A Continual Learning Curve
Nev Sneath likes change. This is fortunate considering his work focuses on technological innovation. The delivery of teaching in 2011 is vastly different from the 1990s when Nev was first employed at UoN. “Yes, students had access to seven PCs and two Macs computers. The two Macs and only one PC had internet access” he recalls. Even by 1997, students only had access to one seven-page-per-minute printer.
But the world of technology was moving fast. By 2005, as a Technical Officer in the IT Infrastructure program, Nev helped to install and maintain 863 PCs, 22 printers, and audio-visual equipment in teaching spaces and libraries. Video conferencing would soon follow. Today, Nev is part of a team charged with converting the University's analogue teaching and learning system to a digital one. “I have always enjoyed the new challenges that come with the continual advancement of technology”, he says with a glint in his eye. “It's interesting and exciting too when, for example, you unplug the black and white TV and plug in the colour - it's a dramatic change. Even when you get a new computer, it's better than what you've previously had and also easier. It's the WOW factor”. Perhaps this is what impelled Nev to apply for and then win his new position as Senior Technical Officer in the Centre for Teaching and Learning.
Nev has made sure that his skills are constantly updated amid the demand these changes bring. “It's a continual learning curve”, he grins and explains how his skill development comes from a mixture of self-learning, formal training, and on-the-job learning where he and his peers problem solve together. The sharing of this pool of knowledge with his peers is what sees them through many periods of change and uncertainty; and uncertainty is one thing Nev and his team can be certain about! “A lot of it's unknown with what I'm doing”, he said about the ever changing priorities inherent in his line of work. His ability to be organised and manage short notice change is attributed to his Air Force background. Yet, Nev believes there is something even more important that contributes to his success. It's relationships and the trust needed when relying on someone else. Almost all the projects Nev and his team work on involve multiple stakeholders across the University. Without strong relationships and collaboration there wouldn't have been achievements. Most of these relationships have been maintained over the years from previous roles. “I've still got a lot of friends”, he says with humility.
Nev's approach to relationships and uncertainty is also evident in his favourite activity - motorcycling. Only recently he and his wife grabbed their touring bikes (Nev owns a Kawasaki 1400) and spent two weeks travelling as far north as Gladstone. It was a great way to drop in and visit family and friends, and also immerse himself in his love for photography. A keen photographer of the natural world and aeroplanes emphasise Nev's creative quality. Creativity is also apparent in his role at UoN. “With our work you always have to be creative”, he says. Nev's carpentry skills allow him to create innovative and functional spaces to house new technologies. “It puts my signature to the job”, he says with satisfaction.
So, what are Nev's top tips for success at UoN? “Look at positions that are coming available and be in the know”, he advises. Staff who are wanting to advance, or even move laterally to a different area, should look at jobs advertised. They should learn about what criteria is required for a particular HEW level and then aim to choose a development path that can fill any gaps in skills. “If you've got the skills you could move anywhere”.