National Careers Week: Tips & Advice from the MAO Team

This National Careers Week 2021 we’re sharing reflections and insights into the world of work from some of the Modern Art Oxford team.

During our half-term film-making residency last month, our young artists asked members of our team about their education, careers and experiences in and outside of the world of work. What qualifications do you have and did you need them for your current job? What advice would you give to your younger self? 

Here we share some of their answers. We hope they’ll be both inspiring and useful.


Black text on grey background reads "There are so many skills you're picking up all the time", a quote from Emma Ridgway, Chief Curator, Head of Exhibitions and Learning. Bottom right is an illustration of 3 pink billboards reading 'National Careers Week'

First up is Emma, our Chief Curator and Head of Exhibitions and Learning. She leads on the gallery’s programme of exhibitions, events and learning activities. She has an important reminder for anyone, at any stage of their career:

“There are so many skills you’re picking up all the time. Even in a job that feels like it’s just paying the bills there will be things that will be really useful, and you don’t know what they are yet, but you’ll find yourself later thinking: “Oh yeah, I know how to do that”.”

Black text on grey background reads "I got involved in the art business purely by accident. I answered an ad in the Evening Standard, and here I am more than 40 years later" - quote from Scot Blyth, Head of Production. Bottom right is an illustration of 3 pink billboards reading 'National Careers Week'

Next up is Scot, Modern Art Oxford’s Production Manager. He oversees the building and design of our exhibitions, often working with artists to achieve their vision and build their artworks in the gallery. He also manages the safe arrival, unpacking and packing up of artworks, and generally takes care of the Modern Art Oxford building. He shares his experiences of getting into the art world.

“I got involved in the art business purely by accident. I answered an ad in the Evening Standard and here I am more than 40 years later. I was working on a lobster boat in Scotland before I came to London, aged 20, and got a job with an art gallery called Waddington. It was easier to get work in those days.”

“The day I got the job at Waddington’s I’d also got a job as a security guard. I flipped a coin and took the job at Waddington’s. So who knows, I could be running G4S by now!”

Black text on grey background reads: I didn't have any real qualifications, but I had a good work ethic. I worked hard, I learnt on the job, and it paid off. I know it's a lot tougher for young people now. A little bit of luck helps, doesn't it, and hard work." - quote from Scot Blyth, Head of Production.

Scot continues: “I didn’t have any real qualifications, but I had a good work ethic. I worked hard, I learnt on the job, and it paid off. I know it’s a lot tougher for young people now. A little bit of luck helps, doesn’t it, and hard work.”

Black text on grey background reads: "Life is full of pressures - some that you can rise to, and others that feel overwhelming. Often it's about breaking the challenge down, identifying the tiny steps. Then you realise you can. probably get through it." - quote from Maria Morwood, Head of Development. Bottom right is an illustration of 3 pink billboards reading 'National Careers Week'

Maria is Modern Art Oxford’s Head of Development. She and her team work on fundraising and development for the gallery, which includes building and maintaining relationships with our supporters, liaising with our sponsors, and securing essential funding for the development of our exhibitions, learning activities and events, and the running of the building. As Modern Art Oxford is a charity, this work is truly fundamental.

Maria emphasises how skills and qualifications from one experience can end up being really useful, even in very different jobs: “Experience is everything really. I’ve followed my nose, and got different qualifications along the way.”

“My qualification as a yoga teacher has helped me enormously in terms of emotional intelligence, trying to navigate challenges, to step back and find perspective. Life is full of pressures – some that you can rise to, and some that feel overwhelming. Often it’s about breaking the challenge down, identifying the tiny steps. Then you realise you can probably get through it.” 

Black text on grey background reads: "I worked as a zoo keeper for 6 years when I left school, then signed up to do a BA in Fine Art through clearing at the last minute. So, no big plan... I would say, follow your heart." - quote from Andy Owen, Assistant Production Manager. Bottom right is an illustration of 3 pink billboards reading 'National Careers Week'

Last but not least is Andy, Modern Art Oxford’s Assistant Production Manager. He works with Scot, our Production Manager, to oversee the building and design of our exhibitions, often working with the artists to achieve their vision and build their artworks in the space. He also ensures the safe arrival, unpacking and packing up of artworks, and generally takes care of the Modern Art Oxford building. He shares his career journey so far:

“I worked as a zoo keeper for 6 years when I left school, then signed up to do a BA in Fine Art through clearing at the last minute.”

“By the end of the BA I’d decided I wanted to be an artist, so I went to London, got into St Martin’s to do a post-graduate diploma, and then was lucky enough to get picked up by a gallery. I also got a job in a museum helping to install exhibitions, because I had experience of doing my own. After the financial crash in 2008 I had to get a full-time permanent job, and naturally I slipped into doing art technician work, worked in various art galleries and museums, and found my way to MAO.”

“So, no big plan. I would say, follow your heart.”

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