Our latest SAHA Conversation features Fiona Hill. Dr. Fiona Hill is a senior fellow at the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution and author of There Is Nothing for You Here: Finding Opportunity in the 21st Century. She previously served as senior director for European and Russian affairs on the National Security Council from 2017-2019 and as national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia at the National Intelligence Council from 2006-2009. She holds a master’s degree in Soviet studies and a doctorate in history from Harvard University and a master’s in Russian and modern history from St Andrews University in Scotland.
This SAHA Conversation focuses on Fiona’s book ‘There’s Nothing for you Here: Finding Opportunity in the 21st century’. We also discuss her work on Russia but please note that this podcast episode was recorded in November 2021. Please see the show notes below for a series of recent sources with Fiona’s analysis on the current events in Ukraine.
Recent media and events:
The Economist Asks Podcast – 3 March 2022
The Ezra Klein Show (The New York Times) with Dr Fiona Hill – 8 March 2022
[01:35] Cristina: Thank you for joining me today, Fiona.
[01:40] Fiona: Oh, thank you so much, Cristina. Thank you for having me.
[01:43] Cristina: So we’ll start our discussion today just reflecting a little bit on your recent book that was published this year ‘There is nothing for you here: finding opportunity in the 21st century’. And I was delighted to actually be able to go through it and I found your life story actually quite inspirational. And I think it is inspirational for many of our listeners also. So to start our discussion, I wanted to ask you without maybe, you know, hopefully giving too much away from the book, just to ask you to reflect a little bit on your career trajectory and how this has intersected with your studies?
[02:19] Fiona: Well, in actual facts, Cristina, I think I’m probably in the unusual position of being able to say that my entire career trajectory has been linked to my studies in the humanities, and to my time in Scotland. So I was the first generation in my family to go to university. At the time when I went to St Andrews for the university in 1984 it was at the backdrop of the UK miners’ strike and my father had been a coal miner who had lost his job and spent a lot of time trying to find something else before becoming a porter in a hospital. My parents didn’t have very much money at all, but my local education authority, because that was really, you know, the time that the education authorities in the UK were still very much engaged in providing full grants for students, including maintenance grants, made it possible for me to go to St Andrews. And I went at a very momentous time of political upheaval in the United Kingdom, which shaped a lot of my own personal thinking. But I decided to study Russian and modern history at St. Andrews, you know, very much right in the heart of the humanities. And the reason that I picked those subjects was because it was such an incredible period of history already unfolding and sort of what’s now past history, but at the time is obviously very much contemporary, history in the making. But I’ve been very much affected also by the atmosphere, the general atmosphere, that period at the end of the Cold War, when there was a lot of crises about the prospect of nuclear war, of an exchange between the Soviet Union, as it then was, and the United States over the stationing of missiles, of medium range missiles, nuclear missiles in Europe, the so called Euro Missile Crisis, that stretched in the late 1970s through to 1987, when Gorbachev and Reagan signed the INF Treaty, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty. And I’d been you know, so kind of swept up in thinking about all of these events at the time even you know, given my very humble background, that I really wanted to study Russian and put it into a larger context and St Andrews made that possible. My local education authority grant made that possible. And, you know, I launched myself on this study at St Andrews at this really momentous time in 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev came into office, in 1987-1988 I got a grant, again, and a fellowship, a scholarship to study in the Soviet Union, which St Andrews encouraged. And basically, all of this is education. These larger world events led me into a career the career that I still have, becoming an analyst and a very prominent expert and specialist in Russia. But my training as a historian, you know, really put me in a great position to be a policy analyst, somebody who’s written an awful lot of books on Russia, Russian history and putting the current events in a historical context. And I’ve used every single part of my education since the beginning of that first years in St Andrews, in my career. So I think that’s fairly unusual. And it’s education that really opened up the doors to me and I know that in Scotland, it’s still possible for students, particularly people from first generation to have all of their fees paid for, but I also got a maintenance grant at the time. So you know education and educational funding for the humanities and other educational disciplines was really important for me,
[05:48] Cristina: Thank you. I think you know, from your book, one of the themes that comes across very strongly, at least from my reading is that of social class, at least to the section that he talked about, for the UK … you move on from that a little bit once you reach America. But I wanted to ask you a little bit, there’s this passage that I really like and I’ll just quote just now and it says that: ‘once I got to St Andrews, I was originally from the Northeast, but no longer actually from there. I was now somewhere else entirely. And I would never go back to live in County Durham’. I wanted to ask you, if you can tell our listeners a little bit more about this, I think, you know, as an immigrant coming to Scotland, kind of resonated very strongly with that passage.
