Posted on 1/11/2017 by Samantha Johnston
In the first part of our Education & Training interview series, we sat down with Teresa Jacobs, Head of Quality Assurance at a higher education quality provider. In this article, Teresa talks to us about her journey in the sector and the most valuable lesson she has learned along the way.
1. What is is that you do?
I’m Head of Quality Assurance with an international Higher Education provider. I work on new collaborations and on the quality of assurance of operations - making sure that students get fair results for their assessments. I also work on assuring that the provider retains its approvals with the various external quality assurance agencies both in the UK and beyond.
2. What did you want to do when you were a child?
It changed very often. I remember I watched the Sound of Music and wanted to be a nun, which caused a lot excitement and generated a lot of prayers at my Catholic School. Then I discovered a small talent for drawing. Mostly I drew Barbie dolls, in splendid fashionable creations. I didn’t have many real dolls so I got creative and then aunt Daisy and Freda said I should be a fashion designer.
Then, as a fashionable teenager in the pre-Primarni era, with the help of Vogue patterns and my Singer sewing machine, I developed some pretty slick sewing skills and wanted to be a fashion designer. The careers lady, at my convent school, who was probably also the dinner lady, didn’t get this ambition. The nuns thought it was all a bit sinful and so I became a teacher. That’s not it though, because I rebelled and broke all the school dress code rules. I’ve hitched hiked around Europe, taught in 12 countries and got paid in local wine and sunshine.
3. Your role sounds quite unusual, how did you get into it?
Getting paid in local wine and sunshine is not sustainable. I became fascinated by the business side of education and at the same time discovered that after years of teaching language I actually like numbers - stats, exam marks, profit margins and even standard deviation. In private education, getting it right and growing the business is pretty important. If you can do both, sooner or later you will find your niche.
4. How have you come into contact with TPP?
I initially came into contact with TPP as a recruiter for my employer and then as recruiter for my team. After working with them to recruit staff, I was excited to work with them to look for a role for myself. They helped me to secure my role and now they are my LinkedIn buddies.
5. What’s the greatest professional challenge you’ve been faced with, and how did you overcome it?
I was made redundant from a job I loved. I felt like my career was at an end and that my future would be knitting clothes for Barbie. I applied for roles with silly salaries and job descriptions I didn’t understand. I went to countless interviews and responded to endless competency based questions (sometimes thinking ‘what level of incompetency would result in the issues you are now asking me questions on?!’)
6. What lessons have you learned from this? Is there any advice you would give to your younger self?
Don’t give up! Set your targets high. When that annoying idiot says ‘redundancy is the best thing that can happen to you’, don’t chuck your glass of wine at them. Believe it and stay focussed. Oh - and essentially get yourself a really good recruiter. One who will correct your sloppy spelling on the applications for the jobs that you don’t actually want, just like TPP did.
7. What’s your favourite book?
I love my kindle. It has around 400 books on it and goes everywhere with me. My favourite has to be the Wine Bluffers Guide.
8. Has your career taken you to any interesting places?
Oh yes - I have been on trips to places that were pretty awful at the time but which I laugh about now and I’ve been to places people dream of - I ate the food there, slept in a hotel and worked. Never confuse business travel with a holiday.
9. What is your favourite country?
Probably Italy but Brazil is amazing too.
10. What’s the greatest challenge facing the education sector right now?
Change. Changing regulations, demands, learning styles, technology and changing competition. You have to stay curious and keep evolving.
11. How has the sector changed in your career?
Education is much more international and technology has delivered so many new opportunities. Our customers have also become more demanding and regulation threatens to drown our creativity.
12. If you could give any advice to someone joining the sector, what would it be?
Find your specialist area so that you bring expertise to your organisation. Be bold about what you believe in and decide where you want to win and what you are prepared to concede in.
13. How would you describe TPP in one word?
In one word, I would describe TPP as ‘professional’.