Athena Swan Chain Reaction Interview 8: When Suzy met Matt

What does your work entail?

I’m a course administrator in ScHARR’s Teaching Support Unit (TSU) and I look after three masters-level programmes. I see students from as early as initial enquiries through to graduation. It’s a varied role, involving an array of tasks, from day-to-day operational, regulatory and progression issues to student well-being and experience matters. The TSU works as a team which means we also all have cross-cutting roles such as timetabling and committee servicing. I support students but also support course directors, course management teams and module leads, providing advice and guidance on University regulations. The TSU is the link between ScHARR’s teaching and the University’s administrative machine.

When Suzy met Matt

How did you get here?

By a kind of lucky accident. I have a degree in Business Studies and HR Management and after University went into the private sector at a big distribution company. I realised it wasn’t for me, so left and worked to save money for travelling. I landed a job Salford University, working in occupational health and safety, in the enrolment of student nurses and allied health professionals. It was such a different set up. I really enjoyed working in higher education (HE) where our output was our students not a bottom line profit. I travelled around South East Asia and came back to a job at Manchester Metropolitan University working with Art and Design postgraduate research students.

That was fantastic – a very interesting, mind-expanding group of people. I decided to move back to Sheffield and landed here in 2013. It’s a lovely job. A great place to work. I am happier here than in any of my previous roles. A case of the grass actually being greener. As my career progresses I am looking to move towards a student counselling role. I have completed a foundation course in counselling and hope to apply to do a full diploma. I am passionate about student support, particularly given the increasing importance of mental health.

What are you proud of?

An event I am particularly proud of was organising a posthumous award ceremony for one of our students. It was attended by the University’s Vice President for Education. It was good to be able provide a celebration and to bring together the course team and the student’s family and friends. I’m very happy we managed to do that for them.

What do you like about working in ScHARR?

The people primarily. I’m proud of the team I work in. We have being going through a challenging period. I like how we band together, providing support to each other. It’s a nice working environment, to be part of a team. I also like seeing our students going out from ScHARR and into the world. I enjoy the role that the TSU plays in the student journey.

Do you have any tips for maintaining a good “work life” balance?

I think it’s valuable, every so often, to take 5 – 10 mins to ask how am I doing? There are so many different pulls, from all aspects of life, vying for attention all the time. In the thick of it you don’t have the bandwidth to think how am I actually managing? Am I ok with the amount I’ve got on my plate at the moment? I think there is value in stopping and thinking about that. And in setting aside some of your personal time to do what you want to do. Disabling the work email notification on your phone and making sure you have some space to recharge the batteries.