Please tell me about your role and remit at the University.
My role as Director of Strategy, Planning and Performance encompasses a wide range of different areas. I look after the institution’s performance and management framework, with its key performance indicators and metrics. I look after the University’s planning process and the alignment of the University’s strategy with school and professional service plans. I’ve also got risk management as part of my portfolio and quite a broad management information and market intelligence remit as well.
Could you tell me more about your career to date and how you came to work in higher education?
I’ve worked in higher education throughout my career. Having started out as a University Sabbatical Officer at the University of Exeter, I fell into a job in schools liaison and found that I really enjoyed working in higher education. It was at this point that I chose to develop a career in the sector. I’ve worked across six very different universities in a variety of roles, such as Faculty
Manager, Head of Resource Planning, Director of Registry, Director of Strategic Planning and Director of Planning and Change.
I love the industry, the dynamism and the positive, tangible impact that universities can have on young people. There’s something really rewarding that comes with knowing you’re playing a part in helping transform students’ lives.
Would you say that your job is rewarding and meaningful?
Absolutely, tremendously meaningful and rewarding for many different reasons. Being at the heart of the decision-making process within an institution is one of them. Many of my roles in the sector have provided me with an opportunity to shape some pivotal decisions, which have benefited many institutions, their staff and students across the country.
I truly enjoy being able to give back to society in this way. Additionally, seeing students on their graduation day, knowing they’ve succeeded and how you’ve been a part of their journey, creates an excellent feeling.
What are the standout development opportunities that you’ve had throughout your career?
From a formative point of view, in terms of shaping my career, the Association of University Administrators (AUA) was pivotal in that. This is due to the development opportunities I was offered – I was introduced to a variety of different roles and the breadth of the sector.
Developing the strategy at Birmingham at what was an early point in my career, was a phenomenal opportunity. I made a significant contribution to the University’s future and direction. Another fantastic opportunity for me was the transformation programme at De Montfort University. We implemented a whole new set of core systems to transform the University’s operating model.
Throughout my career in higher education I have been offered a variety of opportunities. However, I doubt I would have accessed the same breadth of opportunities, had I been working in a commercial environment. The nature of the support, guidance and management I was provided with is a major benefit of working in higher education.
What has been your career highlight whilst working in higher education?
Firstly, there are the two projects I worked on as I have previously mentioned, they were major career highlights. Specifically, running the transformation programme at De Montfort and the reimplementation of the core systems. It had such a far-reaching impact and still does today. Then there’s things such as the impact I know I’ve had on individuals and being able to support them to go on and do other things and provide that leadership potential.
What are your tips for those considering a career in professional services at a university?
Certainly, consider it, do it.
I think there’s something about looking behind the job titles and really looking at what the roles involve. Talk to people working in the sector, in professional services. Think about going to conferences that may be of some interest, which are perhaps higher education focussed. Don’t think that not having experience of higher education precludes you from making a significant contribution. As a sector we should be crying out for people with experience in other industries and sometimes that gets lost in the way that we approach staff recruitment.
This interview was conducted before the Coronavirus Pandemic. Working arrangements on university campuses may have changed due to social distancing measures.