What do our archaeology graduates do after they leave the University of Manchester? #5 Steph & Irene’s stories

By John Piprani

Continuing my quest to find out what my Archaeology friends and colleagues are doing after graduating from Manchester I tracked down two of them working in the commercial unit: Archaeology Wales. I first met Irene Garcia Rovira within a research context as we were both working on our PhDs at the same time. In contrast, I met Stephanie-Adele McCulloch in the pub! Irene has been key for a number of Manchester students getting their first role within commercial archaeology and so it is no coincidence that Steph now works at the same unit as Irene: Steph’s story first.

Stephanie-Adele McCulloch

What are you doing now?Capture

I graduated in 2016 with a BA (hons) Archaeology and was awarded a 2.1. I am currently a Field Archaeologist at Archaeology Wales.

What is the best bit about your job?

I have had the good fortune to work on a few different projects, ranging from watching briefs and evaluations, to large scale excavations. The joy of seeing a job from beginning to end and piecing together its story is something I find fascinating. Something I really enjoy is the connection you feel with the past when you uncover an archaeological find. You are literally the first person to touch something which another person discarded, dropped or even created hundreds or thousands of years before you…pretty surreal when you think about it.

What is the worst aspect!

It’s a bit of a double edged sword for me this. It can be one of the best but also one of the worst aspects, not knowing where in the country you will be from one month to the next. This makes it a little bit harder to see your loved ones.

How well did UoM prepare you for your current role?

I feel that our archaeology department is one of the better ones for preparing you for a career in fieldwork, but only so much can be taught in the classroom. Most units are pretty well equipped with training and ensuring new trainees find their feet in the field. The theoretical aspects certainly helped during my interpretive process, but again this is something that is always developing as you come across more archaeology.

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

This is impossible for me to answer with one thing. All the aspects of my education fitted together pretty well for me, in relation to where I wanted to go with my degree. However, I did develop a particular interest in conservation and material culture studies and this is something that I would love to pursue in the future.

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

Probably the first piece of advice would be to drink less ale during your undergrad…but then again that is part of the training to be an archaeologist. Secondly, make the most of any extra-curricular activities that are on offer to you within the department. This is invaluable whatever path you choose to take! You meet new people and gain new friendships, and it opens up more doors within archaeology which is really important within this career. My last piece of advice would be to pick something you are really keen on for your dissertation; this will help tremendously during the writing process. Archaeology is not for the faint hearted so make sure you find your passion, and overall, enjoy it. A piece of advice I lived by was “It’s only a short while for a long while so keep at it”.

Irene Garcia Rovira

What are you doing now?Capture2

I spent the last undergraduate year as an exchange student at UoM and then did my MA and PHD in Archaeology graduating in 2012. I am currently a Project Manager at Archaeology Wales.

What is the best bit about your job?

PMs are responsible for projects from the moment they are assigned to it’s archival. Therefore, the job involves carrying out many different tasks such as working out the project design, liaising with clients, curators and the onsite team, reporting and overseeing post-excavation programmes. While it can get a little stressful at times, I do enjoy seeing the trajectory of projects from the first time that they are formulated. At times, I am responsible for the definition of a project design. I love this side of my role as it gives me the opportunity to do some research into the area to be developed and to figure out the best approach (e.g. field evaluation, geophysics, watching brief) to assess its archaeological resource.

What is the worst aspect!

The work load that PMs have can fluctuate quite rapidly. At times, everything flows at the right time, but some other times, the work load gets intensified by deadlines. This can trigger high levels of stress. This is not necessarily a bad thing as deadlines often give you an incentive to complete tasks, but I would not recommend it for people who find it difficult to handle changing situations.

How well did UoM prepare you for your current role?

When I was at the University, my career goal didn’t include becoming a PM. At the time I wanted to become a lecturer as I really enjoy seeing how students gradually become professionals. Changing life circumstances made me pursue a different goal within a commercial unit. Interestingly, I first found it difficult think about how my skillset could be applied commercially, but gradually I grasped how several things learnt at the university were of great value. My interest in teaching was translated into developing a trainee programme at the company; my written skills allowed me to produce reports of different size and nature, and explain complex sites and situations; my experience in the field was obviously of great value to (we are all archaeologists after all… I have never truly understood this obsession of creating a bridge between research and commercial archaeology).

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

When I came to England for the first time I was not necessarily the most competent student. At Manchester I found a real challenge (bear in mind I couldn’t understand much English back them) which helped me focus. The staff at Manchester always had a lot of time to help me overcome all the obstacles I encountered. They truly inspired me.

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

When I told my grandmother that I wanted to be an archaeologist she told me that I would find it almost impossible to find work. This was the case right from the outset with a terrible financial crisis in Spain and more generally in Europe. Although the situation is different now, being where one wants to be can still be an arduous task. I would advise my younger self to persevere and to take every opportunity offered to learn more about the profession.

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