Angie Carter is not your average academic.
Her untraditional route to the top is a story of passion, tenacity and patience which has recently been acknowledged with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the European Association of Work and Organizational Psychology (EAWOP).
As a long-standing member of the Institute of Work Psychology at the Management School, Angie’s career has been underpinned by a drive to develop learning in others. She said: “It’s a passion of mine to apply learning to practice. I’ve decided that the biggest success I’ve had isn’t just imparting learning to other people – it’s encouraging others to do so. Some of the people I have supervised (practitioners and PhD scholars) are supervising others now, and that’s extraordinarily nice to hear.”
Angie’s first foray into teaching was at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London – having trained in radiotherapy, she enjoyed developing people in a technical and a caring job. It was the 1980s and the hospital told her to ‘go out and get a degree’, which she embarked on part-time: “I really enjoyed the part of my work that was about communication with people – I’d been teaching ultrasonographers how to talk to their patients, so psychology appeared to be the most obvious thing for me to do.
“I caught the bug and knew I wanted to do more research after that.”
Her legacy in London continues, as she was one of the team who established a regional school of radiography which still exists in Charterhouse Square.
Redundancy from her job in the health service was a catalyst for change: “I started teaching leadership and management in the early 1990s. Twenty-plus years later, I’m still teaching leadership and management! So it’s interesting how things go around.
“Redundancy was a real schism in my career that took me into further study. I had an opportunity to do what I wanted to do – I met people from the Institute of Work Psychology and came up to Sheffield to apply for a research assistant role looking at the first big stress study in healthcare. Got that, and my PhD four years later. And here I still am!”
Volunteering for professional associations like EAWOP and the British Psychological Society (BPS) has shaped Angie’s career for decades. After time spent on the BPS’s international committee, she was invited to join EAWOP’s executive committee on which she spent six years, one of the driving factors behind this award: “I got to meet fantastic people but built an unhappy image of the continent. If you look at Europe from the Western side, we have strong educational pathways, well-formed practitioner-academic roles, and work psychology is buzzing. Go further East, and it’s much less so. Not only is there more poverty, but there isn’t a defined academic core of study.
“They just don’t have the opportunities – academic salaries are so low that work psychologists have to practice, so they don’t have time to do much research. There’s a flattening of ability, and as I met people there through EAWOP, we formed a group called the Baltic Alliance. I brought them together, enabling better funding for educational and research projects. They all became EAWOP constituents and one of my roles in the executive committee was to expand these numbers – I started with about ten, and left with 34. I expanded the scope of EAWOP, and what it could achieve.”
Building constituents was just the beginning of Angie’s EAWOP journey. While developing these links across Europe, she was working with practitioner Ute Schmidt-Brasse to develop a practice-based journal for the association – they’re now into their ninth year of publishing In-Journal, and it goes from strength to strength. Angie also established the Worklab, an annual meeting for work psychology practitioners with a minimum of two years’ experience, which again aims to bridge the gap between research and practice.
Back in Sheffield, Angie contributes to the Management School’s Masters in Occupational Psychology and Work Psychology, running a module called Applying Psychology to Work and Organisations. The module is assessed by a portfolio based on ten elements of practice that make a good work psychologist. She said: “The portfolio makes the applied learning more real for students and prepares them for their future work roles.”
“There are a number of challenges facing graduates – my advice would be not to just chase ‘any job’ – pursue an area of work that you’re passionate about. Use every opportunity you can to network and make contacts – we offer extraordinary opportunities for students that may mean a little bit of work outside the general curriculum, but you’ll get noticed.”
Angie considers ‘getting real’ as a concern for work psychology as a whole, particular post-recession when organisations are still keeping a close eye on the bottom line: “What worries me is that a lot of areas of research are too narrow and don’t look at the big picture facing business now, which is how to get the best performance from employees so organisations can achieve their goals in tough times.
“I think there’s a reality check that needs to happen – we need to research the big important questions, rather than things companies don’t want to know about. They’re interested in engaging, but they need to see that engagement relate to performance.”
The study of organisations is shaping Angie’s research now. She’s looking at youth employment – why businesses choose not to employ young people, what they don’t understand about the 18 to 24-year old demographic, and what they’re missing out on: “There are two sides, and until we start researching the work side of employability, we won’t get an answer to the big questions of getting young people into good work roles.”
The Lifetime Achievement Award from EAWOP is a wonderful summary of Angie’s career – recognising her voluntary work and contribution to the lives of work psychologists around the world. The Management School is incredibly proud of her exceptional contribution.