My SDF story with Zoe Irvine

by Rossana Espinoza 0

My SDF story with Zoe Irvine


Where do you work and what is your role?

I am a Learning and Development Adviser at the University of Portsmouth.

When did you join the SDF?

I joined the SDF when I was in an admin role within Staff Development in approximately 2006. I then became Chair of the South East Regional Group in May 2012.

Why did you want to join the SDF?

I joined the SDF after being made aware of its existence and value by the Staff Development Manager at the time. I was hoping that it would provide me with a supportive group of like minded people who were experiencing or had experienced similar challenges within Staff Development in HE.

What’s the best thing about the SDF?

It’s just not possible to choose 1 best thing about the SDF as it is hugely valuable with multiple benefits. In brief, I have found the following of most value:

  • How good group members are at sharing information in a non competitive way.  This has helped to avoid reinventing the wheel on a number of projects.
  • The support and encouragement of like minded colleagues – you’re never alone. There is always someone in the SDF network who is facing the same challenges and opportunities as you or those who have already been there and done that.
  • The close working relationships and friendships that I have made and maintained
  • The Jiscmail co-ordination of research, practice, and experience is easily accessible
  • My CPD through SDF Conferences, Events, Workshops etc

What are you working on at the moment?

The world of Learning and Development is changing at the University of Portsmouth. We are looking at moving away from the traditional Learning and Development model towards an Organisational Development model.

We are working towards enabling a Coaching and Mentoring Climate, which for me personally, includes designing and delivering the University’s Leader and Manager as Coach Programme, plus a basic Coaching workshop for all staff. I also oversee the University Mentoring scheme and the software used to monitor and generate matching partnerships. Coaching and Developing others is my passion. I am an ILM accredited Coach, currently working towards a Primary Certificate in Supervision.

As we all know, the way people learn is changing, technology is changing and here at the University of Portsmouth, we have recognised that we need to change the way we teach / deliver to ensure our offering fits the need of the learners. One of the ways we are doing this is by enhancing our digital offering and building a Learning Resource Centre with a plethora of online development opportunities and resources, to sit alongside our more traditional workshops etc.

We are reviewing the PDR (Performance and Development Review) Scheme (Again) and Implementing an online tool as part of the PDR process, which is due to go Live in Sept 2018.

There are also ongoing projects on designing a Leadership and Management programme, Delivering Excellence Programme, Induction and Onboarding, Apprenticeships, Women’s Development and much much more.

What does a typical day look like?

I’m lucky enough to have a lot variety in my role. Whilst this keeps me busy and engaged, it also challenges my time management and diary management skills. A typical week could include programme design and delivery, a number of meetings on various projects, staff meetings, teaching on the Leader and Manager as Coach Programme. All of this is juggled with working part time and I can often be seen leaving the building at speed to get to the school gates in time to collect my daughter.

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

In another life, before HE I worked in the Music Industry in West London. This was a very fast paced, competitive environment with an electric atmosphere. I made a huge decision in 2003 to leave the Music Industry and move to HE. This included a physical move from living the high life in West London to moving to a quiet village on the Isle of Wight………the culture shock was huge….

The person who has influenced you the most is

Many people have been influential in my life.  I have 3 mentors, all of whom are experts in their own areas and fantastic in challenging me, supporting me and keeping me focussed. I also have a fabulous group of friends and colleagues who keep me entertained and sane in equal measure.

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

Spending time with my 4 year old daughter is amazing. I not only have the pleasures of developing others whilst at work, I also have the joy of watching her grow and develop in so many ways. I’m making the most of her while I can as so many people tell me this time goes quickly and before I know it there will be other things far more interesting to her than me!

I also working with a local charity, which I find really rewarding and I love to watch my football team, Manchester City.

Something about you people would find surprising

I live on an island with a population of approximately 140,00 and commute daily to work on a Hovercraft. This isn’t very exciting for those close to me but always creates a talking point at conferences and events and having lived in London and Manchester, getting to work by sea still makes me smile.

What’s your greatest fear?

Being stuck in a cave!!

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

James Martin to create some delicious dishes, Ed Sheeran to provide the music and Peter Kay to make us laugh, plus all my amazing friends and family.

What’s the worst job you ever had?

I had a Summer job in an Ice Factory when I was at high school. It was a tough, and unsurprisingly cold job. I only offered to cover for a friend for a couple of days as he was volunteering to work with the YMCA. I ended up doing it for the whole 6 weeks of the summer holidays.

What thing would improve the quality of your life?

More time, more sleep and continued positivity.

What’s coming next for you?

Having just completed the Aurora Programme, I am feeling confident and energised to look at the next step on the career ladder. There are likely to be opportunities coming up with the inevitable changing landscape, both within and outside HE. I will also be looking at building and enhancing my Coaching and Coaching Supervision qualifications and experience as this is where my passion lies.