Meg Juss is head of Learning Technology Development at Edge Hill University and since she’s been in post her team has won awards for their innovative approach to mobile tech and digital staff development.
We met with Meg at Leaf to chat over their signature tea and to find out how she ‘accidentally’ ended up working in tech, why she isn’t a ‘techy’ stereotype (and therefore can’t fix our printer), and why her Nan is so special.
So let’s start at the beginning – why did you decide to work in technology enhanced learning?
“Actually I’m not sure there was a moment when I made that decision, I guess you might say that my route into the tech world happened quite accidentally!
Way back at school, when it came to choosing my GCSE options, I wanted to do computing, but was told the class was full (of boys!) so I should join the sewing class instead. A teacher also once wrote in my school report that she would strongly advise I do not pursue a career that involves IT, so perhaps I just don’t like to be told that I can’t do something!”
So after being advised against a career in IT, how did you end up in your current position exactly?
“After relocating to the North West in 2002, I started working in a secondary school as a Literacy and Educational Support Assistant. I worked with the teaching staff to expand the literacy support offer to include digital and media literacies, for example, by introducing animation software, facilitating film production and developing a series of interactive educational starter ‘games’.
This was my first experience of co-designing, developing and implementing technology enhanced learning strategies. I was totally hooked! I loved working with subject experts, asking questions and offering solutions. I discovered my own strength as ‘translator’ between education and technology. So when I saw the role of Learning Technologist at Edge Hill University advertised in 2005, I felt compelled to apply and was delighted to be offered the job.
After five years as a Learning Technologist I felt ready for a new challenge. My managers agreed and in 2010 I was seconded into a Learning Technology Development Divisional Co-ordinator role, to lead the department. Later that year I was appointed as the Learning Technology Development Manager.”
Who inspires you the most and do you have a role model?
I think everyone is inspiring in one way or another actually, but in a digital context, my Nan’s my inspiration! She’s seen immense technological change in her lifetime. She became a ‘silver surfer’ in her late 70’s, and now at age 87 she plays online Scrabble with my mum and sister-in-law, keeps in touch with her family through Facebook, loves browsing YouTube to watch music videos, and uses Google to look up recipes. I hope I’m still trying out new things when I’m a pensioner too!
What motivates you to get up in the morning?
“A good cup of tea!”
How do you find working in a mostly male sector?
“Although figures tell us that the digital sector is dominated by men, it doesn’t always have to feel like it. It’s true that the team I manage has a 6:3 male-female ratio, but the Senior Management Team I am part of is actually dominated by women, with a 3:9 ratio.
For me, the more challenging aspect of working in a unique digital role is that it isn’t always well understood. I’m a Learning Technology Development Manager but I’m not a stereotypical ‘techy’. I’m not the best person to fix your broken printer, build you a new app or configure your network, but I could probably help you to get any of these things done!”
Any top tips or words of encouragement for anyone starting out in digital / tech?
“Understand the power of networking and build great relationships. You need to make the most of every conversation and work at creating your own serendipity. You never know who might help and inspire you to do something amazing.
And remember, you don’t need to be a ‘techy’ to work in a digital role. You might be a coder, but you could be a designer, a marketer, an educator or something else entirely. The possibilities for digital workers are endless. In fact, a lot of jobs of the future probably don’t even exist yet, and as most jobs are likely to involve technology in some form or another, developing your digital capability is essential.
Be positive, be determined, be prepared to learn and nurture your own confidence. The world needs passionate people who are ready to embrace change.”
What do you like to do to unwind?
“I unwind best on a climbing holiday in the South of France, but as I can’t do this every week, I like to laugh with friends and family, spend my time sewing, growing veg and flowers at my allotment, and watching good crime dramas like The Bridge!”
What’s been your greatest achievement in life?
“I could say climbing Glittertind, the 2nd highest mountain in Norway, at 17. I could say passing a maths heavy module in geological engineering, or getting a distinction for my Post Grad in Higher Education Teaching and Learning. But, as low key as it might sound, the achievement that really changed my life was passing my driving test – freedom abound.”
What’s your geeky pleasure? (keep it clean!)
“I have been known to mark the occasion of a system upgrade with a homemade themed cake!”
So there you have it. Against the advice of her teacher all those years ago, Meg has made her mark on the tech world. If you are thinking of starting out in the digital or tech industries, why not check out our upcoming events.
Leading ladies is a new and regular feature on the Liverpool Girl Geeks blog, which we hope will inspire the next generation of women to follow their dreams and get geeky. If you know anyone who may be a good interviewee, contact us.
Leading ladies is written / edited by Jo Morfee, humble blogger and digital enthusiast @ LGG