[06:29] Fiona: Right. Well, you know, it’s interesting that you’re saying coming as an immigrant into Scotland, I mean Scotland is still part of the United Kingdom. And you know, some of my family on my mother’s side had come down to Northern England, from Scotland, from the Scottish Borders, to work in all the various industries in the Northeast of England and County Durham, there was a lot of ties between the lowland Scots, and you know, people in the North of England people going backwards and forwards all of the time for work and visiting their families. But the Northeast of England and County Durham in particular, were very much associated with workers, working class people in the mines, in the steelworks and the shipyards, working in the railways, all of the nationalized industries of the United Kingdom after World War Two. But before that, during the Industrial Revolution, people had come from the countryside, Scotland and maybe up from further south in England to work in these huge, you know, industrial enterprises. And so the association with the region was one of workers, working class, you were kind of born into that working class and sort of really expectations that you would go into something that was much shorter than of a profession. And you might not certainly go to college, university, but you also might not get any kind of further education, there was sort of more of a thought, well, you know, if you did study hard and do well, you might become a teacher, or a nurse if you’re a woman. But if you were a man, a boy, you’d most likely go off and follow your family footsteps on the male line into a coal mine, or a shipyard or something like this. But of course, when I was born, they were all closing down. And when I did get into university, the feeling, you know, back then in the late 1980s, was still that if you went to university and you got educated, you would move into a different class, you’d move from the working class into the middle class, you’d have your education and you would use it to do something else. And there’s already an idea of being an immigrant or a migrant, in a class sense, through social mobility education was a door to something else, a totally different life from your childhood. Only five or 6% of kids in the United Kingdom, at that point in the early 1980s went on to university. And if you came from working class background, the expectation was that you would no longer be part of that class background. And in my case, it also meant my hometown, the title of the book is ‘there’s nothing for you here’, which is what my dad said to me, if you’re getting an education and you’re going to have these qualifications, there’s no job that would fit those qualifications to come back to here, you’ll need to move on. So there was already that recognition when I went to St Andrews that I’d emigrated, even though it’s not from very far away, I’d kind of migrated. I was already mobile geographically in terms of class, you know, the education was going to take me on to a different life. And I didn’t expect at the time when I first went to St Andrews in 1984 that I’d end up in the United States. But I did think that I might end up somewhere else in the UK, most likely in London, if I was lucky, you know, to find a job there. And I could potentially, you know, still part of the European Union have ended up somewhere else in Europe, I’d been studying German and French at school, I’d gone on school exchanges, I’d thought at the time about the possibility of perhaps doing a fellowship in Brussels, or maybe somewhere else in Europe. So I already had this expectation that I would have to move and I would have to go on somewhere else. And it was bittersweet. I mean, I was excited about new opportunities, but I also loved my hometown, loved my family, you know, loved my region. And the idea that there was nothing for me there in terms of a job if I got these higher qualifications was … I think very sad, was obviously something that stayed with me for my entire life and career and was one of the reasons that I wanted to write the book.
[10:05] Cristina: Thank you. You know, your affection and fondness for the place where you grew up and lived for part of your life does come across quite strongly in the book. So I think that was an aspect that I really enjoyed reading about that and how even later on you still reflected and went back to some of the experiences that you had there. And actually, that’s one of the things that I found very interesting about the book, the way that you weave your personal experience to then actually build some wider arguments around like social, economic or big political events as you mentioned earlier, the missile crisis. And I was wondering, actually, if having a humanities background has influenced the order you think might have influenced your understanding of this large events, historic events?
