A senior figure with one of Cumbria’s biggest companies gained clarity, efficiency and new thinking through a professional Masters from Lancaster University.
Jo Telfer is Head of Behavioural Insights at Sellafield Ltd’s nuclear facility in West Cumbria, where she helps ensure the safety of a workforce of 11,000. She applies behavioural science along with an understanding of working practices and worker motivation to benefit workers across several sites.
Her two-year Masters in Organisational Transformation (Professional Practice) with Lancaster University Management School’s Centre for Executive Training and Development allowed her to build on her knowledge and experience with new thinking and skills that can be applied directly in her role. It has benefitted both herself and her employers.
Jo had previously completed her undergraduate degree at Lancaster in Behaviour in Organisations in 1994 and had fond memories of the University from that time. She shaped the course around her learning requirements, as well as her work and family commitments, with the full support of Sellafield Ltd, who paid for the training and supported her with the flexibility to attend lectures and encompass her learning into her work.
“I had quite strong views on what I wanted out of the Masters,” says Jo. “I wanted to make it meaningful for me, to design my own course because I was quite clear about the hunger for learning I have. Lancaster ticked all of those boxes – it gave me the flexibility to design the Masters, to tailor it within the framework and the boundaries of a strong academic framework.”
The results have been positive for Jo and for Sellafield, where she has applied her learning directly to her role, and found herself better able to tackle the challenges she faces.
“The Masters has enabled me to see things in a simpler way,” Jo adds. “Maybe at the beginning, I would have assumed that two years in I would be able to talk about really complicated issues, complicated frameworks, models, change and such, and that has happened, but now I’m able to make it all far simpler as well.
“Sellafield has gained not only my ability to understand the academic, complicated elements, but to be able to translate and articulate it in a way that people connect with and understand. I have the latest thinking in organisational transformation and extra skills that I can share around the site. That calmness, that efficiency and clarity of thought, affects how I think about myself, how I walk and talk and drive myself, and therefore how people think of me and are influenced by me.
“Both the business and myself have also benefited from the network I developed. The course enabled me to form a network of people who think in ways that challenge me, and that has grown my world, which is hugely valuable.”
Returning to education two decades after first attending Lancaster University was daunting at first for Jo. But she was able to fit the course into her work – which included a secondment with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority during the Masters – and work out the logistics with her family and with support from the Management School.
“When you think about going back to university with all these clever people who would be more academic than you, younger, with more time, there are the usual doubts,” Jo says. “There were some practical barriers, some psychological, but nothing that a well organised person can’t work through.
“There is something very special about the Management School, in terms of the level of support I have had. It’s hugely important, especially when you are starting out.”