I had come through a PhD two or three years ago – I did it later in my career. It was an onerous, horrible process, and then some other things had happened. So I was struggling to write: to engage, to get back into the PhD or to actually get back into writing again. And so that was the main catalyst for hooking up with Janet in the first place. I thought it sounded like a really good thing to try.

Did you have any hesitations before starting?

Yes, definitely. I’d never done anything like it before and I really didn’t quite know what to expect. There were some hesitations because of that, about not really knowing how it would unfold in terms of the process.

What would you say to a prospective client with the same concerns?

Those fears are very quickly allayed by the way Janet sets up the interactions, right from the beginning. The first interaction is an informal one, which is really an opportunity for her to explain what she does and for you to interact with her, so it’s not a paid session. And that helped make it clearer about how the process would work. It put me at ease completely. I think in a sense you don’t know when you start where it’s going to end up. But I certainly felt comfortable after that first session.

What were the key issues or themes you worked on with Janet?

They were around me getting stuck in my writing, and how that affected my personal confidence around writing. In the end it was around me accepting that there is a process I go through when I write. And what I had to do was acknowledge that I actually went through a process, and instead of beating myself up because I thought I should have been doing something else, something different, or this model that I had in my head about how it should be, just accepting that I actually write in my own way. And actually formalising that a bit more, and understanding that a bit more, was really helpful.

Janet also gave me some really good techniques to help with my writing in terms of just structuring the ideas: you know, mind mapping software, and some of the other tips that she gave me were really helpful. But I think fundamentally, it was really just about her helping me to make explicit and to work through how I write. That it was a process, and that is normal.

Do you think you have made progress in the areas you worked on?

Yes, I have. I think what it doesn’t do is make it easy, because writing’s hard – or it’s hard for me. But I think what has made it easier is to accept that that is the way it is: you just keep working at it, and you need to have the confidence that you are actually okay at this, and you’ve just got to go through this process. So yes, that has been very helpful. And it did help me complete a large report that I had to get done when I started working with her. There are still some issues I have around engaging back with my PhD topic, but I am working at and through those. So it’s been helpful there too.

The coaching was wonderful. I miss our interaction, because I’d start a session and I would be all tense – and she could clearly see it. And by the end it was like, ‘Pheeeew!’ It was like unloading of all this stuff, this crap, and just articulating it was really helpful.

Recognising that your achievements are your own, what difference did it make to have Janet as your coach?

It was hugely helpful for me – hugely. And it was helpful because I’m probably not one to seek help normally. I think there is reluctance to seek help in academia, and in me personally as well. But doing it with Janet – she became a friend. I looked forward to our interaction and we had lots of laughs and it was a really positive interaction and engagement that we had. So yes: hugely helpful on a number of levels.

What was it like to have Janet as your coach? Was there anything that surprised you, or was unique or uncomfortable?

Nothing uncomfortable. I was surprised – I think I expected that it would be more about getting tips from Janet. It became pretty clear very quickly that in fact it was more about her being incredibly able at reflecting back exactly what I was saying, and so it really was about me analysing me. But I always felt really comfortable in doing that with her. And I think she has this – you know, she almost hugs you, there is this comfort around that process that for me was just really great. I was sad to end because it had been really useful to that point and because of the positive interaction and engagement that it enabled with her. She is so comfortable, we connected really well.

So you had the answers inside you and she was able to draw them out?

Yes, and that was affirming in itself.

If you’d be comfortable recommending Janet’s services, to whom would you recommend her and why?

I have already, and a couple of colleagues have worked with her and think she is great. Anyone who is grappling with writing, but also anyone who is going through a period of maybe reconsidering why they are doing what they’re doing, or thinking about needing to make a change or taking on greater responsibility – any of those sort of situations. I think she would be incredibly valuable for that.

I think she would be equally helpful for male and female, I don’t think that would matter. But I think her understanding of the academic environment – because she has that background as well – is really helpful. I would imagine someone who didn’t have that wouldn’t be as able to reflect back or understand as well some of the things that I was talking about without that domain knowledge. One of the things I really enjoyed was hearing some of her experiences, too, telling some of her stories, which I found really valuable too.

Do you have any suggestions or anything to add?

I don’t have any suggestions. She just needs to know how great she is. I don’t think she knows that is as much as she should. But I don’t want her to get too popular, because she is of such value: she is a treasure. She does a very good job.

I liked the fact that she was challenging. That is important if you are going to be effective in what she does, and she was. I really like that, because one thing that is really difficult to get in my position is good, critical, honest feedback: from colleagues, from anyone. Somehow there is this thing that you don’t do that. Whereas Janet was definitely challenging and forthright and forced me to be explicit and clear, which was incredibly valuable. It’s very hard to get that type of interaction in a professional setting with somebody that you trust, and in confidence as well. So that was incredibly valuable.