Recently I chatted to Iain Forster-Smith about his experience as Director of Administration in the Faculty of Engineering and Design. I asked Iain to describe his role in one sentence and his response was: "making sure we are providing the right services for academic staff and the student community." This might involve business planning in support of the long-term Faculty strategy, an active involvement with the AUA raising the profile of the Faculty, and communicating university developments within the wider university community, both internally and externally.
I asked Iain some questions relating (mostly) to his career, and here is his response:
1. What has been your greatest success or achievement in this role?
"I genuinely believe in the importance of bringing people together in a collaborative way, and I am very proud of our many staff achievements. I think the people are the success!"
"I am supportive of people who have positive ideas, and I encourage them to think creatively and take risks when appropriate. Our ‘Pockets of Goodness’ initiative brought groups of people together and demonstrated kind, considerate and loyal engagement towards a collective thought process with very positive results."
"I actively promote staff engagement with the AUA, encouraging collaboration and dissemination of ideas across the faculties. "
2. Who or what inspires you and why?
"In the work environment, I have been fortunate to work with some really strong academics. It’s very difficult not to be inspired and by the clear vision and motivation of Gary Hawley."
"Both my parents instilled a strong work ethic in me. My mum made me work really hard! She’s a very good example of someone who left school with no qualifications yet she established a number of successful businesses and retired early. She had integrity and drive, and she encouraged me to make the best of everything I had."
"At school, my music teacher demonstrated how, even if music wasn’t a natural talent, it is possible to get so much enjoyment out of life by playing an instrument or singing. She was a very driven female influence, and in a non-pushy way, she encouraged me to excel."
3. Who was your hero/heroine when you were growing up?
"My granny was my heroine! She was just amazing. She was a granny in the truest sense. She was sweet and kind and soft. She had nine children yet she still had time for everyone. She was the most amazing cook, and it’s from her that I’ve inherited my culinary skills. My sister and I spent most weekends with her, and she was a formative influence in my life."
4. Who or what has been the most important influence on your career?
"When I worked in commercial services for an online branding company I had a love/hate relationship with the Group Legal Advisor for Standard Charter Bank. He seemed to be constantly looking for faults in my work, but in fact, this taught me to focus carefully on the job in hand. Under his influence, I learned to understand and reflect on my work and to get things right first time round. This experience often pushed me beyond my boundaries, but it also instilled in me a drive to succeed."
"More recently when I worked at the University of Sussex, I was given the opportunity of programme managing the reorganisation of the entire university. I collaborated on this with a colleague who invested a lot of trust in my abilities. Our working relationship was at times difficult, but we resolved our difficulties by having honest and direct conversations."
5. If you could have an alternative career what would it be?
"Like many people, I always wanted to be a pop star! I liked to imagine being the lead singer of Oasis or Take That. I also thought about being an actor. Occasionally I regret not following a creative career."
6. What is your greatest strength?
"I’m decisive! I value people and inclusivity."
7. On a desert island, what would you choose as your luxury item?
"A constantly charged mobile phone so that I could keep in contact with everyone. I don’t think I’d be ok on my own. I would be ok if I could have my dog, Scamp though. He always looks at me in an adoring way and he never answers back!"