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Discovering a head for heights…

24 May 2022

Diana Hampson looks back over her career and 25 years as our Director of Estates and Facilities

Diana Hampson on Mobberley Tower roof

Diana Hampson – who celebrates 25 years as our Director of Estates and Facilities this month – was standing on our iconic dish at Jodrell Bank when she had one of her memorable moments at work.

“It was high, with really steep sides,” she recalls, her voice still full of wonder.

“I’m not always good with heights – despite my job – but I thought, how many people get this privilege?

“I just stood there and thought, what an amazing place to work.”

It’s an image that perfectly captures her career here at Manchester.

Diana arrived on campus in 1985, after working as an Urban Estates Surveyor for Greater Manchester Council.

Campus was respectful, academic, business-like with no direct phone lines and everything done on paper – in triplicate. One of her first jobs was getting a licence for a then state-of-the-art satellite dish for the building that is now the Martin Harris Centre.

Her teammates – all men – were unsure how to treat her but she worked hard and earned their respect.

“Women were a novelty – we had to show we were every bit as capable as our male colleagues,” she explains.

She did just that – 12 years later, Diana became Director.

“I was absolutely terrified,” she admits.

“People talk about imposter syndrome – well I had that in spades.

“And it was a steep learning curve.

“But I knew people were prepared to take a chance on me. I had lots of support from my colleagues and family. I was excited and had lots of ideas. I thought, what’s the worst that can happen? And I grew into it.”


Diana was grateful for that support and has paid that back by mentoring colleagues herself, through Aurora and other channels, and more informally.

“I’m very happy to do that,” she says.

“I have learned so much from people I have worked with here – more than in a textbook.”

Now our campus is a flexible workplace that supports talented people from diverse backgrounds.

“There’s still work to do,” says Diana, also the first woman to join the Executive of Association of Directors of University Estates.

“But it’s very different from when I arrived. It’s much more about people and what people bring to the workplace. It’s a much healthier culture.”


Similarly, our campus footprint has changed almost beyond recognition under Diana’s leadership.

There have been huge, flagship projects such as ID Manchester, MECD, the Alan Gilbert Learning Commons, Fallowfield, the merger of the Victoria University of Manchester and UMIST in 2004 and our now-completed £1 billion, decade-long Campus Masterplan as well as the work towards our ambitious goal to be zero carbon by 2038.

There are also smaller projects that are close to Diana’s heart, such as Brunswick Park.

“That was ten years in the making, maybe more,” she explains. “We had to be really tenacious. It’s not the biggest in terms of monetary value but it’s made a significant difference to how people enjoy our campus.”

Diana started her Directorship developing a new strategy for Estates service delivery in the face of huge cutbacks for our University. Now she’s doing it again, post Campus Master Plan and post pandemic, as we move into hybrid working and new ways of teaching and learning.

“Yes, 25 years is a long time but there’s lots of new challenges, it’s still fresh,” she says.

“But then some things never change.

“Our University – the place, the people, the things we do – is still a fantastic place to work.”

You can watch Diana reflect on her career:

Voice of experience

Diana’s top career tips are:

  • Be yourself, be authentic.
  • Recognise your strengths and weaknesses and work on them.
  • Don’t wait until you’re 100% ready.
  • A colleague said to me early on, ‘This moment shall pass’. If you make a mistake, learn from it, dust yourself off and go again.
  • Try and get your voice heard, so you’re not overlooked.
  • Take help from others, including mentoring.
  • Make time for the things that are important to you. I didn’t miss my family’s’ sports days or concerts – that was important to me. Make sure you do the things that are important to you.
  • Have fun!

Diana’s tips for leadership:

  • Understand your team’s strengths, weaknesses and skills and adapt your management style.
  • Listen to different views.
  • Trust your team and delegate – you have to in a big Directorate.
  • Never stop learning – every day is a school day.