Role-holder interview: Jude Carroll

Q: Jude, can you please give me your current job title?

My job title – and it’s changed over the years – at the moment is Educational Development Consultant, and it does what it says on the tin. I am a consultant, which means that I do a whole range of different sorts of things. I basically find out “What’s the problem?”, “What are the issues for you?”, and let’s think how we can solve them. I do it inside Brookes, and I do it outside of Brookes.  I’m an educational consultant so I’m interested in teaching and learning in higher education, and I’m interested particularly in teachers and how to make the better learning experience for students, through looking at how their courses are designed and delivered. And I’ve been doing the educational development role for – gosh – since 1996 officially, and before that in a sort of hybrid way.

I was originally a staff developer, so I was more interested in this university as an employer,  as a place of employment for thousands of people. Now, I’m more interested in this university as a deliverer of education.

Q: OK. So the total time at Brookes?

I started at Brookes in 1990 as a part-time temporary admin assistant in the personnel department.

Q: In this current role can you give an idea of what the day to day duties might be, what type of team you operate in, and to help structure that, tell us about a typical day, maybe?

I’m one of five educational developers and we’re lucky enough to all sit together in the same room. We often have conversations and meetings about what each other are doing but each of us is working quite independently on projects. We all have link roles to faculties and directorates, so we look after that. We all work on the Post Graduate Certificate of Teaching in Higher Education, which is for new staff coming in. We all have our own personal research and publishing and writing and we all have specific duties across the university for particular projects.  I’ve been involved in student plagiarism with academic conduct officers, and with international students, and we sit on committees or work with people around those particular projects. Some of my colleagues are interested in e-learning and others are interested in professional development so it’s a mixture of work that we share and work that we specialise in. Day to day I spend an awful lot of time sitting in my chair, communicating with people, building networks, planning and developing new events, and then I spend quite a bit of time out there running workshops, conferences, keynotes and so forth.

Q: When you think about the actual skills and the skill sets that are useful to you in your work, what have they been?

Well, there’s a lot of knowledge I need so I spend time getting that - I’ve got to know about  teaching and how that works; I’ve got to know about pedagogy and pedagogic theories. I’ve got to know an awful lot about  how academic careers progress and grow. So I have to know an awful lot about the context of higher education and higher education teaching. I have to know a lot about government policies and procedures and what is changing. In terms of skills – I need all the consultancy type skills: the ability to diagnose needs, and what needs to be done and to deliver to that; I need the ability to work with a huge range of people from different backgrounds, from vice-chancellors to porters and caretakers. I need a lot of self-management skills, because no-one is telling me day to day what to do; I need writing and communicating skills and in my job there are lots of presentations, where I have to walk in to a room full of 250 strangers and give them something memorable in an hour.

Q: Are then any skills that you think you still need to get?

I’ve never cracked balancing different roles. I’ve always had – gosh – for the last 15 years, at least two things on the go at the same time, two roles, two jobs, both part-time, never been able to figure out how to make the two halves fit together. Well I certainly don’t, I’m not yet proactive enough at going out there and initiating things,. I’m far too reactive still …but I think one of the things I really like about being the age that I am is that I think I may never develop that more. I’ll just have to learn to live with the consequences.

I’m very, very good at delivering things on time. I’m not very good always at making sure that the run up to that is smooth and clear, but I learned long ago that – if I don’t plan – the consequences have to be on my head. It’s my job to fix that, and I’m always ready. It’s not pretty to watch me as I get close to being ready sometimes.

Q: What sort of experience or qualifications has it been important for you to have? Are there any significant things that you really advise people to have to do this role?

I think in that way that my career is not typical. So for example, I got the job I got with a bachelor’s degree – I had a BA. And about 10 years in, when I was running a post graduate course for people who had doctorates my manager said to me, “Jude, can you do something about getting a masters at least…?”, because I operate as if I’ve got a PhD and I’m able to get away with that but I don’t think that another person could operate at my level and do the things I do without a PhD these days. I think a PhD qualification is an absolute necessity to do the job that I do. I’ve often said – as one of my throwaway lines – that my goal in life is never to get a PhD and so far I’ve been successful. But, er – I don’t think other people would be able to that. I do think that advanced professional qualifications are absolutely vital.

