Richard H.

Tutor of Digital Technologies
Happy to mentor
Happy to be contacted

About me

Richard H.
Computer Science
Computer Science
Research Postgraduate
United Kingdom

My employment

Tutor of Digital Technologies
York College
United Kingdom
Large business (250+ employees)

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A day in the life of a Tutor of Digital Technologies in the United Kingdom

Briefly describe the organisation you work for

I am very proud to work at York College which offers a huge range of courses from entry level to degree level and is rated as 'silver' by the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) according to its standard of undergraduate teaching as well as being rated Outstanding by OFSTED.

What do you do?

I teach a wide range of computing based subjects and project management on the level-3 vocational (BTEC), A-level and Foundation Degree in Digital Technologies with Cybersecurity - for which I am also the award leader.

Reflecting upon your past employment and education, what led you to your current career choice?

I started on my path into teaching, working for a Microsoft solution provider partner for five years as Technical Infrastructure Manager with a view to becoming a technical trainer. I joined York College after the training division of my previous employer was closed. I had previously been invited in to speak to A-level students about life in industry, by a friend of mine, who then introduced me to the head of the department. He told me they were looking for someone with an industry background and technical qualifications (as part of my current role I had achieved the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer status). Three months later he sent me a link to the advert for this job...

Is your current job sector different from what you thought you would enter when you graduated?

During my studies was fortunate enough to have sponsorship from a defence contractor based in the south, so I expected to end up there (at least for the first five years) after graduating. However due to downsizing in the early 90's and the fact I'd not achieved the 2:1 that I was predicted, they couldn't offer me a place and I found myself staying in York and where I got involved with an interesting project to design a custom control system for a well know tourist attraction. From there I landed a good job with a start-up company building and selling multi-media PCs, again something I didn't anticipate.

Describe your most memorable day at work

My most memorable day at the college was when a mature student from our Foundation Degree course dropped in for coffee after finishing a top-up year at University, to tell me he'd achieved a first class with honours. He gave me a big hug and thanked me for believing in him - due to his undiagnosed dyslexia he'd left school 30 years earlier with just two CSEs to his name but I took him onto the course after an insightful interview! This is a constant reminder that we should never prejudge people, don't just look at the statistics, understand the person and what drives them.

Are there any challenges associated with your job?

The Further Education sector is notoriously underfunded, but we get amazing support from industry, our partner organisations (including the University of York) and from ex-students who are always happy to come in and talk about their experiences. There are also busy times of year which leave you exhausted, but that is balanced out with a generous holiday entitlement which gives you time to recharge the batteries and come back refreshed and enthusiastic as ever. There is also the ongoing challenge of keeping up to date with such a fast paced sector, having been away from it for 18 years now I need to read around various industry journals and blogs to keep me informed. Fortunately I still enjoy learning, so that challenge is easily overcome.

What’s your work environment and culture like?

Until the recent Covid-19 lock-down I was based in an office with 12 colleagues and spent two thirds of my time in classrooms. Three months of enforced on-line learning has been a real education for us all and I hope to engage in far more blended delivery in the future. No two days are ever the same, I enjoy the constantly evolving subject matter and the dynamic of working with a diverse range of students. Since returning to study between 2011 and 2013 (MSc by research) I have worked a reduced hours contract, 4 days over 5. This is one of the many way my employer supports staff, there is a strong culture of respect and equality that I admire. The day to day demands of the job have grown over the years and I find the reduced hours help me to balance the day job with my interests including music, Taiji (T'ai Chi) and computer history (volunteering for the Jim Austin computer collection). But teaching is a job you never really switch off from, whether it's reading a magazine article or watching a documentary on technological developments or researching something after getting a tech support call from my Father, I never stop learning about the subject I am so passionate about.

What extracurricular activities did you undertake at university and what transferable skills did you develop through these?

At university I was in a number of bands, mostly with music students, so I learned a huge amount from them. I was also an active member of URY (as a technician and a presenter). Both of these activities gave me the opportunity to face my fears and perform in front of an audience (admittedly a small one for my midnight rock music shows!) This has proven to be a most valuable experience for my chosen profession, a room full of teenagers is slightly less terrifying than 1000 rock fans at a big music festival and almost as appreciative.

What would you like to do next with your career?

I've worked in middle and senior management (I found myself on the board of a computer hardware reseller aged 26) and have no ambition to return to all of that stress (I take my hat of to our senior leadership team). I love what I do, I enjoy working with the students and my colleagues. I have a lot of freedom to do my job the way I want and we're always encouraged to be creative and experimental in the way we teach which is what makes it so fulfilling and why I feel no desire to move on at this stage, but it has been an amazing journey over the 30+ years since I first graduated.

What top tips do you have for York students preparing for today’s job market and life after graduation?

Don't hesitate to start at the ground level if there is a potential for development, I started as a Technician and learned so much from that experience and made some lasting friendships. Also, don't worry about finding exactly the right job first time and be prepared to explore different avenues, you may just stumble across something you never considered and discover it is your true calling. The concept of a job for life has long since gone and you can take your career in any direction you choose, just follow your heart and make sure you are doing something that makes you want to jump out of bed in the mornings. I advise my students to start researching jobs just after the Easter of their graduation year because it can be a lengthy process, sometimes 2 or 3 months, so it's good to get the ball rolling and start applying. There are a lot of good recruitment websites, but also make the most of any personal contacts. Above all, don't take rejection to heart, it can be a bit of a numbers game, just stick with it because your perfect job is out there waiting for you to find it.

What topics from students are you happy to answer questions on?

How to develop your professional network and how to get into teaching. Also, more than happy to talk about the industry and the subject in general terms, as well as my own experiences from learning to program on an Acorn Atom aged 10, to taking an MSc by research as a mature student.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

I am a member of the British Computer Society, a Fellow of the HE Academy and an instructor member of the Tai Chi Union for Great Britain.

Next steps...

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