16th July 2019
South Devon College wouldn’t be the fantastic place for learning that it is without knowledgeable and committed staff. With the Hi Tech & Digital Centre, it’s the same staff that have been making the Centre as good as it can possibly be for you whilst still doing everything else they would normally do.
To help you get an idea of what this new facility will mean for the College, its students, and the wider community, we’ve spoken to these key staff members to find out more about them, their journey, and what positive changes the Hi Tech & Digital Centre is going to make.
Also, if you’re joining us to study a course that will be based in the Hi Tech & Digital Centre, the series will serve as a small introduction to the staff you will potentially be working with on a regular basis.
The next member of staff we are featuring as part of the ’10 minutes with…’ series is Paul Cooper, Head of IT Services for the whole College. So without any further ado, let’s see what he has to say!
What is your role at South Devon College?
I am the Head of IT Services. My team provides the servers, network, wi-fi, desktops, data access and internet connections for all staff and learners. If my systems fail it has a very noticeable impact.
What is your educational/working background?
I took Maths, Physics and Computer Science A levels at 6th form, then studied Stage Management and Technical theatre at LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art). I worked in theatre for a few years, most notably back at my old 6th form where I taught backstage skills to students, several of whom went on to have very successful careers in the business. I then had a change of career and moved into IT and have mostly worked for large corporate companies and investment banks. This led into consulting on various aspects of IT design and operations for clients such as BSkyB, PwC and RBS. I then decided I wanted a better work/life balance so relocated with my family to Torbay and found my early 6th form teaching experience was something I wanted to revisit, which led me into working in the educational sector where I’ve been for most of the past 8 years.
What attracted you to work at South Devon College?
When moving down, the College was, in my eyes, the place I wanted to be. It had the scale to engage in ambitious IT projects to push technology and give our learners a better skillset and experience for their onward journeys. I finally got here after seeing what I’d seen as my dream job come available.
What part of your job do you enjoy the most?
‘All of it’ might be a bit of a cop-out, but it is true. I’ve had a few sessions talking about various aspects of IT to some of our university students and I love that part, the other aspect is being able to see my team develop and grow. I love technology, but essentially I like helping people and IT is how I can do that.
What is your vision for the future of your sector?
I want our IT service to be something that people don’t notice, they just consume it and it just works for them. It then becomes something they can completely rely on, and it keeps them safe but connected. If people notice it, it usually means something has gone wrong, and I want to reduce that as much as possible by working towards proactive self-healing services that gives my team more time to focus on strategically enhancing the College’s IT systems to make the College a regional/national centre of excellence where learners aspire to go.
How do you see digital technologies developing within your sector?
There is so much happening in IT. Some of it more science fiction than reality, but the changes over the past few years with AI, chatbots, smartphones and tablets gives a clue to it changing from something people are conscious of using to something people just do: using IT is becoming just something that people do automatically in order to connect to the world, their friends and family. The growth of voice-activated services like Alexa and Siri is fascinating.
What are you most looking forward to about the Hi Tech & Digital Centre opening in September?
Being part of a successful team that has completed a hugely ambitious and rewarding project.
What piece of tech do you find the most useful in day to day life?
My smartphone. I’ve not got into voice-activated devices yet.
What is your favourite motivational song?
I don’t really have any specific songs particularly, my taste in music is vast and I like to immerse myself in it rather than have it as a background whether I’m feeling happy, sad, tired…
What is the best thing about living and/or working in South Devon?
I came down here many times with my family when I was growing up and fell in love with the place. Being here is like being on holiday all year round, and I get to see the place wax and wane across the seasons as the tourists come and go. It is nice to be here and not caught up in the big smoke of London!
The Hi Tech & Digital Centre is due to open in September 2019. We look forward to seeing you there!
For more information about the Hi Tech & Digital Centre and what courses will be delivered there, email [email protected] or call 08000 380 123.
The Hi Tech & Digital Centre (HTDC) combines £8.3m from the Heart of the South West LEP’s Growth Deal funding from the Heart of the South West LEP, as well as funding support from European Regional Development Fund, Higher Education Funding Council for England, Garfield Weston Foundation, Torbay Council, South Devon College and private sector investment. It will be a flagship facility, alongside other Institutes of Technology developments in the country.