College of Life Sciences

Professor Natalie Armstrong

Head shot of Natalie ArmstrongHead of Department of Population Health Sciences, Professor of Healthcare Improvement Research and Health Foundation Improvement Science Fellow

Did you experience any significant barriers / challenges in getting to where you are now?

No, I don’t think I did; I’ve been very fortunate.

What tips would you give to your 14 year old self?

Try not to worry so much about what you think you should be doing, and focus on what you enjoy doing. You don’t have to apologise for being good at things. Pay no attention to that careers quiz that suggested ‘fish farmer’ would be a good career for you.

What are your future career aspirations?

Good question! I got to where I am sooner than I expected so I’m thinking a fair bit at the moment about what I might want to do next.

What are the most pivotal moments in your life and why?

Meeting my now husband twenty years ago – he has been unfailingly supportive over the years, and gives me the confidence to pursue things when I doubt myself. Having my son six years ago – being a parent helps me keep my working life in perspective, and of course brings endless joy.

What did you want to do when you were younger?

I don’t recall having any very clear ideas about this from a particularly young age. I do remember being anxious when it was time to leave my village primary school and start attending middle school in the nearby town. I used to daydream about there being a middle school built in my village so as to make this move unnecessary. I then realised that to in order to prevent there needing to be subsequent moves, my village would have to acquire both an upper school and a university. I don’t know how I was aware of university at that stage as no-one in my family had attended one and it wasn’t something that was talked about at home. In later years I did think about training in law for quite a while and that was my plan almost up until making my university applications. For some reason (I can’t remember quite why) I then became nervous about making a clear career choice at that stage and opted to keep my options more open.

What leadership experiences / opportunities have you had thus far (either in your personal or professional life)?

I was fortunate to get a fair amount of leadership opportunities in teaching and research fairly early on in my career – leading teaching modules and research projects, either as lead investigator or as a co-investigator leading a particular work package. I knew that I wanted to progress my academic career and that leadership roles would be important for that. I was fortunate to be awarded a place on the Aurora women’s leadership programme, and found that helpful. I particularly benefited from the advice given to me by my university-appointed mentor as I completed that programme. She was kind enough to continue mentoring me even after the programme had finished. I took on leadership of my research group (jointly with a colleague) in 2016 and then decided to apply to be Head of Department when that opportunity came along in 2018. As part of my Health Foundation Improvement Science Fellowship I am fortunate enough to have leadership development training and a personal coach. I find the latter particularly useful as a means through which to reflect on my approach to leadership.

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