How long have you been in your job?
Appointed in October 2020.
What is it about your job that gets you out of bed in the morning?
At the risk of sounding very earnest and idealistic, my role really does give me and my life meaning, purpose, challenge and excitement. It’s a big commitment and I love it. I am very happy to think we may be changing even a small part of the world for the better and excited to play a part in that, with our students, with our colleagues, with our city of Southampton, and with wider national and global communities.
What’s the best thing about your job?
The way we work with our students and business.
I’m all for understanding new ways of working and how to use technology to enhance the experience, as well as how you can make more of the assets that you’ve got. Also, it’s recognising the important role the university can play in supporting the local and national economy during these challenging times. Solent University, Southampton launched its Business Recovery Commitment earlier this year and we continue to support SMEs with the new government-backed Help To Grow: Management scheme – providing practical help, smart thinking, research and knowledge exchange that supports business recovery and innovation.
I think we’ve underestimated the emotional labour of predominately online interactions
And the worst?
I think we’ve underestimated the emotional labour of predominately online interactions. We’re not getting quite the same buzz off each other as we did when we were working together in one room. At Solent University, Southampton we want to get away from presenteeism and input. I want to encourage people that it’s what we deliver that makes the difference and although technology is amazingly convenient and can support us with that, I think sometimes we aren’t appreciating the ‘burn out’ factors that may be associated with ‘always on’ technology. We are human not machines.
Your number one most vital prop/tool/piece of equipment?
My Solent University User ID – because it really is the key to everything. I can access libraries of information, databases, teaching rooms, reports, meeting rooms, software, printers, the kitchen. It’s the little things we overlook that are the most vital pieces of equipment!
How did you get into your job?
When I moved into consultancy and management, I worked with new talent in internal graduate schemes and spent time mentoring newer colleagues. Studying my own postgraduate degree whilst working really opened my eyes, so at the same time I began lecturing in marketing and business and discovered I had a passion for education and learning. Coming from a business background as a former director, I was drawn into academic management.
What is it about your personality that makes you suitable for the role?
I’m very much an extroverted introvert and I relish collaborative working which is critical for my role.
I’ve different experiences to draw on and am lucky to have had a career in industry, run my own business and been a director at a large London international agency before stepping into education. I’ve become braver and more prepared to lead – but I do still enjoy reading, reflecting and being thoughtful. It’s a useful balance to be able to enjoy being social as well as enjoy your own company.
Which five words sum up your typical day?
Diverse, creative, challenging, exciting, (always) learning.
If you weren’t in this role, what would you be?
I was lucky enough to put to bed an ambition to be a stand-up comedian following masterclasses with Micky Flanagan and an eight-minute set in front of 200 people – terrifying! I always think I would love to be on the radio or maybe be a writer. In truth I am in the right job. Phew!
Caroline Walsh is director of Solent Business School at Solent University, Southampton
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