Tag Archives: staff development

CIO+1 – celebrating diversity in IT

Anna Mathews
UCISA Head of Policy and Projects



In April UCISA sponsored a CIO + 1 event, as one of our activities to support diversity in our sector, as outlined in the UCISA 2018-2022 Strategic Plan  CIO +1 is a series of events designed to improve diversity in IT, and expert speakers, technology or subject matter-leaders are  involved at each event.
Established by Claire Priestley, Director of IT at City, University of London, CIO +1 gives underrepresented groups in the sector access to unique networking opportunities.  The CIO +1 audience is therefore CIOs and IT leaders, accompanied by their nominated individuals from HEI and FEIs (as well as local and central government, charity, NHS and the private sector).

As Claire explains, “CIO+1 is an initiative developed to help diversity in IT leadership. CIOs are invited to high calibre, free networking events on the basis that they bring along a talented individual from within their own teams – ideally someone from a typically underrepresented group. The “+1” gets exposure to the same high profile networking, strategic conversations, products and presentations that we – in tech leadership – have the opportunity to experience regularly.”
And what a fun, informative evening it was!  One element that really stood out was the care and attention Claire’s well-briefed colleagues took to host the reception and  ensure that people were brought into conversations if they found themselves on their own; another was Claire’s emphasis on “breaking bread” –  the excellent food, along with the convivial, friendly atmosphere made for a relaxed evening.


There were three guest speakers:  Professor Marianne Lewis from the Cass Business School; Sarah Wrench, AI expert from Ernst Young; and Aline Hayes, who is leading the development of big data and AI at Lloyds Banking Group as Head of Systems.
In a funny and engaging hands on presentation Sarah covered all manner of topics:  boxing, the importance of positive and negative data sets in machine learning, and using magic tricks at interview.  Aline, who many of us know from her previous roles in higher education spoke about her role at Lloyds and about employment practices, such as flexible working, to support diversity.
We concluded with a fascinating talk from Marianne who explained polarity mapping in organisations, using  the changing fortunes of Lego as a case study.   In short, in trying to reinvent itself twenty years ago, Lego moved too far away from its core values and central business (creating too many new product lines, not listening to retailers, ignoring the strength of the heritage brand it had built up).   When falling sales led the company re-examine its culture, it realised that it had “over adjusted” (or to put it another way the pendulum had swung too far).  This realisation led to a return to Lego’s core values.  And from that new position of equilibrium the company went on the success it now enjoys by innovating but always paying heed to its history.

You can find out more about the CIO + 1 initiative from Twitter and the CIO + 1 page on LinkedIn.  The next event takes place on Tuesday 31 July and it is being sponsored by the UCISA London Group , which is supported by the London Metropolitan Network. 

Benefits of a steep learning curve by a UCISA bursary winner

Sara Henderson
Graduate Intern (Student Champion)
Student Systems Project (Corporate Information and Computer Services)
University of Sheffield



Sara Henderson was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

Being awarded a UCISA bursary to attend the UCISA Support Services Group (SSG) 2017 conference was a highlight of my working year. Although SSG was not my initial choice, I felt privileged to be accommodated by the scheme nonetheless. Below is an account of how my attendance has positively shaped my professional development, institution and how this interacts with the wider HE IT sector.

For context, I am no longer working at Student Lifecycle Project at the University of Sheffield (formerly Student Systems Project), but the experience of UCISA-SSG has still had a lasting effect on my experience of the sector, as I will detail in the following paragraphs.

Professional development

Many aspects of the conference were a steep learning curve. Although I had attended conferences before, these were alongside my peers as an undergraduate, whereas UCISA-SSG17 allowed me to network with established and influential people in the sector. In some ways this was challenging – introducing myself and my involvement in the Project made me feel slightly vulnerable, but everyone I spoke to was interested and encouraging in equal measure.

