Anita is Chief Operating Officer for the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment. She helps to ensure that the Smith School runs smoothly and has good governance, and to make sure that the Smith School's fantastic academics and professional staff have what they need to do their jobs.
"I was surprised by the range and impact of the Smith School's work: I'd worked with a few people before when I was at Somerville helping to set up the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development, but knew almost nothing about the Smith School's work. I've had a ball finding out!
"The best thing about working in SoGE is definitely the people: they are some of the smartest, most creative and kindest I've ever worked with. I help to ensure that the Smith School runs smoothly and has good governance, and to make sure that our fantastic academics and professional staff have what they need to do their jobs. I love the variety of my role and the fact that I work with so many different people - for example making sure that as a leadership team we focus on the big issues, helping to plan our future strategy and getting the funding/development we'll need to achieve our goals, getting our new MSc up and running, and getting involved with recruitment to our growing teams across the School.
"It can be difficult to navigate which decisions are taken in the Smith School, and which should be taken with our fantastic SoGE colleagues, however I can help people understand when and how we link up with SoGE, especially on finance, HR and research support.
"I spent the first part of my career as a civil servant, and left when we moved to Oxford about 9 years ago with our small daughter - my husband who is an academic got his dream job here. I was born in India but grew up in Belfast, and joined the Northern Ireland Office straight from university (Classics at the other place). I worked in both London and Belfast and an early highlight was working on the Good Friday Agreement negotiations. After the Agreement was signed, I went to be Private Secretary to the Cabinet Secretary, and a bit later went back to the NIO to work on the 'legacy of the past issues', including terrorists on the run, the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, and allegations of security force collusion in murder. I commuted between Belfast and London every week for several years, and enjoyed too the international travel connected with explaining the peace process. I went on to work in the Home Office and Ministry of Justice on policing and justice issues and in between was able to negotiate a one year secondment to Marie Curie Cancer Care to help to transform hospice care. It was very challenging but I loved it. All my civil service roles involved working closely with Ministers and on a lot of stuff that hit the headlines - not always in a good way!
"Outside my day job I also chair the pay review body for the police and for the National Crime Agency, which makes independent recommendations to Government annually on pay reform and pay settlements, and am on the board of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, which regulates IVF treatment and embryo research. I'm a keen swimmer - I had to pause that during lockdown and take up running (= slow jogging). I'm happy to be back swimming instead again! Like nearly everyone else we now have a lockdown rescue dog and as family we are really enjoying exploring our fabulous local green spaces and helping her to become less anxious (still working on training her not to jump on my desk during those long Zoom meetings).
"I also play the organ in my local church - or I did pre-pandemic, I think I might have forgotten it all after more than a year.
"My go-to productivity advice is - don't put off the stuff you don't want to do, tackle it straight away and then reward yourself with a walk/cup of tea/whatever makes you happy.
"What was a mistake I have learnt from in my career? Not calling out bad behaviour, mostly by senior people, enough - I wish I'd done it more. As a result, I learned you have to create an environment where anyone feels they can speak out.
"The best advice and the worst advice I was ever given was by different bosses in the civil service. The best was early on in my civil service career when we had to make a difficult decision and had two options, one of which would make us very unpopular - "If in doubt, just do the right thing." It sounds really simple but it was so helpful in making me see things clearly. I did the right thing, dealt with the immediate hostility and managed to rebuild stronger relationships in the long term. By contrast, the worst advice I've had from anyone ever was near the end of my time in the civil service (probably not a coincidence), "You'll never get promoted unless you learn to stab people in the back." I'm happy to say I ignored it: don't compromise your values or integrity for anything or anyone.
"I think we should all be really proud of how we've worked during the pandemic - to transform the way we do absolutely everything and to support each other as a community in some very tough times."