Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Interview with Jaime Almansa-Sánchez

Jaime Almansa-Sánchez graduated from Universidad Complutense de Madrid (Spain) as ‘Licenciado en Historia’ in 2006.

Where did you graduate and what are you doing now?
I graduated from Universidad Complutense de Madrid (Spain) as ‘Licenciado en Historia’ in 2006. After starting my PhD there, I made a break to complete an MA in Public Archaeology at UCL in 2008. I’m supposed to continue writing my PhD thesis, although since 2010 I run my own commercial company in Madrid and don’t have much time.

When you graduated were you looking for a career in archaeology?
I started working in an archaeological site as a volunteer when I was 16. Since then I had no doubt I wanted to continue. During my degree, I prepared myself for a research career in different topics, until I discovered public archaeology in 2004. Anyway, since the day after I came back from my end-of-degree trip to Greece, I started working in the commercial sector for some months. That made me focus on management issues, although I enrolled a nice project in Ethiopia and kept doing very different things. When I came back from London and got rejected from my last opportunity of getting a scholarship for a PhD, I have to recognise I was about to leave. But after some weeks figuring out what to do in the middle of a crisis, I decided to start my own company and try to conduct all my projects from the commercial sector. Today I don’t see my life without (public) archaeology.

How has a degree in archaeology benefited your career?
Sometimes I think I could have been an architect and work in archaeology anyway. The social value of our work in Spain is poor, and so, we are not in a very good position to do anything. I use to complain about the lack of practical training I got in my degree (most I know I learn it working everyday) but I got something more important… the capacity of critical thinking and a strong basis to build my career. Later in UCL I had a great year to continue learning what I really wanted to, and I managed to live from it. 
I should probably differentiate two careers:
-Academic/Research: Absolutely. I could not be where I am without both degrees.
-Commercial: I feel I’m studying everyday again to manage the company. Besides the public archaeology issues, which I should treat more like research than commercial work (although I get money from them), everything else is new. It took me more than a year to adapt to simple issues like taxes and bureaucracy, and now it is overwhelming. Anyway… I keep growing little by little in the business.

Would you go back into Archaeology later down the line?
After 12 years in archaeology and all the stuff I’m getting into, I think I am in a no-return point. Of course, one day I might consider a change in the
path to settle a bit, but always in the field of archaeology; museums, universities, research centres, administration… You never know what you will be doing in the future, but I’m sure it will be in some way related to archaeology. Maybe I have to get some other jobs in the middle to survive, but once you are in, it is too vocational to just leave. I’m very lucky to be working on what I want and living from it. Many of my friends are in gyms, petrol stations or, in the best cases, schools or libraries, but all them keep involved in some project or personal research, waiting for the opportunity to come back.
It makes me very sad to see the panorama, specially now with the crisis, but we are in a profession that seems to be in some way special. It is difficult to give up. I will try not to.

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