Case study

Senior teaching fellow — Dr Bo Kelestyn

Bo is a senior teaching fellow and director of student experience at the University of Warwick. At 29, she is one of the youngest people at the university to hold this title. Discover how she managed to reach this position so early on in her career

How did you get your job?

I studied for a PhD in digital innovation at Warwick Business School, University of Warwick. My research explored how digital ventures scale internationally. I developed a strong interest in teaching and learning during my PhD as a postgraduate teaching assistant. Towards the end of my PhD I started branching out of my home department and networking with colleagues from across the university, from both academic and non-academic departments.

My first small project role was looking into the impact of Warwick's long-standing student research scheme. I was then invited to contribute to several other projects across most areas of education, eventually working on education strategy. I was juggling between three and eight projects at any time.

This portfolio approach was a test of my resilience and mental health but it really paid off when I applied for the role I'm in now. My portfolio allowed me to upskill in a short time and I gained experience that allowed me to compete with applicants who were a lot further ahead in their careers.  

What's a typical working day like?

My typical day really changes depending on the time of year. For example, as the new academic year is about to start, I'm working on departmental Welcome Week activities, finalising content for my term 1 teaching and co-designing a skills module.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I really enjoy working with students. Being able to inspire them or see them get excited about a concept or an idea is so rewarding. Working with colleagues who are just as passionate about education and student experience as I am is equally great.

What are the challenges?

Sometimes the challenge is getting buy-in from colleagues, or a deadline on a project or marking; other times the challenge is digging deep to find the energy and enthusiasm you didn't think you had to deliver a lecture on a bad day.

Is your degree relevant?

My degree and PhD have enabled me to develop the expertise, tools and connections to access knowledge or relevant people to help me teach. My studies have also helped me empathise with the challenges of being a student.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

My work has evolved so much since I finished my PhD. I'd like to say I'm on the right track to becoming a PVC of education one day, but who knows what will take my interest next!

I'm conscious of the need to be flexible, so I invest some of my spare time in maintaining a consulting portfolio as an alternative career path.

What are your top tips for choosing a Masters?

Think about which questions remained unanswered after your undergraduate degree. It's important to match this to your ambitions and check your assumptions. Not all careers require you to have a Masters.

Visit a few universities if you can. I had my heart set on a London university, which eventually didn't suit my personality and my idea of a learning community. Look for a university and a course where you can find your tribe.

What's your advice for aspiring teaching fellows?

Network and learn as much as you can from others. I did this by going to events and asking people to tell me more about their work that interested me.

Don't be scared to ask for feedback, advice and mentoring. Most people are open to supporting you, but it helps to find a way to generate a relationship that serves both sides.

Say yes to opportunities and deliver. Reputation is extremely important. Being nice, working hard and delivering will carry you a lot further than you think.

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