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My Warwick Life: Mike Roberts

Mike RobertsThe My Warwick Life feature gives an insight into staff and students’ lives at Warwick, considering both their work and social life on campus. This week we hear from Mike Roberts, Director of Campus Services.

There’s no such thing as a typical day, but, in a nutshell, my job involves…

working with colleagues to enhance University services. I’ve been here for about four and a half years as Director of IT Services. I’ve really enjoyed working with the IT team. It’s a big job - £15m budget and 150 staff – so as you’d expect there is a fair amount of team and financial management, but that’s not the most important part. The majority of my time I try to work with the teams to understand how we can keep improving our services.

I’m taking on a new expanded role and challenge as Director of Campus Services. I oversee all of the experiential dimensions of campus life – from Sports and Warwick Arts Centre, to the cafes, bars, campus and off-campus accommodation and IT services. Warwick is known for the quality of its services, but my priority, working with colleagues across all these teams, is to drive up the quality and range of service provision. How can we make our services easier to use and access, make them faster, more innovative, or reduce costs or errors? I frequently have conversations with academic and administrative colleagues and, of course, students – asking them for ideas on how we can improve things.

I’m hoping we can all work together to make a real impact on the experience that everyone – students, staff and the wider community – takes from our campus.

I had a really useful meeting recently with…

the Warwick Sports team. James Ellis, Operations Director for Warwick Sport, organised a brilliant half-day workshop at the newly refurbished sport pavilion, the Cryfield Centre. The Sports team provides great services for thousands of users – and they have a great opportunity to develop the sports offering even further, with some really interesting refurbishment projects over the next couple of months and the potential for a major investment in the next couple of years.

It would be really useful to work more closely with…

everyone! That may sound a bit flippant, but my experience so far suggests our greatest obstacle to major improvements in services is simply not hearing ideas from colleagues and visitors, their issues, their frustrations. Of course, we do hear about things when they go wrong – we even get praise when things go right – but we need more ideas and more suggestions. We won’t be able to act on them all, and some may go awry, but many will work and lead to an even better institution. I’m hoping to spend a lot of time talking to the people who actually use our services – and with the staff on the ground who deliver them every day.

I’m really enjoying working on…

projects looking to expand our sports and Arts Centre offerings – big projects with lots of exciting possibilities. I haven’t yet had a chance to look into the retail and accommodation areas but I’m certain those teams will have some intriguing ideas.

We’ve had some really interesting IT projects. A year ago I asked the team to help us shift from projects improving our back-end infrastructure to user-led projects that directly affect user experience. We’re anticipating some great progress on student feedback, WiFi in residences, technology support for teaching, free hosting and storage for researchers. Of the work we’ve completed recently I’d say the ‘Big Screen’ and digital signage (delivered in collaboration with Communications and Estates colleagues) is great – a solid new service, but with lots of potential for innovation.

I recently learnt that…

our student presence in Coventry is so significant. Clearly I knew that the majority of our undergraduate students went off campus for their second year but I thought the vast majority went to Leamington. It was a little surprising to find a significant number go to Coventry too – we need to give that thought when looking at new services.

Warwick’s unique because…

although I can’t claim to have an in-depth knowledge of all institutions in the sector, of the ones I know something about Warwick strikes me as the only one with the skills, experience and, most importantly, the attitude and desire to respond to the very considerable competitive challenges that will face HE in the next five to ten years.

The best thing about working at Warwick is…

the variety of opportunities and projects. I’m lucky that my role allows me to become involved in a whole range of initiatives – from large scale technical projects to Arts Centre developments to car parking!

If I could change one thing at the University, it would be…

to instil a greater willingness to try things out early, before every last detail has been sorted. I sometimes see us delay projects while we agonise over detailed contracts, or service descriptions. Sometimes it’s possible to start something off quickly. If it doesn’t work out then it can ‘fail early and fail small’ – if it actually works then it can be developed and scaled.

I’m really glad I got involved with…

the email migration project – working with a major service and an external service provider has been really interesting. It’s an incredibly complex process to move thousands of users’ mailboxes and the team have been truly excellent. It’s a very high profile project and discovering the ways in which some people use their email has been interesting.

I’m looking forward to using my Warwick Learning Account vouchers for…

golf lessons! Purely to experience one of our services first-hand, of course.

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