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      Work/life experiences of Brookes’ academics


    When teaching goes well that’s brilliant, when the research goes well that’s really great. I feel it is really rewarding when I’m able to do all aspects of my job well.

    Chara Bakalis is a Principal Lecturer and Programme Lead at the School of Law at Oxford Brookes University. She joined in 2003 from the University of Oxford.

  • When Chara graduated with a BA and BCL in Law from the University of Oxford, she initially followed the route of many of her peers and became a Management Consultant. However, she soon realised that she missed the intellectual stimulation that she had previously derived from studying Law and so went back to Oxford to take on a teaching role at the University. Soon after this, when a permanent role came up at Oxford Brookes, she decided that staying in academia was what she wanted to do and so successfully applied. This was a key turning point as having a permanent position at a young age enabled her to plan her private life accordingly. 

    Chara really enjoys the stimulation of academia: “I love the intellectual side of it; being able to learn new things all the time.

    In addition, she also loves the variety offered by teaching, research and now her role as Programme Lead:

    Being able to do lots of different things that appeal to different parts of my character is immensely satisfying. In particular when teaching goes well that’s brilliant, when the research goes well that’s really great. I feel it is really rewarding when I’m able to do all aspects of my job well.

    Additionally, Chara puts great value on being able to contribute to the development of others.
    Chara’s husband is also an academic. She describes it as “great” that her husband has such a similar role:

    We both understand each other. We work at universities and there are lots of things we can compare and help each other in that way.

    Family is a priority to Chara who has three children, aged 11, nine and seven. The flexibility of academia is one of the aspects that she values most as it enables her to manage her own time, thereby ensuring that she doesn’t miss any of children’s key moments.

    Whether it’s having an extra half hour in bed when the children were very young, or leaving early to go and watch a school play, the autonomy of academia is extremely valuable.

    She feels that she has more control over her work than she would have in a different job and this flexibility is one of the key benefits of academia.

    Chara also makes use of the flexibility of her job in that it allows her to work from home when possible, and generally to work around her children. This is something that she really appreciates.
    For Chara, success is about being able to achieve a balance. She says that this is very personal, because it’s not about the milestones that other people might recognise. Rather, she has her own criteria for success. It is not the external markers of success that matter for Chara, but “being able to achieve what matters to you”. This perspective comes from Chara’s realisation that there is a balance to be achieved between being successful at work and at home. For example, she says that

    When choosing to take time off to have and raise children, you are inevitably going to be slightly behind your peers who don’t do that.

    However, this doesn’t mean that you should see yourself as less successful, but rather successful in a different way. Now that her children are older, Chara is excited to throw herself more into her work. She observes that academia is unlike many other careers in the sense that it is not all about the work and hours you put in in the job in your 30s which determines whether or not you will be successful. This makes it more women-friendly than a law career, as the decision between raising a family or pursuing being made partner is not there. You can slow down slightly when your children are still young and still have a good chance of promotion and seniority down the line. However, she has felt that her gender has impacted her career in some ways.

    When you are younger I do think women have a harder time being taken seriously. It’s just about people’s presumptions. It’s about what happens when you walk into a room; whether people will listen to what you say.

    Think about what you want out of this. Think carefully about your aims.