As the new Head of Capita Further and Higher Education, here we spend few moments meeting Karen Reece and finding out a little bit more about her:
Name: Karen Reece
New position: Head of Libraries, and Further and Higher Education Software
How long have you worked for Capita in your previous roles?
I’ve been Head of Libraries for past two years. Previously, I’ve been with the libraries business at Capita for the past 12 years where I’ve had a variety of roles including account management, sales management, looking after the support and customer services functions. So I’ve had quite a wide breadth of roles and experience in the libraries business.
How did you come to be in your new position at Capita?
I was offered the chance due to Nigel Rayner moving on,to take responsibility for both libraries and further and higher education. It was something I was very excited by as I have an understanding of the education marketplace gained from my time within libraries. I was also keen to be involved within a wider educational context.
Are the FHE and libraries sectors facing similar challenges or is there a big divide in what each is focusing on?
I think education as a whole is facing some challenges that I believe are mirrored in a number of cases by the libraries sector. The need for a more mobile education and the changes that are happening with the learning market, etc. are all elements that are mirrored in both the need for management information, in further and higher education.
What do you see are the key challenges within the FE and HE sectors and how do you see Capita focusing on these to support our customers?
I think that the key challenges to the FE and HE sectors could be considered as three fold:
One is the change is the way in which people are consuming learning. We have seen people starting to learn in a more piecemeal fashion rather than traditionally taught classes. The rise in online learning, the rise in the requirements for mobile solutions and the rise in education needing to fit in with the lifestyles of not just traditional full time learners, but part time learners, people studying alongside full time careers and so on. And I think that situation spans across both further and higher education.
The second area I think is a challenge is the rise of more cloud-based technologies and the need for everything to be available 24/7, seven days a week, etc. The need to access the information in a seamless and robust manner is matching the requirements for consumption of small chunks of time to fit with whatever the learner requires, I think this is a particular challenge for both the FE and HE sectors. Cloud-based technology has become more widely accepted as the norm and we are now entering an era whereby cloud solutions are expected, rather than being considered ‘fashionable’.
And finally, I think the third challenge is really about the ‘joined-up-ness’. So it’s about ensuring that whatever the university or college systems are they can integrate and talk to each other institutional systems in the most seamless way, and the information concerning the student’s’ learning journey can transported easily and will follow that student around, rather than systems full of data silos.
With those challenges in mind, how do see Capita’s software developing to support the FE and HE sectors in tackling these?
From the brief time that I’ve been involved with the Capita FHE, I think the Advantage product is a world class, leading product that will help engagement with students, it will also help engagement with parents, and will ensure that back office applications are put in the hands of college and university staff. I think Advantage is an excellent example of meeting those challenges.
How does your experience from your role within Libraries benefit your new role within FHE?
Well as I’ve said before, I’ve got an understanding of the education landscape. Bearing in mind that 50% of the client base for Capita Libraries is further and higher education institutions, I understand the types of pressures that are ongoing and the changes that are ongoing in further and higher education from a libraries perspective but also from an organisational and institutional perspective.
So, it’s about an understanding of the language and requirements of education. And I believe that I can bring that to this particular role and ensure that the product continue to evolve and develop in a way that our customer base would wish them to.
What has been your biggest challenge at Capita to date?
I would say that my biggest challenge to date at Capita is taking on the current role and ensuring that the heritage of the long standing contact with customers is maintained and can be enhanced. So my biggest challenge is my current role and that’s as it should be and it’s something that I’m really looking forward to.
What has been your biggest achievement at Capita so far?
Ask me that in 12 months’ time! I think it’ll be when customers will hopefully see a difference that’s been made in terms of both the product set and in terms of service. I aim to build on what’s been put in place already, and enhance and improve the situation and ensure the products continue to mature and evolve in the way that our customers require them to.
When you’re not thinking about software for libraries and education, what makes you happy?
My football team (Newcastle United) being successful (i.e. not being relegated) would be major a source of happiness to me.
What’s the best bit about your new role?
Working with an extremely talented team in Cirencester.
If you hadn’t gone into working with software within libraries and education, what would you be doing right now?
Ummm… I would still be involved in some respect in the education sectors bearing in mind that I’ve worked in the university sector in other guises in the past, and the last 25 years of my working life have been involved in dealing with those involved with education.