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British Science Week - Kelly's story

To mark British Science Week, we’re #SmashingStereotypes and bringing you stories from staff in the Health Protection and Screening Services Directorate.

Today, we’re bringing you Kelly’s story.

"I was a bit of a geek at school.

I really enjoyed school. I found it challenging and needed to apply myself, but I always had a love for science. This love started in primary school (forever ago) and continued through my GCSEs and A-levels.

My comprehensive school teachers really encouraged my love of science. I did physics and biology at A-Level and quickly realised biology was where my heart lay. Physics was a step too far!

When I was in school I didn’t know there was a career in microbiology. I knew I wanted to work in science and in a hospital but wasn’t aware of the role ‘Biomedical Scientist’ until I went to university in Cardiff.

My career journey started during a placement as part of my third year in university. The hospital I approached, the Royal Glamorgan, didn’t have any paid placements. I offered to work for free for a year in the Microbiology laboratory, so I could gain experience and complete my dissertation. This meant working seven days a week (I worked in B&Q every weekend too), full-time, for a year. It was challenging, but as it turns out, worth it. Towards the end of my placement year I secured a trainee post with Cwm Taf.

I was with Cwm Taf for 17 years in total. During that time I completed my MSc in Biomedical Science, and the Institute of Biomedical Science Registration portfolio, to become a registered Health and Care Professions Council Biomedical Scientist. I progressed to Senior Biomedical Scientist position and then Microbiology and Virology Laboratory Manager.

I joined Public Health Wales in 2019 as a Microbiology Scientific Programme Manager. The job was perfect for me. A mix of science and management, plus running large programmes of change. Through this journey I have developed my love and passion for leadership.

Last year I was successful in gaining the post of Interim Deputy Head of Operations for the Infection Service. I love this role. I work with David Heyburn and Dr Robin Howe where we lead the Infection Service across Wales, which has more than 600 staff working across 12 laboratories.

I have also recently embarked on my coaching journey, becoming an ILM Level 7 Qualified Executive Coach. I’m lucky that I’ve always been supported by inspirational managers to achieve my goals and aspirations. And that’s something I want to be able to give to others. Nobody should ever be made to think they can’t achieve what they want or that they aren’t good enough. With enough personal drive and conviction, and the right support, you can achieve what you set your mind to.

This role brings so much job satisfaction. From completing and delivering programmes of change that improve our diagnostic service, to seeing staff excel and get to where they want to be. Staff development is hugely important to me and key to the ongoing success of our service.

I didn’t ever feel there was a need to smash stereotypes in terms of the application of science. But as I embarked on my career in science, I noticed that there were few women in leadership positions in the scientific fields across the organisations I worked in. But I’m pleased to say this is changing now.

There are so many opportunities in science. Don’t be put off by any potential stereotypes of people in white coats locked away in laboratories. Within Microbiology alone there are so many career opportunities that now cross clinical and laboratory-based pathways. Science provides something for everyone.

I highly recommend a career in science." - Kelly Ward, Interim Deputy Head of Operations, Infection Division