[10:55] Fiona: I think it certainly did. And, you know, growing up, even in my hometown, I got really very interested in history, in trying to explain things that were happening. There was the kind of classic view of history. County Durham is a rather unique place. It was the land of the prince bishops, the Bishop of Durham was actually a prince during the kind of early stages of the formation of the United Kingdom. Assigned to basically guard not just the property of the church or kind of congregations and, you know, kind of carry out ecclesiastical duties, but assigned to kind of raise an army and to guard the northern frontier of England, presumably against the Scots, to be bold and blunt, and you know, anybody else who kind of might come along. And it was this then the County Durham, the home of the prince bishops, it was basically governed somewhat autonomously until the 1840s. And Durham University is now kind of founded in the castle that was the home, a castle of the bishops. And of course, there’s a very famous cathedral there, Durham Cathedral, but more than that, it was also like most of Northern England that very final out of frontier of the Roman Empire, which of course, Hadrian’s Wall was built to lawless, non-Roman Scotland’s always you know, kind of getting boarded off. And my hometown of Bishop Auckland had one of the last Roman forts before the wall of Hadrian’s Wall, called Vinovia, there is a little village, Binchester, there’s a Roman fort. So I was always fascinated by all of the things that you know, this was a historic place. And you know, as a kid, I was always interested in history, understanding this. But then when the period of deindustrialization started to occur, the collapse of the coal industry, the privatization of all the nationalized industries, I wanted to understand more about all of this in context, I wanted to understand the economic and social history aspects. Why was all of this happening? It wasn’t just the larger dynamics and trends in British history or world history that has started to affect the United Kingdom at different points. But why specifically, where had my area risen up as the centre in the industrial revolution and then why was it now fading into nothing. And you know, also, then the complexities of relations between Scotland and England could became extremely interesting when I got to St Andrews. And I just sort of felt that history was helping me to explain how not just I had got from point A to point B, but how we writ large, the society and the environment in which I was growing up and then working and studying, I find it invaluable for really just giving myself this larger context. And I, you know, continue to apply what I’d learned in my humanities studies. And of course, I also studied a language, the literature, I took courses in linguistics, I just really kind of felt I was getting the tools, as well as the knowledge to really be able to navigate and, you know, kind of this rapidly changing complex system, because I kind of knew how we got to a certain point. And I realized that I, myself, as I say in the book was a living data point that, you know, as I start to study social and economic history, you know, early modern Europe, and all of these kind of larger trends, I realized that, you know, kind of I, along with many others were one of these, you know, points that make up that sum, that total of history.
[14:10] Cristina: Thank you. In terms of another theme that stood out from reading the book, especially the first part of the book, is that of gender. And there is this very evocative vignette, I would say, at the beginning, where you explain in detail how you were carefully choosing the outfit for the now famous public hearing you had for President Trump’s impeachment. And I think that you know, that’s an aspect that many women can resonate strongly with, those kinds of details and having to make those kinds of careful choices as they navigate ongoing situations in their professional lives. But I wanted to ask you actually instead, if there are particular moments when gender actually had a positive impact that you’ve seen?
