Mark Gardiner – Chief Operating Officer

Mark Gardiner

Late last year, Mark Gardiner, the Chief Operating Officer at the Mary Lyon Centre at MRC Harwell, was named a CSci (Chartered Scientist) CPD (Continuing Professional Development) Award winner by the Science Council, so we wanted to find a few minutes in his unbelievably busy diary to talk about the award and his career so far.

Congratulations! How did it feel to win the award?

It was a surprise and a real honour to be nominated by the Royal Society of Biology and recognised in this way. In fact, it was such a surprise that I initially thought it was spam when I received the email about the award and had to be reassured by a colleague that it was real! I’ve now proudly display the certificate up on my shelf! I’m also proud to be a Chartered Scientist, because that’s a real acknowledgement of my achievements, and the expertise and experience I’ve gained over the years without having a PhD.

What does CPD mean to you?

I’ve always seen CPD as a part of my job role, not an add-on. Whenever a new challenge comes up, I think about what I need in order to gain new skills and knowledge, whether that’s reading a book or journal article, listening to a podcast, attending a training course, or having a discussion with a colleague. For me, that’s CPD. It’s not just recording the training courses you’ve attended, but also writing down how they were relevant to your job role. I always find the reflective part most interesting in recording CPD as I find it helps you focus on further training requirements and reinforce why you wanted to do it in the first place.

How long have you worked at MRC Harwell and how has your role changed during that time?

I’ve been at MRC Harwell for 22 years! I first came as an Animal Facilities Manager, so used to do more inside the facility, but have gradually gained responsibility over the wider site and now have a much greater overview of all of the work going on here as the Chief Operating Officer.

What is your career/education background?

I’ve been working in the biological sciences for 39 years now, working my way right up from being an animal technician. Attending  college, I’d wanted to do radiography and was pleased to gain some experience in the Local Norfolk and Norwich hospital, but very early on I realised I hated it. I went home to tell my Parents I didn’t want to go down the radiograpyhy road and my Dad told me that was fine, but I couldn’t just sit around at home doing nothing! I’d always loved animals, but knew nothing about this kind of work until I went into a careers office, no internet then, to come up with a plan for what to try next. The MLC is now the third establishment carrying our research work that I’ve been at and the place I’ve worked the longest.

What are the skills you have gained during your career that have made the biggest impact?

Leadership is a big one. I think of myself as a bit of a leadership and management geek and was lucky enough to do a 6-year degree in leadership with the Open University while working here at the MLC. Another important skill is the ability to get things done, whether working by myself or when leading a team, I know I can identify our goal, work out a way to get there, and then do it.

What advice do you give to new colleagues starting in junior roles?

You’ve got to take advantage of everything available to you and when you attend training courses, you’ve really got to commit to them. One thing I encourage managers to do is to sit down with staff after they’ve been on a training course to discuss what they’ve learnt and how they can make use of it.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love the people I work with and the work we’re doing. Being involved in supporting amazing scientific programs and research has helped maintain my level of enthusiasm for 39 years and every day I look forward to the next challenges on the horizon.

What do you like to do outside of work?

As I say, I’m a bit of a leadership and management geek and spend more time than I should reading books and listening to podcasts on the subject! I also keep myself busy with two dogs, an allotment, going to the theatre/cinema, and being the Secretary at my local archery club!

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