Most notably, I was asked to speak on the Panel session – the headline event of the conference. Members of the panel were James Smith, Director of IT Services, Birkbeck, University of London; Adam Kearns, Students’ Union Postgraduate Office, University of Bath; Sebastian Barnes, IT Support Specialist, Leeds Beckett University, and myself. Although I was taken aback by the offer, I’m glad it was given relatively last minute, as it didn’t leave much time for the nerves to kick in. I had given presentations and spoken on a panel and in front of moderately-sized groups of people before, but never on this scale. I was accompanied by confident and competent speakers who luckily had most of the spotlight, and despite the topic areas being somewhat unfamiliar I was still able to draw on my experience as a student and university staff member. I was extremely proud of myself for accepting such a daunting but exciting opportunity, and grateful to UCISA for the experience.

Institutional benefit

Unfortunately, I was unable to present my experience of UCISA to student representatives at the University of Sheffield as I had hoped to, because the recruitment of said students was delayed for the duration of my contract on the Project. The time-scales and priorities of such a major business change project are extremely variable, so this is to be somewhat expected. However, I did share my experience with colleagues, conversationally rather than formally, and believe my attendance at the conference had a genuine impact on Student Lifecycle Project.

Firstly, I’m reminded of the ‘Adding Value with Values’ talk given by Alistair Reid-Pearson, IT Manager at the University of Huddersfield. I was heavily involved in the communication and marketing of the Project to stakeholders, and contributed to the development of our ‘Vision’, including our core values and principles. We acknowledged the importance of gaining buy-in from our team by inviting everyone to participate in the process of developing this piece.

Secondly, the electric discussion by Paul Boag, ‎User Experience Strategic Designer, Boagworks about User Experience How to start a user experience revolution’ carried through all the work I’ve done since hearing it. Being heavily involved in the prospective student enquiry management element of the project, I helped design enquiry categories in the new system, and formulate FAQs for student support and guidance. From content to layout, I began every consideration from the user’s perspective, as championed by Paul.

Lastly, Francesca Spencer’sTechnophobe Testing – an experience of providing a service to those who fear, dislike or avoid technology’ put accessibility at the forefront of my mind when supporting the development of software and services. I made it my priority to advocate for the needs of all staff and students, be it ‘technophobes’, disabled or differently-abled people, by urging their inclusion in the room.

Wider sector

It was a pleasure to contribute my dissemination to UCISA’s website (Part 1: Fresh meat and learning about user involvement and Part 2: Not in the IT crowd (and that can be a good thing) ), and I hope this was well-received. I connected on LinkedIn with some of the people I met at the conference, which has since provided plenty of reading material and food for thought, and allows me to learn from the hard-work and perseverance of others in the sector.

Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Preparation for SCHOMS

Sebastian Barnes
IT Support Specialist
Leeds Beckett University

Sebastian Barnes was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

SCHOMS Annual Conference, 27th – 29th June 2017

After a successful application to the UCISA bursary scheme, I was granted the opportunity to attend the SCHOMS Annual Conference 2017. This was a three-day event held at Keele University allowing IT/AV services staff to network and share information to improve the quality of the service at each university.

I will be blogging about some of my thoughts on what I experienced and enjoyed the most.

After setting off from Manchester, I arrived at Keele University to collect my keys and prepare for the week ahead. Locating the building in which I was sleeping seemed to be the hardest task of the week; this was probably because the accommodation at Keele is surrounded by what seemed a jungle.  However, I eventually found it and set up camp.

Monday evening was the night of the BBQ and the conference registration, which was being held in Keele Hall gardens. However, due to typical English summer weather, the event was held inside, which was quite disappointing since Keele Hall Gardens looked amazing. I was quite nervous to begin with, however I got talking to Jill, a member of SCHOMS executive committee who very kindly introduced me to everyone. After some networking and introducing myself, I headed off to bed since we had an early start the following day.

Day One of SCHOMS, I wasn’t sure what to expect, however I was feeling a little bit less nervous since people knew my face now. I arrived at the first presentation 20 minutes before to get myself a good seat, a coffee and setup my laptop.

