Pastures new

View of Edinburgh Castle from my desk

After almost two years at SRUC (Scotland’s Rural College), I have decided to move on. The opportunity to work with the University of Edinburgh Website Programme was too good to ignore.

Mooving on to pastures new… My last day at SRUC.

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SRUC is a very interesting organisation. I was immediately struck by the genial spirit of my colleagues at SRUC. Maybe that’s rural attitudes for you. That may also explain the slightly odd daily start time of 08:36.

But SRUC is also full of good people trying to do a good job in challenging circumstances. I found my own job there demanding, in a way that was new to me.

I used to think content management was tricky when I worked at the University of St Andrews, with university departments spread across the ancient town. That was nothing compared to SRUC, which has staff spread across at least 30 locations all over Scotland and beyond.

For an organisation of a fair size with global ambitions, I was more or less the only dedicated web content person. This gave me a lot of freedom to shape my service in the way I thought best, and I was ably assisted by my colleagues. But I still sometimes found myself in a lonely position.

My time at SRUC was not without its highlights. I would like to think some of the changes I implemented were the first step towards big improvements. Some of the early signals from analytics seemed positive.

I was also pleased to be given the opportunity to speak last year at IWMW, where I compared my experiences of building teams (almost) from scratch at the University of St Andrews and SRUC.

At SRUC I found myself learning a lot about agriculture and rural affairs. This was stuff I never thought I would find interesting. But I often found myself coming home and telling others the intriguing titbits I was picking up about agriculture.

But I came to realise it wasn’t for me.

There is lots I will miss about SRUC.

SRUC’s Edinburgh headquarters at the King’s Buildings, where I was based, is also amazingly located. I took regular lunchtime walks around Blackford Hill and the Hermitage of Braid. You can quickly feel like you are in the middle of nowhere, when in reality you are in the middle of Scotland’s capital. It’s a great way to clear the head.

I have already mentioned the people and their cooperative spirit. I was also very touched by my little sendoff. I got some mega leaving gifts, including the recent vinyl represses of Autechre’s first three albums (so the hint worked!). I found myself struggling to carry everything home on my last day.

Cracking leaving present of Autechre vinyl represses. Thanks everyone!

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Getting with the programme

I am very excited to have started work with the University of Edinburgh Web and Communications team and the University Website Programme.

For a number of years I have followed the team’s work with interest. Indeed, in my blog post for IWMW last year I noted that Neil Allison’s contributions at IWMW and Scottish Web Folk have provided a few lightbulb moments for me over the years.

To work with a bigger team again is another big part of the plan. At SRUC, and towards the end of my time at the University of St Andrews, I often found myself working alone or as the most senior digital person in my area.

While developing those leadership skills is important in itself, I was becoming fearful that my digital skills would stagnate. Digital is so fast-moving that you have to constantly learn and evolve. But often I had no-one to observe, learn from, and bounce ideas around with.

Now I have a tremendous opportunity to do all that, and sink my teeth into some interesting projects.

It’s also quite neat that I have come back to work at the University of Edinburgh, where I originally studied.

Neil has written a very kind introduction to me on the University Website Programme blog. I will also publish my own posts there once I have a bit more to say.

View my posts on the University Website Programme blog (content coming soon).

Most importantly of all (of course), I have a pretty special view from my desk.

First week in my new job complete! Here is the view from my desk…

A post shared by Duncan Stephen (@duncanstephen) on

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