What do our archaeology graduates do after they leave the University of Manchester? #3 Rob and Stephanie

Commercial field archaeology

This blog post is one in a series examining what colleagues and friends who graduated from the University of Manchester Archaeology Department are doing with their careers. Rob Howarth graduated in 2017 and is notable because he achieved his degree, and then gained a commercial position, in spite of having Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia and Irlen Syndrome. Stephanie Duensing completed her PhD in 2015 and now works in Oxford. Both work in commercial units and these are their stories.

Rob’s Story

What are you doing now?Capture

I am working as a full time professional commercial archaeologist for the Centre for Applied Archaeology at the University of Salford.

What is the best bit about your job?

Everything. It makes me feel like I am adding to our overall knowledge of our past, it allows me to tell the stories of those who lived before us. This might sound a little corny, but it is true!

What is the worst aspect!

I work via an agency which takes some getting used to. You need to be clear about the terms & conditions of your work & pay.

What did you do at UoM? (Archaeology? Museology? Degree? Masters? PhD?)

Single Honours Archaeology degree

How well did UoM prepare you for your current role?/ What was the most valuable aspect of your education to you?

In the commercial world of archaeology, the UoM course did not prepare me as much as I would have liked due to the high involvement of theoretical and philosophical aspects of the course. However, I will say, the wealth of information regarding past research and excavations that I have been taught has come in handy. One example has come from the in depth teaching regarding the use and identification of flint tools as well as the process by which they were made.

What is the most important advice you would give to a younger you wanting to work in archaeology?

Due to my multiple learning difficulties the single most important advice I can give is, is to always reach out and ask for help when things seem impossible to overcome. Befriend other students from the years above, speak to your student adviser, use the Disability Advisory and Support Service, stack the deck in your favour and not against yourself.

Stephanie’s storyblog

What are you doing now?

I am a Project Officer and Operations Supervisor at John Moore Heritage Services in Oxford.

What is the best bit about your job?

I get to work daily on practical applications of archaeological excavation and heritage management. I get paid to learn and expand what would otherwise be a fairly limited research area of expertise that you tend to develop in University

What is the worst aspect!

Lack of research and publication time, public engagement is limited, but we are working on it!

What did you do at UoM? (Archaeology? Museology? Degree? Masters? PhD?)

MA and PhD in Archaeology between 2009-2015.

How well did UoM prepare you for your current role?

The project management skills I learned whilst doing my PhD have been essential elements to my success. Having to be self-guided and self-driven in my research outside of any other University-run or affiliated research required me to develop a great deal of time and project management skills which may not have been otherwise gained.

What was the most valuable aspect of your education to you?

Success in completing my PhD when faced with the constant struggle to produce a final project despite funding constraints, limited access to resources and a multitude of other research challenges meant that I was infinitely better prepared for the reality of working in a financially competitive industry which is massively undervalued and constantly faced with funding/budget cuts.

What is the most important advice you would give to a younger you wanting to work in archaeology?

Success is more about your dedication and tenacity to something you are passionate about than about recognition of some inherent brilliance. The smartest and cleverest among us may never achieve anything because they cannot accept that imperfection might be found in their work. You must be robust and resilient in your ability to take criticism, improve, and keep going. Again, and again, and again. Archaeology is not a career for the faint-hearted looking for stability and comfort, regardless of whether you are pursuing it in the academic or the commercial sector, but it does offer a lifetime of learning and engagement for which you will never lose interest. For the few who can make the cut, it is without a doubt the best job in the world.



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1 Comment Leave a comment

  1. Loved reading Rob’s story. I remember when he started his Access course at The Manchester College in Ancient History & Archaeology and I was honored to be his archaeology tutor on that program. He overcame his learning difficulties then and I knew he would excel at University, I am so proud of what he has achieved as I am with all the students I have sent on to the UoM. Being a former BA & MA student in archaeology there, it is really the only university that I endorse and I constantly encourage any of my students who wish to study archaeology to go to the UoM as the best tutors in the field work there.

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