Faculty of Engineering & Design staff

Sharing experience and best practice across the Faculty of Engineering & Design

Topic: Top tips

Seven questions with Andy Matthews

  

📥  Celebrating success, Staff experiences, Staff insight, Top tips

Last month I chatted to Andy Matthews who is a Senior Technician in the Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering. Andy is responsible for the Undergraduate teaching labs, managing the risk assessment and practical needs of students undertaking project work. He’s also responsible for access and security in 2 East. I asked Andy seven questions relating (mostly) to his work here at Bath. Here they are, together with his response:


1. What is the most enjoyable aspect of your job?

"I really enjoy working with young people who are at such an optimistic stage of their lives and who don’t see any limits to their horizons.  It’s great being in that environment every day". 

Andy Matthews in the Electrical Engineering lab

Andy Matthews in the Electrical Engineering lab

2. How do you prepare for a typical working week?

"I make a list and try to prioritise the items. I can’t plan too far in advance because issues can arise at the last minute, and I may need to adapt my list according to demand.

I always have a big breakfast!"

3. What are your tips for effective leadership?

"I try to understand the different strengths of each team member. I work with this and organise tasks in accordance with their strengths and comfort zones."

4. How do you resolve difficult moments at work?

"I’m always mindful of University policies, but flexibility is also important. If a student makes a non-standard request relating to project work I always try to adapt our services to meet their requirements - unless there is a health and safety issue. We can never compromise on health and safety."

5. What is the most useful piece of advice you have ever been given?

"Two pieces of advice spring to mind:

  • To value your friendships – which I try to do! 
  • To always have some sort of plan and never simply hope for the best."

6. Who or what inspires you and why?

"Students inspire me. The enthusiasm they have for their project work motivates me to try my best for them, and I never feel I don’t want to come to work. I usually finish each week with a real sense of achievement."

7. If you didn’t do this job, what would prefer to be doing?

"I’ve always been interested in aviation, and a job flying light aircraft for an aid agency or something similar would be a great alternative."

Thanks Andy!

 

 

MSc student induction: improving the experience

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📥  New initiative, Top tips

Our previous MSc induction events had taken the form of a one morning introduction to the Faculty with lunch, followed by a team building exercise during the afternoon. This year we decided to increase the number of presentations and include a social event to enhance the student experience. As a result our timetable expanded to accommodate three mornings, two afternoons and one evening.

We took our new students on a guided walk into and around Bath followed by a buffet supper. We wanted the students to have an opportunity to visit the City, ask questions from members of staff and get to know each other, in a relaxed and informal setting. We devised a treasure hunt around campus covering key areas of the University and got our students to post photos of themselves on our Facebook group.

Looking forward to next year

We plan to hold focus groups as an opportunity to reflect on the student experience. In the meantime, initial feedback both verbal and in the form of a survey indicated a very positive student experience.

3 key bits of advice for others planning induction activities

  1. Advanced planning and communication. We booked the venue for the three morning sessions when prompted by Timetabling. This was six months in advance of the event. Key speakers were invited at the same time and we kept them informed (reminded them of their commitment…) during the run up to the event.
  2. Steal ideas from colleagues and ask for their help. People are surprisingly generous with ideas and time.
  3. Never underestimate the lure of free food. We booked a restaurant for 120 people and every seat was taken.

 

Effective staff induction

  

📥  New initiative, Staff insight, Top tips

We are working on a new Faculty staff induction to complement the activities that happen at a departmental and University level. As part of this project we interviewed new staff about their experiences joining the University. We also asked some teams what they did to prepare for new arrivals. We discovered a lot of good practice happening within our Faculty. From our findings here are some staff induction best practice tips:

Put in preliminary work before new members start

Nearly all our new members of staff expressed frustration at not being able to access University systems immediately. Although there are many processes that can only be started once a new member of staff is on campus, there are still some aspects that can be prepared in advance such as folder access, informing and setting up meetings with relevant people (including those who can provide card access).

Develop your own materials

We discovered some teams have developed their own induction materials specific to their job function. These even included tasks and treasure hunts so that new members of staff could get to know folder structures and try out the University's systems.

Get the whole team involved

Creating a schedule of training where each team member takes on responsibility for a certain aspect helps share the workload and means each member gets to know the new recruit.

