Past and Present Student Staff Keep ISG Running

Taking on part-time work or a year-long placement in the ISG team has provided countless students over the years with practical experience to complement their university learning. Within the Information Services Group and the Applications Directorate, there are many line managers who first came to work at the University as student employees.  

Systems and Database Administrator, Mark McGowan was a student at Edinburgh Napier University about 10 years ago, when he was employed for a one-year placement in ISG. After completing his degree Mark was contacted by the team and invited to interview for a full-time position. Now, Mark supports the recruitment and training of new placement students.

Some are brand new to the workplace, some aren’t, but it is often their first IT job. Every student leaves feeling like a member of staff – and in terms of their abilities, if they fit in well in the team you will think of them when a job pops up.

Mark McGowan, Systems and Database Administrator

Mark noted that placement students bring a range of new ideas and practices to the team each year thanks to their training at university. He commented that students come with “fresh perspectives” and are encouraged to share their recent learning from university with the team – often prompting managers to review existing processes and implement updates where possible. 

Below, we have shared the profiles of several students currently working in the ISG department. 

Sharon Chen, Service Management, Online and Digital Events Service Assistant 


Sharon is studying a one-year MSc Management program at the University of Edinburgh and applied for this role as Online and Digital Events Service Assistant because she enjoys communicating with people from different cultures and has experience managing social media. 

“I am originally from Taiwan, a place that is half the size of Scotland, but four times more populated! I enjoy playing badminton, filming vlogs, and exploring the city. I’m a mini-YouTuber, feel free to check out my channel @happyplus.happylife

Sharon’s role in ISG involves enhancing the delivery of digital events on Teams and Zoom and assisting the Service Management team. Alongside her work and studies, Sharon enjoys the dance lessons available at the University gym (Pleasance), coffee-shop hopping, and she is determined not only to finish her dissertation this year but also learn some more Scots. 

Margherita Tobia, Service Operations Assistant 


Margherita is in her fourth year of studying for a linguistics degree at the University of Edinburgh and was attracted to the job of Service Operations Assistant because she finds problem solving challenges to be rewarding. 

“I grew up in Argentina, and I’ve been living in Scotland for almost 8 years now. I’ve been obsessed with languages since I was a kid, and I’m always trying to learn new ones in my free time.” 

Margherita’s role involves helping manage various services for the university, updating documentation and reporting on the work of the services team.  

Margherita likes to spend her spare time exploring the botanic gardens, cooking and reading – in 2022 she reached her goal of reading 50 books and intends to challenge this record in 2023. 

Ross Mennie, Project Management Administrator, Project Management Office 


Ross is in his fourth year of studying for a politics degree at the University of Edinburgh. He was initially hired as a Project Management Intern in the Summer and is now working as a Project Management Administrator. Ross was eager to work in the PMO office to support his studies while also gaining valuable project management skills. 

“I am originally from Aberdeen and enjoy sports outside of work – playing tennis, football, running, cycling and swimming. I have also started boxing and enjoy going to student movie nights at the Cameo Picture House.” 

Ross’s role involves administrative tasks that support the PMO such as, managing email inboxes, writing new guidance and uploading to internal wiki pages, creating new projects for the PM’s, running social media accounts and representing the PMO at review meetings. 

Ross has set himself the goal of learning sign language in 2023 and will continue exploring his favourite walking trails around Arthur’s Seat, Blackford Hill and the Pentlands. 

Marta Negro Puig, Placement Student, Information Services Applications Directorate: Technology Management 


Marta is in her third year of studying a web design and development degree at Edinburgh Napier University. She applied for the placement student role as she wanted to challenge herself to learn new gain technical skills alongside her degree. 

“I am originally from Madrid Spain. I arrived in Edinburgh 7 years ago to improve my English. I went travelling for several months after 3 years here, but I loved my life in Scotland, so I returned. I value very much the work-life balance you can get here, the easy access to nature and the opportunities to develop your career despite not having experience in a field.” 

Marta’s role involves renewing security certificates for software used across the UoE and assisting with software upgrades and ‘patching.’ 

Outside of work and study, Marta enjoys walking with her dogs on Arthur’s Seat and plays basketball in the Scottish National League as a member of the Edinburgh Lions.  

The University’s primary ‘customers’ are undoubtedly students. Meeting and exceeding the expectations of these students is what Alain Forrester, Acting Service Team Leader, describes as the “bread and butter” of the work carried out by the Information Services Group (ISG).

