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Louisa BaileyLouisa Bailey is the HAF for Earth Sciences, one of the smaller, lab-based departments in MPLS, with about 270 staff and students. Louisa came from a similar role in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge, having previously worked in various teaching and administration roles at Cambridge.

Louisa was drawn to the role of HAF because she enjoys getting things done, and being the person who sees the challenges and finds a way through. She sees her main role in the department as keeping things moving and working in a way that supports the University’s core mission of research and teaching, whether it’s overseeing finances, grants administration, teaching, human resources or buildings.

What have been the highlights of the role so far?

For Louisa, it is the variety of the role that makes it enjoyable, and having the chance to make a difference within the department. Her term-time is largely taken up with committees and meetings but she has learnt to expect the unexpected. Outside of term, there is often more time to focus on progressing specific projects, such as policy writing, longer-term planning or recruitment.

Louisa particularly values the opportunity to work collaboratively with other HAFs across the division and teams in the Divisional Office, to ask questions, seek advice, and share best practice and ideas.

What might surprise people about your role?

As well as the breadth of the role, Louisa thinks the amount of work a HAF gets involved in might come as a surprise. “In a smaller department, where your teams are smaller and there’s limited cover you when you go on leave, it can be incredibly busy. You never know what might land on your desk next. You’re constantly reprioritising and there’s always a degree of ‘fire-fighting’ involved.

“I think the highly devolved and decentralised structures of Oxford University can come as a surprise if you’ve worked elsewhere in the sector. At Oxford, HAFs have quite a lot of autonomy.”

What advice would you give to someone thinking about becoming a HAF?

“Don’t be afraid to reach out to colleagues in similar roles for support and advice. I find the meetings with HAF colleagues, and our Microsoft Teams channel, really useful for bouncing ideas off people and hearing about how they are approaching things in other departments; it helps us all to avoid reinventing the wheel.”

“Sometimes colleagues will come to you and say, ‘But we’ve always done it this way!’ And you have to be the person who helps them to see that there’s a different way of approaching something that might be more effective.

“You can’t please everyone all of the time and as the HAF you have to take responsibility for what are sometimes quite difficult decisions.”

“Being a HAF can be a challenging job but it’s also really rewarding. I’d get as much variety of experience as you can before applying, and network a lot to build connections. Knowing people, and how things work, will give you a head start.”