Andrea Cameron is the Head of School of Social and Health Sciences and the Intellectual Lead for Teaching and Learning at Abertay University.
In the early 1980s when I left school, and coming from a rural community in Scotland, careers guidance was limited. If you stayed to do Highers, the advice for a female was banking, teaching or nursing. I knew I wanted to go to university. I achieved an Honours degree – a Bachelors of Nursing at Glasgow University. On graduating, I got my dream job as a staff nurse in the A&E Department of Glasgow Royal Infirmary, neighbour to Barlinnie prison, at a time when football secretarianism was rife with the ensuing battles, and the Ice Cream Wars were raging.
Relocating to the south of England, I served as a junior sister in a Coronary Care Unit and gained a teaching certificate, registering as a Clinical Nurse Teacher. I moved into the School of Nursing and Midwifery for Basingstoke and Winchester, becoming a nurse lecturer and registered nurse teacher after completing a PGCEA at Surrey University. I studied part-time for an MSc in Exercise and Health Behaviour at City University. When the nursing provision was phased out, I transferred to the Sports Studies department, which was just expanding its programmes. I was appointed to the role of programme leader for the new Sport Studies degree and ran this for five years before relocating to Abertay in 2003, following the birth of our first son. Abertay expanded the sports degree provision in 2006 and I became programme leader for the new Sport and Exercise degree. In 2008, I became Director of Academic Programmes, leading Teaching and Learning Enhancement within the School, and became Head of School in 2013. I gained the status of Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in 2015 and so now also have the role of cross-institution Intellectual Lead for Teaching and Learning.
As a young girl I wanted to be a ballerina but my innate clumsiness and tomboy traits would have probably put paid to that! I wanted a career where I could make a difference and help people – a job with variety and where there was always new learning. I never imagined I would move into teaching sport. I enjoyed distance running but the furthest we could do at school was 1500m, and that was on a former tattie field! I didn't come to competitive running until I was 30. I started running 3000m and 5000m, and cross-country, for the club, then the county and, after becoming the South East of England Counties age group champion for 5000m, I was selected to run for England, latterly Scotland (after breaking a 10 year league record on the morning of my brother's wedding) to run on the track and at cross-country at international veteran events.
It was a dream to start sport lecturing as I was teaching my hobby and reading all the latest research, which I could then use in my training. I never, ever thought I would be in the post I am now, which is really rewarding, but as with all of my former jobs gives me the variety I crave.
Emmeline Pankhurst, Elizabeth Fry, Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole. They all ‘broke the mould’. They wanted to make a difference and not be defined by their gender at a time when this would have been very challenging. I was also inspired by a family member just before I started university. They said 'what’s the point of women getting a university education as it would be wasted when they ended up married, with babies and chained to the kitchen sink?' I'm pretty stubborn and my 'I'll show you' attitude has kept me going. That and the great amount of pleasure I get from my work.
Seize the day - don't be frightened to put yourself forward for things. Even if you don't have everything on a job specification, take the risk. The worst that someone will say is 'no', or 'not yet', but hopefully you'll get feedback and potentially a mentor. Employers like enthusiasm and drive. Believe in yourself, take a chance, the opportunities are now boundless or boundary-less.