Malleable Musings

June 25, 2009

New job – what I’ve learnt from the first 72 hours….

Filed under: Social Media, Twitter — Brendan @ 7:15 am

So I started a new job on Monday morning – I arrived at the office at about 08:15 and then realised my potential mistake (no one else in my office had yet arrived). However luckily one of my new colleagues was in and had just gone off to make herself a cup of tea so I was able to get in to the office after all.

My first couple of days went mostly as I expected.  Before I started a handful of appointments had been made for me.  I’d been warned by my new boss that my first task would be reading several reports and papers and filling in a host of forms to get access to various things. Even now 72 hours later, I know that I’ve not got access to everything that I will need. However, I’m still at the stage of trying to identify who in the organisation knows what and what the organisation doesn’t know, so really I guess not seeing student record data or the departmental drives really isn’t that important right now.

For the first day and the first couple of hours of the second I didn’t have access to the computer network.  This certainly isn’t something specific to universities as a friend reminded me

However what this first day really taught me was:
1) How much a computer has become an integral part of my working day. (Making hand-written notes about what I was reading seemed almost alien to me, and at the first chance I had on Tuesday and Wednesday I transcribed them to a digital format.)
2) Social media is a fantastic tool when you are starting a new job. I’ll return to this theme later.
3) That I can’t ditch a computer for my iPhone yet (even with the new copy and paste features available in OS3.0). I love my iPhone – my wife often tells me I love it too much. I just can’t type as quickly as on a computer keyboard and I certainly can’t multi-task in the same way.

So far I’ve got to meet some of my colleagues who work in central roles. I’ve talked in some detail with two of the four people who appointed me about how they see my role and have arranged follow up meetings with four or five key staff specifically in the Division of Marketing & Communications and the Finance Office.

Bizarrely, today will be the first day in which I’ll get to spend some time with my line manager – as she’s been out of the country.

At the moment I’m still trying to process the information I’ve been picking up about how distance learning works at Leicester.  In my last job after four or five years I could with some degree of certainty predict how many students we were likely to recruit in each territory for each course and after a year I had a good understanding of who I needed to talk about for specific end.

I’m hoping that at Leicester I’ll be able to make inroads much, much more quickly. I’ll probably know how quickly by the end of next week. However the range of people I’ll need to be in contact with feels a little overwhelming at the moment.

There’s a large number of people who I’ve only just managed to say hello to (and not yet managed to say much else).  And that’s just within the central administrative parts of the university. As an example I still don’t know the names of everyone in the room in which I sit, let alone the Division in which I work (Marketing & Communications).

What’s more I desperately need to get out as soon as possible to talk to people out in the departments as soon as possible. I’ve sent a couple of emails to request meetings with a few key people and I’m expecting to be introduced to a large number of other departmental contacts at a forum on Tuesday.

I’m particularly conscious of the importance this because I was appointed by a small group of people who are largely based within the central roles within the university.  Only one academic was on the panel, and whilst he knows Leicester well, he’s still very closely associated with the International Office in which I’m based. I’ll be meeting him on Friday and from what I’ve heard elsewhere I know he will have some fascinating insights to share with me.

Then I’ll need to have a think about the external partners that I’ll be working with. Luckily, I’ve never much believed in Dunbar’s number!

One thing that has been particularly interesting for me was that I last moved jobs in 2001 – in the days before Facebook and WordPress, let alone Delicious, Digg, Twitter, Flickr, Plurk, FriendFeed et al.  Back in 2001 I seem to remember Mamma not Google was the search engine of choice. Funny how things change eh!

For my interview at London in 2001 I was able to download the entire London website (100 odd pages) and use that as the basis of my interview.  In 2009 given the tsunami of information downloading and analysing the Leicester website really wasn’t an option. (I love the phrase “tsunami of information” which I heard most recently within the first few minutes of Scott Leslie – The Open Educator as DJ – Towards a Practice of Remix which is well worth watching by all to hear about for benefits of working within the tsunami.)

By working within the tsunami utilising specific tools I’d been able to listen (at a very superficial level) to a few conversations that were going on between staff, students and others.  I’d been doing this for about the past four or five months, from as soon as I knew I was being interviewed.

Generally I didn’t take part in a conversation, I sent the odd tweet, and a couple of emails but generally I was just listening. I really felt that I should participate in some of the conversation – particularly, this sort of thing and on several things on then relatively new Beyond Distance blog.

I quite recognise some might equate this to stalking. However I didn’t want to be drawn in to public conversations too early. I especially didn’t want to get bogged down in a convoluted conversation without understanding more about the culture of the organisation I was joining, or fully understanding the identities (and motivations) of the people behind the digital personnas that I was encountering.

I also wanted to be somewhat careful about the digital footprint I was leaving behind, as I don’t want it to cause me any problems.

So far I’ve found Social Media to be of immense value to me in starting my new job. Initially I used my listening process to identify a couple of people to make contact with who I knew I would be able to relate to and who I would probably need and want to work with at some point in the future. I took the step of going for lunch with @stujohnson a couple of weeks before I started working at the University. Whilst at lunch he made a couple of suggestions of other people I should take particular care listening to online. Thanks to one of the suggestions Stuart made and the follow up that I did through digital media tools I had a meeting at the end of Wednesday that I never would have had. And it has generated ideas for using other types of social media tools that I wouldn’t have expected to be able to even be talking about for another 3-4 weeks.

Something else that was particularly interesting to me was that when I was invited to a lunchtime lecture on my first day and given an attendee list.  I realised that I knew the Twitter usernames of five of the fifteen attendees and that I’d read blog posts by some of these five and one other before the lecture started. Stuart said something along the lines of Thanks to Twitter I was probably one of the best inducted members of staff Leicester has ever had. I think he might well have something in that!

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