Tell us about your role at HSRU

My role is very varied (which is actually why I like it). This week, for example, I’ve been dealing with things as diverse as issues around staff contracts and payroll, and trying to hunt down a missing microwave!! Generally speaking though, my main responsibilities tend to revolve around resources (budgets, finance and allocation of non-financial resources), staff contracts (funding sources, extensions and changes to contracts), research grants (supporting grant applications and managing ongoing research grant finances), admin processes (including developing new systems and protocols to streamline and improve our administrative practices) and general practical and pastoral support to staff across the Unit. It can be quite a challenging and busy role at times but no two days are the same and I’m fortunate to work with a fantastic and extremely talented group of people which makes all the difference! The last 18 months have introduced some new and interesting dimensions to the role as we’ve collectively faced the challenges of transitioning to home-working (at 2 days’ notice!) at the start of the pandemic, finding new ways of working effectively while in lockdown, and now starting to transition back into the office, so I’m currently spending quite a bit of time managing that transition process and trying to make creative use of the resources we do have to allow staff to be able to work both in the office and at home, as needed.

Tell us a bit about your background and what you do now

I’ve actually spent my entire career, one way or another, in education, which probably isn’t surprising given I come from a family of teachers and educators. Most of that time has been in Higher Education administration, but in a very broad range of roles covering most aspects of HE. All in all, I’ve worked in five Higher Education institutions including Aberdeen, and I’ve gained a lot from each of them along the way. It’s interesting seeing how different organisations in the same sector approach things and it allows me to pick up the best elements from each as well as learning from what didn’t work! I also spent a fascinating four years or so working for a Further Education awarding body in England, firstly developing new qualifications, negotiating with sector representative organisations and getting them nationally accredited, before moving on to running the company’s publications team.

How do you usually start your day?

The start to my day can be quite varied, and has been especially so while we’ve been in lockdown. I’m looking forward to getting back into a bit more of a routine now that the campus is open again! During the week, after I’ve snoozed my alarm a few times, I usually head straight into work once I’m showered and dressed and the cats have been fed – I have a very bad habit of eating breakfast at my desk (when I remember to!) which isn’t really ideal but it’s a fairly longstanding habit now. Once I’m at work it’s very varied. I usually start the day with an idea of what I need to tackle but it’s rare for other unforeseen issues not to crop up that need to take precedence. Once any immediate issues are dealt with it then very much depends on what deadlines are looming – submission deadlines for grant applications, or for grant extension requests or finance reports to funders for example – or which members of staff have contracts that need extending. Much of my work also relies on the work of other teams across the Unit and wider across the University so there’s a lot of communication with colleagues and collective problem solving which stops the role being too insular, but can also mean waiting on other processes to be completed before being able to move things along.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

The people, definitely the people! The one thing above all else that I’ve realised in my career to date is that it doesn’t matter how great your individual job may be, if you don’t like or feel supported by the people you work with, you will never be happy or satisfied in your role. In that sense, I feel very fortunate to be working in HSRU – for a Unit as large as this it has a remarkably collegiate and supportive culture in which staff genuinely care about each other’s welfare and staff are always willing to pitch in to solve any problems that may occur. I’ve been fortunate enough to work in some fantastic places with some fantastic people, but HSRU definitely ranks among the best. Next to that, the variety of the role is a definite plus even though it can be difficult to balance sometimes: I’m quite easily bored so the fact that every day presents new opportunities to learn and to problem solve keeps me on my toes!

How do you relax outside of work?

Hmm, that’s an interesting question! I have a lot of interests outside of work, but I wouldn’t describe them all as relaxing! Usually enjoyable but not necessarily relaxing! Outside of my role with HSRU I run a small business on the side that has two aspects to it: jewellery design and making, and music (tuition and arranging). So a certain amount of my time outside of work is spent in teaching music, individually and in groups, at my jeweller’s bench or on my laptop creating new designs, meeting with clients for bespoke or commissioned pieces of jewellery, selling my wares at craft fairs and other creative events, or in lesson planning and writing new arrangements. I’m also on the organising committee for North East Open Studios (NEOS) which is one of the largest open studio events in the UK and takes place each September. And once COVID is fully over and they’re available again I’m hoping to be able to pick up the part-time college courses in jewellery design that I was taking before the pandemic. When I do have genuine downtime, I love spending time with my partner and our two rescue cats, boy cat Biscuits and girl cat Tawny. We’ve had them just over three years now and while they can be a handful we can’t imagine being without them (that’s them in the picture – Biscuits looking at camera and Tawny snuggling up on her blanket). Other than that, we love going to the cinema which we’ve missed a lot over the last couple of years, so we’ve substituted that with a lot of streaming and other TV watching. No surprise, but I also love spending some spare time when I have it playing music and singing (for myself rather than teaching others). 

What was the last thing you tweeted about?

I’m not a very active tweeter to be honest (more often to be found retweeting or commenting on other people’s posts) but I have been tweeting recently about the peculiarities of the language learning app that I’m using at the moment to brush up on my (very rusty) language skills. In particular it sometimes asks you to translate things that make you wonder if there’s a back story going on. One of the recent examples that really made me laugh was ‘I’m never buying a horse again’ – I just really want to know what happened with that first horse that was so offputting!

Anne's answers were provided in September 2021