Parade Profile: Steph Calley (BSc Psychology 2018)

Posted in: Parade profiles

A night at the pub changed everything for local police officer Steph Calley. A chance run-in led her to a career change, lunch with the Queen, meeting her future husband and finding a job, all without leaving the city she loves. Now underway with a doctorate at Bath, we caught up with her for the full story.

Blonde woman with glasses and a flowery dress smiling.Why did you choose to study at Bath?

I took a while to get to university – I failed my A Levels for a start! I became a police officer when I was 18, and after two years realised that it wasn't for me. At 21, I bumped into a friend at the pub, and she said she was doing an Access to Higher Education Diploma to become a nurse. I’d never heard of this, but I applied to Bath College the following day.

I got much better grades than I thought I would, but couldn’t move away from the city of Bath as I was looking after my dad. I was really lucky that somewhere as highly esteemed as the University of Bath was right on my front doorstep. I’d been to campus for school sports day almost every year of my life but never dreamed I’d study there. I came for my interview in the psychology department on the old bendy bus and absolutely fell in love with the campus, the course, the staff – the full picture.



Did you have a particular career in mind when you chose your course?

At the beginning of my Access course, I wanted to study law as I was still chasing the police route, but I soon rediscovered psychology (having received a low grade at A Level) and changed to that. I wanted to help people like my dad who’d had a stroke – I wanted to understand more about the connection between the mind and brain. I now work in IT and its definitely come in handy!

I was very keen on doing a placement year, so that element of the course appealed to me as well. I was the first in my family to go to university, so I didn’t know what graduate careers were, or anyone that had one. I took advantage of every single academic skills workshop and careers drop-in session I could get my hands on.



Can you tell us about your experience of studying here? Any favourite memories, or places to go on campus and in the city?

There are too many good memories to count. I remember being absolutely terrified my first few days, as I was slightly older than the rest of cohort, but what a bunch of intelligent, interesting students they were.

I remember the glow of receiving my first essay grades and thinking, “Okay, this is something I can work with.” I’m actually still in touch with my tutor from my first year who gave me that grade, and honestly, he made such a difference to my University experience. I thoroughly enjoyed my course, the research projects, and the 'Mind and Behaviour' lectures in particular. I did have a favourite computer in the library, on the ground floor, right in the corner by the window, ha!


Out of the classroom, I did some fantastic fundraising events with the Advancement Office at Windsor Castle with the Chancellor many times. Then I had lunch with the late Queen which was an absolutely unreal experience. In other Bath adventures I had a film crew follow me around the city to make promotional material for the Alumni Fund.


One of my favourite places in the city is Alexandra Park, as it has the most amazing views. We did a lot of our lockdown walks there, and I actually got engaged there recently. My partner David is also a Bath alum and member of staff at the University. He was also the Welfare and Diversity Officer then President in the Students Union before joining undergraduate admissions. Some have recently called us the “University’s power couple” – not sure how I feel about that!



Describe your career journey since graduating.

I was a Lloyds Scholar and had a graduate role lined up in Human Resources with them, but when a Data Analyst job came up in Undergraduate Admissions at Bath, I thought I'd submit an application. I’d done an administration role in the Widening Access team as a student, so I already had experience with the adjoining team. I spent a couple of years at Bath Spa University in Data and Insight roles, completed an MBA, and then came back “home” to Bath. I now work in Digital, Data and Technology as the Data Governance Manager. 


What is a typical day like in your current role?

A typical day for me is improving data quality in our data estate through a number of small (to ginormous) projects, collating business definitions, stakeholder engagement and communications, and supporting over 100 Data Owners and Data Stewards. I can work with HR, Finance, Academic Registry, Research and Innovation Services, Campus Infrastructure and more all in one day; I thoroughly enjoy the work.



How did your studies help you to to develop professionally? 

I always felt like the black sheep of my family, so finding a community of like-minded people was brilliant. I learned so much, especially about the power of life-long learning, and have developed built the confidence to try anything.

I’m starting the doctorate in business administration (higher education management) at Bath later this year. I would never have dreamed in a million years that despite dropping out of sixth form, I’m about to start my third degree. The soft skills were every much as important as the research and statistical learning during my degree; I conquered my fear of public speaking early on – speaking at the University’s 50th Anniversary, the British Universities Finance Directors Conference and more. A spectacular set of experiences.


What experiences did your placement provide?

I felt I really came into my own during my placement year. I was set to do a neuropsychology placement in a stroke ward, but 6 weeks before starting, my dad had another stroke and unfortunately passed away. I was very luckily scooped up by Dr Ailsa Russell and Dr Kate Cooper in the psychology department here instead. I had the best placement year imaginable in the Centre for Applied Autism Research.

Our Christmas party in what was Wessex Restaurant was phenomenal, but I also got to meet people with autism in the local community, which has really helped me understand myself and others in my family. It was a research placement that I wrote my dissertation on, which became a published paper.



What advice would you give to prospective students thinking about studying your course at Bath?

Get involved in everything – try things at least once. I never thought that my first job at McDonalds would get me the experience to get into the police. That role got me into university, the statistics I learned during my degree got me into data, and I’m now leading the data governance framework at a top UK university. We never really end up where we think we’re going to, and sometimes, that’s the best outcome possible.

Posted in: Parade profiles

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