Start small

Some of the staff we interviewed talked about being overwhelmed by "meeting too many people in a short amount of time". One team within the Faculty draws up a plan where the inductee is introduced to their immediate surroundings and then shown other areas as the weeks progress, ensuring their network increases at a manageable rate.

Put the role into context

Understanding where your role fits within the wider university is an important part of working effectively. One of our job families produced a special induction document introducing the University's strategy and how their job function fits into this.

Get them connected

Our interviewees mentioned how useful it was to meet others outside their immediate surroundings who performed a similar job function. Many people aren't aware of the mentoring or buddy opportunities available at the University, so this might be a good thing to highlight to inductees early on and at the mid-probation point.

The little things

In our interviews small gestures like buying an inductee a coffee on their first day really made a difference.

Our staff induction module will be available on the Faculty of Engineering & Design's staff wiki space's New Staff page in the Autumn.

 

Top 5 worries for new MSc students

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📥  Staff insight, Top tips

I surveyed our current and recently graduated MSc students to find out what their worries were about starting an MSc.

1.    Getting back into the momentum of studying as quickly as others on your course

You may have had an absence from academic studies for a number of years or simply be worrying about missing your working life and becoming bored as a student.

Advice:

Set a timetable and stick to it. Beat the nasty habit of procrastination. Enjoying student life is possible but you have to have good time management skills to make the difference between a good grade and an excellent one.

2.    Flying to a foreign country and not knowing anyone

This is a big fear for most people and totally normal! It’s a big thing arriving in a country where you don’t know anyone. There’s also the fear of not knowing if you will meet anyone on your course that you will work well together with.

Advice:

You won’t be the only foreign student who is struggling to re-adjust or to grasp the language. Be wise and get to know as many people as possible in your first few weeks. If you are lucky, you will meet great study partners who you will stick with until the end.

Another tip is to get used to studying alone. Learning to rely on yourself for assignments and revision can be beneficial as you may not work at the same pace as others. It’s about finding balance and being wise about who you choose to work with. Working alone can give you time to reflect on your achievements and help you to realise you have done so much and come so far on your own.

If you’re worried about the language barrier, students should get prepared before arriving at the University. The University provides many sessions to help international students to improve their English. We advise you to take part in these learning sessions.

3.    Anxiety about finding the right accommodation

Advice:

Overseas students

Please visit our student accommodation web pages for advice on how to find the right accommodation for you. The accommodation office are happy to help you with any questions you have.

Home students

It's a good idea to sort out your accommodation early on. If you can, we advise travelling to Bath during the summer months to arrange your living plans. This way, you only have to return to Bath again in September when it's time to move in! Two weeks is not enough time to sort out everything before your course starts! Start looking for accommodation early and you'll avoid last-minute panic. And don't forget about bank accounts, phone numbers, transportation, and academic applications and registration.

4.    The social side of studying as a Postgraduate student

Advice:

Be confident. It’s easier said than done but people pick up on confidence. If you are an international student, use these social events as a way to practice your English skills. The more you practice, the more confidence you will gain!

Take up the opportunities offered by the SU through a variety of societies and clubs. Join a club or two and meet more people this way.

5.    Delays in procuring a Student Visa

Advice:

Don’t leave this until the last minute! Find out about what Visa you need as early as possible. Speak with the staff in the International Student Advice Team (ISAT) to find out more information about Visas. They are there to help!

 

Staying informed with internal comms

  

📥  New initiative, Top tips

Everyone’s different when it comes to how they like to receive information and in what format, so we’ve introduced new ways for you to keep up to date with what's going on in the Faculty.

Sign up to our quarterly staff e-bulletin

Our staff e-bulletin goes out in September, December, March and June containing a roundup of Faculty news stories, blog articles, opportunities and events. The email is an opt-in service so staff need to sign up to receive it.

Staff e-bulletin screen shot

Staff e-bulletin screen shot

You can view our first editions here:

December 2015

March 2016

Staff can submit items for inclusion in the next e-bulletin by emailing fed-internal@bath.ac.uk

Subscribe to our Faculty staff blog

Our blog is for staff to:

  • share their experiences
  • provide insight into working practices
  • highlight new initiatives
  • define best practice
  • promote staff events and opportunities

You can subscribe to receive blog posts straight to your inbox by typing in your email address on the right side panel. After you have submitted your email address you will receive an email to confirm your subscription (you may need to check your junk email for this) - please make sure to click the confirmation link.

