Unlocking Career Growth: The Power of Secondments at Sanger Institute

In a dynamic and ever-evolving work environment, professional growth and adaptability are crucial for career advancement. Secondment opportunities, often regarded as hidden gems within the realm of career development, provide employees with a chance to expand their skill set, broaden their networks, and gain unique experiences right on their doorstep. At the Sanger Institute, these secondment opportunities are not only encouraged but also supported by the Institute itself and line managers, offering a win-win situation for both employees and teams.

We recently had the privilege to sit down with Lizzy Thorpe, currently a Scientific Manager on secondment in the Cellular Screening team within the Cellular Operations department at the Sanger Institute, to discuss her journey through a secondment and the experiences she’s gained.

Current Secondment Role 

Lizzy’s current role as a Scientific Manager is both dynamic and diverse. She has nearly completed the 12 months of her secondment. Her week is a blend of various tasks, and her role extends beyond project management, allowing her to engage in a range of operational tasks. She handles multiple projects simultaneously, requiring time management and the ability to balance priorities.

“My weeks are quite varied. As this is only a temporary additional position within the team, I’m not project managing any of the lab processes. This has given me time to work on several very different projects over my time on the secondment,” Lizzy explains.

From Sequencing the SARS-CoV-2 virus to a New Horizon: The Journey of Transition 

Before embarking on her secondment, Lizzy served as a Team Lead in the SARS-CoV-2 virus sequencing team. Her time in this role provided a solid foundation, equipping her with skills and experiences that would prove valuable in her transition.

“Previously I was a Team Lead,” she recounts, “this was the position I was hired into when I joined Sanger, and I had been there for one year when the secondment opportunity came up.”

Seizing the Opportunity: The Path to Secondment 

Securing a secondment opportunity involves a multi-step process. For Lizzy, the process began with spotting the secondment vacancy on the internal jobs portal. What followed was a proactive approach to understanding the role and its requirements.

“After seeing the vacancy, I contacted the hiring manager for a chat about what the role would entail and what she was looking for in a candidate to make sure it would be a good fit,” Lizzy explains.

Lizzy then officially applied for the position with a CV and cover letter and soon was invited to interview with three of the senior managers. She was successful and was offered the position. Lizzy states, “It was a fairly straightforward process and I had the benefit of having the extra background knowledge from working here at Sanger and being able to speak to people about the role before applying.”

Embracing Change: The Advantages of Secondment 

Secondments at the Sanger Institute, as Lizzy’s experience reveals, offer a variety of advantages. These opportunities give you exposure to new areas of the Institute while simultaneously expanding one’s network and skillset. They provide a chance to dip toes into new areas, potentially opening doors to avenues that might have been difficult to access otherwise.

“They are also a great option if you don’t want to leave your current team permanently but still want to have an opportunity for change in the short-term,” she suggests.

Navigating the Challenges: A Balanced Perspective 

While secondments bring remarkable benefits, they aren’t without challenges. The unpredictability of their length can disrupt long-term planning, and being away from one’s original team can lead to a sense of detachment. However, Lizzy offers advice to mitigate these challenges.

“The best way to deal with this is to maintain an open dialogue with your manager and meet with your previous colleagues for lunch or coffee,” she advises. “Sanger is the kind of organisation that takes your preferences into account so you can have a say in whether you’d be interested in any proposed extensions.”

The Verdict: A Resounding Recommendation 

Would Lizzy recommend secondments to others? A resounding “yes”. The secondment has provided her with a unique perspective, an opportunity to broaden her horizons, and a platform to develop new skills. It’s allowed her to make meaningful connections across various teams within the Institute and has played a pivotal role in her professional growth.

“Definitely, it’s a great way to try out a new team or role and expand your horizons,” Lizzy concludes. “I’ve enjoyed my time on my secondment so far and I’m really grateful for the opportunity.”

The Future Unfolds: Continuation of the Journey 

As her secondment is drawing to a close, Lizzy’s journey at the Sanger Institute continues to evolve. Conversations about potential opportunities are underway, reflecting the dynamic nature of career pathways at the Sanger Institute, which values growth and development.

“While things may be a little up in the air at the moment,” she states, “I am comfortable in the knowledge that regardless of the outcome I still have a secure job at Sanger.”

In Lizzy’s story, we find a testament to the power of secondments – a testament to how embracing change and seizing opportunities within your own organisation can lead to remarkable growth and fulfilment.

Secondments have become valuable in the realm of career development. Their significance extends beyond being professional detours; they offer a multitude of benefits that can shape both individuals and organisations in profound ways:

  1. Skill Enhancement and Diversification
  2. Network Expansion
  3. Adaptability and Flexibility
  4. Unleashing Hidden Potential
  5. Talent Development and Retention
  6. Exploration without Commitment
  7. Breakthroughs in Innovation

In the case of Lizzy Thorpe and her journey at the Sanger Institute, her secondment exemplifies these values. Her ability to seamlessly transition, adapt, and excel in her temporary role underscores how secondments can be transformative experiences

In a rapidly evolving professional landscape, secondments offer a mechanism for individuals to embrace change, foster professional growth, and contribute to the overall success. As Lizzy’s story reveals, these opportunities aren’t just about branching out on your doorstep; they’re about stepping into a world of potential, learning, and new horizons.