Dr Joanne Horne | My CSO WISE Fellowship Journey
I’m an Advanced Practitioner Healthcare Scientist in Histopathology at University Hospital Southampton (UHS) and in 2012, I became one of the participants in a pilot scheme for scientist reporting in histopathology, run by the Royal College of Pathologists (RCPath) and the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS). Five years later, I became the first person in the UK to pass the final examination. Throughout my training I had faced numerous challenges and had worked hard to demonstrate evidence of the scheme’s success, yet suddenly I found myself at the forefront of the qualification’s development, attempting to drive things forwards, whilst facing numerous challenges and barriers. As a result, I became frustrated at my own perceived lack of progress, feeling as if my voice was being unheard or ignored – and definitely suffering from ‘imposter syndrome’. I also felt that workforce transformation in histopathology was desperately required at a national level, but was also progressing too slowly. In 2017, I felt ready for a new challenge so I applied to the CSO WISE Fellowship, and was awarded a place.
Within weeks of becoming a Fellow I was appointed as Lead Healthcare Scientist (HCS) at UHS – a position that I had applied for months beforehand. Finally, I had the opportunity to give local HCS a platform and hopefully more recognition! I grabbed the opportunity, wrote a blog for the UHS website, presented to the Chief Executive team, set up a group e-mail for all HCS and organised a dedicated HCS Education and Networking Event – the first in many years at UHS. The complication of this was that I had to network with people, something I’m not afraid to admit makes me feel highly uncomfortable at times. Most people think I’m confident, but I’m often hiding my true discomfort – and it’s exhausting!
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend the leadership development programme as part of the Fellowship. This four-day programme introduced us to scientists from industry – a whole other world! I learnt so much about myself during the training, and as a result was able to make immediate changes to my own behaviours, but I also felt better able to understand and respond to the behaviours of others. As Fellows, the strong bond between us that now exists began to emerge over these four days; we are all quite different, but at the same time have so much in common. It makes me sad to say that until now, I have rarely felt supported by other women professionally – in fact, I have experienced a lot of negative behaviours from other women throughout my career, which is such a shame. But the Fellows are different – a group who listen, support and advise – we really do lift each other up, and it’s amazing!
So what difference has the Fellowship made to me? Most importantly, I now understand my worth, believe in myself, and know that I have a right to be heard. Simply developing this self-awareness has greatly improved my confidence. I’ve never been one to shy away from speaking up, but I can now better control what I say and do, and how I say it, based around whatever situation I am in. And I may not have killed it, but I have managed to squash the imposter syndrome. I’ve developed my leadership and networking skills, approaching people and having conversations I previously may not have been confident enough to have had. Being active professionally on Twitter has helped, as increasingly people already know my name when I introduce myself!
In terms of personal career development, I have continued to speak up, but now have improved confidence to negotiate, and to have challenging conversations. I feel that my voice is finally being heard – both at a local level in terms of developing my own role, but also at a national level with representatives from stakeholder organisations. Things are definitely improving.
So for anybody looking to build their confidence, develop their professional and personal skills, and gain a platform to help them speak up and be heard – applying for the CSO WISE Fellowship would be an excellent start.
Dr Jo Horne
CSO WISE Fellow, 2017-2018