Fifteen to One | Kerr Hunter

Ahead of the official launch of our exciting digital hub, HELIX Community Development Manager Kerr Hunter reveals how you can utilise this superb new space to enhance collaborative ways of working.

Fifteen to One | Kerr Hunter. September 2023

Find out how you can test drive this state-of-the-art technology for yourself during our forthcoming Leeds Digital Festival (LDF) showcase, and discover what has inspired Kerr throughout his career – from helping organise a tennis star’s Grand Slam celebrations to a real desire to facilitate positive change!

Can you describe your role in 100 words?

I took up the post of Community Development Manager within the University’s new digital hub, HELIX, in May. My role is varied, ranging from welcoming people into the space, showcasing our facilities and exploring ways in which colleagues, teams, departments and schools can use them to meet their objectives. As HELIX isn’t officially open yet, a large part of my role is planning the launch, as well as programming in activities for staff and students. Another key aspect of the role is communicating with stakeholders and evaluating the use of HELIX, adapting what we do in line with this analysis.

What question have you most frequently been asked in this new post?

There have been so many questions! I guess on a basic level, wayfinding – where can I find ‘x’. On a deeper level, we’re asked a lot about the practical application of the Omnideck – the only technology of its kind in the UK that allows unrestricted motion inside virtual reality (VR) environments – to which there’s no right answer! It’s there to be used by staff and students but, more importantly, we want people to work with us to develop ways to apply it to modules, projects etc. 

What are you most looking forward to working on?

I’m really looking forward to seeing staff and students familiarising themselves with our technologies. The idea that all these exciting resources are available for multiple applications is really exciting. One of the ways we’re planning to demonstrate this is through the superb Leeds Digital Festival showcase we have planned for 28 September, as part of the University’s packed LDF programme.

The showcase event sounds interesting. Can you tell us more?

This is a golden opportunity for people to visit HELIX and see different demonstrations using the space and technologies within it. We have a range of presenters from several faculties showcasing different aspects of HELIX and its wider technology. We want as many people as possible to come and see us and to learn what we have to offer. Alongside the bookable events, we also have a number of drop-in sessions happening. This will mostly focus on the activities undertaken by the Digital Education Service’s Production and Creative team, giving access to their facilities and how they can be used. 

How can colleagues make use of the superb HELIX facilities?

We’re still developing our booking system. Until it’s ready, we take bookings via Each ‘zone’ within HELIX can be treated in a modular fashion. Staff and students can use as many or as few of these as they want. We’re also focused on the entrepreneurship journey for some of our students, helping facilitate this as seamlessly as possible by creating multiple spaces where they can take their idea and start to run with it – prototyping, critiquing, meeting peers, implementing immersive technologies and more. We have collaborative meeting spaces, a Makerspace, HELIX classroom (flexible/hybrid/multimode enabled) and XR zone (featuring the UKs only multi-directional Omnideck), as well as a series of production and creative studios.

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

I’ve mostly worked in large public sector organisations, and I remember what drove me to apply for my first role – the opportunity to help people, even indirectly. Trying to facilitate positive change in people’s lives inspires me. I’ve always worked in marketing/ communications/PR, and while this doesn’t involve helping people ‘on the ground’, the core aim is to bring about positive change through effectively communicating to the public.

We all have that professional or personal achievement we’re incredibly proud of – can you tell us yours?

My proudest moment would probably be my involvement with several hard-hitting communications campaigns during my time in local government, which included a project to help prevent child abuse. I was also responsible for helping roll out 20mph speed limits across Edinburgh. This was probably the most hated campaign ever, but it has gone on to be adopted by local authorities across Scotland and beyond.

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

I wish I’d known sooner how valuable soft skills are. Coming from a non-technical background, I always thought I wasn’t good enough, or skilled enough, in technical areas. But skills like communication, teamwork and leadership are equally valuable. It took me a long time to become more confident in my abilities, and like a lot of people, I’m still not there yet!

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

I’ve always had an inquisitive mind, so if I wasn’t working in HE, I would love to have been involved with something in the legal field.

What really impresses you about Leeds?

I studied at Glasgow, and even though the two universities don’t look all that similar, the city of Leeds gives me the same vibes as Glasgow. In terms of the University, I’m really impressed by the adaptiveness the institution showed during the pandemic. The swift transition to online delivery of teaching was commendable. I also love the importance the University places on digital innovation – an openness and adaptability to trying new things and experimenting.

What are your campus highlights to date?

The biggest highlight has been joining the amazing Digital Education Service. Since I arrived in December 2019, the service has trebled in size, yet everyone – from those who’ve worked there a long time, to those who joined remotely during the pandemic and new recruits – are all such lovely, hard-working, committed and helpful people. Working on the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women project was another highlight. Being part of such a wonderful programme designed to help women in developing economies was richly rewarding.

Have you found a favourite location on campus?

I think I have to say HELIX here, right?! HELIX is great, but I also love all the fine University architecture. Gothic, Brutalist, Edwardian, Victorian, Modern – I’m still taking it all in.

What do you do to relax away from University life?

I like to run, see friends and travel. I also like to ski in the winter.

Where’s your favourite travel destination and why?

I love Istanbul and Geneva. The former for its history, culture, architecture and cuisine, and the latter for its natural beauty and the variety of activities available there, as well as the amazing surrounding area.

What’s your random claim to fame?

I helped organise tennis player Andy Murray’s homecoming parade (not single-handedly, of course!) after he won the US Open in 2012. I spent a fair bit of time with him… and he also gave me one of his tennis racquets!

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