Fifteen to One | Jenny Baynes

Welcome to our new Q&A feature series in which we put 15 challenging questions to one of our senior leaders … from the key projects they’re working on to random claims to fame!

Jenny Baynes, who recently joined the University as Director of the Transformation Office

Fifteen to One | Jenny Baynes Q&A. November 2022

First up in the ‘hot seat’ is Jenny Baynes, Director of the Transformation Office at Leeds. Find out what inspires her… and how she once bumped into a world-famous rock star!

Can you describe your role in 100 words?

Our purpose is to enable and facilitate delivery of significant change and transformation projects aligned to the University strategy. My service provides delivery resources – a project management office function ensuring high-quality standards across the change community through a centre of excellence. We offer services to support continual improvement of processes and a service design function, putting people requirements at the centre. We help ensure workflows are managed – we do the most important work first and understand impacts of change, so the University has confidence we’re doing the right change at the right time to deliver benefits for staff and students.

How have your first few weeks in the job been?

I’m only a few weeks in and it’s my first time in higher education, so lots to learn! I’ve spent most of my time so far getting to know my team and key stakeholders, and understanding the University landscape. 

What’s really impressed you about Leeds?

Its people. I’ve been warmly welcomed and supported by everyone. The motivation and enthusiasm to make a difference has been really impressive. It’s an exciting time to join the University, and to help shape and facilitate the ambitious transformation plans to deliver the strategy.

What question have you most frequently been asked in your new role?

What is the Transformation Office?

What are you most looking forward to working on?

The Transformation Office is a fairly new service, and I’m really looking forward to bringing to life the aspirations of this service and enabling colleagues to focus on delivery of change programmes, while also ensuring we’ve established solid foundations around our operating models, architecture and ways of working. 

Is there something, or someone, that has inspired you in your career?

A lecturer from my university days once said to me: “If you can’t control the change, be the change. It only takes one person to create a movement.” There’s a great short TED talk on this. 

This has stuck with me throughout my career. Change is hard, frustrating at times and often, if not well managed, doesn’t achieve its intention. As individuals, we can’t control other people’s journey through change, but we can shine a light to show them the way. Role modelling and valuing everyone’s contribution and voice helps to make our organisations better places to be and, more broadly as individuals, more resilient to the ever-constant change in our professional and personal lives. 

We all have that professional or personal achievement we’re incredibly proud of. What’s yours?

I could say some of the usual stuff, such as my amazing family or winning awards, my work on the recent Government COVID Taskforce or even delivering my masters dissertation with a three-week-old baby, having not slept more than two hours for many weeks. 

While these are all hugely important achievements for me, what actually comes to mind was a conversation with a team member many years ago. In my first leadership role, I’d been working with this person to develop their career and help them explore new areas. She said to me: “Jenny, I want to thank you for helping me to move out of my comfort zone. I didn’t think I could do it but you helped me see that I can not only do it but I can enjoy it and thrive.” 

This stayed with me for a long time and, indeed, helped shape my leadership development and career choices – I could make a difference and I wanted to add value and purpose for others because their success was also my success. 

What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career that you know now?

Not to be afraid of not knowing the answer. Some of the most interesting and tricky questions don’t have a single answer. Be part of a team that inspires and challenges you but also is your champion. You can work out the tricky stuff together.

If you didn’t work in HE, what would have been your chosen career?

When I was about six, I wanted to be a vet, until I was about 14 and I acknowledged my skills were more in social sciences. If I had the choice, I would have run an animal sanctuary instead!

What are your campus highlights so far?

Campus Live. What a great variety of events. My personal favourite was the sand sculpture. Also loved my library tour and finding out a bit about the history of campus.

Have you found a favourite spot on campus?

The campus architecture is fascinating – so many styles and interesting spaces. I like the variety of spaces to stop and have a chat over coffee and green spaces to enjoy in the sunshine. I’ve loved having an opportunity to walk around a little and watch the campus come to life again when students returned.

What’s still on your ‘to do’ list to visit?

I’m looking for someone to show me all the shortcuts and cut-throughs across campus. I still find myself following ‘Google Maps’ to find the building I’m heading for, and more than once I’ve walked in a complete circle, not quite sure where I went wrong!

What do you do to relax away from University life?

I read a lot and love walking in the fresh air – I make good use of my National Trust membership. I enjoy relaxing with a glass of wine and a movie on winter evenings. I also volunteer in my local youth service, which is a hugely rewarding role outside of my professional comfort zone.

Where’s your favourite travel destination and why?

Gosh, this is hard! I love travelling and exploring different parts of the world, experiencing the culture, food and spaces. But I’m going to go for the south of France. It was my first holiday with my now husband and was a real adventure. I always remember the excitement at every new experience and the wine chilling in the village fountain while we ate warm baked baguettes in a cobbled terrace veranda watching the sunset. It’s a precious memory of life’s possibilities and pleasures.

What’s your random claim to fame?

I once literally bumped into Noel Gallagher in Harvey Nichols in London, and I sat next to Jeremy Irons on a plane from Ireland where he’d been filming. Not sure if those count as a claim to fame!

Register | Transforming our staff and student experience 

Interested in hearing more about the work of the Transformation Office (TO)? 

Join us at an online event to learn how the TO is improving the experience of our University community. Taking place from 11am to 12 noon on Monday 12 December, you will hear from Jenny Baynes, together with our Chief Operating Officer, Rachel Brealey, and Professor Jo-Anne Murray, our newly appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor: Digital Transformation. 

TO Programme Directors will also be on hand to share our progress to date and answer any questions you might have about change or transformational programmes at Leeds. 

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