Digital by default discussions: Zak Mensah


Zak is another survivor of the JISC family like myself. Unlike me however he actually used to contribute something useful to the higher education community as a key member of the JISC Digital Media team (TASI to those of us of a certain age.)

Amongst other things he is fast becoming a bit of a guru on the topic of ebooks and was responsible for the development of the MRC ebook project I undertook last year.

Relatively recently Zak took up a new position at Bristol museums where he became a suit wearing manager as well as a hands on geek. He has kindly agreed to be my guinea pig for this format. [Thats yet another beer I owe you!]


Current job:
Digital Technical Development Manager for the Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives

Current mobile device (personal & work if different):
HTC One X (personal) and a Blackberry Curve (work)

Current computer (personal & work if different):
2009 Apple macbook 13″ (personal) and unknown Windows laptop at work

One word that best describes how you work:

What is your favourite thing about your job?
I get to introduce the opportunities of modern day digital to staff at the museums and see real people using our digital services on-site as well as online, not just numbers from an analytics dashboard.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?
Central IT and old processes will be tough nuts to crack. The system isn’t designed for rapid experimentation. In 2013 and beyond there isn’t ever going to be one way to do something to move from A to B with with the option of hopping back to A again, and we’re never going back. We need to be able to test our assumptions as experiments without labeling everything a failure and accept we will be taking many small steps rather than one long hopeful leap.

What’s your access to the internet like at your office?
I have access to our public wifi which is a lifesaver as I can use many devices, and then access to the web via my own phone when I inevitably hit the firewall.

If you could change one thing about your job what would it be?
I hope in 2014 we can call what we do ‘the museum digital service’.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?
I love my Kindle Paperwhite and Nexus 7 when I’m on the road.

What are you currently reading?
Now for Then: how to face the digital future without fear by Ben Hammersley on my Kindle

What do you listen to while you work (assuming you are able to)?
I listen to stuff on the way to work, at work and on the way home.  It’s probably evenly split between hip hop music and audio podcasts such as Back to Workthe New Disrupters, Alec Baldwin’s Here’s The ThingUnmatched Style by BizCraft and Radio Lab.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I can’t think of any specific examples from people I know. I often find myself repeating ‘No matter how far you’ve gone, you can always turn around‘ by Gil Scott Heron.

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