Monday, March 18, 2019

Have I become too much of a specialist to find a job?

Up until about two years ago I had a really good job. I was an Educational Software Developer, with a sort of skunk-works remit. I did the special projects, sometimes linked to Educational Research, and sometimes just intended to improve the ability of teachers to create good quality content. I also had a quiet office, where I could use voice recognition software, and make training videos. In the neighbouring offices I had colleagues I could bounce ideas off who were interested in the use of technology to support learning & teaching. There were things that weren't perfect - I hadn't really been getting enough time to properly engage with the IMS Global QTI working group, so had dropped off that, and I felt my expertise in e-learning technology and interoperability standards wasn't being used as effectively as it could be. JISC development grants had also ended, so that way of funding interesting work was gone. However, overall I was fairly happy in my job, and felt I was making a useful contribution to supporting teaching.

Then there was a change - a reorganization moved me and my colleagues who do the technical support and local customizations for Moodle from a teaching support department to a IT business systems department. We were promised our jobs wouldn't change, however mine has changed beyond all recognition. In this department we do not do experiments - projects that might fail, and we do not initiate anything. Anything interesting I was working on was cancelled, as it either had too few users, or might lead to support requirements. That included every project that aligned to my PhD. I also have several more layers of management between me and decision makers, so my expertise is far more deeply buried, and my University web page no longer lists research interests, grants and publications, so staff who look me up just see a job title that doesn't really reflect who I am.

Although I still have a private office for now, it's not quiet enough to use voice recognition software, and I need to wear uncomfortable industrial ear defender headphones when I'm programming. In a few months we'll be moving to open plan - over 80 people, many with jobs that involve a lot of phone calls, densely packed with no space for work that needs silence. I'm also already largely isolated from other people with a interest in pedagogy, but the new office is off campus so my isolation will be complete.

The truth is, my job has turned into one I'd have had to be desperate to apply for, so the time has come to start job hunting. Unfortunately, jobs for Senior Educational Software Developers with experience of international collaboration on developing and implementing specialist educational interoperability standards, and an interest in educational research don't come up very often... In a way this is my problem - I got used to being an internationally recognised expert, but no one here knows or cares about my expertise.

So, I'm not really sure how to go about job hunting. My ideal outcome would be for the University to create an appropriate role for me, but I doubt that will happen, so if anyone else wants to offer me a job, I'd like to hear from you.