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Alecka Miles

5 minutes with Alecka Miles, Lecturer, School of Medical and Health Sciences

As a new Course Coordinator for the Master of Paramedic Practitioner, how have you faced the challenges of keeping up with your professional development and raising a young family?

I have had to face the challenges associated with keeping up with professional development whilst raising a young family with flexibility, a willingness to embrace a new normal and in some instances to walk a path to change. Studying whilst raising a young family poses many challenges and has my developed ability to adapt and be flexible in many aspects of both my professional and personal life. I may be idealistic in ‘wanting it all’ – being with my family, studying and working but being organised, adaptable and having a supportive partner and workplace such as ECU is assisting me to achieve this. One of the biggest challenges I have faced in keeping up with professional development is trying to overcome the stigma associated with attending professional events such as conferences and on-campus workshops associated with study with a newborn / infant in tow. I am sure not everyone I have crossed as appreciated or supported my endeavours to ‘have it all’ but overwhelmingly at both conferences and during my study I have been greeted with supportive words. Overcoming the fear of judgement has been a huge challenge but mostly I have found that the leap of faith in having my infant with me during such events (his placid nature also helps) has shown me a ‘village’ of people internally and externally that have been inspiring, supportive and helped me learn and grow, both as a professional and a parent.

What changes do you think will enable STEMM professionals with parental and carer responsibilities to excel in their career progression?

I think continued flexible work hours and leaders encouraging STEMM professionals with and without parental and carer responsibilities to utilise these will assist those who have such responsibilities to have the confidence to continue their career progression. Access to flexible childcare on site for both work and conferences including ‘child friendly’ offices, meeting rooms and/or learning spaces would also allow people to balance career and caring responsibilities when things change and they are required to be on site. Empowering STEMM professionals (of all genders) with caring responsibilities to challenge traditional work, study and professional development conditions and to embrace the ability to be flexible and a new ‘normal’ is a change that I believe will see many early and experienced people progress their careers whilst being a carer / parent.

As a 2018 Edith Cowan Athena SWAN Award recipient, how has this impacted your return-to-work experience? Do you have any words of advice for fellow colleagues returning back to work after parental or carer leave?

Receiving the 2018 Edith Cowan Athena SWAN Award for professional development has positively impacted my return to work experience, it has provided me with an opportunity to attend and if accepted present at an international teaching and learning conference ‘parent guilt free’, as I can take my young family and husband with me. The conference is in New Zealand and is something I would not have considered going to, as I do not feel comfortable being that far away for a period of time from my young dependent children.

My advice for fellow colleagues returning back to work after carer or parental leave is to embrace the supportive workplace that we have, network with colleagues who have faced or are going to be facing similar challenges, be organised and flexible in your approach to balancing the challenges of a busy personal and professional life and finally, to proactively ask for help whether that is at work or home when you need it….preferably before becoming overwhelmed. There are so many lessons to be learnt from those before us and also those carers and parents who have walked the difficult, inflexible path of the past and by learning from these it, it has made my return to work a very positive experience.

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