From being a full-time myotherapist to undertaking neuroregeneration research at ARMI with the Kaslin Group and then joining the world of data consulting after completing her PhD, ARMI alumni Celia Vandestadt’s career journey has been unconventional and unique.
Today, Celia is a data consultant at Eliiza, a Melbourne-based consultancy that applies Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to translate data into real-world technical solutions. It has been a year since Celia started working at the organisation, “I enjoy getting exposure to different industries and purposes of data-driven decision making,” said Celia, “My time at ARMI has trained me with an inquisitive and hypothesis-driven mindset that has benefited me enormously in my current job.”
Celia believes it was the exposure to industry throughout her PhD that has prepared her well for the transition journey out of academia. “Since the first year of my PhD, I knew I should not limit myself to the postdoctoral research pathway. That is why I wanted to participate in as many extracurricular activities as possible to broaden my career opportunities. There were always networking and outreach events at ARMI where we got to meet and talk to people across industry to explore different roles and build our connections.”
She continued, “Talking to people outside research helped me to consider what I was passionate about seriously, and over time I found it was to make an impact in the near and more immediate term.” Celia then went on to say, “There was a significant shift in my mindset when transitioning from academia to consultancy. Academia requires a deep focus on a niche field. Whereas in consulting, the timelines are much shorter, and one has to deliver value with one eye on immediate outcomes and another on strategic vision. It’s delivering results on time and within budget that considers the risks, which is more highly valued.”
Looking back at Celia’s five and a half years at ARMI, what she enjoyed the most was the culture, people, and supervisors at ARMI. “My supervisor was always helpful, accepting and supportive about all the extracurricular activities and work I was interested in exploring,”
Regarding advice for students at ARMI, Celia believes it is essential to get out of the narrow world of research papers and practice reflecting and thinking about the bigger picture. “PhDs are long, but it is an advantage if you don’t know what you want to do yet. It gives you a lot of time to explore what you are really interested in, so do not waste your time.”
PhDs are a journey; your motivations going in are likely to change as time progresses. The best way to set yourself up for success is to lean on the opportunities across the broader institute and university. You are part of a much bigger ecosystem than just your project. Use that to your advantage and constantly reflect on your why.