Catherine Walker

Country: United Kingdom
Sector: Research
Job title: Research Consultant / Director
Subject of study: Psychology
Year of graduation: 1991
Type/Level of study: Undergraduate

Current Employer/Organisation Name

The Researchery

What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?

I have been working as a researcher in the voluntary sector since I left Exeter. I started out with the Fairtrade Foundation, then had longer stints with Charities Aid Foundation and the Directory of Social Change where I led the research programmes. In 2015 I set up my own research consultancy, The Researchery, which works exclusively with the voluntary and community sector. My clients have included the Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport, The Big Give, Nesta, the University of Kent, Lloyds Bank Foundation for England & Wales, UK Community Foundations, and the Association of Charitable Foundations.

Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?

I wanted to do something that was socially useful and benefited people. I wanted to make a difference. Although I’m not working on the frontline of charity I like to think that my research helps charities to work more efficiently and effectively. I love working with different clients, and learning from them as much as they learn with me. The variety of my work is a major bonus and with each project I know that we’re making the world a slightly better place.

Please tell us if you were a member of any societies, groups or sports clubs?

I was a member of the CU drama group, the squash team and briefly the hockey team (although I subsequently played for Exeter Ladies Hockey Club for many years).

What did you enjoy most about your programme and what was the biggest highlight?

I had excellent lecturers and PhD supervisors, particularly Professors Paul Webley and Stephen Lea. They mentored me and created amazing opportunities such as sending me to Aix-en-Provence for a year as part of the ERASMUS scheme, and employing me to run the Economic Psychology Training and Education Network. Highlights included the annual Lundy Island trip to study animal psychology and the Christmas Psychology Review which I wrote for and starred in on a ritual basis.

What did you enjoy most about studying here?

Exeter has a beautiful campus and is near both the sea and the moors – making it exceptional for day trips. I enjoyed getting out and about both with hockey, cycling and surfing. The accommodation was excellent. We had weekly discos with Thom Yorke from Radiohead on the decks!

Why did you choose to study at Exeter?

It had one of the best Psychology course in the country, with excellent lecturers, and I’ll never forget that they tried to put us off by saying that it wouldn’t be easy and we would have to work hard – that appealed to me!

What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?

Statistics and research methods have been most invaluable to me as a researcher. Also the general ability to get my head round facts, do literature reviews, make cogent arguments and write in a sensible and logical way.

What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?

You don’t have to wait for the perfect job to come along. My first job in charity (after my PhD and being a post doc research fellow) was plugging in computers and some basic administrative duties but it gave me an insight into how things work and opened doors for me to take on bigger and better jobs!

What are your plans for the future?

I hope to be able to carry on with my consultancy work as long as possible, but in the current economy I may have to have a back up plan which is to work for a grant making foundation, helping them to learn from best practice and be the best funder they can be. I’ve also got my debut novel coming out in 2020 which could change my plans (fingers crossed!)

 

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