[14:56] Fiona: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I think it gives a person a very different insight. As a woman you get a lot of different insights into all kinds of issues. You know, when I was traveling, often in some of the far-flung regions of the former Soviet Union, where there was often, you know, a major gender division in terms of kind of women’s roles. So I was once and the North Caucasus region of Russia, the Chechnya and Dagestan and these kind of places that people probably haven’t really heard of, but, you know, really fascinating places. And on the one hand, the men made me an honorary man, so that I could spend some time in their company. And I got all kinds of insights in being an honorary man. I mean, there are some, you know, societies like in Albania, where some women become de facto men, and you know, kind of assume the head of their household. And there’s a whole culture that grows up around that. But in this case, you know, as a woman, I wasn’t supposed to spend time in the company of men as traditional, you know, Muslim societies, but I was made an honorary man and so that gave me a real interesting perspective. But then I was also still, obviously, a woman. And the men weren’t allowed to go into the women’s areas of houses or spend time with the women and they didn’t. And so I’d also get the chance to talk to all of the women and I got just such a fascinating set of perspectives and knowledge about the way that these societies worked, and completely different viewpoints on contemporary dynamics as well. And I think that really enriched my own understanding of events. And I, you know, later wrote quite a few articles about the Northern Caucasus. And I think, you know, my knowledge was greatly enriched by that. And there are other cases where, you know, to be honest, sometimes being the only woman in a room can play to your advantage. I mean, on the conventional sense, you’re getting ignored, and people are not taking very seriously. But the other sense, as a result of them underestimating you and not paying attention to you, you get this opportunity to observe things in action. I’ve often been, you know, particularly as an analyst and somebody who’s researched on Russia, in these events, where, you know, all the Russian men forget that I speak Russian, they forget that I’m there as I’m a woman, and I’m hearing things that they would never, ever talk about, in front of another man. Then of course I’m an analyst and I’m really trying to get information, I’m like, this is fantastic. I’m hearing all these things they would never tell me, so I’d scurry off and write it all down, you know. So I think that actually really played to my benefit, it might not be quite positive story that people might be thinking, but someone, as a historian, as an analyst and somebody who’s really trying to understand these dynamics, it kind of gave me a rather unique perspective and an unique portal, that even at the same time, that they’re kind of, you know, not paying attention to me, which is annoying, it’s actually a great opportunity and played up in a positive sense for my own understanding and knowledge and gathering information. But look, more generally, I mean, I also have incredibly rich, warm friendships of other women who’ve mentored me have taken me under their wing. And I do think now there is, you know, some disadvantage to a lot of younger men and others in academia and educational fields that women have pushed so hard to get their own place in universities and colleges that they’ve really started to dominate in certain fields. Even if there is still some discrimination and you know, men tend to be more highly represented in fields like economics women have really made a breakthrough in many other parts of the humanities. And you know, even men, younger men might, in some cases, in some settings find themselves at a disadvantage.
[18:29] Cristina: Yeah. I think just going back to the first part of your answer, I would like to echo that because I did my PhD research actually looking at the heritage practices of a Russian ethnic group in Romania, the Old Believers. So it was a very conventional, conservative actually group, and they had some very strict gender roles in some of the areas that I visited for research and actually, being a woman changed my research so much that I ended up making gender one of the key aspects of the research and I think, you know, like, going back to the research, I think I should have even made more of that, to be honest, because that was an aspect that I really hadn’t considered before starting the research, so …
[19:18] Fiona: Yeah, it’s interesting, isn’t it? Because the way that the women and the North Caucasus talked about the men was fascinating to me, too. They’d observed probably in the same way that I later did by being the only woman in certain settings, you know, just the way that men interact with each other. And they had lots of jokes about the men that the men weren’t aware of. There was different women’s language to the men’s language and they were very observant and, you know, pretty wise about what was happening. And they knew a lot more than the men did about how their societies worked and they were the keepers of tradition. It was utterly fascinating.
[19:53] Cristina: Absolutely. So, now you’ve already mentioned and I think this is well known that you are an expert on all things Russia, but also more widely on the Caucasus and Central Asia. And I wanted to ask you, because this is a very dynamic field where things happen at a rapid pace but it also requires that you have that ability to have the wider reflection and analysis of the long tail of history. So I wanted to ask you about, like the role of humanities more generally, in this area?
