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Aurora participant case study: Dr Rebecca Clifford - Swansea University

"Aurora’s been a big career launchpad for me. It has changed how I see myself."

Dr Rebecca Clifford

After my second maternity leave, I came back to full-time work and felt like I was stuck in a frightening rut. I saw an advert for Aurora and thought maybe it would help. I could never have imagined how much it did.

Before Aurora I had never thought about my career – I didn’t think of myself as having big career aspirations beyond research. Afterwards I realised I always did.

There are two important things I learnt through Aurora. The first has to do with seeing the bigger picture. Aurora helps you develop an eagle-eye view of the university. All you see day-to-day is your immediate work and colleagues, but not how the department fits into the school, and more broadly. Aurora is really good at showing that your world is a tiny part of the institution, and if you don’t know how to step out of that box, you’ll never progress. I couldn’t believe how little I knew – like all the work being done by professional services teams. But I realised that if I didn’t know about them, I’d be stuck in my department forever.

The second is that there are a lot of different forms that leadership can take. It doesn’t mean you have to take on a major administration role. If that doesn’t suit you, there are other ways to be an inspiring leader. I wasn’t expecting that – you don’t have to do the biggest, leading roles. In fact, I realised I didn’t want that - I wanted a different type of leadership.

Aurora’s been a big career launchpad for me. It has changed how I see myself. I’ve been asked to sit on gender equality committees across the institution and suddenly I’m meeting some very senior people with whom I would never have come into contact otherwise. I also realised that I shouldn’t have to struggle alone with career planning. I found a fantastic mentor and, with his help, I worked towards and got promotion.

My university has done some remarkable things to support gender equality, and I don’t say that lightly. I’ve seen it happen really high up and trickle down. For instance, it has changed the promotions process, making it more transparent and fairer. It also started talking more about the family-friendly policies that were in place that people didn’t know about. This helped me think that it was ok to go part-time, which I did after Aurora.

Watch Rebecca discuss her thoughts on the programme here.

Dr Rebecca Clifford
Associate Professor of Modern History
Swansea University