Q&A with IOE Pro-Director Operations Dan Sinclair
1 What is your role and what does it involve?
My role involves running a team of professional support services for the faculty, as well as operationalising the strategic aims of the organisation and engaging and aligning with central service providers at UCL. I work closely with the Director, the other Pro-Directors, my teams and senior academic staff at the IOE to keep things running smoothly and to ensure that the organisation gets the best possible support for its strategic aims.
2 How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?
I have held various roles at UCL since joining a few years ago from the Institute of Education when it merged with UCL. I’ve worked across central services, a broad range of academic departments (from Psychology to Surgery), and with a mix of partners including other universities, industry partners, NHS trusts and UCL partner organisations such as UCLC and UCLB. So far, I have worked in higher education (HE) for 15 years, but have also worked in IT project management, property, communications and technology.
3 What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your career in Higher Education?
HE is ever surprising and ever amazing, so working in world-leading organisations like UCL can deliver incredible purpose to our working lives. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some wonderfully talented and insightful people from both academic and professional services roles and I love to know more about the work that is undertaken in our organisation, as well as its impact upon the world and especially the individuals that are benefitted.
My medicine and surgery background shares commonality with much of the work at the IOE – in that on both research and teaching streams, people walk away from the organisation better off than where they started. That is an incredibly inspiring thing to be part of, and is the most important thing for me to keep in mind when I’m doing my job.
4 What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
I really enjoy the parts of the job that involve broad benefit – so the favourites would be firstly, my involvement in the Athena Swan award for the UCL Division of Surgery & Interventional Science – which was a lot of hard work and involved fighting a lot of negative perceptions about women in clinical medicine. Secondly, my introduction of an early-career researcher development fund, in order to help retain and grow our talented young researchers beyond the limits of grant funding.
In both cases, I hope that I have played a part in leaving a long-term benefit for those that follow me and I’m hoping to help to deliver similar initiatives in the future.
5 Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list.
I’m involved in two exciting projects at UCL: one is looking to make improvements to the data and management information provided by our systems – something that impacts us all more than we realise and could make a huge difference to the way we work. The second is my involvement in the Transforming Our Professional Services (TOPS) project, where my focus is UCL procurement services across the university.
Both projects are designed to address unmet needs in our systems and processes, and to try to ensure that the frustrations in our working lives are eased, freeing up time and brain power!
6 What would it surprise people to know about you?
I cycled across Scotland in 2015 – which was amazing, but very cold and very hard work!
7 What other piece of work outside of your own area interests you?
I really enjoy the merging of distinct worlds in science and research, especially when that delivers improvements to the way we live and to life’s hidden issues. People are just brilliant sometimes, especially when they work hard to work together!
The obvious examples of this are things like virtual reality – which let people experience a more ‘real’ version of a situation in order to train better for it, and light triggered nano-devices that can seek out cellular issues in our bodies and fix them one by one – an excellent marriage of medicine and engineering.
I’m currently working on a project that seeks to join up the thinking behind a few very distinct worlds whose aim is to introduce a sustainable and bio-dynamic solution to the problems associated with city centre lighting – from the costs incurred by councils to light pollution and waste. The solution, if it gains traction, could free up resource for councils and governments to tackle broader issues such as homelessness and the limited outlets for better social inclusion.