Ruth Houghton and May Warren joined Cranfield at the end of April as Information Specialists in the Library Service. They will support our Masters’ level students, delivering workshops and lectures in search skills and referencing, and offer one-to-one appointments to help them find the literature they need for their assignments. They will also liaise with Course Directors to ensure library services continue to meet course needs and will be based in the Kings Norton Library (when we get back on site!).

They are also in the unusual position of joining the team online during the current lockdown, unable to meet their colleagues in person, find their ways around the campus, or have a traditional induction programme. I asked them how they were getting on:

Welcome to Cranfield! How did you feel when you first realised you would be starting a new job during a lockdown?

May: The situation just didn’t seem real! Even while making arrangements with my old team to work from home, the enormity of it all hadn’t sunk in. I was very grateful to still be taken on and sad not to be seeing the campus again on my first day. On the upside, I was due to take my driving test before I started and it was cancelled – a brief reprieve!

Ruth: I am not sure how I felt as it was all very surreal. Usually a new job requires a change of location, but given we were all becoming used to working from home not a lot changed physically, just a new set of faces appearing on my computer on a Monday morning!

What is it like meeting all your new colleagues online?

May: Meeting my colleagues on the first day was fun and I was very relieved to have navigated all of the various systems successfully and to have appeared at the right time in the right place! Everyone has been really friendly and supportive which is amazing. I miss the spontaneous little conversations in normal everyday work life but we have been having daily coffee chats as team. It is amazing how much more productive you can be when you are working from home but very surreal not to have a real world to hang everything on!

 Ruth: For me there are lots of advantages.  I tend to be terrible with names so having a screen with everyone’s names underneath is very helpful.  However, I do miss seeing people in their actual work environment, getting a sense of how the teams all work together and how people connect in the office.  I also miss those accidental learning opportunities of watching colleagues answering a student enquiry. I’ve found the IT team really quick to respond and sort out problems which has been excellent.

What advice would you give to anyone in a similar position who is about to start a new job?

May: I think if I was to give anyone in a similar situation advice, it would be to just relax and enjoy it. This is a chance to bond with your new colleagues over a unique shared experience and you should have time to focus on familiarising yourself with the organisation and what it is about. Oh, and try not to be overwhelmed with what you don’t know! 

Ruth: The advice I would give is to not be afraid to ask questions. My team have set up daily coffee meetings and I have found these so useful.  They not only give me the opportunity to ask any little questions that build up, but they also give me a sense of the role and how everything fits together.  I would encourage everyone to have these catch ups, but they have been particularly useful to me as a new starter.

Have you learned anything from this experience?

May: I think it has been so interesting to learn that we can indeed join a new job and team virtually, I think that so much progress has been made in terms of ways of working. I hope some of these lessons will help change the future in a positive way. I also have a new appreciation for the physical aspects of work, I realise how much I enjoy buildings, travelling to work, bumping into people and interacting face to face. 

Ruth: I do wish I had set up my working environment better.  At first, I just moved about the house as I tried to support teaching the kids at home as well as working myself.  However, I developed all sorts of bad sitting habits and have given myself a bad back!  I am set up at a proper desk now rather than a kitchen table and I wish I had done this from the start

What are you most looking forward to when we are able to go back on site?

May: I look forward to meeting people in person one day soon. I imagine it will be like meeting celebrities that you have only seen on the screen!

Ruth: I am really looking forward to meeting the students, I am definitely missing student contact the most!

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