Expect the unexpected and you might just land your dream job

Dr Lauren Du Fall
5 January 2017

Dr Lauren Du Fall’s career path has been filled with surprises—most of all for herself.

“I am loving my current position, and two years ago I didn’t even know it existed,” says ANU graduate Lauren who is now the Manager of a portfolio of projects in pre-breeding for disease resistance in grains for the Australian Government Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

Lauren first came to ANU from New Zealand after applying for an undergraduate summer research scholarship.  

Despite secretly hoping that she wouldn’t be successful, she knew it was “a really great opportunity that I couldn’t turn down”.

By the end of her first week in Canberra, Lauren was hooked. She found herself loving it so much that she applied to do honours in biochemistry at the ANU Research School of Biology, impressed by the University’s focus on research.

Lauren then went on to study the chemicals involved in plant disease interactions, graduating with a PhD in 2014.

Now, Lauren works in management for one of the world’s leading grains research organisations, a direction she never expected to take.

Lauren first met her future employer, after applying for PhD funding from the GRDC and consequently working with them over the course of her PhD.

“I applied for a position there and although not successful, they called me and I ended up with some short term consulting for them.”

“After a month or so they said ‘we’ve got a short-term management contract, do you want to come in?’, so that was a really good foot in the door.”

But Lauren admits that going from research into management wasn’t necessarily “straightforward or easy”.

“In research, your colleagues are people who have often been in academia for a long time. So it can be difficult for them to give you advice on what other options are out there.”

“I didn’t expect it to be easy and it wasn’t unnecessarily hard either, because I had reached out to people and networked.”

Now, Lauren describes the diversity of her role as her favourite part of her job. There is no standard day and her work ranges from managing research projects, communicating with growers and researchers, producing media, seeking new opportunities for research in the grains industry and more.

“At the moment I’m getting involved in a lot of the contract, legal, commercial business development side of things and I’m finding that really fascinating. Even though that’s not my primary area of expertise, it’s certainly an area I am looking forward to developing further in.”

She considers her background in science key to this adaptability in a changing job market.

“You can use the skills you acquire in a science degree in so many different areas so I think it’s one of the core areas that you can study that makes it easier to change and adapt in the future.”