Infinite Space, Infinite Possibility – Bernice Huntley

When it comes to graduate career paths, none have reached for the stars more so than Bernice Huntley (BSc (Hons) Interprofessional Learning (Midwifery) 2007). Originally studying at CCCU to become a midwife, she retrained as a teacher, beginning down a path that would lead to the cosmos. Read on for her interstellar interview!

Tell us about your current role

I am currently Education and Outreach Manager for the UK Space Agency. The UK Space Agency is a government body. My main priorities are to inspire, build and strengthen a diverse UK Space workforce which will support the space sector’s future growth ambitions and resilience. I work with others in government, academia and industry to achieve these.

What made you choose this career path?

I have always been really interested in both Science and Education so the role brought together both of my interests. I can’t really say that I chose this career path as my journey to this job has been very much accidental and driven to a large degree by luck. I knew little about the UK Space Agency when the job appeared on my Civil Service job alerts but when reading the job description, I knew that it was the chance of a lifetime. I applied believing I stood no chance of an interview, let alone being offered the job. I love the job’s sheer diversity where no two days are the same. One day I might be running an internship Induction day for university students, the next I might be working with UK astronauts to promote the UK Space industry, the next I might be at Downing Street as part of a government round table discussion on the space industry and the next I might be running a conference with NASA for the space agencies across the World.

Bernice (right) with Meganne Christian, UK (ESA) astronaut, at the Royal International Air Tattoo

What is your favourite thing about what you do?

There are so many things that I love about this job that this is a very hard question to answer. I really enjoy the outreach side of my job where I spend time with university students but equally, I really enjoy working with the UK space industry and other space agencies such as NASA, where I have fascinating conversations about the research and development going on in the sector and the jaw dropping future of the industry. Equally, I love working with my colleagues at the UK Space Agency as they are all space nerds and we have fabulous conversations every day.

If anyone reading is thinking of working in your field, what advice would you give them?

Approach space companies directly for employment. Maybe offer to run their social media etc whilst you are at university as they often don’t have the time or skills for this and will often pay you for it.  Many are small companies that won’t advertise roles widely. Also, be aware that often companies are not named as space companies but have more engineering etc type names. I would also recommend applying for the Space Placements in Industry (SPIN) scheme for a paid, eight-week summer internship as these often lead to UK Space industry job offers.

How did you come to study at CCCU when you did? Why BSc Midwifery and General Teaching Programme (GTP)?

As a midlife career changer, I was interested in both Midwifery and Education. With a young family to look after, I needed a local university. I chose Midwifery with CCCU, working as a hospital midwife post qualification. However, I subsequently realised education was more suited to me so I trained as a teacher, undertaking a General Teaching Programme role with a local school.

What is your fondest memory of your time at CCCU and/or Canterbury?

I was one of the first cohort at the Medway campus and fondly remember my times there with other like-minded students. The camaraderie was excellent and I went on to job share with a midwife I trained with. We are still firm friends today.

How did your time at university impact on your life and career post-education?

Although I did not continue with midwifery, I do not regret undertaking it as I gained so much from it. As to my GTP, although I couldn’t have foreseen where I would end up, it absolutely led me down the path to my current fantastic job. Teachers often believe that they can only stay with teaching as a career, so it is particularly great to see the large number of ex-teachers enjoying working in the Civil Service in roles such as mine.

I was one of the first cohort at the Medway campus and fondly remember my times there with other like-minded students. The camaraderie was excellent and I went on to job share with a midwife I trained with. We are still firm friends today.

What made you want to share your story?

I feel extremely lucky to hold the role that I do. I could in no way have foreseen this when I was studying for my degrees so I believe that it is great to reassure others that it is ok not to be certain of the path you want in the future. I have held many different careers and have gained something from all of them even if I subsequently chose to change. I do not believe that students have to choose one career and stick to it. There are always options for change, its just finding those options and then taking the leap. It’s great to be part of a local university community and to see the paths others have taken.