• Caroline Walker
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Name: 
Caroline Walker
Featured Profile: 
Featured Profile
At A Glance
Licensed Body: 
IBD
Scientist Type: 
Developer/Translational
Entrepreneur
Business/marketing
First Degree: 
BSc
Job: 
Director of Brewing
Home: 
Surrey
Works For: 
Campden BRI
Qualifications: 
BSc, Phd
Burning Ambition: 
Run my own company or write a book
Superpower: 
The ability to teleport. Love seeing people, hate flying.
Big Picture
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? 
An archaeologist, but this obviously did not work out!
Who or what inspired you to become a scientist? 
I have to admit that there was no burning desire to be a scientist, more that I found science came to me very easily and so it seemed logical to go into science for A levels and degree. Also, I was at school in the late 70s, and recession-wise it made our current problems look like a blip. So the career advice at school was to go for a career where there were jobs (archaeology not being on this list) and in those days you just had to be pragmatic. But the first time I was really ‘bitten’ by the science bug was the last year of BSc when I was doing my research project. I loved that I was discovering things by using my skills to create theories, test them and some up with new answers. It was challenging, fun and always excitement in seeing how the data turned out.....that was the eureka moment when I knew I wanted to be a researcher!
What do you love about your job and being a “scientist”? 
Variety, constant learning, challenge – no chance of getting bored! I am really in the business part of science now, so I also get a lot of enjoyment out of building the business by finding and developing new services that will help our clients do their business better.
What would you change? 
Nothing at present...but I am always planning!
Education
What qualifications did you take at school? 
O levels (Maths, English language and literature, Geography, Chemistry, biology, French, Latin, Ancient Greek) A levels (Biology, Chemistry, Maths)
Why did you choose your first degree subject? 
Biochemistry at Bristol– it fitted well with my A levels and I liked the idea of using chemistry to look at the details of life…..Also it was a relatively new subject, which sounded fun – would you believe I was advised against it because it was not a ‘proper’ subject?
Do you have a Masters or PhD? If not, was it difficult to demonstrate Masters-level equivalence in order to achieve CSci? 
I have a PhD
Job
How do you describe your job when you meet people at a party? 
I usually say that I run a scientific consultancy. I find that if I mention beer or brewing they think I am joking! Then they ALWAYS ask – do you have to drink beer in your job?
What is ‘cutting-edge’ about your work? 
We are always looking to be innovative and find the best ways to solve problems.
What are the biggest implications your work will/could have in the future? 
Its not really world changing stuff but I would say that the exciting areas are probably around environmental sustainability, which we are doing a lot more of these days.
Describe some of the highlights of your average day. 
There is no average day, which suits me fine. One day I might write an article, another day brainstorming a technical problem, another day visiting clients. Good moments are solving a client’s problem, which is always gratifying; but I also enjoy the contact with the team and that group feel of getting projects done and succeeding!
Describe briefly how your career has progressed to date. 
After the PhD, again because of the appalling economic climate, I left the country and became a part of the Brain Drain. I always think that I have Maggie to thank for being slightly braver in my career than I would have otherwise! I followed a University-based academic research career and spent 13 years doing research in California, South Carolina and Copenhagen. During this time I came to realize that my interests lied more in the applied research area, and so moved into industry. I lucked into the brewing industry, because of work that I had done during a sabbatical at the Carlsberg Laboratories in Copenhagen, which gave my CV an edge. The company offered me much greater opportunities to explore skills other than science and I soon discovered my inner entrepreneur! From then on I built my business skills, and finally moved into the Director role here 3 years ago.
How is your job cross-disciplinary? 
Its all about business and science – and the science might be biological (yeast, fermentation), chemical analysis, engineering, information science…one has to become a generalist.
How well is your job compensated? What is the starting salary for your field, and how much can this be expected to rise? 
Industry generally pays better than academia, and obviously the rewards get better as you take on more responsibility.
How do you see your field developing over the next 5-10 years? 
In brewing we will see innovations such as the potential application of –omics methods, use of cutting edge environmental technologies, understanding of novel raw materials to accommodate climate change.
What’s the most unexpected thing about your job? 
I get to taste the results of our experiments.
What’s the biggest achievement of your career so far? 
Hard to say. But probably the promotion to my current position was the ‘big one’!
Life
Would you say you have a good standard of living/ work-life balance? 
Yes I would. I also have a husband and children and so being a two career couple with kids has had its challenges, but we have been lucky to get this to work out pretty well!
What do your friends and family think about your job? 
My kids tell me that I am the parent with the coolest job……
What kind of hobbies or extracurricular activities do you do to relax? 
Reading, TV, swimming, hiking, family time
CSci
Why did you choose to apply for CSci and what do you value most about being a Chartered Scientist? 
The lead came from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling who play a key role for promoting the professional development of those in our industry.
What is the value of professional bodies? 
We are all likely to move jobs every few years, especially in the current climate – qualifications are part of that tool box that allows this to happen. Having moved between fields I am very aware of how transferable scientific skills are, and I think that the CSci highlights this.
How important is CPD? What do you think of the revalidation process in ensuring that CSci is a mark of current competence? 
Very important. If you are not developing all the time, you will be left behind. Revalidation is a good way to check this.
Advice & Reflection
What words of wisdom would you give someone interested in getting into your field? 
Brewing is a great industry to work in. Brewing is a craft, and the industry is all about quality and pride – and it’s a relatively small and friendly industry too, making it a real pleasure to work in. If you are interested in brewing, then you can study for a brewing related qualification at Uni. Its also possible to apply directly to a brewery if you have a relevant degree such as Microbiology, chemistry, engineering. If you want to get into the business side of science, I think its key to understand that business skills are just as much of a skill as science skills. So you will need to study and educate yourself (finance, strategy, HR) just as you would if you were going into a new scientific area. Companies may help with this, but with budgets tight, putting in your own time and maybe money to get some additional business skills may be worthwhile.
How important is the mentoring process in your field and to you personally? 
I have a coach, and some senior staff members who I would consider mentors. Asking advice (and listening) is a part of how I have learned -and mentors are great for this. Coaching provides me with that challenge, forcing me to think through what I am doing and where I want to go. If it had not been for this type of support, I probably would not have had the guts to put myself forward for this current role – so it can help push you career wise too.
What would you do differently if you were starting out in your career now? 
My career has taken quite a few diversions and I have occasionally wondered about what would have happened if I had made different choices, such as going into industry sooner. But then I realise that all of these diversions have given me a breadth of experience and transferable skills that are really valuable in my current role – and I am including being a Mum in this. So perhaps my only regret is the loss that I have been to the field of archeology (not!).
What would you like people to remember about your life as a scientist? 
That’s too maudlin a question to answer.
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