When hiring a student for a fixed-term placement role or part-time student role, Alain explains that not only is it beneficial for ensuring that specific work is completed – but the unique insight students can offer into the end-user experience additionally makes them “invaluable” as employees.  

Alain himself came to work in the ISG in 2012, on a one-year placement as part of his degree in Business Information Systems at Edinburgh Napier University. Shortly after graduating, Alain was interviewed and hired by the same Service team members he had worked alongside just a year before. More than ten years later, he now balances two roles as Acting Service Team Leader and Service Manager. Recently encouraged by his colleagues to continue developing his career, Alain was nominated to attend the The Edinburgh Manager programme. This intensive training course is designed to teach management techniques and encourage a community of leaders, confident in their ability to line manage colleagues.  

As a workplace with a huge variety of learning opportunities like this, the University is an ideal workplace for students, and ‘student-minded’ who don’t view the end of a university course as the end of their learning potential. 

Cerys Jenkins, Digital Skills & Training, Digital Skills Trainer – Coding Intern 

Cerys Jenkins

Cerys is in her second year of studying a BSc in Cognitive Science at the University of Edinburgh and applied for the Coding Intern role because she is passionate about making coding more accessible to everyone.  

“I was born in Hong Kong and moved to London about 8 years ago. I came to Edinburgh 2 years ago to begin my bachelors degree and am still adjusting to the cold weather. Outside of work and study, I enjoy playing volleyball and play for the university’s women’s team.” 

In her role, Cerys has delivered a Python vs R webinar and runs a coding club once every 3 weeks. This involves teaching complete beginners how to code, answering any questions they may have and helping with projects.  

Aside from her mission to convince everyone that coding isn’t an exclusive skill and is something everyone can learn, Cerys hopes to explore more of Scotland and the highlands this year. 

Zohra O’Doherty, Applications Services Management, SharePoint Solutions Assistant

Zohra O'

Zohra is in her final year of an MA Hons Social Policy and Sociology at the University of Edinburgh. Before starting this undergraduate degree, Zohra had years of experience working as a Project Manager and Business Manager in Retail IT. Since starting her degree in 2019, she has been working part-time as a SharePoint Solutions Assistant within Service Management for the ISG. Zohra was excited to put her experience to use in a role that would continue teaching her new skills, so was delighted to discover the support available to students seeking employment opportunities through the University and the Student Association. 

“I am a mature student from Ireland […] Having had to discontinue my first attempt at university when I was younger in the wake of the financial crisis, it was always my dream to return to obtain a degree.” 

The SharePoint Solutions Service specialise in online collaboration and document management. In her role, Zohra assists with a wide range of tasks and projects including building new SharePoint sites, testing new services, authoring content and developing training guides.  

“The ability to work part-time during the semester and full-time during the summer is a great part of the job, and as a student at the University, I have often been able to provide useful insight and feedback for many of our projects in ISG […] I highly recommend the student employment opportunities in ISG at the University of Edinburgh.” 

Neha Oka, Business School, Reporting Analyst 

Neha Oka

Neha is in the second semester of an MSc Global Strategy and Sustainability programme at the University of Edinburgh. As someone who enjoys translating data into visual reports and eager to meet new people during her time in Edinburgh, the reporting analyst role was ideal for Zohra. 

“I’m originally from India but I’ve lived in Abu Dhabi, UAE until high school. I love going out on walks and hiking every once in a while. I am also a big foodie so I love to try out new cafes and restaurants around the city.” 

Neha’s role involves creating interactive dashboards to illustrate data in a visual and intuitive form for different stakeholders. She works closely with people from various departments to gain an understanding of their requirements, then creates customized reports for their team. 

Alongside her work and study, Neha enjoys exploring the city and regularly walks up Calton Hill to watch the sunset with a coffee when the weather permits. She also hopes to set some personal fitness and habit-building goals before completing a week-long trek in the Himalayas later in the year.

Rebekah Day, IS Applications Directorate, Staff Journalist

Rebekah Day

Rebekah is studying an MSc Medieval History part-time at the University of Edinburgh. With previous experience studying journalism and years working as a marketing and communications executive, Rebekah was eager to fund her studies with part-time work in a role that would use her existing skills. 

“I am originally from Australia and have loved living in the UK for the past 8 years. I’m finally pursuing my dream of studying history and Edinburgh is the perfect city for it. I also love that there is always live music and comedy happening here.” 

Her role as a journalist primarily involves writing articles when project managers achieve milestones in their work delivering IT services across the University. She also shares other feel-good and newsworthy updates (this very article being an example) on the news page, and particularly likes to write feature pieces which highlight talented individuals working in the department. 