Blog confirmation email

Confirm your blog subscription by clicking the email.

The best posts from the blog are included in our quarterly staff e-bulletin and may also be featured on the University’s staff homepage.

Posts are created by individual members of staff. Anyone who wishes to contribute a post to the blog can email fed-internal@bath.ac.uk and read the University’s guidelines on blogging style.

Keep an eye on our foyer TV screens

The TV screens in the 6, 4 and 2 East foyers now display staff notices and event slides. You can see an example below:

OneLan screen staff notices

Notices for staff displayed on our 2,4 and 6 East foyer screens.

Staff can create their own slides for the screens by downloading a template from our Marketing & Web Team Wiki page.

Watch or favourite the Faculty staff wiki area

Our new Faculty of Engineering & Design staff wiki space is currently under construction. This is where team overviews, structure charts and Faculty events are listed. You can favourite wiki pages you find useful so that you can easily find them again.

If you would like to be notified when anything changes anywhere on a wiki space or just on one page in particular, you can use the Watch facility. This notifies you by email with details of what has changed to the wiki page and who made the changes.

How to favourite a Wiki space

How to favourite a Wiki space

 

My top wiki tips

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📥  Top tips

Add to existing spaces

Wiki pages are always attached to a space, faculty pages should sit under ‘Faculty of Engineering & Design staff area’.  Each wiki user has their own space, which can be used for pages not relevant to the faculty – you can still share the content with others.

Link related pages

Pages which you create within a space will become the ‘parent’ page and you can have ‘child’ pages which sit below like sub categories of that parent.  Arranging your pages as parent & child will help show users that the content is related.

Make it easy

Bear in mind that others adding to the wiki may not be as tech savvy.

The intention of a wiki is to allow multiple users to update and share content, so if possible keep it easy to edit and consider writing an instructional note – the ‘HTML Comment’ macro allows the comment only to be viewed in editing mode.

HTML Comment marcro in editing mode

HTML Comment marcro in editing mode

Use labels to categorise your page

Create labels for your page using key words which relate to their content to make them easier to find i.e. ‘Faculty’, ‘Engineering’, ’Design’, ‘Research’ or ‘Teaching’.  Users can search using keywords to find all pages with content relevant to that word.  You can add labels at the base of each page:

Add a label

Add a label

Be creative

You want to encourage people to use your wiki, so keep it brief (less is more) and vary the way you display content.  Try to avoid putting everything in a table – I’m not knocking tables as sometimes they are the best option – but be aware that there are a range of macros you can use.  Look out for Tracey Madden’s ‘macro of the month’ for inspiration and tips.

 

Preparing early for the REF

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📥  Top tips

Professor Tim Ibell, Associate Dean for Research, discusses logging evidence into ResearchFish, Open Access and research impact in preparation for the next Research Excellence Framework (REF):

From 1 February until 10 March 2016, the window is open for all academics who have held, or hold, research funding from one or more of the Research Councils to log onto ResearchFish and to provide information on the outcomes of our grants. Given that there will be sanctions imposed on us for non-compliance in providing such evidence of outcomes during this period, it is crucial that every research-active academic in the Faculty logs into ResearchFish, when prompted, and provides information about their funded research projects.

In April, the three-month rule kicks in for REF purposes concerning Open Access. Any paper which has been accepted for publication must be uploaded to Pure within three months of such acceptance if it is to be eligible for return to the next REF. Note that even Gold Open Access papers should be put onto Pure as soon as possible after acceptance, just in case there is a significant gap prior to publication.

All papers published that have been written based on Research-Council funded grants must carry clear explanations for how the data underpinning the paper can be accessed from a data repository. Checks by the Research Councils will be made during 2016 to ensure compliance with this.

If you are developing impact from your research but you don’t feel that the Faculty’s Impact Delivery Group yet knows about such impact, you should contact the Director of your Research Centre, where applicable, or the Director of Research in your Department. This will ensure that we are capturing all potential research impact.

And finally, if you are yet to attend one of the Faculty REF Workshops, please do so during 2016.

 

Promoting your campus event checklist

  

📥  Top tips

There are a few key questions to ask yourself when promoting your event to ensure you use the appropriate channels:

  • Who is my target audience?
  • Is University branding appropriate?
  • What’s my budget?
  • How much time do I have?
  • Are my attendees internal or external?

