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Francesca Mullan

PR Specialist

3 minute read 

In her own words, Francesca Mullan, tells her story.

As a 20-something still trying to figure out where I want my life to go, things can be intimidating sometimes.  

I joined NPL 7 years ago as an apprentice. A career path that I’m entirely happy with and one I would never change. It was however nerve wracking as an introverted 18-year-old. Jumping into the world of work straight after school wasn’t comfortable for me but I learned so much and gained invaluable experience. Over the last couple of years, I have settled into PR – a strand of communications I’m very comfortable with, love and I think I am pretty good at.   

My current role involves managing NPL’s external news hub, drafting press releases on major announcements, working with our PR agency to pitch stories to the media, facilitating or leading filming onsite and co-leading this campaign! 

Thinking back to 10-year-old Fran, I think she’d be just a little disappointed that I work in comms and didn’t pursue any of my many dream jobs – teacher (don’t particularly love kids as an adult), footballer (too injury prone), astronaut (slightly scared of space). I am happy with my career choices, however.  

Science has always been an area of interest to me so working for NPL is a great fit. I get to combine several interests. Being able to talk to the external world about all the game-changing science and research happening here is really rewarding. Although the work of myself and colleagues in non-science functions isn’t necessarily as valuable to the scientific community as our science and engineering colleagues, it’s so important to value what it takes to make a lab like NPL run smoothly. Marketing and communications, business development, HR, health & safety - all key contributors to life in STEM.  

There has never a time in my life where I didn’t think I’d get to this role or field of work because I’ve never had a plan. I still don’t really – not a long term one anyway. I’ve always been a keen writer and knew I would end up doing something creative. As I mentioned at the start, it’s not always an easy ride though. There are always barriers along the way.  

Having a fear that you have nothing of value to add. That people won’t listen to you. That you don’t deserve to be listened to. Better to sit back and just observe out of fear of saying something stupid. Although I should note that colleagues have never made me feel this way. It’s a mental game. For me, doing an apprenticeship over a degree led to major imposter syndrome. Even with gaining plenty of knowledge via my training, in-situ experience with established professionals and completing a Chartered Institute of PR Professional course, it wasn’t enough. I know this is stupid because apprenticeships are such a brilliant way to get into the world of work. I would have also hated university.  

Over the last couple of years, with the support of my manager, I’ve come out of my shell a lot and gained so much confidence. Sometimes you need to realise how other people view you – it might just surprise you.   

I can’t claim this with any scientific backing, but I think a big contributor to the mentality that we’re not good enough is being a woman. I can say fairly confidently that most women you talk to could tell you about a time when they were made to feel like they were less than their male counterparts. Like their opinion mattered less or a time they felt patronised. It all contributes to how we see yourselves at work.  

Mental barriers are sometimes so hard to overcome but if you’re ever in doubt remember - everyone adds value. We are all vital members of a team because there is diversity in our voices, our thoughts, in the ways we work and how we can contribute to projects.  

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