Kenny Oniti and Claire Wade joined Imperial earlier this year as part of the Department of Medicine’s Operations Trainee scheme. The scheme aims to train the administrators and managers of the future by providing them with experience working in the central functions of a university department.
We caught up with Kenny and Claire to see how they’ve been settling in, and what their experience of the scheme has been so far.
What are you doing right now as part of the Operations Trainee scheme?
KO: I’m currently working within Global Health in Infectious Diseases over at the St Mary’s Campus, and focussing on a GDPR project while supporting the Global Health team. The project involves creating a database of local data protection policies and procedures of the countries in which we conduct research. This will allow for easy access and knowledge of the data protection rules in our partner countries, ensuring that we are adhering to their laws as well as data protection guidelines in the UK.
CW: My first task was an HR project which involved creating an induction pack for new staff and putting together a good practice recruitment guide. I’ve now started working on some projects and assisting with operational duties in the Immunology and Inflammation divisional team.
First impressions of the Department and Imperial?
KO: My first impression was that it was quite big and complex. It was really interesting to see the structure of the Department to simplify things for me (the organisational Gantt charts were a huge help!). Everyone was really polite and welcoming, and it didn’t take long for someone to offer me something sweet, which is a lovely positive.
CW: All positive! Everyone has been welcoming and helped me to settle in.
What were you doing before you joined the Department?
KO: I taught English in two inner-city schools in Birmingham for a few years before joining the Department. Before that, I did a Neuroscience & Psychology degree at the University of Manchester. I then went on to complete my PGCE in Secondary English through a Leadership Development Programme called Teach First. Following that, I completed an MA in Educational Leadership at the University of Warwick.
CW: Before joining Imperial, I worked as an Admin Manager & PA in a secondary school in South London. This involved running the office, staff recruitment, overseeing the student admissions process, marketing, and both internal and external communications. Prior to this, I worked at an educational charity where I had various roles including running the membership team and organising conferences and training days all over the UK.
What are you looking forward to doing as part of the scheme, and what do you hope to get out of it?
KO: Above all, I’m looking forward to learning a wide range of new skills and getting exposure to the inner workings of Higher Education! There are loads of different facets of the scheme that I am very interested to learn more about. I’m looking forward to any finance-related work, simply because it’s something that I haven’t done before and I love a challenge. I hope to gain a solid understanding of administrative and operational processes, as well as building relationships with various people within the College as part of the scheme.
CW: At this stage I’m not sure what my future rotations will be, but I hope to get a good overview of different roles and their responsibilities. It will be interesting to work with staff across the Department to understand what different teams do and how they work.
What has been the biggest challenge for you so far?
KO: Maybe the shift from primarily interacting with teenagers to interacting with adults – I wouldn’t call this a challenge, but it was something that took a while to get used to.
CW: Before this, I’ve only ever worked for small organisations, so I would have to say getting to know who is who and what they do.
What’s the most interesting thing that you’ve learnt so far on the job?
KO: I’ve learnt a lot about the intricacies and processes behind conducting research projects and clinical trials, especially those that take place
overseas. It’s been interesting to have a look at how spending occurs on projects and the range of research topics being explored within the College, specifically in Global Health and overseas. I’ve learnt a lot about African and Asian countries in general, and the research that takes place there. Because of this, I’ve also been given an insight into the common infectious diseases in those countries, and how scientists and universities collaborate to tackle them.
CW: As part of the HR project, I attended an Unconscious Bias training course which was certainly eye-opening; you start to see how people make judgements without even realising it. The course makes you reflect on decisions made by yourself and others, consider how people or places you know may be affected by unconscious bias and – most importantly – how to be more aware of it in the future! I would certainly recommend the course, particularly if you’re involved in recruitment.
What do you hope to be doing in five years’ time?
KO: The main reason why I wanted to do this trainee scheme was to equip myself with a variety of different skills and experiences within Higher Education, with a view to hopefully finding something that I’m interested in and want to pursue long term. I’m really hoping that in five years’ time I’ll still be working within Higher Education and learning things related to my role. On a side note, from my time as a teacher, I’ve become really passionate about helping those from disadvantaged backgrounds. I would love for that to be incorporated into my work or outside interests!
CW: My last role was so varied and involved working in many different areas at the same time, so it would be good to focus on and specialise in one area. I hope that the scheme will give me the opportunity to try out different roles and ultimately help me to decide what I’d like to concentrate on in the future.
What are your biggest hobbies and passions outside of work?
KO: I love to read! I tend to get through one book per week if I can. I try to read books by female authors a lot and love to read fiction set in other countries, so that I can learn something about the country from the book. As a result, I’ve become very interested in the history of different countries and how they have developed.
I also love to sing. I was part of a Gospel choir in Birmingham – we performed loads of concerts and even had a huge one in Portugal! I moved back to London a few months ago so hope to join a new choir here once I’m settled.
CW: I live near Lea Valley Park, so I’m often out on long walks or cycling with my husband. I also love to travel – if I’m not on holiday or a weekend city break, I’m generally planning the next one!
And finally: if you were being exiled to a desert island but allowed to bring one luxury item with you, what would it be? 🏝️
KO: If I was exiled to a desert island I would probably bring a book called ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khaled Hosseini. It would act as a form of entertainment for me; I never get bored of it despite having read it so many times. It reminds me to be grateful for things in my life, so would keep me optimistic. If all else fails, I could always put the paper to good use if absolutely necessary to start a fire!
CW: A large supply of cakes and biscuits!