Athena Swan Chain Reaction Interview 6: When Bangar met Suzy

Bangar and Suzy 450 pixels 

Bangar interviewing Suzy

Bangar: What does your work at ScHARR entail?

Suzy: I am ScHARR’s Director of Innovation and Knowledge Transfer (IKT) covering private and public sector consultancy work, commercialisation and research development training.

I am an Information Specialist by disciplinary background. My research and teaching is in information retrieval – particularly for cost-effectiveness models. I supervise PhDs and recently have been collaborating with Computer Science on text mining techniques.

Bangar: How did you get here?

Suzy: I’ve worked at ScHARR for over 23 years. When I first started, there were about 50 people here.

I did a first degree in French and then a Masters in Information Studies. I started work in public libraries and moved to academic libraries at Sheffield Hallam.

I was looking to move again and saw an advert for something called ScHARR. It was quite hard to categorise what the job would entail (with a library background I like to categorise!). ScHARR had just moved to Regent Court. The library was an empty room with two desks and empty shelves.

Given the way ScHARR works, things moved quickly from being an information service provider to being a researcher, collaborating with colleagues and getting involved with teaching. A big change and great experience came with a secondment to NICE, when NICE was first set up. On my return I headed up the ScHARR TARs Programme (now ScHARR-TAG), with Jim Chilcott. A PhD fellowship came next, making the shift from applied to methods research. Throughout, I have had a close connection with Information Resources (IR) colleagues. After my PhD I became the IR Director and have remained in the group since I became IKT Director.

Bangar: What are you proud of?

Suzy: The secondment at NICE and ScHARR-TAG. These mark an important change that moved me beyond working in my discipline and opened up the directions available to me. It felt like quite an achievement and I really enjoyed it. A key part of line management has been in supporting people taking on responsibilities beyond those traditionally associated with their role. That has always been important part of thinking through how to progress.

More recently there has been the UCU strike action for the USS pension. It was a fantastic experience in ways I couldn’t have envisaged. Being on strike and picketing with colleagues provided the space to focus on my role as an employee. I had time to reflect on what I do for my organisation and on what my organisation should be doing for me – for all of us.

Bangar: What do you like about working in ScHARR?

Suzy: I have a lot of enthusiasm for working in ScHARR. There is a like-mindedness about how people approach opportunities and the possibilities of things happening. Groups can form very quickly to work together. I have to comment that a lot of this comes from everyone’s commitment. Over and over again I can’t get over how hard people work.

Bangar: Do you have any tips on how to maintain a good “work-life” balance?

Suzy: Rules of thumb that I aim for? If not at work, I set an out-of-office message that I won’t be reading emails - and I stick to it. Long, out-of-office hours are for deadlines, not routine work. During the strike, the ‘action short of a strike’ was good for setting a realistic plan for the day - I’ve tried to take that from the strike experience.