CARE to make a change

Angelica Syed and Lachlan Burnham. Photo by Shane Lo.

Angelica Syed and Lachlan Burnham. Photo by Shane Lo.

In summary: 
  • Angelica Syed and Lachlan Burnham are part of the Student Enquiry Team in UTS’s Student Administration Unit
  • The ‘one wonder woman award’ winner and ‘Start Your Day’ email sender reveal how they’re working to aid the unit’s vision to CARE (create a remarkable experience)

Paper-pushers, or ‘robots’ who demonstrate little care or empathy – administration staff will be familiar with the stereotypes. Dig a little deeper however and you’ll discover most are definitely human, driven by genuine concern for each other and, most importantly, for those they serve. Angelica Syed and Lachlan Burnham from the Student Administration Unit’s Student Enquiry Team are two such staff, working hard in aid of the unit’s vision to CARE (create a remarkable experience).

Angelica Syed

I love people! I first came to work in the Student Enquiry Team over a year ago after completing my education degree. I’d had some previous experience in dealing with frontline enquiries from working in a call centre. This position amalgamated both my teaching and customer service skills in one beautiful role.

I’m on the SAU vision working group, and we often discuss what constitutes a remarkable experience, and we’ve all come to the conclusion that it’s a friendly, personal experience. However, there’s never going to be a secret recipe because it’s about the journey that you go on with the student, and the way you make them feel.

From the beginning of my time here at UTS, I established a rapport with a particular student. In the past, he’d always felt uncomfortable speaking to anyone but our manager. I’m not sure why he chose me on one particular day, but he came into the student centre and proceeded to ask some questions. From then on, he was comfortable speaking to me. I think it’s because I gave him time. It doesn’t sound like much, but giving the gift of time is really important.

Many of us on the team would feel lost without Lachlan’s ‘Start Your Day’ emails. There’s a real poetic flair to them! The emails were actually started by Student Enquiry Coordinator Mark Tremble, but Lachlan has inherited the task of putting them together, and he’s doing a great job! I love them so much that last year, when I was on leave, I would log into my emails everyday so I could read the emails.

Perhaps I’m a workaholic, but I find them relaxing and they help me to keep my knowledge up to date. So much of what we do is driven by policy and correct process, and having ‘Start Your Day’ to remind us of the essentials is great because it allows us to save our energy and our smiles for our students. It's about aligning personality and professionalism together.

Lachlan Burnham

I really like that you said combining personality and professionalism, that's nailed it! From my very first day of work on the frontline for SAU, I’ve been challenged by the fast pace of what we do.

We often juggle our responsibilities trying to help each other out. A daily occurrence is three people in line waiting to speak to you, typing an email that should have been sent two hours ago, a meeting that started 15 minutes ago, and the phone is ringing! But you do it with a smile on your face because it’s important to look after each other. So it’s not just about creating remarkable experiences for our students, but it’s about creating them for each other.

Angelica was recently awarded the SAU ‘One Wonder Woman Award’ by her peers. She’s been described as ‘every customer’s dream’, and has done an amazing job gaining the trust and respect of a special needs student. This is just one great example of the work she does, but I think she’d have at least 20 more!

We’re like a big family here with everyone willing to help out. It’s so refreshing to get to the student centre counter at 9am and find a number of new faces from the wider Student Administration Unit, including our director, supporting us. It means the whole team sees the administration eco-system, and this understanding in turn motivates us to keep providing amazing experiences to our students.

Mark Tremble invented the ‘Start Your Day’ emails as a way to overcome the inability for the Student Enquiry Team to have a regular morning huddle to inform us of what was going on. So ‘Start Your Day’ was created to inform us of common questions from students, important dates and more. Eventually, other staff around the university heard about this and the distribution list continues to grow. For a period of time, I have been writing these emails in lieu of Mark, and I love it!

Humans more often remember bad experiences rather than the good ones. We have about 20 hormones to help us recall a bad experience, whereas we only have one for positive experiences. I believe a remarkable experience is one that you will remember because it gave you such a good feeling that you’re going to go away and tell the story to someone else! At the end of the day, we always try to do what we do with a smile on our face, aiming to have some fun. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t love it; we love the chaos!