Introducing Our Office Manager

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Diane Revill | Research Consulting

In conversation with Diane Revill, Research Consulting’s Office Manager, who joined the team in September 2022 and plays a pivotal role within the team spanning admin, HR and various project management functions. Here she reflects on her first six months in post and the skills and experience that she brings to her role.

Where did you begin your career? And how did that lead to you travelling the world?

My first office job was working at a firm of solicitors in Nottingham. I started out as an office junior with them aged 17, having completed a NVQ at college. After only 12 months, I was offered a role as secretary to one of the partners working in litigation and employment law. I was also given additional training and responsibility which meant I could provide cover for the office manager who did a lot of the financial and HR management. I was there for nine years – the range of office skills and disciplines I learnt have provided a fantastic foundation for subsequent employment.

After a while I realised there wasn’t much opportunity for further progression so decided to fulfil a personal ambition to see more of the world. Rather bravely, I handed in my notice in 2007 and spent the next seven months exploring America, Canada, Fiji, Australia and New Zealand. I thought if I was going to scratch my itch for adventure then I may as well do it properly! I travelled mostly on my own but joined up with some tour groups and met new people to move on to the next place with – you tend to just meet people and end up staying together for a few weeks without really planning it.

Of all the gorgeous countries I visited, New Zealand is up there at the top, particularly the South Island. There’s a mountain range called the ‘Remarkables’ and they really are! Queenstown is the place to go for the best view of them, I’d recommend that as a stop to anyone planning an antipodean adventure. Canada comes in a close second though, particularly the west coast, British Columbia and Vancouver.

It can feel like quite a risk to take a career break to go off and see the world, but I’d recommend it to anyone. My confidence really developed just through forcing myself to do things I’d never done before and from meeting people I’d never normally meet. I look back on the photos and think, ‘I can’t believe I actually saw that, in real life’. When I go on holiday now, I think, ‘How did I ever go around the world without a smartphone and wi-fi?’

Returning from your adventures, what role did you do next?

I signed up with a temping agency as soon as I got back and that’s how I ended up at the Futures Housing Group as an HR assistant. This gave me a real insight into specific HR processes around recruitment, managing personnel files and recording absences. It was my first role in an organisation with distinct and very separate teams and it had quite a corporate set-up.

They had a board and chief executive, and everything had to be signed off and approved. After seven months they offered me a permanent role, but it was quite a distance from home, and I didn’t want a long commute every day. Also, I’m not sure that type of organisation would have suited me. Thankfully, Research Consulting is far less formal in its structure and admin processes, there’s more room to breathe and make the job your own.

I then took two jobs in parallel, working for Royal Mail part-time and a children’s nursery for the rest of the week. After several years working full time at the nursery, my partner and I decided to relocate to the Isle of Wight. There was nothing really keeping us here at that time – we wanted to live somewhere a bit warmer but not too far away, so just went as far south as we could! He set up a successful barbers shop and I worked as PA to the principal at the Isle of Wight further education college for two years, before returning to Nottingham in 2015.

The nursery I’d worked at previously was looking for an admin person again, so I went back there for five years until it was bought out. I then worked in another HR assistant role with the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority – a government department that protects vulnerable and exploited workers. It was a great organisation, but I knew the role wasn’t for me in the long-term and that I needed a bit more breadth and challenge.

How did you find out about the role at Research Consulting?

Somebody already working in the team recommended Research Consulting as a place to work and I’m so glad I went for the role. My first impressions were that this is a team of people who just get their heads down and get the job done. It took me a while to get used to how quiet it can be in the office sometimes but it’s just a sign that everyone’s focused on their work and cracking on with things. It’s probably one of the first places I’ve worked where there’s no office politics, I appreciate the maturity of the team and their willingness to support each other.

I also have the freedom and opportunity to develop my own role as I learn more about what is needed to deliver our ambitions as a company over the next five to ten years. Everyone’s in agreement with where we’re going and what needs to happen to get us there – it’s a really collaborative space to work in.

As well as admin support, office management, diary management and HR, I’ve been using my experience of working in a government department to develop new processes and procedures for things so we can be more efficient but also ensure we are quality checking how we operate. The work we do is quite fast-paced and incredibly varied with a huge amount of information to take on board, process and manage. With good systems in place, it lays the groundwork for growth, and we can expand knowing we have the right framework in place.

How does Research Consulting compare with previous places you have worked?

Compared with other places I’ve worked, Research Consulting really has the work/life balance right. We trialled a 4.5 day week last year, which worked well – I think we’re so productive because we plan and communicate well. There’s a real emphasis on taking time away from our desks each day to get out for a break and a walk – it avoids the afternoon slump and screen overload.

I had no real understanding of academic research, consulting or knowledge management before joining the team. It’s certainly been a learning curve! I am doing a CIPD in people management at college and, when I first started, my tutor asked me what business area I worked in. I have to admit I struggled to answer succinctly!

It’s hard to describe to anyone outside academia, research or higher education simply because our work is so specialist and our client base is fairly niche. Of course, we all see and benefit from the outcomes of research in public policy, health and all sorts of areas. But not many people have an insight into how it all fits together and the mechanisms needed to demonstrate and maximise the impact of research to improve our lives and living environments.

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