Published on December 13, 2018

Written by Megan Weales
Digital Community Coordinator, Office of Student Life
University of Ontario Institute of Technology

Blog author Megan Weales

It’s weird to think my career in Higher Ed only *officially* began in May, because in reality, I’ve been working in the same department at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology for over 3 years. So what’s the difference?

In April I finished my undergraduate degree in Communication and Digital Media Studies and promptly started my first real “adult” job working full time as the Digital Community Coordinator in the Office of Student Life. I’m responsible for managing our social media as well as our BuzzFeed style “Digital Community” for students to share their stories. Along with these responsibilities comes a team of students to help us out: 3 social media assistants, 2 digital community assistants, 1 design assistant, and more than 10 volunteers.

So what’s it like to transition from a one-woman show to a supervisor of a team?

It’s exciting. It’s overwhelming. It’s too much. It’s not enough. My answer will change depending on the day. One thing I can say for sure: it’s an adjustment. I’ve learned a lot about managing this team. I am not the perfect supervisor, but I’m learning how to be better – thanks to my students.

Learn to trust and allow yourself to be surprised.

I have trust issues. Okay, hear me out – our social media and Digital Community are my babies.  I’ve spent over 2 years growing and improving our social media presence, and the Digital Community is a brand new project I’ve been responsible for launching. I’ve worked hard to get these projects off the ground, so trusting anyone else but myself to manage them makes me nervous. I’m not out here to micromanage my students (let’s be honest, sometimes I do… but I’m working on it). I was lucky enough to have been given a lot of trust as a work-study student. It ended up creating a job for me after I graduated. Now, I’m learning how to be a good supervisor and trying to figure out how much to trust my students, which can be hard, but it’s absolutely necessary for them to flourish. What I’ve found when I trust my students is: they surprise me. In the best way.

Ideas become stronger with collaboration.

For a while, I was a one-woman show managing social media for the department, aside from support from a graphic designer (thank goodness). Now, with a team of students, I constantly have someone by my side to bounce ideas off of. We strengthen each other’s ideas by talking about them, asking questions, and giving feedback. Different perspectives are crucial in creating good quality content.

When I was a student, my perspective was valuable because I was just that – a student. My opinions helped serve students like myself and my peers. Although my student experience is very recent, I am no longer in the constant mindset of a student. As a full-time staff member, I’m constantly reminding myself I am missing that student perspective within my own ideas, which is part of why it’s so great to have a team of students to refer to when it comes to THEIR needs as students.

What trust and collaboration look like in practice:

Around Halloween we decided to launch a big digital campaign with short notice. Why? Because I had an idea for a one-day campaign and met with two of my students to discuss it. They completely took this idea to the next level and we decided to make it a week long Halloween Hunt event, which meant we had to launch it three days later.

I was swamped and needed all hands on deck for this campaign, so I got two more of my students involved and let them develop the promotions. Not only was I trusting them with the ideas, but also trusting them with the design. I’ll be honest – I was nervous about the results. Was I going to have to edit or complete all of the promotions at the last minute?

Nope. My student came up with designs and ideas that were way beyond my expectations –and much better than what I had in my head.

Our campaign received 10x our average link clicks. Success. This is just one example, but I’m experiencing more scenarios like this as time goes on and as I trust my students more.
In summary?

Your students can teach you amazing things.

One of my top Gallup’s StrengthFinder traits is “Significance”. What this means is that I love to be perceived as an expert. Humble, I know. With my students, sometimes I am the expert. But, a lot of the time they’re the ones teaching me.

Whether it’s teaching me to trust or telling me about new Instagram features, I’m learning from them every day. I do better work because of it, and we serve students better because we have our students at the forefront at what we do.

Have you recently transitioned from working solo to managing a team of student assistants?

What lessons have you learned?