The first presentation was a brief introduction about Keele University presented by Professor Trevor McMillian, the university’s Vice-Chancellor. Did you know it was founded in 1949 by Lord Lindsay and it received the power to grant degrees in 1962? Beating Leeds Beckett by 30 years! Currently, Keele is the biggest campus in the UK (they aren’t kidding, the university is a maze!), spread across 600 acres and employs over 2000 staff members, and has 10000 undergraduate and post-graduate students with 3000 living on-site.




 Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

The Aurora Programme – a Director’s view

In the second of our posts on the Aurora programme Kathy McCabe, University Librarian and Director of Information Services at the University of Stirling, talks about her involvement in the Programme and the benefits of having your staff participate.

As a member of the founding team back in 2013, I didn’t need much persuasion to get on board with Aurora, the LFHE programme designed to enable a wide range of women in academic and professional roles to think of themselves as future leaders. The evidence was all around – women make up 50% of the workplace; the proportion of female students (55%) and graduates (59%) in the EU exceeds that of male students but only 20% of professors and 14% at head of institution level in the UK in 2010/11 (18% in the EU). The latest figures from the 2015 Women in IT Scorecard research, published last week by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT and the Tech Partnership, show that just one in ten IT Directors are women. The Scorecard also reveals that only 17% of the 1.18m IT specialists working in the UK in 2014 are women.

There are no specific figures available for IT staff in HE in the UK – but I’d hazard a guess it is even less favourable than the statistics above. As I peruse UCISA’s membership directory, the list is overwhelmingly male at director and deputy level. Are we content with this? Is it sustainable? Where are the role models for our female staff and for our female students – how can they envisage themselves in an IT role if they can’t see a successful future for themselves?

Now, as a director, I have had the opportunity to encourage women in IT at Stirling to participate in Aurora and the benefits are multiple. I see skilled and confident women emerging, stepping up and contributing even more to the organisation, often bringing a fresh approach to problems. I see the results of the mentoring process which provides a platform for the participant to reflect on their style and their progress and often benefits the mentor as much as the mentee by providing a view of the organisation from a fresh perspective. I see positive outcomes from the opportunity to network both within and outside the institution and the raised profile of (and respect for) the IT function as a result of this networking. I see women go on to promoted positions which have eluded them for some time. A past “Auroran” commented recently that “being nominated and supported to attend the Aurora programme made me realise that I am valued and that the University has confidence in me.”

BUT – the number of IT participants in Aurora remains low. This surprises me as the programme represents excellent value for money and is flexible and accessible. It is much more than attendance at a number of delivery days, albeit these days are core to the programme – it is the whole package of learning, skills development, reflection, mentoring, networking, stepping up and, in my experience, the positive outcomes have manifested pretty quickly.

If any IT director would like to know more about this, then please feel free to get in touch.

Kathy McCabe
University Librarian and Director of Information Services
University of Stirling

T: (01786) 467203
E: kathy.mccabe@stir.ac.uk

The Aurora Programme – a participant’s experience

The Aurora programme is a leadership skills development programme run by the Leadership Foundation aimed at women working in higher education. Their aim is to get women thinking about what skills are required to take on leadership roles way before they are in a position to do so and subsequently identify the skills and behaviours they will need in order to progress their careers. However, so far the Programme has had a low participation rate from women working in IT departments. In the first of two posts on the Programme, Eileen MacDonald, Head of Business Systems at the University of Stirling, describes her experience of participating in the Aurora Programme.

This initiative was launched in 2013 and I was very keen to secure a place on it. From 1999 until 2013 I had worked at the University of Stirling as a Programmer/Analyst and then as a Senior Programmer/Support Coordinator. I applied for and was successful in being appointed as Deputy Head of Business Systems in 2013 initially for a 3 month secondment. This coincided with starting on the Aurora programme and although I knew it would be tough scheduling time to devote to a personal development programme I felt it would be worth it.

