UCISA Support Services Conference 2013 – Prologue

There will be many more words to come from me in the near future as I inevitably break down the excellent UCISA Support Services Group Conference nanosecond-by-nanosecond, but I wanted to share some quick highlights from the 4 days while they are fresh in my mind.

First highlight – I was glad I arrived early on the Monday. I was flying solo for the conference and some kind folk took me under their wings, I had a great evening and a gentle introduction to some of the conference’s more “notable” characters.

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I feared I had fallen in with a bad bunch…

Second highlight – as with the UCISA management conference earlier in the year, Twitter turned what would otherwise have been a sitting, watching and maybe note-taking exercise into something much more engaging. By taking part in the debate online you not only develop and record your own ideas of what’s important, you see other’s takes on the same subjects and consequently get the fuller picture. People have been smart, funny, generous and wise on Twitter throughout the conference and I enjoyed every shared thought and tidbit.

Third highlight was the climb up Arthur’s Seat before the conference dinner. I’d wanted to go up pretty much from the moment I looked out the window of my room and saw it in the sunshine. Unfortunately I was ill Monday night, which dampened my enthusiasm somewhat. But by the time a group of us went up on Wednesday I, like the weather, was much better. I don’t know we learned much from the experience though – other than the fact I will happily squat behind a trig point holding an inflatable clown fish while someone takes a picture and that IT folk have quite a dark sense of humour (not a revelation, I grant you), particularly when it comes to the prospect of falling down a cliff to your inevitable gory death.

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A “nemo of nerds” atop Arthur’s Seat

Fourth highlight was winning this, obviously

Fifth highlight isn’t really conference-related, but I love the rail journey from Newcastle, through Berwick and up to Edinburgh, it’s just beautiful.

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Final highlight was the “takeaways”. We were pushed throughout the conference to identify our main takeaways from the sessions – those ideas and eureka moments we have when talking to people about things and listening to others share their experiences. Too often we have these moments of inspiration and then don’t note them down, let alone do anything with them. I shared a few, but the main practical takeaway for me came as a result of the numerous discussions about awards and certifications. It struck me that these have a great ability to motivate staff, make us look good both internally and externally, help with recruitment, demonstrate value… And the stories we heard of work done towards certification, for example, show that often the journey itself is as valuable as the destination.

I describe that as a “practical” takeaway because I actually think the main thing we should all take away from the conference (and every other similar event) came from the last session of the day by Andrew Davis, and is actually a quote from American author Napoleon Hill:

Knowledge is only potential power. It becomes power only when, and if, it is organized into definite plans of action, and directed to a definite end.

As we all head back to work the importance of that quote is, I hope, obvious 🙂

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