I entered the behind-the-scenes world of IT Services a whole week ago, after leaving my post as research project coordinator in the School of English. It was a big jump to make, conceptually further than in the geographical sense, obviously. (When new deskmates said to me “Where have you come from?” and I answered with “Arts B”, I sensed a vague disappointment that it wasn’t somewhere far more exotic.)
I had been working on a research project that fell more under the umbrella of cultural studies than English, and was closely aligned with my academic interests (for my sins, I’m also doing an MSc in Social Research Methods), so IT Services probably seemed like an unlikely place for me to land, or maybe I was possibly a rather unlikely person to land in IT Services, with technical IT stuff conspicuously absent from my CV. Mind you, I’ve always been a bit drawn to gadgets and technology, since a tiny age and we had our first little cuboid Mac – obviously from the days before Mr Jobs started having his REALLY GREAT ideas. I’ve got a brain which causes me problems by not really liking to not understand things, especially languages and codes, which ignited an interest in HMTL and its friends, so I’m vaguely literate in those areas. I’m a bit like someone who goes to France knowing how to say “Ou est la banque” and “J’aime jouer au football” because that’s all that got engrained from the pre-GCSE classes, but can fluff my way round with a dictionary (pffft, Google Translate, blatantly) and general experience in how languages get put together.
But I managed to land this role because of my experience of doing things like this; disguising a love of writing (or generally verbosely communicating with either pen, keyboard or actual noise) as something which now gets a job title of its own: Communications Officer. Hurrah!! Honestly, it’s like being told that a childhood hobby and something that you’re quite good at and like doing – building sandcastles, maybe – is actually now a real life grown up job. So with a pretty solid line up of using computers to do good things for small businesses and little ventures and big research projects, I’ve landed at this desk.
What goes on behind the scenes at Shawcross is pretty extraordinary, actually. I mean, there are actually enough computer screens to take over the world. When one desk would normally have just the one, several people here have between four and hundreds. Keeping the university’s IT systems afloat is a preposterous task when you think about it, because they’re not just treading water, they’re Rebecca-Adlingtoning it down the pool, adding new services all the time and dealing with about a trillion things at once.
The fact that it doesn’t resemble the London Stock Exchange with people screaming at each other all the time is remarkable. In fact, it’s like the Stock Exchange on a zen meditation retreat; it’s got all the computer screens but it’s, like, totally chilled. That said, nothing has gone seriously wrong in my first week so I’m yet to see what a meltdown might look like.
So far, my first week has involved reacquainting myself with the world of Apple; since leaving home my choice of hardware has been constrained to a budget and therefore excluded me from the iExcitement (that should actually be a thing) but now I’m working on a beautiful big elegant Mac (that I managed to really upset yesterday and it wouldn’t work for the whole afternoon, but we’re friends again now). I’ve also been writing some blog posts, planning some info leaflets and eating cake with colleagues (THERE IS SO MUCH CAKE).
As communications officer, my role is really going to be about this kind of thing – basically getting over to you, the students and staff here at Sussex, the wonderful things going on in IT Services and the ways in which you really should be taking advantage of us. We are all around you, after all. (Creepy, yes?)
The main thing I’ve taken away from this week is just how much IT Services actually does, and how much there is for you to use. There’s just loads of bits of software there for you to download so take advantage of it – new things are being added all the time (and they’re not all work/study related…). I’m actually really impressed with what Sussex offers, but I’m not in a position to know how it compares to other places. It’s 10 years since I was an undergraduate at a different university and, in terms of IT … well, there wasn’t a VLE and there wasn’t anything jazzy in the lecture theatres (well, besides Prof Whittle’s trousers). If any of you have any comparisons to make, I’d really like to hear what you have to say. Well, in general what I’d really like is a bit more student interaction with IT Services – we’d like to know what you’re using and how, so tweet us pictures (keep ‘em decent, folks) and talk to us on Facebook. The majority of the IT team are behind these big doors that you can’t get through in actuality, but we’d still like to know what your thoughts are.
Now I’ve ably demonstrated my propensity to pen a long rambling blog post, I’ll sign off until the next time, but not before I congratulate myself for not mentioning The IT Crowd even one tiny time, because that would just have been too obvious.
PS: I didn’t take any of these pictures, to be honest. They’re not mine. I found them at:
- http://www1.nyse.com/images/about/BrightHorizonsTF.jpg (more info: NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 25: Chief Executive Officer David Lissy, joined by members of Bright Horizons’ leadership team celebrate their IPO at the New York Stock Exchange on January 25, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Hider/NYSE Euronext)