Going over to the dark side: my first few weeks in a central service
My name is Jennifer Doyle, I’m Senior Content Designer (Content Operations) with the Prospective Student Web Content Team as of January 2023. Here I’m going to share a little bit about my background, my first few weeks in my new role, and how you can get in touch to discuss all things degree finders.
Me and the University? Oh we go way back…
I suppose my 9-year stint studying at the University cemented my goal of eventually working for it!
I joined the University as a fresh-faced undergraduate studying MA Fine Art from 2007 to 2012 (with a semester in Strasbourg on Erasmus exchange in 2009). Reluctant to leave and keen to develop one of my interests further, I then studied for my PhD in History of Art from 2012 to 2016. I was then lucky enough to take up a part-time Web Editor position in the Business School that September.
Eventually this role expanded into a full-time position, where I worked on:
- Creating a content review cycle across our School web estate
- Regularly reviewing our analytics and using those insights to inform content improvements (including the switchover to GA4)
- Upskilling in GDPR and Accessibility legislation and compliance
- Liaising across the School, College and University with others working in Marketing, Web Publishing, and Admissions
- Managing the School intranet, and providing training and advice to those in other Schools embarking on intranet projects
A new role
In September 2022, I came across the advert for my current role. I wasn’t really looking for a new position, but this one stood out.
Managing a key aspect of our web estate? Yep. Contributing to future enhancements to the prospective student experience? Great! Able to collaborate with teams across the University? Even better. A chance to work with developing early career content designers? Definitely.
Putting aside the inevitable touch of imposter syndrome, I applied (shout out to my informal career mentors for giving me the push to go ahead), and was delighted to get the job. After working through some ‘seller’s remorse’ and having a nice farewell at the School Christmas party, I set off for pastures new on the first day back after the holidays in January.
I should have guessed after writing my own 7-page handover document that I should have expected something similar in my new position, but I’m not sure I was quite prepared for the amount of wikis, Word docs and SharePoint sites I came across in my first 10 days. It was sort of like opening someone else’s filing cabinet. You know everything’s there, but without the person to unlock the system, it’s hard to find everything quickly…
It was also strange walking in right in the middle of a project; the undergraduate degree finder content review for 2024 was in full swing by January. However, after just a few days in post I felt I was starting to see how things fit together, and as I got introduced to more and more faces it was a little less daunting overall.
How do I fit in?
While the ‘filing cabinet’ I inherited may not have been easy to unlock, it was certainly comprehensive, and I count myself lucky that I stepped into a role where the processes were already rolling along smoothly. It therefore wasn’t long before I started thinking “where do I fit in here?” and “what can I do?”
I was thankful to have the advice of my Aurora mentor in this (Aurora is a leadership development initiative for women in higher education). Her advice was to use the first 6 to 8 weeks to capitalise on your ‘newbie’ status and ask lots of questions about why things are done a particular way. There’s a lot of freedom in being the new person in the office, as it’s one of the few times that you can ask pretty much anything you want!
What have I learnt so far?
- The University is much bigger than it looks from inside the Schools
- There’s never a stupid question, especially when you’re new
- Sometimes the answer is ‘because we’ve always done it that way’ (common in the University)
- Taking a jump into a new position is always a risk, but if you have a good feeling about it, there’s no reason not to
- Informal and formal professional mentors are a must-have
- Everyone has a different approach to file organisation and handover notes!
So what now?
After about 7 weeks, I’m starting to make sense of my place in the team, the department, and the University.
One task I’ve started is to try and catalogue our site pages, tracking down all their statuses, relationships and content owners, particularly as some content is only live at certain times during the year. This is giving me a much better idea of how everything fits together. The next step is to translate this (again!) very individual filing system into one that lots of different people can contribute to and understand: I feel a SharePoint List coming on!
My short-term goals are obviously the launch of the UG Degree Finder 2024, but I don’t expect things to let up once 28 February rolls around.
Content operations is not just about managing processes and review cycles, (aka checking endless spreadsheets and project boards), but dealing with people in all sorts of teams with all kinds of schedules and priorities different from your own. My long-term aim is to keep improving our processes and channels of communication so we continue to develop good working relationships between Central and the Colleges and Schools.
All in all, it might be scary going over to the dark side, but I’m enjoying it so far!
Get in touch
If you’d like to catch up with me, check out my staff profile, find me on Teams or drop me an email. I’m happy to chat about anything and everything, though my main skills and interests are in:
- Content operations and review cycles
- Cross-team communication and collaboration
- The ins and outs of SharePoint for documentation, communication and organisation
- Mentorship and professional development
- Getting the balance right as a working parent