Consulting Advice from Dr. Barbara Clark, Day 1

Barb Clark PicDr. Barbara Clark is a UK-based linguistic consultant with over 10 years of experience in civil aviation.

In June, guest blogger Lauren Johnson had the distinct pleasure of talking with Dr. Clark via Skype.

Last week we brought you Part One and Part Two covering Dr. Clark’s background, including her experiences as a flight attendant, how that led to her pursuing a PhD, and how she’s making her expertise available via her consulting firm, You Say Tomato.

Every day this week we’ll be presenting a series of posts, where Dr. Clark shares her experiences as a consultant and offers suggestions on topics like finding clients, making yourself memorable, and why you shouldn’t fear failure.


Advice for People Who Want to do a PhD:

Pick something you love doing, even if you think it isn’t PhD material, because you’ll be wedded to it for at least 10 years, both during your PhD program and post-PhD. You’ll be mining it for as much as you can, for things like publications and conference talks. And if you’re planning to go into a PhD program straight out of undergrad, realize that it is not the same experience. I had a stellar undergraduate academic career, which set me up very poorly for my PhD, because I thought a PhD program was a longer version of undergrad.

On the Difference Between Academia and Consulting:

When you’re an academic you think, “Oh that’s a really interesting problem,” but when you’re consulting nobody cares about interesting, people care about money. I still struggle with that today: how can I balance my research interests with making money? How can I work with clients? How can I sell myself? How do I convince clients that they need to hire me and how can I show them their problem is one that only I can solve? I wish more PhD departments focused on that instead of grooming students to go into academia.


  • Find out more about Dr. Clark’s consulting firm, You Say Tomato on her website.
  • Follow her on Twitter:
    • @infoYST (more aviation oriented)
    • @drjavafox (more linguistic, anthropological, and informal tweeting)
  • If you’re a professional looking for help with making your Twitter presence more effective, check out her course: Twitter for Professionals
  • If you’re a current, potential, or future PhD student looking for advice, Dr. Clark welcomes you to contact her at!

Lauren Johnson is a linguist and theater artist, based in upstate NY. She currently works as a consulting researcher examining humanitarian intervention and violence against women in Darfur, Sudan. A highly accomplished binge reader and trivia buff, she is always accepting recommendations for what to read next.

You can read more about her here:

%d bloggers like this: