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John Muirhead

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Linking on the job learning with academia

John Muirhead, Knowledge Transfer Partnership, University of Salford and The Foundry

John Muirhead

I didn’t know about Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, or KTPs, until I heard about this job opportunity.  A KTP is basically a three-way project between a graduate, an organisation and a university.  With the KTP you get a balance between going to work but not leaving the university behind.

My project is with The Foundry, a creative advertising and marketing agency, based in Altrincham, Cheshire.  The company was started just over ten years ago by the current partners.  The project I am working on is called POS Store; creating a system that will allow clients to customise and personalise Point of Sale materials.  Clients will be able to allow their customers to create flexible documents whilst the system enforces appropriate brand constraints.  They will also be able to access data about how their branding is being used, so it is quite innovative really.

I am doing everything from capturing the long-term vision, cultivating ideas and talking to clients.

My title in the company is Digital Developer, which suggests that I am working solely on the technical part of the project.  In fact I am doing everything from capturing the long-term vision, cultivating ideas and talking to clients.  I am working closely with colleagues at The Foundry and making sure that those who will be responsible for maintaining and supporting the system will be able to take it forward.  We have currently got one client working on the prototype so I am evaluating that at the moment.  I like having oversight of the whole project and having total control of it!

The lead academic from Salford comes to see me once a week and we talk about lots of things, very few to do with project!  It is great for broadening the way I am looking at the project.

The lead academic from Salford comes to see me once a week and we talk about lots of things, very few to do with project!  It is great for broadening the way I am looking at the project.  We have also developed quite a few ideas for other KTPs and projects within the University.  He always has really good input for anything and great ideas.  I suppose in some ways he is quite inspirational.

75% of the University of Salford’s undergraduate courses give students the opportunity to complete a work or study placement – at home or overseas

I see the other two academic supervisors monthly. One specialises in user interface design, a crucial aspect of the system. The other specialises in digital media, they have experience from working with packaged software products. We are currently transforming the key findings from the project into a series of academic papers which is quite exciting.  I have really enjoyed that.

I have certainly learned a lot through the experience.  The assertiveness and communication skills have been great things to develop – I am now President of a Toastmasters public speaking club!  The management and leadership training I did at the KTP residential modules was also really good because I probably wouldn’t have got that experience otherwise.  They are all skills that you normally learn on the job, so getting them on the KTP has been great.  The best thing about the KTP is that you still have a strong link with academia – you haven’t had to leave that world behind yet.

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