Dr. Alex FentonI never thought I’d write these words, but today, I handed in my notice. After two decades, over two separate stints and several different jobs at Salford University, I am pleased to say that I’ve accepted a promotion and new role as Head of Centre for Professional and Economic Development at University of Chester, starting December 2021. In this post, I’ve written a bit about my time at Salford and how I got to this point and finally, about the new role and what next.

How did I get here?

I first joined Salford as a graduate in 1997 after completing a degree in Electronic Imaging and Media Communications at Bradford University. It was really early days then for the Internet and websites and I became one of Salford’s first full-time web and multimedia developers for a great funded project called The Virtual Chamber, which was part of the GEMISIS project. It really was ‘right place, right time’, I applied for a funded PhD place and got offered this job instead! We were tasked with trying to get Manchester online and using the web and multimedia in smart new ways for business, education and more.

I loved my graduate job and as the funding ran out, it evolved into doing more commercial web development work and I learned more about multimedia and programming web applications with things like Flash and ASP to make database driven websites. We were often working on educational and e-learning projects and eventually, part of our team was bought out by London based training company founded by John Cleese, Video Arts. We were making high end e-learning content, tools and simulations for the Police and various other large organisations around 20 years ago and it was great experience while it lasted.

I returned home to Salford University in 2004 back to a job I loved – making websites and web applications for the University and commercial clients. On my return, my ID card shot, I have a huge beaming smile, because it was so nice to be back! We worked for a commercial unit and made some terrific web based solutions from intranets, e-learning systems to a new content management system (CMS) programmed in PHP. This was before the days of WordPress and so many of the open source and off the shelf systems. The CMS really took off at the University and outside, we were building new functions for it and solving a lot of problems for organisations looking to digitally transform. The University allowed me to study a Masters in Creative Technology at the same time as earning my salary through commercial work, which was a brilliant opportunity. On my final project, I was able to build a system for creative students to showcase their work online and in cutting edge live events at MediaCityUK called Creative Hive.

It also opened my eyes to the possibilities for research and teaching in a University, which kickstarted my second career. 2014 was a big year. Thanks to amazing colleagues, we won The European Search Awards for a project called Passport to Trade 2.0, won THE Business School of the Year and I started a PhD and moved from professional services to get a full-time academic role as Lecturer in Digital Business. It’s been an epic 7 year journey in the Business School. With amazing supervision, I finished my PhD in digital marketing and sport in 2018 alongside the full-time academic role and have been lucky enough to have had some amazing colleagues, experiences and opportunities. It’s a cliche to say there are too many names and experiences to mention, but I am quite old now, so please forgive me and see the Tweets below also! These include winning individual and team teaching and industry awards, seeing my students and colleagues succeed, bringing together large innovation competitions and events at MediaCityUK,  publishing books and in international journals, presenting a netnography workshop at Social Media and Society in Toronto and a Digital Sport keynote at Coppead in Rio de Janeiro, presenting evidence to the House of Lords committee, Setting up and leading a Disruptive Tech Research Cluster and meeting my heroes like Rob Kozinets, working with Salford Red Devils and Rangers fans on our Fan Fit app project and appearances in the national press and TV such as BBC Sport and Rip Off Britain. There have been a lot of highlights and changes over the course of my career and never a dull moment! Salford will always be home to me and despite the usual ups and downs over the years, it’s hard to imagine a place more filled with wonderful, friendly people. The last couple of years living and working through the pandemic have been incredibly challenging for everyone and it’s caused a lot of change to Higher Education, lives and careers.

What next?

I applied for three roles (Bradford, Dundee and Chester) and was offered all three roles. It appeared for some time that I would be taking up a role at Dundee University, but after changes in circumstances, the opportunity arose for me to progress to Head of Centre for Professional and Economic Development at Chester University. I’m really excited about the new role and of course there is loads of potential to keep working with my existing network and colleagues at Salford and beyond on joint research and funded projects. I will remain living in the North-West and will be commuting. Having spoken to a range of my new colleagues, I am impressed and really encouraged about how welcoming they are and I look forward to working with them. In order to get to this point, I have to thank a long list of colleagues past and present at Salford University who encouraged and believed in me and provided some incredible opportunities. I’ve met some amazing colleagues and students from all around the world that I still count as friends. My time and experiences at Salford have really prepared me for this next step and allowed me to build a profile of interest to other Uni’s. I’ll miss our staff and students terribly. Speaking to colleagues recently about the move, it reminds me just how wonderful they are and how much they value our working together and our friendship. Everyone that knows me, knows I am pretty good at keeping in touch and keeping those collaborations going.

Onwards and upwards!

Alex Fenton and Marta Rodriquez, Big Chip Awards

Me and Marta Rodriquez, Big Chip Awards

European Search Awards 2014 - Salford Business School

Me and Aleksej Heinze at the European Search Awards, Reykjavik

Dr. Alex Fenton




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