They say a week is a long time in politics. But it seems just seven hours can be a political aeon. Because the day before I started my new role in the Digital team, I went to bed in a prospective mood, only to wake to the shock-and-awe news of Trump's election success. With two proud Americans on the team – and the rest of the department seemingly of sound-mind and warm blood – I walked in to an office that was in a palpable sense of shock. But that didn't stop the team welcoming me with open arms and big smiles. These guys are made of strong stuff, I thought.
What I'm doing here
My role here is that of Digital Producer. In time, I'll be planning and producing new content for the transitioned website. For now, I'm getting to grips with all the facets, faculties and faces of the University, and its marketing and web teams.
I come from the world of consumer journalism. Specifically, design and tech websites and magazines (which means I haven't tapped any phones; but I have reviewed a lot of them). In that life, I chased referral traffic and copy sales. If ever the mantra 'done is better than perfect' rings true, it's when you and a thousand other publications are wrestling for search dominance during an Apple unveiling. Fun? Sure. Rewarding? Regularly. Hectic? Definitely. Shambolic? Often. By comparison, the Digital team here is a well-oiled machine. Laser-focused, calm and professional. My new co-workers come from varying backgrounds, but what strikes me most is the air of expertise and attention in producing the best work possible, quickly, and with little-to-no fuss.
The story so far
In my first two weeks, I've sat in on planning meetings; taken part in sprints and fast-turnaround tasks. I've watched as seemingly impossible requests are explored, executed and delivered within what should be unscalable deadlines. I've been to two Show & Tell events – single hour sessions every second Friday, where the team and invitees present success stories and share knowledge – and been blown away by the confidence of the presenters and the quality of the work. And above everything – I've not heard a cross word exchanged.
Plenty of opinion, yes. Healthy debate and cross-examination, sure. But all for the greater good of the task in hand.
This isn't just refreshing. It's positively energising, and a world away from the frazzled grind of consumer journalism.
Why things are GOOD
In keeping with my previous career, though, I thought it might be appropriate to get the last of the clickbait out of my system with a time-honoured listicle.
Behold my five favourite things about working in the Digital team, and what I've learned in the last three weeks.
- People care. They care about the quality of the work. They care about how it's presented. They care what it says about the Digital team and the University.
- Reason underpins everything. There's no punts; no execution without validation. Hunches are locked in a top drawer. It's not empiricism, it's user-centric design at its finest. And it works.
- Office furniture is for sitting on, not for hurling at staff writers. Critical interrogation is welcomed here. Without having to duck from an airborne keyboard as you spike someone's copy or question their caption writing.
- I’m surrounded by really smart people, both the academics and University staff; and the direct team I work with of developers, editors and designers.
- There's a clear goal, and it's not improving a bottom line or turbocharging share value. It's in producing the best quality work possible within a deadline that does the job it was designed to do.
Have I landed on my feet here, I asked at the end of my first week. Yes. Definitely. A week might be a long time in politics – but in the Digital team, time's flying and I'm having fun.