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A Week in the Life of a Research Support Manager – Debbie Hall

So what does a Faculty Research Support Manager do? Well, I manage a team of three administrators, who provide clerical and administrative support to our Research Centre’s. We manage diaries, process expenses, service committees, produce reports, provide advice and guidance on research related topics such as ethics, arrange events and meetings and work on specific research related projects. It’s a very varied and exciting role and it allows me to be creative and innovative, which is something I have a real passion for.

What does a typical week look like?

Monday 4 September 2017

I work part-time, Monday through to Wednesday, which provides a fantastic opportunity for me to combine being a mum and a career woman. I travel into work by car, so by the time I make my way through peak traffic, its 8am. The office at that time is very quiet, which is great. It’s an ideal opportunity to answer emails and look at what’s in the diary for the week ahead.

My Monday morning is fairly quiet, which is really useful. I have a team meeting at 9am, it’s a great way to catch-up with everyone and understand what priorities we have. We start the week with cakes – sugar always helps focus the mind!

We have a Faculty Research Committee this afternoon. The committee is made up of circa 15 members, senior colleagues across the Faculty, who come together quarterly to discuss research related topics and issues. My role is to be there to answer any ‘administrative’ or ‘process’ questions, but also to take the minutes and provide support to the Chair. I use my laptop to record the conversations and details, which helps later when I need to type them up in a formal template. The minutes are circulated and actions are chased.

Tuesday

I have a Research Managers meeting at 10am with my counter-parts in the other Faculties. We are using the time today to look at the ethics approval process across the University. Each Faculty operates slightly differently and we want to take time to share good practice and adopt similar working styles and a consistent approach across the board. What’s interesting when you meet people who do the same role as you elsewhere, is that you realise that you are all unique. You all bring with you very different experiences and perspectives, which in turn creates a useful and productive ethos in the group.

This afternoon I’m working on the schedule for our Faculty Seminar Series. We have sessions planned, which are open to colleagues across the University, to come together as a community and hear about the work, projects and research being undertaken in each Research Centre. The schedule has been set for some time, but its up to my team to build on it by inviting speakers to present, booking rooms and liaising with key stakeholders. This is about team-working and pulling together to make sure the events are a real success. We work closely with our Marketing Team to ensure events like the seminar series are promoted internally too. 

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Wednesday

A slightly challenging morning! I have back-to-back meetings this morning. My first meeting is with colleagues involved with and responsible for, ethics. It’s a new area for my team and something we are taking responsibility for moving forward. I am meeting with two colleagues to look at what support they need from us and how I can make that happen with the resources I have available.

We have a new starter in the Faculty, so my second meeting today is an introduction meeting. It’s 30 minutes in length and typically tends to be a question and answer session on our processes. It’s a great opportunity for them to meet the team.

My final meeting this morning is with my line manager, she works remotely so it’s great to have regular catch-up sessions planned to talk about what’s happening in the Faculty and with the team. The meeting is scheduled to take place across the campus so a coffee before setting off is definitely required! 

Thursday

I’m working at home this morning on a piece of work. It’s great because the time I save having to travel into work, I can use more effectively at home. Its nice and quiet too, which really helps focus the mind. Although individually we all know what we need to be doing on a daily basis, its important in my view, for our development, that we understand the whole range of responsibilities and duties carried out in the team. I have set the team the task of pulling together a set of processes. It’s all about processes!

Overview

Alongside the day-to-day ‘business as usual’ activities – I find there is a real opportunity to think about the challenges and to identify potential solutions and ideas. So for example, how can we increase student numbers, are we listening enough to our students, are we using social media effectively enough, are we bringing the research community together and can we do more to ensure our students have the very best experience they can do, here at Coventry University. These are all questions I ask myself on a weekly basis and they are the type of questions that make me feel empowered and motivated to do the very best job I can do – the possibilities are endless and we as a team must rise to the challenge – its exciting!

My top tips

To be successful in a research management role, its important to be flexible, adaptable and very organized. I think, it’s also important to be supportive to colleagues and build up strong working relationships so you can help and support each other. You are all on the same team!

My answer is always ‘yes’, I believe in finding solutions to problems, looking at ways to improve processes and overcoming obstacles. I think you need a good understanding of research processes and systems, which is something you learn on-the-job, but you also need to be able to think creatively and innovatively. We all bring very different skills and perspectives to a role and there is no perfect fit, if research management is something you have a passion for, go for it. You might just be the person to make the difference!

My philosophy is simply don’t give up! You can achieve anything if you give 110% and really focus and commit to what you believe in.

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