UCISA SSG16 Review

By Alistair Reid-Pearson, IT Manager, University of Huddersfield

SSG16 took place at the Queens Hotel in Leeds. The Conference theme was entitled Through the Looking Glass, challenging delegates to look outside the sector for ideas, creative solutions and lessons to be learnt. 

Badges helped engage delegates and tie all elements of the conference together. Using the platform Credly, over 40 were available to collect, this proved to be a great initiative with a prize awarded for the most badges collected. 

Day one opened with Aline Hayes, the Director of Business Change and Information Solutions at Sheffield City Council. Aline’s presentation on delivering excellence in public services, reminded us of the importance of engagement and collaboration and the consequences of not doing so.

Garry Hunter, from Northumbrian Water Group, was up next with problem management on a shoestring. Garry delivered a passionate, practical talk on problem management: “Get to the root of a problem and make sure it doesn’t happen again.” 

A look at user-centric services was next, by Andrew Howe from the University of St Andrews. Delegates loved Andrew’s approach to service delivery, focusing on what students want and how to deliver it, not the other way round. 

The last order of the day were the 20×20 presentations with four very different, yet equally engaging presentations covering communication, ICT vs academics and a timely, heartfelt reminder of the impact a degree can have.

The evening’s entertainment included a BBQ buffet, and a treasure hunt round Leeds. The treasure hunt included cramming people into phone boxes, playing pinball and collecting feathers (with the odd drink along the way). 

Eleanor Draycott, from Leeds Beckett, was up first on day two, talking bees, and customer service journeys: a passionate talk on creating an open, inviting space for staff and students to interact with their service, ultimately recognising the benefits a well-thought out environment brings.

A student panel session engaged speakers in lively discussion, augmented by questions from delegates on topics such as communications guff, social media and Wi-Fi. There was a constant flow of opinion and lively anecdotes from both panel and audience, with many ideas on how to respond to the needs of our students. 

Robert Gordon University gave everyone an insight into agile tools and techniques. Colin Jones explained how he used the methodology and how others could apply these techniques to their own projects.

Day two ended with much hilarity, mainly involving monkeys, and the Dean of Teaching and Learning Development from Edge Hill University gave delegates an insight into academics: who they are, what they want, how they feel about IT and what we should do to engage with them.

Day two closed with a drinks reception, dinner and a live band (resulting in lots of dancing). 

The final day began on a high. Chris Warlow from Birchgrove Primary School let the conference look through the window of his thinking school giving a tour of some great tools and techniques his children use in the classroom that could easily translate to the world of work.

Next, delegates were invited to think like a hacker. Paula Januszkiewicz from CQURE dazzled and amazed with live hacking, keyboard USBs, penetration testing and phishing. In her words, “you’d never expect a blonde woman to be dangerous.” Oh, so wrong!

The Conference closed with teacher, author and 11-year PHD student Andy Cope on the Art of Being Brilliant. Andy showed us how we can inject happiness into our lives. He also encouraged us to burn our emergency pants.

So how was UCISA SSG16? Summed up in the words of one of the delegates “Three brilliant days. I loved UCISA SSG. Three days with wonderfully open, funny, clever and welcoming people.” 

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