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Meet Samantha – making it all happen in East Scotland

Monday, 13 June 2016

What does the role of Community Project Officer involve, Samantha?

I am one of four Community Project Officers working for the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme. We each cover a large geographical area. I cover six local authority areas, all the way from Fife to Aberdeenshire. Together with a Campaign Officer and a Senior Campaign Officer, we all work closely with the communications team to stimulate demand for superfast broadband amongst local businesses and the general public. The work covers a wide range of activities, but essentially it is about promoting fibre broadband and making sure as many people as possible are aware of the benefits and take advantage of the opportunities it creates.

So what kind of activities are you involved in?

My job is about engaging with the community and firing their enthusiasm for fibre broadband. So this could involve making a presentation at a community council meeting, running an exhibition stand, driving our mobile showcase van to a local primary school- or many other things besides! No two days are the same. Sometimes the job involves a spot of troubleshooting. For example, if fibre broadband is not taking off as expected in a particular area, I will do some detective work to find out what the issues might be and who the local ‘movers and shakers’ are, then work closely with these people to come up with solutions that will make a difference locally. It is very satisfying as you tend to see direct results from your activities.

What is the best part of the job for you?

I love taking the mobile showcase van to primary schools. Young children really enjoy finding out how fibre broadband works and it is wonderful to see how stimulated and excited they are. Also, when I visit a school, it always reminds me how incredibly valuable this programme is. What we are doing through this programme is laying a foundation for the future lives and careers of our children. As a mother of young children myself, I am intensely conscious of the significance of this. It feels like a real privilege to be part of making it happen.

Have you always worked in a similar role, Samantha?

I am from a sales background. Following university, I worked in advertising sales at DC Thompson in Dundee before moving to BT where I worked on advertising sales for BT Directories for several years. My current role does not involve any selling but of course raising awareness of fibre broadband calls for similar promotional skills and enthusiasm. I have always been high energy, which is just as well as there is a lot of travel involved visiting the various communities for which I am responsible. And I love meeting people, which again is fortunate as I meet so many people in this role. I have lost count of the number of people I have met as a Community Project Officer, it must be thousands. A bonus is that so many of the people you meet are really inspiring.

Can you tell me about some of the most inspiring people you have met?

Well, one group that really stands out for me is ‘Silver Surfers’ in Aberdeen. This is a trailblazing charity that is bringing digital skills to the elderly. Within the group, they have people in their 80s and 90s whose lives have been transformed by fibre broadband, enjoying new activities and staying connected with families and friends worldwide. It is quite amazing to see the difference it has made to so many of them. I have found both the dedicated work of the charity and the enthusiasm of these elderly folk quite inspiring. As a Community Project Officer, when you come across these exceptional examples where communities are making a real difference, it’s marvellous being able to spread the word across Scotland so other communities can learn from their example and experience.

Do you work from home?

Yes, I work from my home in Carnoustie. We got our own fibre broadband connection last October which has made working from home far easier. My husband is an avid online gamer and our three children, Orlaith (4), Oisín (9) and Aoibheann (13) are all big users of YouTube. Now we can all be online together and enjoy the same great speeds. It means I can carry out work in the evening when I need to, even when the others are all busy online too. Fibre broadband has made life so much easier for all of us.

Do things always go according to plan?

No, hardly ever! I always have to think on my feet and be prepared for whatever happens next. One event that stands out in my memory was when I was in charge of our exhibition stand at an Xmas Fair at Glamis Castle. To my horror, I was up to my knees in mud. Luckily, I had some wellies in the car and they stood me in good stead. To the amusement of fellow exhibitors, they were Gucci wellies – a present from my husband – so I certainly presented Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband in style that day!

What do you find the biggest challenge?

Finding enough hours in the day. It often feels as though I need to be in ten places at once. There is a huge amount going on across the region and it is a challenge to juggle all the priorities and stay on top of everything. But I relish the challenge. I really do feel very committed to the programme. It is about creating a better future for all our children and I am so inspired by that goal, that it keeps me going whenever things get challenging. I feel privileged to work in a job that I feel so passionately about.