Geography student Lana worked in a division of M&C Saatchi looking into its research methods, and improved her writing skills for different audiences.

She later told us all about it in her case study report:

“I completed an fellowship with the research and insights team at M&C Saatchi. The fellowship was originally for four weeks, but was extended to five weeks. I was not given a single project to complete during the fellowship . Instead, I worked on projects as and when my help was needed. The main piece of work I completed was a report on a baseline survey for a non-governmental organisation. I was responsible for assessing trends in quantitative data and reporting them. In addition to this, I also helped edit funding proposals and reports on the findings from research projects. In addition, I conducted background research for various projects and on one occasion met with prospective clients.

I chose this institution as I was interested in exploring a research career in social issues outside of academia. The research and insights team at M&C Saatchi were the perfect fit for this as the team undertake quantitative and qualitative research projects for international organisations, national governments and non-governmental organisations.

The fellowship did not have any pre-determined aims, although I had several aims of my own, which were:
• To understand how the research and insights team operates and conducts research
• To gain first-hand experience performing a range of roles which would be typical of an employee in the research team
• To gain an insight into how research is done in a private sector organisation
• To understand what a full-time job in such an organization might involve
• To gain sufficient experience to allow me to decide whether to pursue a research career in academia or not.

Overall, the fellowship met my aims and exceeded my expectations. I was given a lot of support by the research team and everyone was very willing to answer my questions. I was also given far more responsibility than I expected and never felt like I was treated as just an intern (no coffee runs or photocopying). I was very much treated as a research assistant which I really appreciated. Being given this responsibility was extremely valuable as it enabled me to determine whether I had the skills required to work in such an organization and whether that type of employment would be something I would like to do.

I undertook this fellowship at the very end of my PhD, so my student days were almost behind me when I started. The value added has instead been to me as a researcher. The research and insights team undertake large-scale rigorous research, both quantitative and qualitative in nature. This research often takes the form of baseline or impact evaluation surveys. Typically the team manage projects for which the fieldwork is contracted to an in-country research agency. During the fellowship I gained an insight into how to design and manage such projects. This includes how to conduct a survey using survey software, how to analyse such data and how to manage the various actors in the research process. I consequently feel that as a result of this placement, my future research will be vastly improved. I was extremely impressed with the way the research team manages research projects and I will try and take on everything I have learnt from them in my future research.

In addition, I spent a lot of the fellowship writing reports for non-academic audiences. I had to learn how to write in a non-academic style whilst still presenting findings from data. Learning how to present findings to non-academic organisations such as NGOs will be an extremely valuable skill in the future.

Finally, conducting the fellowship at the end of my PhD was very valuable as it allowed me to put into practice all the research and writing skills that I had developed during the course of my PhD. During the PhD process, progress and development can feel incredibly slow and it can be difficult to know how your skills have developed over time. The fellowship made me aware that I am an extremely capable researcher and had acquired transferrable skills during the PhD process. For this reason, I would recommend doing an fellowship to any PhD student at the final stages of their PhD.

As stated previously, I undertook this fellowship at the very end of my PhD. At the time, I was trying to decide between a career in academia or a research career outside of academia. The fellowship showed me that I have the skills to do well in research outside of academia. At the same time, the fellowship made me aware of the extent of my interest in my research area (development in South Asia) and reaffirmed my desire to continue to conduct my own research projects. Overall, the fellowship helped me decide on which career path to pursue, but at the same time made me aware that research outside of academia was very much a path I could pursue if I desired. Had it not have been for the fellowship , I may have chosen to leave academia and have regretted it or I may have stayed in academia wondering what would have happened had I pursued the other route. As stated in the answer to the previous section, the fellowship also provided me with valuable experience which I am sure will benefit my future research projects.

I would like to add that I thoroughly enjoyed my placement with M&C Saatchi. I received a lot of support from my supervisor and the research team as a whole. The experience was invaluable and I am very glad that I was successful in getting the placement. They also provide a small wage which is extremely important in making these kind of placements accessible. I think a continue link with the organization would be extremely valuable to students at the University.

Also, I think the application process for the position is extremely valuable. I had one interview in Cambridge and then another interview in London. I hadn’t had an interview in years as of course there is no need during the PhD process. Having two interviews for this placement reacquainted me with the interview process and has increased my confidence in subsequent interviews for employment.”

Lana Whittaker enjoyed a successful intership at M&C Saatchi World Services during June 2017

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