My time at the incubator has been my first “real job” since finishing University last year. I’ve interned, temped, and worked part time – but my first real foray into the bonafide adult full time working world has been here at the incubator.
Whilst I’d spent three years in the academic environment, I had never seen behind the scenes, and none of the offices I’d worked in before had anything to do with education – so I wasn’t sure what working here was going to be like.
It’s been an interesting nine months, we’ve all had to wear lots of hats, and throw ourselves in at the deep end many a time to support our academics in carrying out their projects. The different roles and responsibilities we have all had to take on have been challenging, but at the same time a fantastic learning opportunity for myself and my fellow interns – all of whom were more or less in the same boat.
Amongst the new experiences and responsibilities I’ve had have been video production, qualitative survey design, project management, and graphic design. It’s not just what I was doing which has been varied, but also the projects I’ve been working on. This has been even more true as members of staff have left the incubator, two of my fellow project officers left us mid year, and another has left recently leaving just two of us to take on a variety of different projects and tasks. This wide distribution of tasks meant that each of us have had different experiences on the same projects, and we’ve needed to hand over tasks to one another regularly to share the workload.
The big challenge here has been ensuring that enough of the accrued informal knowledge each member of staff builds up over time is shared and communicated along with the tasks themselves. You have a lot of knowledge about the job in your head that you might not even have ready access to – until something jogs your memory or reminds you – let alone your colleagues. Whilst you can do your best to mitigate the risks, by writing down processes and knowledge, keeping notes in a shared accessible place, and regularly updating everyone else on the progress you’re making at meetings; it is challenging in the extreme to share a half remembered memory of a conversation you had three weeks ago which you suddenly realise is critical to the project. Ultimately, it’s about recording everything important with as much detail as possible, and storing everything somewhere in a way that makes sense even without contextual knowledge. Things will still slip through the cracks, especially when everyone on the team is working across many different projects and roles, but with any luck the net will be fine enough to catch anything important.
As I’m about to move on to my next role, I hope to be able to use all the knowledge and skills I have built up over the last nine months, both the concrete skills I need to do my job, and the softer skills and experience I’ve gained in how to work in a large organisation, and be an effective member of a wider team.
Josh Redmond – Project Officer – Exeter Education Incubator
The University of Exeter’s Education Incubator scheme. Promoting pedagogic innovation and collaboration with an aim to enhance learning across the University and beyond.