Human Resources

Lauren Cummings – School Manager

School of Biological Sciences


Employment journey

  • Graduated from Southampton Solent University in 2008 with a 2:1 in BA (Hons) Advertising
  • While at University and College I worked part time at Waitrose Ltd. This role allowed me to gain core customer service, presentation, organisational skills and a good store knowledge.
  • At Waitrose I worked closely with department manages and was soon given the responsibility of supervising staff on evening shifts. The role enabled me to obtain a high level of transferrable skills.
  • While at University I actively sought out work experience during my second year and worked for a few months within the Portsmouth Centre for Enterprise at the University of Portsmouth. I worked with a team to develop an enterprise programme for Schools and FE institutions, which allowed me to develop my project management skills and work both as a team and an individual.
  • After finishing University I applied for many jobs, which was tough, especially being fresh out of education; competition for roles was tough. I gained an interview for a course administrator role at the University of Portsmouth and was successful.
  • In September 2008 I started as a course administrator within the Department of Sport and Exercise Science (DSES). I had a steep learning curve, as I was straight into registration period, which is one of the busiest times of the academic year with all the new students arriving at the University.
  • Within my new role I took on a lot of new training with corporate systems and was very eager to take on new tasks within the team. I built a good relationship with all levels of staff members, from academics to technical colleagues.


Career Break

  • In February 2009 I was given an opportunity to go travelling for a year. I was very nervous about telling my line manager, but all levels of management and my team were very supportive of this scary venture. I left full time employment, which was a nerve wracking thing to do, as I had no job and no income to return to.
  • Travelling was a great adventure; I learnt a lot about myself and I gained a lot more skills including patience, time keeping, keeping myself organised and communication skills within different cultures. I brought all of these new skills home and they have been utilised in my working life since returning.
  • I returned from my career break in February 2010 and was very lucky to be offered a temporary contract within my old department (DSES). I was due to start in March, but was asked to start earlier to help the Science Faculty Admissions team for a 3 week period. I enjoyed being back to work, especially in a familiar and comfortable place. The temporary post was to cover maternity leave and I soon realised I needed more job security.
  • A full time course administrator post was advertised for the School of Health Sciences and Social Work (SHSSW). I applied for the post and was successful. I joined my new team in August 2010 and instantly wanted to make a good impression. I already had a good background knowledge of the role, so was keen to learn some new skills and develop myself.
  • I started to volunteer for roles within the department such as Green Champion, manage projects/events, NHS bursaries champion, mentoring and deputising for the School Manager when she went on periods of leave. These roles opened up a lot of opportunities for me to network with different levels of staff across both the Science Faculty and the University and allowed me to experience tasks that I wouldn’t usually have experienced on a day to day basis within the course administrator role.
  • In 2012 the School of Biological Sciences School Manager post was advertised and I had many discussions with my line manager about whether I was ready to apply for such a post. After many deliberations I applied for the job and managed to get an interview.
  • In March 2012 I took part in a two stage interview process, which was a learning experience in itself. The first stage involved a scenario based task and you had to imagine yourself in the management post already and the second stage was a formal interview. I made sure that I researched well for the interview and ended up being successful in obtaining the job.
  • Moving from Course Administrator to School Manager was a huge career step for me, but I was ready for the challenge and went into my new post full of enthusiasm.
  • In May 2012 I started as School Manager in the School of Biological Sciences and I work alongside a team of four course administrators. We all work very well as a team to get tasks done and to make sure that the School’s student administration runs smoothly.
  • I still volunteer for roles within the University to continue my development; I am now on such working groups as the support staff conference and the attendance monitoring and I am the support staff representative on the Faculty Board.
  • In 2012/13 a very exciting opportunity to participate in the Aurora Programme came up, which is a series of workshops/conferences for women in leadership in Higher Education. The application process for the course was very competitive, but I was one of the 10 successful candidates to get onto the course.
  • As part of the course we had to have a mentor in place, who we could go to for advice, discuss ideas about our current role and future progression and generally talk about our roles and experiences. I met with my mentor on a regular basis, as I found it a very useful tool.
  • Recently I have become a mentor to a colleague within the Science faculty and I hope that I can offer her the help and guidance that my mentor has given me.


Learning points

I have learnt a great deal on my career journey so far and I hope it continues, but I think there are some key points to remember that have helped me:

  • All experiences help, whether positive or negative; seek to improve your knowledge, understanding and performance in all aspects of your job role. Learn from your mistakes and celebrate your successes.
  • Share ideas and knowledge with your colleagues and let them share the same with you.
  • Network with people of all levels both in work and in your personal life. I play a lot of sports in my spare time and the connections that I have made in these hobbies have helped me within my work. The Aurora Programme has allowed me to network with woman of all different job roles across the University and in external Universities.
  • Understand your own identity, as it will play a key role in your team and the way in which you complete tasks and future progression.
  • Customer service has been a key skill throughout my development and is skill key in my role as School Manager
  • Be organised and have good communication skills. These skills have been a necessity in every role I have ever held, but they have had to develop with the responsibilities that I have taken on.
  • Coaching and mentoring are essential. Not only should you go out and help others when needed, but allow yourself to have a mentor to help you and coach you throughout your roles.

Risk and adventures have pushed me into roles and places that I never thought I could be and I want to continue to challenge myself in the future with my skills, knowledge and my career. 

Current update

Was promoted to School Manager in SHSSW (2015-17) and then seconded to Faculty Teams Support Manager for one year from April 2017.