I made it a bit of tradition to write a post reflecting at each career change I’ve been through. It started with ‘packing up my classroom‘ as a teacher, continued with taking a look forward to my ‘next steps‘ in London, and again as I left Nesta to where I have been for the last 6-and-a-bit years – the Raspberry Pi Foundation.
6-and-a-bit years on, and it’s time to write one of these again. I’m finishing up my role this week. On to the next step, of which I’ll write more as it develops. It’s been a fascinating few years at Raspberry Pi. I joined as the eighth employee at the Foundation. We all worked out of a shared office full of random bits of maker projects, and our ‘all staff meeting’ every Wednesday involved us sat around a table letting everyone know what we were each up to. Fast forward to now we are somewhere around 150 distributed all across the UK, and further afield. At one point there were more people in my Research and Impact team than there were in the whole Foundation when I started.
I’ve felt for a while like there have been several different chapters while I have been at Raspberry Pi. I’ve reported to 7 different people, in different parts of the organisation. I’ve gone from just me, to a team, to a matrix management set up with several teams and back to my own team again. I’ve spent time focusing on non formal learning, on how people use hardware in schools, formal learning and supporting teachers and online learning and training. I’ve had times focusing on longer term academic research and times focusing on user research and quicker wins. Things have certainly kept interesting, and I’ve learned a lot.
Some time I should count how many recruitment interviews I have run or been part of. I’ve recruited about 10 people to my own teams, but been involved in the recruitment of many, many more for our Computing Education Research Centre and the National Centre for Computing Education. The winter of 2018 was a flurry of recruitment and I learned an enormous amount spending so much time on ‘the other side of the desk’. It’s been really rewarding seeing those people thrive. There’s nothing like being a part of helping people develop and thrive.
I’ve been privileged to work with so many fantastic people over the years. So many people who care deeply and are also deeply thoughtful about what they do. I think I’ve worked with most teams at one point or another, and it’s been fascinating getting to see how people in a mission driven organisation can have very different perspectives on what is ostensibly the same mission. Beyond the work, I don’t think I’ve worked anywhere where so many people are so focused on supporting and looking out for each other.
I’ve also worked with lots of fantastic people who aren’t on the staff. There are so many educators, teachers and volunteers involved in the wider community doing wonderful work. I really enjoyed getting to know many of them, interviewing them, visiting their clubs and schools and building and understanding of how they were creating opportunities for young people. It was also great to spend time with young people themselves, and hearing, documenting and sharing the stories of their experiences has been a real highlight of this job.
There have been challenges too. We were lucky as an organisation relatively well set up for remote working, but still the pandemic has been a challenge. It’s easy to forget now with our familiarity with lateral flow tests and vaccine boosters, but the last couple of years have been uncertain and hard. Despite having lots of support in place, getting through the whole thing as a team was difficult. Everyone is still working through it really, figuring out how to develop and keep the right level of candour and honesty when working remotely and disconnected. Working out how the changes people have been through in the last few years affect how we work and what they have done to our work culture is going to be ongoing for everyone I think.
Keeping research going during the pandemic has presented challenges, not least for our Gender Balance in Computing contract for the DfE which involved working with hundreds of schools. I’m proud that we have managed to keep this important work going. We’ve had to make many changes, and the outputs will look different than they might have done, but the team (both in the Foundation and across several partner organisations) have really pulled together and found ways to keep the research running and useful.
There’s so many things I could reflect on, contributing to starting the Computing Education research centre work, learning lessons from face to face teacher training and taking it online, building and implementing a Theory of Change across the organisation. I’ll certainly be reflecting on some of the things I’ve learned more specifically over the coming weeks.
It’s been interesting over the last month or so handing things over and reflecting on my time here. As someone who has been around for much longer than many others and worked across the organisation I have many stories, bits of history and understandings of how things work. Some of these feel like useful insights to pass on, others like ancient history that could present more baggage than anything else. As handovers take place and projects are turned into documentation and plans for someone else, it’s interesting to reflect on what exactly the impact is that might outlast you.
As I was leaving the office in Cambridge yesterday I noticed a copy of Daisy Christodoulou’s ‘Seven Myths About Education‘ on someone’s desk. That was one of a bunch of books I requested for our office library, all very deliberately chosen for some perspectives well outside of the kind of thinking I felt I usually saw in the organisation. I don’t know who was reading it, or what they were getting from it, but I smiled and thought I must have been doing something right.