Role-holder interview: Julie Maloney

Julie loves her job and says “it’s all about listening”

  • been at Oxford Brookes for 9 years
  • holds the role of Team Supervisor for Clive Booth and Morrell Halls within the Directorate of Estates and Facilities Management.

Q: Can you describe your current role, the duties you have and the place you work in right now?

JM: I’m sure you’re aware, we’ve just been through a restructure. So, we’ve gone from hall supervisor to team supervisor. I now line-manage a team of 9 domestics and the new parts of my role are managing absenteeism,sickness and holidays, and chairing team meetings and working on the agendas……

I’m hall supervisor on the old Morrell site and I have 52 flats and approximately 300 students my daily duties there are primarily about health and safety in the flats, so – visiting every flat at least once a week, checking for health and safety breaches or incidents and also – the best job of all – getting students to do their washing up – and there’re always ongoing incidents that I’m dealing with. Normally, due to the fact you’ve got 6 students living together, and they’re all young – and I’d like to say that they move in together and everything goes smoothly – but it doesn't. Frome people being homesick to people having their food taken out of the fridge – things that like are a big part of my role as well.

Q: So what’s the history of this site?

JM: It’s a late 70s site. We started with A and B Block, when it was a polytechnic, then Morrell came on board, which was known as “phase 2”. Phase 2 was four blocks, then “phase 3” added another 4 blocks. 8 years ago Morrell came on board, then the new Clive booth opened with 700 rooms. The Post Grad Centre came next with another 300 rooms, so this site now has approx. 1,700 rooms and family flats. It’s a village, a student village……

Q: What would you say are the most important skills you currently use in your job?

JM: I think I’ve learned through training – the way I manage, and that is to lead rather than to manage. There are times when you need to be assertive and a manager but I always look at the two sides to everything, and the reason why somebody’s behaving how they are…..And compromise as well….compromise comes in a lot and it does work…..

Q: What else do you call on?

JM: I’m still learning, still picking up different ways….. this year Claire and I worked together on changing the way we talk and communicate with students, and instead of – shall I say telling…”You’ll do the washing up” we’ll use the word “informative” and change the ways we’ve worded things, and I think it’s been successful, because we’ve come to the conclusion that if you put a note up…”Do your washing up and I’ll check it tomorrow” your going to get a reaction like “I’m NOY doing the washing up”, but we change it all now to being more informative.

Q: Can you go back in time now and describe your route to this job

JM: Well, 8 years ago I joined Clive Booth as a laundry assistant – that was when my daughter started full-time education, so I was able to work longer hours. I did that role for a year and then the supervisor role came up on site, which I applied for and which I got, but the role was very different 8 years ago: it was a grade 4 and now I’m a 6, and it was more to do with….no letter writing, hardly any computer work – no office-based work at all – I’d say it was 90 per cent out and about the site, and the n the role changed again, which is when I took the NVQ….

Q: So the NVQ (ILM team Leader 2) was quite important? To move you from non-office-based to office-based?

JM: I was  quite lucky because I came is as this role appeared, I started it from scratch rather than having to transfer from an old role. I was quite lucky – but to go over from being a laundry assistant, it was a learning curve for me…..

Q: At that point, what skills did you need to get you across?

JM: Mainly to take over a group of staff who hadn’t been supervised in the new style…It was difficult. I had to learn how to deal with absenteeism.. sick levels were really high here, people weren’t used to clocking in, or signing keys out, so they had to use new systems of time recording and this felt to them like a restriction……it was hard for me, but through the workshops and training I learned how to listen to what people were saying, listening skills were a big feature……how to deal with conflict, preventing it from happening in the first place is best, and it’s always the way you talk to people: definitely……and it’s getting them involved, proposing what they might like to do, asking for their input and agreeing with them …it’s so that they are all included, and working out the way ahead together – giving air space…….

Q: So you did all that, you became a supervisor and you occupied that post till February 1 this year.. the hall supervisor job expired and now you’re a team Supervisor. What support did you need?

JM: Workshops for the Supervisor (ILM TL2) NVQ I found really helpful – that’s with Miranda –that’s with a group, and no one had done an NVQ before. Talking with them about different situations, the monitoring change that we did was very useful, because people are scared of change – and positive talking, that really did help. Then I did the Customer Services NVQ – well, half the job is talking to people, that was very useful. The biggest thing for me was anger management – when someone comes in and starts shouting at you, it’s to listening, consider the situation on one side, listen to what is said, and I feared that.

Then I went on to do CMLP, which I finished in November and this has helped, and was it was useful because of restructure, I didn’t know it was going to happen at the time but I line manage a small team now so the timing was good……

Q: What did CMLP add for you?

JM: I thought I wouldn’t learn anything more but I was wrong. I firmed up on leadership and with Gary’s support about the way I talk with people, inclusiveness with team, trying different ways of doing things.. Change is hard, like summer schools for example. There’s a massive turnaround of 250 students in one day, and we changed the way we carried out the job –using smaller teams, speaking to the teams and saying “What went wrong there and how can we work to stop it happening again? “ No blame culture, OK, we don’t do blame.

Q: So, CMLP time was when you got more flexible and more experimental?

JM: We had to change because the site’s so big.

Q: Anything you can tell about that made a difference that wan’t an obvious qualification, but maybe an experience?

JM: well.. “Never assume”… if something happens, like someone phones in sick, do not assume they’re messing, assumption’s a tricky thing…..Plus, always stay positive. Positive thinking at all times, because there’s always a reason why people behave in a certain way.. and with students: I won’t say I’ve learned the hard way but with behaviour, mental health issues can come out when you least expect them and it’s only afterwards when you think “yes, I see what’s happening”. I’m picking up now when they don’t give me eye contact and through body language when things are not right.. and self harm, I’m learning about the patterns even though I’m not specially trained, so I know when to get into contact with the disability officer and get them the proper help….

Q: So increased awareness of behaviour and where it might be coming from. What about the other strands of your life – does anything from outside contribute to your success in the role?

JM: Well, I’ve learned things on the NVQ that help me deal with home!
It’s a learning curve – the training and workshops,they help you with life. The way you talk to people – particularly if you have teenaged children. Trying to remember that (students) are somebody’s child that we’re looking after, and they’ve just left home…..

Q: Did you expect a career like this –were you always headed here?

JM: Kind of – when I was a laundry assistant it was a bit of a boring role, I did my work and went home – I knew I needed to change. All of my jobs had revolved around children, and then my daughter started school. I came to Brookes not even thinking – it was going to be short term till I found something else. I’ve always been in retail so I thought I would probably go back. It was a surprise I stayed, and I have a job now that I love…. Training at Brookes has made a difference – you think you know something but there’s always something more. So you make your mistakes, reflect and try again to change for next time.

Q: Any advice for those looking to work in your field?

JM: Take advantage of training and and understanding people – people skills. I don’t think you can have an understanding of the role without people skills. You don’t have to start with a knowledge of how universities tick, it’s people skills.

Q: What are your options now for moving on, given all this experience?

JM: I feel totally confident I can manage a team successfully, in any place out there…my skills could transfer over and it doesn’t have to Brookes though I really like it here.

Last update March 2011