My first academic break came after finishing my MA in Social Work in the UK and obtaining my first lecturing post in Malaysia as that university’s first full-time, qualified social work academic. It was a very exciting time developing new programmes and embarking on what turned out to be my doctoral research in mental health. Later I took up another academic post in the United Arab Emirates allowing me to research my ground breaking co-authored book Islam and Social Work now going through it’s second edition. From there I jumped at the chance to join the prestigious Chinese University of Hong Kong working in the area of social work, diversity and racial discrimination – and thereafter was recruited to join Bournemouth University to increase their research credentials in social work. I went on to develop sociology in my School/Faculty, helped to found the Women’s Academic Network at BU and was eventually promoted Professor of Social & Cultural Diversity in 2015.
But this hasn’t been a series of serendipitous, easy jumps. Throughout all of this I have borne and raised children, faced crises of bereavement and ill health, lost and rediscovered a soul mate, faced insecurities and unhappy work situations. All in all I would characterise my career as definitely picaresque: rich in adventure and opportunities, at other times lost in the doldrums but always juggling multiple tasks and carrying a mostly fulfilling and creative workload.
So what has helped me? Apart from a happy home life, helpful mentors, good, loyal friendships, humour, quick learning, ‘doing as you would be done by’, sorting wheat from chaff: work that matters versus that which doesn’t - above all, ‘keeping the faith’: camaraderie, resilience and self-belief.