive PhD students can get a promotion.