However, along the way, I have picked up 2 or 3 professional qualifications – so, for example, I became a SEDA fellow – a staff and educational development association fellow – early. I became a national teaching fellow – so I got recognition and acknowledgement from my peers quite early on and that’s been important.

Q: Great. So, the history thing, now. Thinking back on your working life, what have been the twists and turns of your career to bring you to the place you are now?

Well, I’ve been interviewed several times about my career because it is so unusual – and I’ve been used in various research studies about women’s career paths, and also academic’s career paths, because it is unusual, so I wouldn’t say it is any way typical, but I came in as a part-time temporary admin assistant at 4 quid an hour and I did that, I took a job that was far below my skills and ability level. And I took a job that was ridiculously paid because I wanted to get into the university and see what was around and see what was happening, and make a place for myself much more locally. As soon as I came in, within a week people said, “Can you do x ?”, and, “ Can you do y?” and I always said, “Yes”. So I took on jobs that I was massively underpaid for, that were way beyond my job description parameters, because I knew that I could do them. And I knew that if I did them, people could see that I could do them. And then I’d get myself a more reasonable job. And that happened within 2 or 3 months, so within 2 or 3 months people said, “Well, let’s have a contract, let’s create a job that you can do.” So we did, and 2 or 3 months after that, it all grew in terms of size.

So basically, I went into a brand new job that could do as much as I wanted it to do. And I worked beyond my job boundaries, I worked very hard, and worked extra time,. I took on projects and I linked with an awful lot of people. I got to know an awful lot of people that were around. I always worked above my pay level and above and above my authority level. And to give the university their due they always let me do that and they welcomed it. I always made sure that I knew what I was doing and I made sure that I knew a lot of people personally, and that was very important. As new things came up I always took them on, so I always had 2 or 3 projects going on which meant that I linked with people who knew what I didn’t know so that I could find out what they knew and I learned a lot from that. And I made sure that each of these projects had some kind of product or result coming out so that I could point out to people that I did that

Seven years after I started this job as a temporary admin person I was offered a management contract to be head of equal opportunities across the university and I did that for a year. I hated it and I handed it back. I could list all the things I didn’t like about management but that isn’t the point here. the point is that I decided I would go for jobs that I enjoyed doing, that gave me personal satisfaction rather than promotion and that’s what I’ve done ever since. I took on a lot of national projects which got me out and about that got my name known AND got Brookes’ name known. I made sure that I was always out there – it was part of my job as well, I had to do 35 days on the road in other universities, so I got to know an awful lot about other universities. And other universities got to know me. So I became a very well known and recognised name. And that was always me and Brookes together.

About 10 years ago I got very interested in 2 topics; that was internationalisation and plagiarism, both of which became nationally and internationally recognised areas of expertise for me and that lead to many, many new opportunities and that meant I worked hard.  I wrote 10 books in my own time. They were all written in weekends. I took very little leave, I worked through my leave and so forth. I travelled a lot and I was by that time divorced and the kids were grown up so I was able to take on all kinds of travel.

Q: When you first set out to get a job, what did you picture yourself as doing? How different is what you do today to what you originally set out to do?

This is what I set out to do….Before I came to Brookes I was working in a partnership training midwives on how to run ante natal classes. And I got really interested in developing other peoples’ skills and abilities and in teaching and learning – in adult learning in particular – so it’s all connected. it was about finding out from people what they need. “Where did the shoe pinch?” I used to say. “Where was the shoe pinching and what do you need to make the job better and get a better and easier time?” And then when I got into educational development it was, “What do the students need to really have a good learning experience and how can I work with everybody I can think of to make that better?” And that was always what drove me.