[20:28] Fiona: Well, again, I mean, my experience going right back to undergraduate was invaluable. I mean I really am very grateful for all the courses that I took. And just the ability to read in depth. I mean, as you get on in your career, you know, time becomes a precious commodity and you don’t have the same time and opportunity to just read and read and read and read as you do in undergraduate. I mean, so if there’s any students listening, I would say take advantage of it now. Get off your smartphones and tablets and start reading, you know, books in the library. And I just really have drawn very deeply on that early body of reading, the ability to kind of take courses across a whole number of different disciplines, different themes, different subjects, different epochs, in history in particular, the opportunity to explore all kinds of different languages, for example, through linguistics, to understand the structure of language. I think that really helps to give an insight into how people think, particularly in the way that people speak and use language, that’s been invaluable for me in my analytical work on Russia in particular. So I’m very grateful for my broad humanities training. I also think it really helped with critical thinking, certainly, in terms of synthesis, analysis, and writing, I mean, I’m… I wouldn’t change at all the trajectory of my studies, if I had to do it all over again, I’d do the same thing.
[21:53] Cristina: That’s very good to hear. So, education features prominently in your book as I think most of our listeners have figured that out by now. But you also seem to have a vision for how education systems can be tailored to offer better opportunities for people. So I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about this.
[22:16] Fiona: I think, you know, this is one of the issues that we really have to tackle head on now. I mean, one of the issues in terms of education now is that the workplace in general is changing very rapidly, it’s not going to be possible for everyone who does a degree in Russian modern history to get a job with Russian modern history. It’s really going to be more of a platform, for example, just using my own case, for trying to adapt and apply what you’ve learned just the critical thinking, you know, using analytical skills, using a sort of specialization to prove that you can move into other fields as well. But there’s always going to be that need for additional qualifications, additional skills. And I think it’s the case in the United Kingdom that, you know, about 30 odd percent, at least a third, maybe more, of undergraduates get a job that is related to their field. So there’s always going to be the need for further education, continuing education. And I think that, you know, universities and basically associations like your own that work in a broader, you know, Humanities studies, also have to work in lockstep with other entities like colleges of continuing education, private sector as well, to kind of think about how people can have access to the tools and the future studies that will help them to adapt to a constantly changing, rapidly changing world. I’ve been extraordinarily lucky that I’ve found a job in my field continuously, but I’ve also had to adapt my skillset. And again, I’ve been really lucky that in many respects, my jobs were in academic institutions, think tanks and previously the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and I was able to audit courses that I wasn’t taking for credit, you know, particularly after my degrees. And you know, also work with other colleagues, particularly at the Brookings Institution, who had different skillsets, different knowledge bases so that I could learn more. I have always sought out working with colleagues who are in different disciplines in different fields, sociologists, people who work primarily in public policy, economists, you know, for example, so that I can kind of understand their fields, their disciplines and learn more from this. So I’ve always pushed myself to go outside of my original skillset and perhaps my comfort zone on issues and to kind of, you know, work with others that I could learn from. I’ve approached everything as a continuous exercise in learning because everything is changing. You need new knowledge bases, particularly as a researcher and as an analyst. Everything is interconnected, I’ve always looked at more comparative perspectives, you know, for example. So I think that that’s something that needs to be encouraged early on, giving people the opportunity to pick up new skills. You know, when I was at St Andrews, I used to go to the language lab, for example, and tried to kind of pick up other languages along the way, that stood me in pretty good stead. Having spent a few months delving into a particular language enabled me, you know, later to sort of adopt its use, some of this for work, or also for reading for my PhD studies where I had to kind of pass these languages for reading, qualifications to move ahead with my PhD. And I think it’s really a question of academia realizing that they have to give people the tools and train them to be adaptable, because not everyone’s going to be able to find a job in their specific discipline.
[25:45] Cristina: I don’t think you’ve mentioned this just yet, though, I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit more about the projects that you’re working on at the minute at Brookings?