In addition to work and study, Rebekah is the president of a student society that host weekly seminars from history students and organises day trips to historic sites. She regularly takes her ginger cat Toulouse for walks on a leash around Lochend park and loves to spend time browsing the second-hand bookshops near Argyle House and in the Grassmarket. 

Tapping into the diverse background and interests of past and current student staff is crucial to ensuring projects and services across the University benefit from fresh ideas and perspectives.

In the third year of his Bachelor of Engineering course at Edinburgh Napier University, Stephen Smith took a student placement working for IT services at the University of Edinburgh. Although learning to use “project documentation, flow charts,” and “the design specification” was admittedly “a bit daunting” – more than 20 years later, Stephen credits the insight he gained during this placement as “a key attributing factor” in securing his first graduate job.  

When a full-time role working in IT became available at the University a few years after graduating, Stephen had the confidence to apply thanks to the concentrated experience he had gained “into each of the IT roles” and the “projects methodology” used by the team.

Now in his role as the IT Service Manager in the Applications Directorate, Stephen is involved in the recruitment and training of placement and part-time students, who are often studying outside the realms of technology.

We learned over time that we don’t need to recruit only IT or computing staff (who are typically excellent too), we greatly benefit from a different perspective… 
I think it’s testament to the quality of our students, our induction training regime and the support of existing staff, how well our student recruits adapt quickly and fit in to the team so well.

Stephen Smith, IT Service Manager, Applications Directorate, ISG

Most recently Stephen has been working collaboratively with Business Management student and avid vlogger, Sharon Chen, to enhance the delivery of digital events. Sharon recently shared what a ‘day in the life’ working in the ISG department looks like, and regularly uses her social media to document the picturesque adventures and experiences she embarks on across Scotland.  “We learn from our students about the student experience of the service solutions we provide. This builds a mutual respect which in turn helps improve the quality of our services and our relationships with business area staff,” Stephen said.

Likewise, other students at the University have found that working within the Apps and L & UC partnership is a beneficial way to gain valuable work experience.

Not only do do these internships, placements and part-time roles give students insight and a chance to enhance the services and systems that keep the University operating, these paid positions allow the employees to make the most of their time living in Edinburgh. 

Rebecca Hayward, Student Engagement and Events Intern, Heritage Collections

Rebecca Hayward Student Staff

Rebecca is a third year history student at the University of Edinburgh and has recently joined the Heritage Collections team. Interested in a career in the heritage sector, the internship will give Rebecca practical experience and insight into how events and exhibitions can be utilised to engage audiences with historic collections.

“I’m originally from Bishop’s Stortford in Hertfordshire. I chose [to study in] Edinburgh because of its beautiful setting both the historical buildings and the easy access to nature.[…] I am also a big fan of musicals and have already got my Hamilton tickets for March next year!”

Her internship involves developing a schedule of events for next semester, focussing on using the exhibition space in the Main Library to showcase the University’s unique collections and collecting student feedback.

Besides her summer internship, Rebecca also works in the National Museum of Scotland and is President of the Edinburgh University Arts and Heritage Society which allows her to enjoy spontaneous trips to museums and galleries with other like minded students. As she approaches her final year of study Rebecca hopes to explore “as much of Edinburgh as possible before I graduate!”

Megan Turner, Civic Engagement Coordinator, Heritage Collections

Megan Turner

Megan is in her fifth year of study at the University of Edinburgh, now working on a Masters of Science Research in Economic and Social History. Having completed an undergraduate degree in History too, Megan was eager to take on this role to engage local communities with the heritage collections at the University.

“I am from a small and historic city called Lancaster in the North-West of England.[…] Outside of work and studying, I enjoy visiting cafés and bookshops (my favourite right now is Argonaut books in Leith, it does coffee too) and whenever I get chance, travelling and exploring new places.”

Megan is working on several projects in the Engagement team – helping to organise and deliver a weekly Bronze Arts Award programme, ‘Capturing Craigmillar’ to teenagers at Craigmillar Library, and developing workshops to teach at HMP Perth for the Prison Service Programme based around the Musical Instruments Collection at St Cecilia’s Music Hall.

Outside of work and study Megan is planning to run a half marathon this year and enjoys regular trips to the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Are you a student working in the ISG? Or a staff member who has worked with student staff?  We would love to hear about your experiences, get in touch with the ISG staff journalist:

This content originally appeared in a series of articles shared on the ISG Applications News & Events webpage.

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