Sharon Tighe is a graduate of Digital Skills Academy's BSc (Honours) Degree in Digital Technology, Design and Innovation programme.
I learned so much. On the technical side, I expanded my existing skillset a great deal. There have been countless changing trends in the digital sector in recent years, and because I am curious and interested in the area by nature, I have kept up-to-date but often solely from a single point of view - that of a consumer of digital or a marketing professional. Within this course, I learned more about understanding that total communications system and the importance of collaboration between an entire digital team. Even though I was focused on the Project Management & Digital Business side of the project, I had to cover elements of coding and design as part of the degree programme and I loved it. It was fascinating and it brought a deeper understanding to what I do in my profession, including the limitations and opportunities for experimentation in these fields.
It was definitely a pro that the course was delivered online and it was one of the reasons that the course appealed to me so much. It meant I could fit the course into my life on my terms, around my family and employment.
What I hadn't counted on was the level of commitment and self-discipline that completing a course online demands. Apart from a weekly live meet-up session, facilitated by one of the academy lecturers, and occasional sessions on premise for meeting with groups, all lectures are online and released week by week. It's all too easy to let a week or two slide by, but if you do, the work piles up fast! I was working full-time for most of the course and I have kids so my weekends (and often the kitchen table) were taken over with Burndown charts and design documents. You really have to organise your workload and have a set time to be ‘in college.’
Again, the opportunity to work with a real business or Industry Partner was a huge attraction of the course for me. At the Open Day, at the beginning of my course, I was amazed by the standard of work from the previous year’s graduates and the calibre of the Industry Partners they had worked with, including Aer Lingus & Make A Wish Foundation.
I believe that working with an Industry Partner prepares you for the unforeseen challenges of real-life work and collaboration. These are the factors that can often make or break a project and it is something that you build on from experience, not from academia or study.
The biggest lesson for me was the importance of building trust in every way. Trust between the Industry Partner and the team, trust between each of the team members (that each person will fulfil their role) and trust in our own abilities & budding technical skills. Trust is such an important element to how these Industry Partner projects work. The Industry Partner is trusting that you and your team understand their brief- the core needs and wants of their project requirement- and that you will deliver it. It is the team’s role to understand the brief intimately so that all of the team can trust the development & design process and deliver the best project solution.
It’s not all plain sailing and, as a team, we had a couple of problems during our project. This is where the building of trust was so important, our Industry Partner had to trust that we could solve these problems. I think this is an important skill that transfers to all areas of work. From time to time, issues and obstacles are sure to occur within a project and you have to honestly recognise the issue, problem solve as a team and then move on, without needlessly delaying the process.
Definitely shared skills and appreciation of the work involved in each area of the project. As a Project Manager, I had to manage our workload and I couldn’t do that correctly without understanding the time-frames and work involved from each member for each part of the project.
Our team worked on a website called ‘Get Your Measure.’ The purpose of this product was to provide helpful content on drink awareness and to allow users to measure alcohol consumption through an interactive self-test mechanism. It was also designed to help users reduce and manage their drinking in an easily accessible manner and promote confidential offline services for people wishing to avail of counselling support.
My main responsibility was Digital Business and Project Management. For our Industry Partner project, for example, I looked after the scheduling & updated the Project Backlog. I populated the Sprint tasks and generated Burndown charts. All part and parcel of the Agile Project experience and all completely new skills to me. Our team were spread out location-wise, so I facilitated regular core team meetings, mostly through Google Hangouts & Skype to keep us on track. As I had marketing experience, I also looked after the Marketing Strategy of the project and because of my interest in user behaviour and how people interact with tech, I was responsible for the User Testing Documents.
I wanted to extend my knowledge of the digital arena and better equip myself in dealing with technical partners in my profession and I achieved these goals. I have taught basic coding classes in after-school projects, and encouraged children to learn to code using online apps and ‘The Hour of Code’, but I knew it was an area that I knew very little about coding before taking this course.
I am currently Head of Social Media & Community Strategy at eumom, a parenting community with over 300,000 registered members. Eumom has an active online presence in forums, expert-led articles and social media, as well as numerous offline touch points with members, which include print publications & nationwide events.
I started working with eumom before I finished my degree, the course certainly made me better at my job and helped with my career advancement. The role that social media and community play in making eumom a success is immense, and our community and data is key to everything we do. The industry is constantly moving in a more technical direction. This makes it important to have a team of members who specialise in many different areas of expertise, not just their own. I know that because of this course, I have a more rounded understanding of the digital landscape and of communications systems and this benefits my role and the company.
No, not really, but I would have liked to meet the students on my course more, even just socially. I made some really great friends, and met some amazing people on my Digital Skills Academy journey. It’s a really tough year trying to fit everything in, especially if you are in employment already or have a family to think about, but the end result is fulfilling and so worth it.