Like most graduate students of information science programs in the UK and North America, I came from a different disciplinary background. Trained as a historian during the digital turn, I used to spend my academic years buried under manuscripts in the archives or browsing the growing number of electronic databases online. I would become fascinated with the explosion of available digital content, and among friends I turned into the annoying guy always educating others on effective search practices.

When I decided to transition away from an academic career and get training in a formal profession, I was looking for something that would allow me to combine these skills and interests with ‘real world’ – business or public administration – applicability. It made sense to choose information management, an applied and dynamic field with direct relevance to current issues at the intersection of technology, business and society.  As an EU expat in Canada, it was important for me to find a program that is recognized on both sides of the Atlantic, and one that I can finish while still keeping my job. I chose Robert Gordon University’s MSc program as it is one of the few distance learning ‘information management’ graduate programs in the UK and North America that is housed in a business school and is recognized by CILIP (and, in turn, by the ALA, CLA etc.).

While its interdisciplinarity makes IM an appealing career choice for anyone with broad interests, it also makes it a challenging one, as professionals are expected to be fluent in managerial, technical, and even design skills, coupled with a good grasp of information and organizational theory. I found the lecturers at RGU struck the perfect blend of theory and applied skills throughout the modules which covered the entire information lifecycle from needs recognition to preservation/disposal. They were very responsive to student questions and did a fantastic job at making sure that in addition to the lecture notes and instructional support, we left each module equipped with a comprehensive list of resources that we can use to dig deeper into more specialized topics, in effect putting us on a path of continuous learning.

One of the ‘lonelier’ aspects of DL, the individual project-based nature of the assignments turned out to be particularly rewarding; these required us not only to synthesize what we learnt, but also to translate and apply our new knowledge and skills to projects based on real world scenarios. I found this practical approach incredibly useful and motivating as I got to work on topics I genuinely cared about; for example, I got to design a music store database, the information architecture of a web portal for a living history museum, and to assess and satisfy the information needs of a client interested in the future of movie theatres.

As a result, I was able to quickly adapt the material and innovate in my current role as manager of an institute for advanced study. For example, I designed and built a small-scale wiki-based intranet to streamline business processes and stakeholder communication, and also redesigned the information and content architecture of our main and project websites as well as the data model of our internal grant tracking database.

Recently I was humbled and thrilled to have been nominated by the iSchool for a CILIP Scotland Medal for best student in diploma stage across all information management courses at RGU; an achievement I firmly attribute to the intrinsic motivation resulting from the practical assessments and the warm instructional support. Conveniently, the award ceremony also gives me a good excuse to finally visit Scotland!