[25:54] Fiona: I’ve just finished the book. So you know, unfortunately I think most of my time is taken up with talking about the book itself. But I’m really trying to explore as a result of this what more I can do on some of the themes of the book, you know, personally. Because I have reached this point in my career, I’m in my 50s, I’m 56 now, so I guess I’m kind of moving into my late 50s even, which is always a bit of a surprise, when you kind of suddenly find yourself at that point. And I’m thinking that, you know, I’ve had a really great career that I’m extremely pleased about, and it’s time for me to kind of figure out how I can help others, you know, move along. I’ve always tried to do that, to be honest, at all different points in my career. I think you can be a mentor to people at any stage, particularly the people who are just following a little bit behind you. And I’m extraordinary grateful for all the mentorship that I’ve received from people from St Andrews all the way through my educational and then my professional career. And I’d like to, you know, myself kind of explore within Brookings about how we, as an institution, as a think thank, can do a lot more on these themes of opportunity, and, you know, kind of assisting people bridging divides. There’s so much polarization politically in the United States, but also in the UK, you know, to try to have and stimulate a broader conversation about, you know, how we move forward as societies, how we do make education more available to everyone and deal with, political polarization, populism and other issues. On the front with Russia, you know, the work that I am normally doing, there’s also of course a lot of consternation and concern about the directions in which US – Russia relations, and Russia’s relations with Europe, the United Kingdom, and others, you know, have taken. In many respects, the state of our relations is worse than at any point it’s been in, you know, kind of recent times, since going back to the Cold War. And, you know, there are all kinds of different reasons for this, but we have to really start to think about how we manage that relationship moving forward. Given the fact that we’re not in that old geopolitical struggle over Europe, the Russians seem to still be stuck in the 20th century, to be honest, but the rest of us have really moved on. And we’re really greatly concerned about climate change, obviously, the COVID pandemic, there’s issues related to the rise of China, the broad geopolitical perspective has really changed even though Russia remains pretty fixed on basically fighting still the kind of post-Cold War settlement in its view and trying to basically have Europe acknowledge spheres of influence. This is just not where the rest of us are in terms of our challenges. And so I’m obviously thinking through with colleagues about how we might be able to tackle that. One problem now is that, unlike the past, I can’t really travel to Russia, you know, quite a clamp down, it’s not easy for the Russia researchers to work with Western counterparts, there’s been a lot of stifling of free and open discourse, a lot of suspicion about the West and particularly intentions of people like myself who’ve served in government. And so it would be very difficult for me to go back to Russia, I don’t want to see that I would be given a visa, and then very difficult to travel outside of Moscow as I used to. So I’m … we’re all trying to kind of think creatively about how we might look at kind of Russia from the outside in to get a deeper understanding of trends and dynamics and how we might be able to put that relationship over the longer term on a better footing than it is now.
[29:09] Cristina: Thank you. Although you started by saying ‘Well, I’ve just finished the book’ you actually are working on quite a lot at the minute of course, and …
[29:13] Fiona: Yeah, I’m thinking about these things because actually at the moment, the book was just launched in the early October. So I have a lot of time, you know, since then, that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing. But I have been thinking as a result, challenging myself to sort of think about how I might do things differently.
[29:30] Cristina: But I think you know, that’s the first stage of any project. It’s sometimes when you just step into it without thinking too much before it’s actually …. you run into quite a lot of problems.
[30:02] Fiona: Exactly, exactly.
[29:30] Cristina: Just to finish our conversation today, one of the questions that I ask all the people who join us for these SAHA conversations is: what advice would you give people who are considering their career choices at the moment, you know, those that are just kind of choosing their degrees. And also what advice would you give those that have finished now, or are just about to finish their degrees in arts and humanities and they’re looking ahead at their next step in their career.
