Meet Our Members: Vicki Nairn, Robert Gordon University

Vicki Nairn claims to have a low boredom threshold and a high curiosity level – attributes that have served her well in her varied career, and current role as Vice Principal, Corporate Operations at Robert Gordon University.

What is your higher education history?

I have been an independent board member/trustee at the University of the Highlands and Islands, and the Glasgow School of Art, and as I learned more about the sector, I started to look towards HE as my next career move. I have always enjoyed moving sectors and previously to RGU I held very different roles: as a senior executive in local government working in huge unitary councils, and before that in different industries in the private sector across the UK and internationally.

What does your current role and remit encompass?

My role comprises of: ICT (including projects/project management) Finance, HR, Estates and Facilities, Health and Safety, and Business Continuity. Additionally, a major part of my role is to be an active and engaged member of the Executive Leadership Team of the University and to work with the Principal, the Board and my VP colleagues on university strategy, direction and achievement – which can involve quite a few different areas.

What does a typical day look like for you in your role?

Very varied – currently I am trying to meet as many people as possible, and I like to get out and about and be visible rather than being locked in the office. Usually I try to reserve some space in the day for thinking/strategic issues, and I try to be very strict on meeting times, there must be a good reason for meetings lasting more than 45 minutes, as it’s too easy to get diverted! I also try to have a good work-life balance – however that is usually an aspirational New Year’s resolution!

What do you find most enjoyable and/or challenging in your role?

The change in sector has been refreshing. I really enjoy the diversity in my role, and I very much enjoy getting out of the office and meeting the different schools and professors to learn more about their worlds and make connections so that my role is university-wide. I would hate a job where it was the same every day – I have a low boredom threshold and a high curiosity level!

What are the current challenges for your institution?

Like all HE establishments we need to focus on maintaining a positive financial position and I need to ensure that my organisation supports my colleagues in delivering excellent professional services to enable the university to run smoothly

What do you think are the biggest changes ahead for higher education?

The Brexit position will have consequences for all universities, and the challenge will be to ensure that universities maintain a global outlook and that the rest of the world understands that the UK is open for business.

Who has inspired you and why?

I was very fortunate to work for a wonderful lady in my first role. Working for her was demanding, as she had very high professional standards, but she also taught me the importance of never forgetting your integrity, kindness, compassion, and emotional intelligence and to treat all people as you would like to be treated yourself – no matter their station in life.

I was lucky enough to have a mentor who showed me how to succeed by using a range of hard and soft skills, and who also made sure that I understood the value of common sense and a good sense of humour – and there have been times when those two attributes alone have saved my sanity!