Oliver Quinlan – MA Education graduate

Oliver now works as the research manager of Raspberry Pi Foundation after graduating from the MA Education in 2015.

“It’s really exciting right at this moment in time, being part of a movement which supports people across the world who are developing opportunities and solving problems in their own communities with digital technology… it really does feel part of a global movement.”

Tell us about your career path since graduation.

I studied my MA whilst teaching at Plymouth University on the initial teacher education programme. My MA research and my work in this area allowed me to develop my interests in research, so I moved on to work at the innovation think tank Nesta. I worked on research projects and trials involving the use of digital technology in schools. As part of this work I authored a report on the state of 'Digital Making' across the UK, and this interest led me to join the Raspberry Pi Foundation who run educational programmes and make low cost computers to help people learn about technology and computer science.

Has your career path changed since graduation?

Since graduation I've moved away from a traditional academic job, and now work in the world of charities, think tanks, and policy. I'm still keeping up with academia by working on some publications, but I've enjoyed the diversity of these roles.

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

I think the most difficult thing is navigating your path through the sea of options, finding out what the opportunities are and evaluating which ones to get involved in and when. So many careers now are formed out of a portfolio of different experiences. This is really exciting, but it can cause some deep questioning and some career angst at times, particularly if those close to you are following more traditional career paths. Regularly reflecting on your core purpose and where it might take you is work worth doing.

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

It’s really exciting right at this moment in time, being part of a movement which supports people across the world who are developing opportunities and solving problems in their own communities with digital technology. I was in Sweden a few weeks ago, and I'm travelling to the US in the next few weeks to talk to educators there: it really does feel part of a global movement.

What, if anything, would you do differently if you could?

Make even more time to write, blog, and share my thinking as it has developed. The most interesting opportunities, and the best ideas, have always come to me through this process.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?

Many people only see the teaching roles in education because these are the ones they come into most contact with. There's a whole range of roles in education other than teaching, and for people fascinated with the learning environment it’s a great world to be part of. I would advise people to look into the work of educational organisations – from charities to businesses that run educational programmes – because having experience in teaching often helps, although it's just one part of a career in education.

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

My work on the masters programme encouraged me to think deeply about the nature of research and research methods, something which has been invaluable to me when communicating the rationale and the detail of research to teachers and young people. It also gave me the chance to develop my own use of research methods in detail, and my approach to academic writing.

What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth?

As part of my masters I completed the PGCAP course. This was a great opportunity to work with other academics from across disciplines and learn from each other. Comparing my teaching in education to that of colleagues in areas as different as creative writing and mathematics was both useful and thought provoking, and we built a supportive and enjoyable learning community around that module.

Would you recommend undertaking a course with Plymouth University, and why?

Plymouth's MA Education has a team of great academics who made me think deeply about education, learning, and research. They cover a really wide range of interests and subjects, and are not just teaching on the programme but undertaking fascinating research which was a great influence on my thinking.

Inspired by this story?

For more information about studying MA Education, please visit our MA Education course page. For more information about our range of courses within the Plymouth Institute of Education, please visit the school page.

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