Welcome to Academia

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The day after Valentine's Day I started a new life here at Bath. I have done a number of HR and operational leadership roles in Government, but this is my first time in academia. And it's very different.

With this blog I aim to share some of my observations, hopefully prompt some discussion and give a little insight into the broad range of things I get involved in as HR Director. It's more interesting than it sounds.

So here is my first post...

Last week 'ASC' stood for Analysis Support Construct. This week it's Academic Staff Committee or Academic Skills Centre.

Last week 'IPR' stood for Intellectual Property Rights. This week it's Institute for Policy Research or sometimes Intellectual Property Rights.

You get the idea. Perhaps the first thing I’ve noticed is that simultaneous interpretation in a new environment is really quite hard work.

By the evening it's really caught up with me. So if you meet me and I appear to pause mid-sentence, it's probably because there is some buffering going on as I try and translate what I’m about to say into University language. I'm sure it's only transitional and I'll become assimilated fairly quickly.

Attended my first Executive meeting last week. Great way to quickly pick up what is on the minds of the leadership team. I found the sharing of ideas by the Deans of how they are proposing to develop PGT particularly interesting, and really important to inform our people strategy. Data science, data analytics and informatics seem to be a priority theme across the faculties, which accords well with what I found in my last job and will be an interesting theme to pursue.

It was the Harvard Business Review which labelled Data Scientist as the 'sexiest job of the 21st century', but I’m not sure whether this was meant to be ironic. I’ll save any other observations on the Executive until I have a data set of more than one – probably wiser!

This week is my first Academic Staff Committee and I have been presented with a thick (63mm, I measured) pile of pink paper which consists of 33 probationary lecturer reports. Managed to read half a dozen while Michael Mosley made black pudding with his own blood on BBC4 last Thursday night.

My main observation is that this is a really thorough, data-informed process, unlike any other I have encountered in other organisations. The objectivity this brings, and the way the supervising staff make use of this information really stands out; it will be interesting to see how the committee operates.

With so many professors in the room, what does an HR Director bring? In my experience of similar processes, not knowing the technicalities of the subject helps me look for evidence of the individual’s underlying skills and potential, and how they are reacting to the University environment. Reading these reports has also made me want to go and experience a few lectures. Any offers?

Overall a great first week and introduction to Bath. Everyone has been welcoming and friendly and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in.

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