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My SDF Story with Loleta Fahad


Where do you work and what is your role?

After working at University College London (UCL) for 19½ years, I left earlier this year. Lolete Fahad headshotI’m currently working as a part-time contractor in Organisational Development, until I decide what I want to do in the future. 

When did you join the SDF?

I probably joined SDF in 2019/early 2020 after moving from my Research management role into OD.

Why did you want to join the SDF?

My line manager used to share the regular email updates with the team, suggesting that we sign-up.  The content of the email updates, and opportunities to network with a wide range of colleagues with similar interests and experience sold it for me.

What’s the best thing about the SDF?

The opportunity to engage with people who are working on similar pieces of work as me, and who always seem willing to share best practice and/or lessons learned has been really helpful.  The small spin-off consultative/working groups can also be a great way to connect you with people you wouldn’t usually have time or the opportunity to seek out, unless you were attending a conference, and that can be challenging when the conference takes place online. Joining the network just before/during the pandemic was a good move because it gave me another like-minded group of people to connect with, outside of UCL.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m developing a Career Framework for Technical Staff, which has been a real challenge to get started but the Technical staff at UCL are Amazing (yes, with a capital ‘A’), and it’s been great to be able to work with such a wide range of people who do great things, but who seem to fly under the radar. I think this is the norm for Technical staff though, but it shouldn’t be this way. I believe we need to celebrate our Technical staff and provide them with a space where they can showcase their achievements.

What does a typical day look like?

Usually, I’m in the office on Monday, because UCL currently supports hybrid working and this is our team day in the office.  This gives me an opportunity to talk to colleagues face to face, which has been quite helpful as we were coming out of the pandemic. Previously I seemed to spend most of my day in back-to-back meetings, squeezing in time to do the work generated by meetings during any gaps, but I’m hoping things will be different in my ‘new’ role.

Tell us about an event that altered the course of your life/and career

I think the restructure of the professional services teams at the IOE Faculty of Education and Society (I was working as a Research Co-ordinator, at the time) had a real impact on my career. It was a huge undertaking, not without its challenges, and the change certainly wasn’t welcomed by all staff, but I think it made a huge and positive difference to the area I was working in.  From a personal perspective, I was successfully appointed as the Research Operations Manager, which involved building up a team of between 10-12 people, while ensuring that the business-as-usual activity continued to be supported. Even though we were short-staffed at times, and the workload was intense, we had deadlines coming out of our ears, the team really pulled together to keep things going. I learned a lot about people in this role (good and bad) and, I worked with some people who were amazingly supportive and nurturing.  All of this combined gave me the confidence to move away from research management into OD, even though I didn’t have a background in OD at the time.

The person who has influenced you the most is

I would have to say my mum.  She came to the UK from Jamaica in the mid-60’s and she led by example in terms of how she raised me and my siblings. She worked very hard and this instilled a very strong work ethic in me. I got my first job at 16, while I was in 6th form, and I’ve only ever been out of work for about 1 year from that point until now. Apparently, I drove my mum crazy when I was unemployed because, after the glow of being a lady of leisure wore off, I was constantly complaining about how I wanted to find another job so that I could get out of the house and earn some money!

Work life balance – what leisure activity you enjoy the most?

Is loafing and binge-watching a leisure activity?  No? Ok, then I’ll say dragon boat paddling. It’s something a colleague introduced me to, and I’ve only been doing it for a few months, but it’s a very social sport.  I certainly get a good workout, I don’t have to be hugely competitive, and I get to spend time on the water.  Great when the weather’s fine and the water is calm, but when it’s windy, the water is choppy, and it feels as if you’ve consumed half of the Thames (not literally) it’s not so much fun!

Something about you people would find surprising

I co-authored a book last year! I am not an academic, nor am I a natural writer, but I was invited to co-author a book, so I thought I’d jump in with both feet and embrace the challenge. Doing this during the pandemic really tested my mettle, but my co-author (partner in crime!) was amazing and we did it!

What’s your greatest fear?

Heights! For some reason, several years ago, I thought it would be a good idea to test myself to see if this was something I’d outgrown.  Nope. After getting halfway round the course at Go Ape, I admitted defeat, climbed down, kissed the ground (almost) and rewarded myself with an ice cream, while my adult nieces finished the course without me (and my son who also hastes heights).

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

I love to laugh so it would have to be people who are good at storytelling and are able to laugh at anything – silly jokes, themselves, life.  So, for me it would be people like Steve Harvey, Robin Williams, Wanda Sykes, Dolly Parton (she’s so funny and humble too!), and a couple of my friends who are the laugh a minute type.  Oh, and Jamie Oliver can come along to do the cooking!

What would your super-power be? 

I have a real issue with social injustice, well any type of injustice really. For my super-power I’d like the ability to deliver instant payback to wrong doers!  Nothing major, I wouldn’t like to hurt anybody (not really…) but the ability to show people up for what they are, or turn their actions around on them, would be quite rewarding.

What’s your favourite/least favourite food?

Melon, of any shape, type or description!!  The smell makes me feel nauseous, and I won’t touch a fruit salad if it includes melon.  I know I can remove the dreaded fruit, but that doesn’t work for me because the melon will have contaminated the other fruits, making the whole thing inedible.

What’s the worst job you ever had?

The one that automatically springs to mind, had a really positive outcome, so I’m not sure if it was the worst job, I ever had but it certainly wasn’t a barrel of laughs either! In short, I was a manager working on a government training initiative aimed at retraining the long-term unemployed to get them off sate benefits and support them into employment.  For every person who wanted to be part of the scheme, there were an equal number who wanted nothing to do with it.  We also struggled to get people onto training courses during the summer because colleges were closed and here was nothing available, yet we only had a certain number of weeks in which to get each person onto their chosen course of study. It was hard going, completely overwhelming at times, and there was very little reward. BUT I shared this role with a manager from another college, and we became friends, and that friendship has lasted for more than 20 years!

What thing would improve the quality of your life?

Working part-time has already done that for me, especially after the pandemic where I was working exceptionally long hours, and still dipping into work at the weekend. Life just seems to be passing us by I the blink of an eye, and working full-time didn’t seem to allow enough time to unwind, do all the things I needed to do at the weekend, and still have time for family and friends.

What’s coming next for you?

The world is my oyster really.  Following the end of my current assignment I’ll be open to explore other opportunities in another OD related role – whether this is in HE or another sector, I don’t mind. The most important thing for me is that I’m able to impact change and improvements wherever I end up.