”…[Tech] has also been an area with lots of change, so there are always new platforms and developments to make things interesting”
How did you find your way into tech?
My brother is 10 years older than me and when he got interested in computing and studied it at university it meant there was a computer in the house and I started to type out the Basic programmes printed in magazines. It was a slow business, but I got a real satisfaction from it, even though I must only have been about 7 or 8. Years went and I did a degree in English Literature. I went on to work in theatre as a technician and director. I wanted to return to study something and I was torn between computing and music technology. In the end I did a MSc in IT Software and Systems, because I really wanted a broad knowledge. I had no clear idea where it would take me. Though very challenging, I enjoyed the course and discovered the creativity involved in coding. My dissertation project related back to my undergraduate degree as I built an e-learning package for Old English. This is how I moved into the area of learning technology and I’ve worked in a number of universities since. I have done software development, but mostly it has been as a learning technologist and more recently as a lecturer.
What does your role involve?
What I really enjoyed about being a learning technologist was that it involved both technical and the interpersonal skills. I would work closely with an academic to help them realise their ideas for how they wanted to teach online. This would require training them in the use of some tools or platforms, but also in depth conversations about how their students learn, how they teach their subject and what technologies can bring to these activities. Other times I would be trouble-shooting issues with the systems, or more commonly, user mistakes.
There were opportunities to develop my skills in certain areas, such as design or multimedia. It has also been an area with lots of change, so there are always new platforms and developments to make things interesting. When I moved into a lecturing role, I could bring a lot of that on-the-job knowledge to my research and teaching, as I now run the MSc in Blended and Online Education. I really like working in a university as I get to meet and work with people who work in lots of different areas and there are opportunities for continuing professional development.
What advice would you offer?
The market for learning technologists is very competitive since the pandemic and there are now more opportunities to specialise or move into management roles. It’s good to keep an open mind about where you might go and where development opportunities might lead you to. It is also good to feel connected and true to what is important to you. I know that as an undergraduate student I was not as engaged or successful as I could have been, so I’m always mindful that the work I do might be helping other under confident learners be reach their potential.