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Tony Bradshaw is an external coach for our industry-funded post docs and fellows. In this story, Tony explains his coaching approach which involves both individual and group coaching sessions, and how they can help Oxford industry-funded postdocs and fellows to navigate their careers effectively.

Tony Bradshaw alongside the quote "My approach involves both individual and group coaching sessions. Individual coaching focuses on postdocs at critical decision points, such as starting a new postdoc or transitioning to industry."

Tony operates in the medical biotechnology space specifically in biologics, vaccines and cell and gene therapy development and manufacturing. He is a qualified career coach (Henley Business School, Firework Coaching and Time to Think Practitioner) and well networked in the sector having been part of the BioIndustry Association leadership team for over 10 years. His portfolio consists of supporting the development of early career professionals and developing talent management strategies for companies.

How did you begin collaborating with the university?

This began in 2017 through an MRC-funded project called Proximity to Discovery at Bristol University. When Charlotte Bell, one of the project leads, moved to Oxford, she saw the potential for continuing the work there. This project laid the groundwork for engaging postdocs and early career researchers with industry, aligning perfectly with a core part of my coaching model.

How long have you been coaching industry-funded postdocs and fellows at Oxford?

I started coaching at Oxford in September 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic. One of the few benefits of lockdown was that everyone started using zoom and therefore it was easier to bring people together, from different locations, to group coach postdocs more efficiently. 

Can you describe your coaching approach for postdocs?

My approach involves both individual and group coaching sessions. Individual coaching focuses on postdocs at critical decision points, such as starting a new postdoc or transitioning to industry. We discuss their career goals and how to leverage their skills effectively. Group coaching, on the other hand, is for those earlier in their decision-making process and usually involves 4 to 12 people per session. This method is cost-effective and helps prepare them collectively. They also get to know what their colleagues are doing. They can learn from each other.

How do you tailor your coaching to meet the needs of industry-funded postdocs specifically?

Industry-funded postdocs often face unique challenges, balancing their research with industry expectations. I use psychometric profiling to quickly understand their personalities, and blend that with knowledge of their technical skills, experience and ambitions. This allows me to tailor the coaching to their individual needs, for example whether they are energized by being part of a team or not. This coaching analysis provides a picture of each individual to target guidance on how to navigate their careers effectively.

What impact have you seen from your coaching on these postdocs?

The impact has been substantial. About 25% of those I’ve coached have successfully transitioned into industry roles. Through coaching, they realise the vast opportunities available and how they can apply their skills in industry settings in different roles, leading to quick and successful transitions. 

How did a shift to virtual coaching during the pandemic affect your work?

The shift to virtual coaching has been quite beneficial. It allowed me to bring people together more efficiently, especially given the geographical spread of Oxford’s community. This format has proven to be very effective and has been adopted in various areas of my work. So, for example, introverts that might prefer their comfort zone and not want to particularly attend an in-person session, can benefit from these virtual coaching sessions.

How does the cohort of approximately 60 people compare, from a personality perspective, with the overall sector?

If we look at the overall profile of the biotechnology sector based on around 650 data points, I’ve collected over the last few years, then the diversity of personalities within the University of Oxford Industry Fellows and Postdoc Network is representative of the sector.