Ana Cristina Vasconcelos

Personal details

Name: Ana Cristina Vasconcelos
Email address: a.c.vasconcelos@sheffield.ac.uk
Telephone number: 0114 22 22643

Questions

Tell us a little about yourself.

I joined the School in 2005 and am Senior Lecturer in Corporate Information Management, as well as head of the KIM Research Group. I have previously lectured at Sheffield Hallam University and at Leeds Metropolitan University. Prior to that, I worked as research assistant at the National Research Institute for Industrial Technology and Engineering (INETI) in my native country, Portugal. My background, like those of many researchers in this area, is varied. My first degree was in History and, although I was passionate about the subject, there were very limited opportunities at the time in Portugal to pursue a research degree in the area, so, somewhat misguidedly, I decided to train as an archivist, thinking this would lead to opportunities in historical research. I was told in my first week at the Course this was probably the worst possible reason for undertaking a specialisation in archives. However, the Programme did have a wider remit and, at the end of it, I was offered a fantastic opportunity to take on a research studentship in information science at a leading research institute. This opened up a completely new set of interests.
Outside work, I enjoy spending time with my family and going out in the beautiful countryside that surrounds Sheffield, with my dog, Westie (guess the breed?).

What got you interested in this subject?

I first got involved in information management as a research area in the mid 1980s, when I took a research studentship at INETI in Portugal, which eventually led to a research assistant position. I developed at the time a dissertation on the evaluation of its integrated information system, based on information seeking patterns. This experience led to an understanding that the adoption or rejection of information systems had much more to do with political negotiation and cultural fit, than with technical robustness and rational planning processes. This perspective formed the initial idea for my PhD, which explored the role of discourse in negotiating and adapting information systems and the agendas that inform these systems.
My first encounter with knowledge management came later, in the late 1990s, when the concept took great prominence, particularly in industry, and generated much debate on its meaning and significance. I was then a lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, teaching in MSc. Programmes with a strong industry orientation, involving SAP, Oracle and SAS accreditation, and the cohorts that took them had a significant proportion of experienced professionals who were keen to further develop work in an area that had increasing buzz in industry. I should say my initial reaction was sceptical, because there was strong overlap between certain approaches to knowledge management and work traditionally carried out information management. Going to the second European Conference on Knowledge Management in Bled in 2001 was a turning point. It became clear that significant and serious work being undertaken by a large number of colleagues from very different academic background – operational research, strategic management, organisational behaviour, information systems, computer science, engineering and, of course, information management and information science.

What have you enjoyed about it?

What I most enjoy about the subject is its interdisciplinarity, which was so evident when I first went to that initial conference in Bled. It is a true melting pot that gives rise to multiple opportunities for interesting synergies. Although it is, as Prof. Corrall, in our group, has written, an evolutionary, rather than a revolutionary concept, this field borrows concepts and approaches from other pre-existing fields and synthesises them in new and different ways which help us to look at (often old) problems with different eyes. I particularly enjoy the fact that it has enabled me to bring to my current work different influences in terms of perspective and approach (including research methods and techniques) from my past academic background. It has brought a sense of circularity which I had not thought possible years ago when I left my first degree for a new area.

What have you found most challenging?

The most challenging aspect is also the most rewarding: to learn to think in different ways. For me, this was about learning to analyse situations in context and to take into account their changing dynamics. Seemingly powerless actors often have the capacity, through their action, to mediate and change powerful drivers.

What is your top tip for a future KIM student?

One of the most useful tips was given to me by my PhD supervisor, Prof. John McAuley, and was `analyse data as you collect it and do not embark on new data collection cycles without fully analysing what you already have in hand´. This has saved me an enormous amount of time (and grief). For me, the key is to listen to what the empirical ground in our research is telling us, not to our pre-judgement of situations. So, keeping an open mind and accepting that the path to be carved will differ from the original plan is fundamental.

Further information

More information about my teaching activities and publications can be found here.