Dr Lisa Brodie, Head of Department, engineering design and mathematics at the University of the West of England recently took part in the Leading Departments programme. In this interview, she explains why she took part and the impact it has had on her career.
Q1. When did you take part in Leading Departments and what was your role at the time?
I took part in the Spring 2018 cohort (LD 11) and at the time I was holding two roles; I was associate Head of Department responsible for business engagement and partnerships, and I was also in an interim role as Academic Director in the department of engineering, design and mathematics. It’s a large department with around 130 academic and research staff. Our Head of Department was promoted at the start of 2018 and so I was covering two roles while the search for a replacement was conducted.
Q2. What were your impressions of the programme?
I had quite high expectations because I’d been on another Advance HE course which I’d found excellent so I came back for this one. Had I seen the agenda before I might have been put off because a lot of time was devoted to a simulation, but it was actually rather excellent. I had visions of me role playing but the people who ran the simulation were actors so it felt like the real thing. It was actually really good.
Q3. What was the most useful thing you learned and why?
Part of the programme is a 360-degree appraisal process followed by a one-to-one telephone and coaching session, I would say this is probably why I’m in the role that I’m in now. I’d applied for the Head of Department role but had not been selected for interview in the first round. In fact, they did not appoint from this first round of interviews at all.
The discussion I had during the coaching session and the feedback I received from the coach helped me decide to reapply for the role. I applied and I got the job. That phone call I can say was career changing for me.
Q4. What is your role now and how has the programme helped you?
I’m now in the role of head of department. I believe the course gave me two things: the 360-degree appraisal enabled me to see myself through the eyes of my colleagues and present myself in the best way to get the job, and the course more broadly helped me align my strengths with the demands of the new role.
Q5. What do you think is the most important skill needed to lead a department?
For me it’s authenticity. Somebody once said to me, and it’s something I’ve held onto that I “should be the best version of me”, and that’s what I try to do. I think there’s a temptation when you move into a new role to change yourself but I haven’t done that in this role. You got the role for being “you” so just be the best “you”.
Q6. Have you done any other Advance HE programmes and if so, what and why?
Before this one I did Leading Transformation in Learning and Teaching. At the time I was leading on a big change project around a new pedagogy for the engineering curriculum whilst at the same time I was working on a redesign for a new engineering building which is now being built. I chose LTLT to help me with that. It gave me some useful tools and we did use them as a department during the change programme. I’ve actually just sent someone else on this course! For me the two programmes delivered the support I needed, when I needed it.