University of Derby rising star: Aaron Gordon

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Posted by: JasmineThompson
Posted on: 18/08/2022

The University of Derby is the headline partner of Generation Next. It takes an active role in the local business community, supporting entrepreneurs and organisations of all shapes and sizes, while also producing a significant number of highly skilled graduates who remain in the region.

Let’s find out more about one of its team – project manager Aaron Gordon.

What is your career journey to date and what does your current job role involve?

After achieving a BA Hons degree in sport and exercise studies at the University of Derby, my first full time role was as a sports coach at Derby County Community Trust. This role provided me with an excellent grounding and the basic tools to move on to my next job, as an engagement officer for Burton Albion Community Trust. I worked at Burton Albion for three years, moving on to become an inclusion coordinator and work as an academy coach in the BAFC Centre of Excellence. During this time, I delivered coaching sessions to a wide range of participants, from children to adults, in both a practical and classroom setting, this is where my love of education really flourished.

I had wanted to travel and work abroad, so left the UK and went to Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia for four and a half years. Upon my return I worked at Chesterfield College as an engagement officer, then moving to work as an engagement officer at The University of Derby careers team. After 15 months, I changed positions to work as a graduate transitions manager, and then into my current role as a project manager of the Smart and Inclusive Leadership Programme.

In my current role, I manage a team that provides fully funded leadership and management courses to businesses in the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. The aim of this is to try and support organisations, by upskilling staff members with the unique opportunity of achieving a level 4 qualification, at their own pace, while completing this alongside their work duties.

What challenges have you come across in the past two years and how did you face them?

Lockdown affected my role greatly. Prior to the first lockdown, I worked onsite every day, this then changed to fully working from home, a hybrid approach, back to working from home and then moving forward to a hybrid approach. It has been a rollercoaster two years that inevitably lead to certain challenges. All work became online ‘overnight’, this included meetings with students and local organisations, to explain what support is available.

The lockdown caused various challenges, that took some working out in the beginning but the greatest challenge of all was getting used to the added use of technology. Increased emails, communication through various online platforms, increased online marketing (resulting messages being missed) and having to learn how to use Teams, Zoom, Skype for Business (and many more!). These challenges were faced by increasing my levels of organisation, providing more time to complete tasks and support students and businesses with these new changes as needed.

How does your company support your learning and development?

The University of Derby have been supportive of my learning and development from the very beginning of my employment. I was provided a thorough induction and training plan when I first joined, monthly one-to-one meetings and performance review meetings annually.

I have been allowed and encouraged to attend internal training that I have found myself, and that have been suggested by managers to aid my personal development. In general, I am an inquisitive person and have always been supported in learning about different areas of the university, been provided contacts or introductions to help with this, along with mentors to help me progress my career at UoD.

As a young professional, do you have any advice or recommendations for employers looking to hire young talent in our region?

My biggest advice to local employers in this situation would be ‘go for it!!’. At times there can be nerves from companies that I speak too, being reluctant to hire young talent, with ‘lack of experience’ being the biggest reason.

My advice is always the same, young people will only gain experience when given the chance and what they lack in this department is more than made up for in enthusiasm, a will to learn and knowledge of a specialised area. For the company, they are taking someone onboard that does not have ‘bad habits’ and can be developed to fit the company’s ethos and values.

What are your plans for the future and who is your inspiration?

At the moment I really enjoy working at the university, every day is different and so are the challenges that come with it! The project I am currently managing runs until December 2023, my plans are to work on the project until then to achieve the outcomes and then decide what the next step will be closer to the time. One thing I am sure of is that it will remain in education, or have links to the education sector.

The two people that have inspired me the most, in both my personal and professional life, are my parents. They have been the ones that have set the foundation for me to try and be successful in whatever I have attempted.

From a professional aspect only, I have been fortunate to work with some great managers and colleagues. I think it is always important to be yourself but having the opportunity to learn from the people I have, has allowed me to take bits that I really like from their management/working styles to develop my own.

What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?

Football, traveling, music and taking the dog for a walk!


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