The Aurora programme asks participants to actively take part in 5 training days which are spaced over one year. There is also an element of self-learning through recommended reading material and video clips. All participants are allocated a mentor as part of the programme and encouraged to meet with them frequently throughout the course. This aspect of Aurora was invaluable. The mentor relationship gave me the opportunity to talk through aspects of my job that I found difficult. It gave me the space to analyse and to talk through strategies that could be used in future situations.

Additionally Aurora has helped me build my confidence and ability to contribute at a higher level, and to deal with staff matters and conflicts. I recognised quite early on that there is not always a right answer or way of doing things – you have to develop and trust your judgement.

When I joined the Aurora programme I was surprised at how few IT professionals were taking part in it. Perhaps it is because IT is a very results driven environment where technical expertise and knowledge is what we are judged on by others as well as by ourselves. However the skills required to move through the levels in an IT business environment are no different from the skills you need in other professional areas. Working in IT you can spend a significant amount of time devising strategies for change whether this is in persuading others to adopt a new technology, use a new system, follow a new procedure etc. – implementing any of these changes requires leadership skills, understanding the organisation you work in, building networks and so on.

This Aurora programme covered many of these areas and participating in it gave me the opportunity to step back and reflect on what my approach, and that of those around me had been up until that point.

An aspect of Aurora that cannot be underestimated is the opportunity to network internally and externally, and the benefits that this brings. This experience opened my eyes to a whole new user base and in gaining a wider understanding of the business that I was part of.

Over the two years I have taken on significantly different roles to the ones I held previously. Aurora has helped me identify the skills I needed to carry out these roles and has helped prepare me to move towards fulfilling my career ambitions. In fact in August 2015 I was appointed as the Head of Business Systems at the University of Stirling.

What I learned and relationships I developed as an Aurora participant continue to contribute to my personal growth and understanding of the HE business and the people who operate within it.

Eileen MacDonald
Head of Business Systems
University of Stirling

Review of the Future Leaders Programme

The Future Leaders Programme (FLP) run by the Leadership Foundation on behalf of UCISA and SCONUL has a proven track record; service directors have reported that the skills delegates acquire have allowed them to better contribute and nearly 60% of those delegates have gone on to secure promotion. However, the Steering Group for the Programme recognised that, ten years since the Programme’s inception, the higher education landscape has changed significantly and so instigated a review of the Programme.

The review recognised the pressures on both delegates’ time and departmental budgets but also that the current programme included many elements that were highly valued by delegates and their institutions. A revised programme would therefore need to strike a balance between a shortening the programme and reducing the cost with maintaining the quality that has earned Future Leaders the reputation it has today. The Steering Board also recognised that there is much more interaction between the professional service departments and that it might be an appropriate time to open the Programme out to cover all service departments within our institutions. Future Leaders has already expanded its coverage, now drawing delegates from Student Services departments in addition to attracting delegates from Libraries, IT and e-learning departments. The feedback from delegates from FLP cohorts and from those attending the feeder programme Leading Across Professional Boundaries has been that the opportunity to learn with colleagues from other service departments is immensely valuable. Discussions with other professional associations have identified that there is an appetite for a programme that supports the development of service staff through the interaction with colleagues from other professional specialisms.

An initial programme outline, informed by the review and market research conducted by the Leadership Foundation, was presented last week to a steering group that comprised representatives from nine professional associations. Representatives from all past cohorts from Programme took part in the market research along with representatives from institutions which have never participated in FLP. We are grateful for their help in shaping the new programme. The revised programme meets all the aims of the review. The outline was well received and is expected to form the basis for a successor to the Future Leaders Programme, with the first instance of the new programme running from March 2016. There are a few details that need confirming but the intention is that the new programme will open for bookings in November. Before then, a decision has to be made on what to call the new programme – finding something that is succinct but still identifies the target audience may prove a significant challenge! However, the programme name aside, it is encouraging that the Leadership Foundation has been able to structure a new programme that builds on the strength of Future Leaders and has a sustainable future.

Peter Tinson
Executive Director