UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology


ION Leadership Programme for technicians and research assistants

Leadership is an enabling and transferable skill recognised in the UCL Academic Careers Framework and in the UCL Ways of Working Framework as an imperative to progress in your career at UCL.

While developing one’s leadership skills is essential to support career development at UCL, members of staff in junior roles have not been given many opportunities to leadership training due to lack of centrally provided offerings at UCL. An analysis on diversity key indicators reveals a grade gap, with women, people with reported disabilities and staff from minoritized groups being highly represented at lower grades, but less so in managerial roles. Therefore, granting training opportunities to members of staff in junior roles is an EDI imperative.

At the Institute of Neurology, we recognize the lack of opportunities for continuous personal and professional development on offer to Research Assistants or Technicians at UCL. To address this, we have decided to partner up with expert external consultant and coach Dr. Magdalena Bak-Maier of ‘Make Time Count’ to develop a bespoke pilot programme, specifically designed to support members of staff in research supporting roles.

Partnering with Magdalena was a natural fit with the IoN, as she has a clear understanding of the culture and challenges of building a career in Academia –specifically in Neuroscience fields. Magdalena holds a PhD in neuroscience from Caltech USA and a Senior Fellowship in Higher Education UK (SFHEA). She is an established educator and the go-to coach for academics worldwide. Before setting up Make Time Count (MTC) Ltd, Magdalena was the Director of the Academic Development Center and the Senior Organizational Leadership Development Programme at Imperial College London.

She has developed The Grid™ productivity and wellbeing method, which has been described as a “complete life-saver” by academics and students worldwide.

“Healthy workplaces rely on the leadership and professional effectiveness of all its members. National and international surveys of early career researchers (ECR) increasingly highlight the critical importance that ECR support has on good career outcomes, as well as staff morale, performance and healthy local culture. Research technicians and research assistants are a critical part of these systems.  At Make Time Count, we excel at empowering individuals and teams to lead for the benefit of all and find ways to forge exciting career paths. Our powerful and proven approach is time-efficient, highly practical and makes a lasting difference. We champion the genius, the proverbial underdog and the marginalized.

I am very honored to collaborate with the Institute of Neurology and the EDI committee on this leadership development initiative that targets research assistants and technicians.  Over the next four months, our delegates will explore and workshop: who they are, where they wish to go, and how they can effectively realize their potential. They will be learning ways of being and doing that are critical to success for all. The program will address three interrelated strands - personal leadership, general effectiveness and sound career management - with practical focus on three key leadership skills:  (a) how to pay attention and truly listen, (b) how to pose questions that help move everyone forward, and (c) how to invite action. I am delighted to bring my integrative and neuroscience-informed approach to this work and would like to thank the institute EDI leadership for their commitment, all the research group leaders/PIs who are supporting their staff to take part and our first cohort members.”

 Dr. Magdalena Bak-Maier, Make Time Count MD, Grid Creator and Chief Educator. www.maketimecount.com

We have started the IoN Leadership Programme with the first full day training session on the 30th of March, welcoming a cohort of 10 participants.

We are proud to say that we are the first Department in UCL offering a bespoke training for people in these professional groups. Our efforts did not go unnoticed and received interest from Faculty and elsewhere in the university. We hope we will be able to expand to other departments in UCL in 2023.