[30:11] Fiona: Well, the people who have just started out, I mean, I would really recommend them to pick topics and subjects that they’re really genuinely interested in, you know, that they really enjoy because I have never had any regrets about anything I’ve studied, because I’ve always really loved it and been fascinated by it. It’s not just about, you know, how you get a job at the end of it, although that’s pretty important, but really kind of studying something that you’re interested in and that you feel passionate about because that really helps you to move through things. Even in moments when you might feel, gosh, what am I doing? Why am I doing this, you know, kind of a degree, cause it’s hard. But if it’s something you’re really interested and genuinely love, then that passion will help sustain you. There is of course the element and that’s the kind of point that links both people starting off and people are just finishing together about how to have a job. But I think you have to really kind of maximize your options for learning new skills as you go along. It’s not just about knowledge and information and getting that passion for subject, but also concrete skills that you can transfer in all kinds of different settings. Some people, you know, will want to go on and continue with advanced degrees, maybe teaching, that’s kind of a different track, but others you might want to go out and to, you know, to kind of different worlds, professional world, they may need other technical skills and looking for opportunities to get engaged in all kinds of different societies, programmes, efforts that would give you different technical skills. Maybe thinking of auditing courses or taking things on the side that are not necessarily directly related to your degree, but would kind of give you a different toolkit. You know, when I was at university, I was also really interested in drama and photography and things like this. And I took courses that didn’t necessarily move along my degree, but kind of gave me different insights, you know, kind of creative outlet. I have to say that drama and public speaking were really invaluable because there were a huge boost in confidence. And, you know, I think all of us, and as we move on, find ourselves in situations where we have to talk publicly. I mean, obviously I have found out a lot in my professional life and I’m really grateful, you know, taking part in student amateur dramatics. I’m really glad I did that because it helped give me confidence in the settings that I wouldn’t have anticipated I’d be able to apply that to. The other thing is writing. The one thing that I’ve really noticed as, you know, I’ve become a manager and supervisor for many people is just how poor people’s writing skills are now, are just terrible in fact because people spend too much time basically on the internet and kind of communicating through texts and Snapchats and things like this. And I would advise people to take writing courses, creative writing courses, you know, kind of … any kind of writing programs that they can do. Because that will give you an edge in terms of getting a job because you really do need to know how to write in so many different capacities. My husband who is in the private sector and also did history and humanities at university in the United States. I mean, he learned to write there. But he was a speech writer for a corporate CEO for a while. Then he was, you know, kind of a marketing manager. Now he’s a consultant and he complains all the time that they can’t find people who can write. And it’s not that management consultants only do slide decks. They actually need people to be able to write things, explain things and also give presentations and he’s finding that so many people kind of from … with degrees these days just don’t have those basic skills.
[33:40] Cristina: I think that’s a very important point and some very good pointers, I guess, for the students who might be listening. In terms of your book, can this be accessed here in the UK?
[33:49] Fiona: Yes, it can. I mean, there’s been a few distribution issues, I think, with everything right? I mean, paper shortages, distribution, supply chain problems. It is most definitely online available in places like Amazon, hopefully we’ll get it into more independent bookstores. I was working with the publisher to make sure that we can get it into places like Waterstones. I mean, there’s also an audiobook and at e-book, but some people were having a harder time in the last couple of weeks getting it. But I think that that should change, you know, coming up, as some of the distribution supply chains ease up a bit. The audio book is me. I’ve been reading it for 15 and a half hours. It was actually, that was a great experience. And we talk about applying, you know, public speaking skills and dramatic skills. Imagine that I was reading a script, you know, kind of my own script that I’d scripted. Took about a week plus in a recording studio near my home. I even had a director, which was kind of fun. Somebody with an amazing voice who does voiceovers as an actor and does this for living, but that was a wonderful experience. And I seem to be getting a relatively positive feedback from the audio version, you know, from people who are listening to it. So the book should be more widely available now. There was, you know, a bit of a lag between the launch of the book in the United States in October, this past month of November being the period in which it was more widely available in the UK.
[35:17] Cristina: That’s very good to know. And thank you very much for accepting our invitation. It was great to hear your thoughts on so many issues and thank you for joining us.
[35:22] Fiona: Oh, well, it’s really wonderful Cristina, and you know, I can’t think of anything better for people to study than the arts and humanities in Scotland. I highly recommend to students in the United States to think about coming in studying in Scotland as well. You know, obviously it was a wonderful experience for me. And as you say, Scotland has incredible number of really world class universities, not just St Andrews and Edinburgh, but there are so many other opportunities for people to study at. And I’m just really delighted to hear that you have this Alliance to promote the study of arts and humanities in Scotland, this is wonderful.