Q: OK. Any significant moments that were real learning for you?

Well, there were moments about learning what I didn’t want to do, like when I took the management job and discovered that I really didn’t want it. But there were some partnerships that were absolutely crucial, Like I linked up with Jon Appleton in Academic Registry and we wrote A Good Practice Guide for Dealing with Plagiarism which is on the web and which is still – 12 years later – considered to be the primary resource for people who are interested in that. And that was such a rich and useful learning experience. I learned so much from working with Jon, and I used his ideas for years and years afterwards. In fact I’ve used them for so long that people keep thinking that they’re my ideas, and I keep telling them, “No, they’re Jon Appleton’s ideas” and that’s quite important when you’re involved in plagiarism. That was so rich a learning experience because we absolutely complemented each other in terms of what we could do and what our expertise was, and that was so important for me to write my first book on plagiarism, which we did very quickly because we did all that thinking together. So that was very, very important for me.

The thing about the growing the international students issue – there was a moment when I thought to myself, “Wait a minute. I have a combination of personal expertise and personal experience and passion that nobody else is really addressing. I’ve got a unique set of insights into this”, and I was lucky enough to link up with somebody else who was interested so again, we did it in partnership, so for me it’s about partnership where you can complement and build off and work with each other that was so crucial, it was that 2 plus 2 equals 5 stuff and we were really much, much better together than apart. Those were important. And the other thing was when I realised that I needed a career break and I just needed to stop and do something different and I went off to Sweden for a year. And that was hugely enjoyable and hugely interesting and I flung myself into a whole new set of situations and contacts, and I had a bit of time and space to really learn from them. That was really important. Because one of the things that happens in my job is that we don’t get a sabbatical, we don’t get any thinking time, we don’t get anytime to stand back and think and that gave me the time to do that.

Q: So, you’re about to leave Brookes now. Are there any words of wisdom or advice that you would give to people looking to move on or up in small ways or big?

I think the first thing to realise if you want to make yourself more a more  valuable, or saleable “package” is that you have to work beyond the boundaries of the job you’re in now. You have to demonstrate, and get, the skills and experience that would be appropriate in the next step, in the one you’re in now, and that does mean working beyond what you’re paid for and beyond the time that you’re paid for. You have to do that carefully. I mean, when my kids were little, I handled it differently, but when they grew… I mean, you can’t stop with the boundaries of your current job because you have to be valuable enough to take the next step.

The second thing is – if you are building yourself and building your skills, make sure people know about it. Make sure it produces a result and make sure that people know what that result is. Make sure you’re not quietly beavering away being beautiful in the corner.

The third is link up with people, find out and build partnerships and relationships with other people who know things that you want or need to know, who are doing things that you need to be able to do. For me, that’s just the way I learn best. You know, building those relationships and partnerships is really important.

And the last thing is, try and think about how you can solve problems rather than create and describe problems, so – if you see an issue, if you see something that needs doing, if you see something that’s going wrong, sort it out to the best of your ability. Obviously, if you’ve only got a little bit of time, then for heaven's sakes solve little problems, but if you can find problems and solve them that really makes a difference.

Q: And did you arrive at your ideal career – what will it look like when you get there?

Yeah, I think I got there. I was damn lucky to start at the time that I did, when things were much more slippery, perhaps, than they are now… I was also really lucky with people who helped and supported me and allowed me to do these sort of things. So, I WAS a rule breaker but I was a careful rule breaker and I had the luck of having people around me who pushed me forward and supported me to do that and that was helpful. I DID make mistakes, I really DID make mistakes, and they were hard to live with at the time but, looking back, I can kind of sort the messages from those mistakes into things that I did wrong and things that were just context-related, where I was in the wrong place at the wrong time trying to do the wrong thing….But the mistakes didn’t kill me, and I always took risks, you know – “Feel the fear and do it anyway”, is kind of a motto that I think is useful.

Q: Well that’s great, and thank you very much, and take the next step into a very happy retirement.


Last update October 2011