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Learn from the professionals: Business

Posted 3 September 2014

Senior lecturer, Becky Payne

From originally pursuing a career in accountancy, Senior Lecturer Becky Payne credits the digital revolution for landing her a role teaching business students at Harper Adams.

It was during her first job as a trainee accountant at Chester City Council’s treasury department that Becky noticed the growing importance of technology in business.

She said: “Mainframe systems drove business computing back in those days and the computer manager, his programmers and operators sat in a very noisy room at the end of the corridor. 

“On the corner of the desk in my office was a terminal that allowed the treasury department to draw down reports and I quickly identified that it was the technology driving reporting that interested me most.

“So I gravitated towards my first job in IT – with an IBM dealership demonstrating accounting software and installing systems within business settings.”

Becky’s first PC was an IBM XT which boasted 10Mb hard disk drive, 640k RAM and a five and a quarter inch floppy disk drive.

“Despite it having less processing capability than a modern digital watch, I could run spreadsheets, word processing, database and Pegasus accounting systems,” she added.

“Many Microsoft Word documents that I receive these days are larger than the entire storage capacity of that first top-of-the-range PC!

“Personal computing technology was in its infancy and I remember playing with a mouse and the first version of Windows and being impressed with the concept – but industry struggled to see how businesses would ever use a Windows-based system.”

Five years later, Becky progressed to working in a business development role for one the largest IT consultancies in the world.

She added: “My company car was the latest ‘hot hatch’ and my shoulder pads were large enough to make my jackets visible from space. 

“Working with some of the largest commercial businesses in the UK at the time to develop technology training projects was both challenging and rewarding. The insights that I share with strategy classes when I teach at Harper Adams are informed by being able to sit in boardrooms whilst an organisation develops its strategic capabilities.”

The birth of her children prompted another change in direction and Becky returned to local government working within Cheshire County Council’s Economic Development Unit.

Her role was to manage technology training centres – delivering PC-based training to start-up businesses, running European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)-funded courses for women returning to work, and more.

Becky, who gained an MBA with Distinction from Aston University and was awarded the International Management Institute (IMI) Distance Learning Student of the Year prize, said: “We spent a lot of time within the unit investigating new technology and then helping local businesses to understand where it might fit within their business plans. 

“This experience, I believe, underpins the teaching of IT to business students at Harper Adams. It is not about what technology can do – but about what it can do for a business that drives my teaching. 

“Digital fluency – the ability to see where technology fits and leverage best results in any given situation, is what we strive to teach and is achieved when students feel confident to explore new developments and are encouraged to investigate where they may fit.

“So my years in business development underpin my marketing teaching; my experience with some of the largest corporations and fastest growing SMEs within the UK informs my strategic teaching; and my passion for the appropriate use of technology informs everything that I do in the classroom and outside of it.

“So instead of a middle-aged local government accountant, I am a middle-aged business lecturer with a wealth of experience to share in the classroom. Lucky me!”

Following her MBA, Becky was awarded honorary lifetime membership of Beta Gamma Sigma – an organisation that promotes excellence in business.

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