1. Talk to your Department Office
First and foremost talk to your Department Office who will be able to advise you on promoting your event. Please note inaugural lectures must be organised by your Department Coordinator as there is a set protocol for who is to be invited.

2. Use Eventbrite
Eventbrite is the University-advised method for organising your event and has more functionality than you’d think, including a reminder facility and ticketing options. Having an Eventbrite link will make it easier for others to promote and link to your event.

3. Invite your attendees
Add the date of your event and why they should attend to your key guests’ Outlook diaries.

4. Add your event to the What’s On calendar
If you add your event to the What’s On calendar (and it’s approved by the central communications team), it will be displayed on the internal staff homepage. If your event is for Faculty staff then add it to our Faculty Staff Wiki space.

5. Create a slide for our digital signage
Creating a slide for your Department’s digital signage (TV screens in 2, 4, and 6 East foyers) will help raise the profile of your event. You can create a slide in Powerpoint and then save it as an image to ensure it’s the correct specifications for the screen. For further details read the University's guidance on producing this. You can download a Faculty event template from our Marketing & Web team Wiki page.

6. Get active on social media
Use your own channels or ask your Department to promote the event on theirs (all four Departments have Twitter and Facebook profiles). Use twitter handles to get your post noticed and an event hashtag so others can link in to your event. Think about a timeline leading up to your event, when might be good to post and then repost your messages?

7. Produce promotional materials
If you have budget to produce promotional materials such as posters, banners and so on, then our Design, Print & Photography service can help you to do this.

If you don’t have any budget then you may be able to use our Faculty templates available for download from the Faculty Marketing & Web Team’s Wiki page. Consider whether University branding is appropriate for your event before doing this.

8. Submit your event to the Faculty Staff e-bulletin
Email your event title, date, time, location and a short description to fed-internal@bath.ac.uk for inclusion in the quarterly (September, December, March and June) Faculty Staff e-bulletin.

High profile events/launches
If your event is high profile (for example the launch of a new facility with notable external attendees) then you may get support from our central Press Office and Events Team to drum up added publicity on external channels.

Watch this space…
There are currently working groups meeting at the University to discuss how events are managed and the new CMS will provide changes to how events are utilised on the website in future.

 

Surviving a BBC interview

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📥  Staff experiences, Top tips

Last month PhD student Heather Wyman-Pain from the Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering gave an interview to the BBC about the nuclear power station at Hinkley. Below she discusses her experience of dealing with the media and how she would prepare in future:

I have never had any experience of talking with reporters and felt a bit out of my depth at the idea of an interview, but decided to take a step into the unknown and agreed to do it.

Professor Furong and I were sent a few questions on Friday and our interview was scheduled for the following Monday afternoon, giving us the weekend to prepare, which neither of us used to our advantage. Our key message to anyone considering being interviewed by a reporter is:

Prepare, prepare, prepare!

Monday morning arrived and we sat together in my supervisor’s office discussing the sample questions, separating them between us to prepare answers, and agreeing we would meet again for lunch. I am very happy to say we did identify the key points we wanted to make for each answer, but we didn’t leave ourselves any time to find information to back up our arguments. If we have this opportunity again we know we need to spend far longer learning the background information. We walked into this interview with that morning’s attempt at scripted replies and no idea of what to expect. Our future preparation list is:

  • What are the key points and the evidence to back them up?
  • Who is going to see this?
  • Who is the interviewer?
  • Ask for more time to prepare – If they don’t let you, you can say no
  • Practice – preferably with someone who has plenty of experience with reporters

As we saw the camera by the lake the panic set in and both of us reacted in different ways. The automatic response to run away clearly showed for my supervisor and she was unhappy with every take. The reporter was very patient with this, obviously practised with interviewing people with no TV experience, and we are very thankful to him. My reaction to the cameras was the complete opposite and I have never been more grateful for the speech training my parents put me through when I was a child. I went into autopilot and have no memory of the interview, except for being told ‘We need your answer to the first question again, a duck interrupted you’.

I am happy to report that overall it went well, even with the ducks wanting to take part, and is a brilliant experience for any researcher.

Read the BBC article about Hinkley Point featuring Heather's comments.

Professor Furong Li being interviewed by the BBC on campus.

Professor Furong Li being interviewed by the BBC on campus.