To celebrate International Women’s Day 2021 we’re profiling Exeter alum Dr Cat Walker, who graduated from the University of Exeter with a PhD in Economic Psychology. Cat’s currently Research Consultant/Director for The Researchery Her debut novel ‘The Scoop’ (described as “the lesbian Bridget Jones meets Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”) was published in early 2020.
I have been working as a researcher in the voluntary sector since I left Exeter. I started out with the Fairtrade Foundation, then had longer stints with Charities Aid Foundation and the Directory of Social Change where I led the research programmes. In 2015 I set up my own research consultancy, The Researchery, which works exclusively with the voluntary and community sector. My clients have included the Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport, The Big Give, Nesta, the University of Kent, Lloyds Bank Foundation for England & Wales, UK Community Foundations, and the Association of Charitable Foundations.
“I wanted to do something that was socially useful and benefited people. I like to think that my research helps charities to work more efficiently and effectively.”
I wanted to do something that was socially useful and benefited people. I wanted to make a difference. Although I’m not working on the frontline of charity I like to think that my research helps charities to work more efficiently and effectively. I love working with different clients, and learning from them as much as they learn with me. The variety of my work is a major bonus and with each project I know that we’re making the world a slightly better place.
At University I had excellent lecturers and PhD supervisors, particularly Professors Paul Webley and Stephen Lea. They mentored me and created amazing opportunities such as sending me to Aix-en-Provence for a year as part of the ERASMUS scheme, and employing me to run the Economic Psychology Training and Education Network. Highlights included the annual Lundy Island trip to study animal psychology and the Christmas Psychology Review which I wrote for and starred in on a ritual basis. Statistics and research methods have been most invaluable to me as a researcher. Also the general ability to get my head round facts, do literature reviews, make cogent arguments and write in a sensible and logical way.
“Statistics and research methods have been most invaluable to me as a researcher…. (and) we had weekly discos with Thom Yorke from Radiohead on the decks!”
Exeter has a beautiful campus and is near both the sea and the moors – making it exceptional for day trips. I enjoyed getting out and about both with hockey, cycling and surfing. The accommodation was excellent. We had weekly discos with Thom Yorke from Radiohead on the decks! It had one of the best Psychology courses in the country, with excellent lecturers, and I’ll never forget that they tried to put us off by saying that it wouldn’t be easy and we would have to work hard – that appealed to me!
“My advice to a current student would be that you don’t have to wait for the perfect job to come along. My first job in charity… gave me an insight into how things work and opened doors for me to take on bigger and better jobs!”
My advice to a current student would be that you don’t have to wait for the perfect job to come along. My first job in charity (after my PhD and being a post doc research fellow) was plugging in computers and some basic administrative duties but it gave me an insight into how things work and opened doors for me to take on bigger and better jobs!
In the future I hope to be able to carry on with my consultancy work as long as possible, but in the current economy I may have to have a back-up plan which is to work for a grant making foundation, helping them to learn from best practice and be the best funder they can be.