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When I joined Oxford University in 2018 as my 4th postdoc, I knew full well that this was my “make or break” opportunity – if I couldn’t move on to a permanent position by the end, it would be time to leave academia. But I was terrified by that prospect. I could not imagine a job that I would find as fulfilling as research and teaching in the Earth Sciences. I carried out a thought experiment to design my dream job, based on combining the parts of my scientific research that I enjoyed the most with my hobbies; I quickly dismissed the results as completely unrealistic.

In 2019, I applied to join the RisingWISE program. I didn’t feel like an entrepreneur but thought that the industry networking aspects could be useful for developing an academic exit strategy. Being a part of RisingWISE has completely changed my outlook. I have realised that yes, I am an entrepreneur after all. I realised that the reason that I wasn’t being as successful in academia as I hoped was not because academia was *too much* for me, but because traditional academia *isn’t enough* for me.

I am not yet committed to exiting academia, but now the prospect fills me with excitement and hope, rather than fear and dread. And that unrealistic dream job? Thanks to RisingWISE training and networking events, I’ve realised it might be achievable after all and I have joined Oxford Innovation’s pre-incubator training scheme to explore options for setting up my own business. Without RisingWISE, I would not have even known this training was available, and definitely would not have thought it was something relevant for me. Now I am finding myself with more entrepreneurial ideas than I have time to deal with, a situation I never would have imagined just one year ago.

My future career path is more uncertain than ever, but I feel more hopeful and optimistic than I have in years, and this is all down the training, and ongoing supportive network I have received via RisingWISE.

Stephanie Flude

Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford