Meet our people – Gerard Atkinson

Find out more about our staff, their roles, and what their day to day looks like!

What was your path into evaluation and ARTD?

I’m not sure there’s a standard path into evaluation, but looking back I have been doing work that had evaluative components for a long time – one of my first jobs was as a market researcher gathering quantitative and qualitative data, and that was over 20 years ago.

Since then I’ve worked in a range of areas, from research science to intellectual property to government policy to consulting in the cultural sector. However, I didn’t realise that what I had been doing in those jobs included evaluation until I applied for a position as the manager of evaluation at the Australia Council for the Arts. When I lined up what they wanted with my experience, I realised that I had been doing evaluation work in almost every prior job I had had! They must have thought the same thing because they hired me in the role.

Doing that job made me realise I had much more to learn about evaluation as a discipline, and when the opportunity arose to work for ARTD, I knew that I could learn from some of the best people around. I’m still here five years later because every day there’s something more to learn.

Can you sum up your role as a Senior Manager in one sentence?

Being a senior manager requires you to both be a project manager with a direct line of sight to delivering work (and often leading that work directly), but at the same time you are managing a portfolio of projects, often with their own managers, meaning you need to take a high-level view of what’s going on.

What was the best opportunity/ your proudest work moment since starting at ARTD?

I think my proudest work moment has been seeing my colleagues develop and grow. I’ve had people who started out as analysts on some of my long-running projects develop and progress to the point where they can capably manage the whole project.

What is your favourite thing about working at ARTD?

Most days I work remotely from my home in Warrnambool (South-west Victoria). So I’ll log on in the morning and go through emails and get tasks moving for the day. I might also use the time to review documents for projects.

Once that’s done I’m usually then having project meetings or checking in with teams on tasks; my role is to keep things on track and to help remove barriers to them getting things done.

Later morning is where I will be doing facilitation work, whether that’s community consultation, executive level meetings, or delivering internal skills training for staff. While I love doing this face-to-face when I can, being able to do these consultations remotely opens up a whole range of tools to collaborate on designs and to gather input.

After lunch I’ll get into focused project work, such as designing a data collection tool, or running some statistical and data analysis. I do a lot of work in Tableau and Power BI, transforming data into insights, and it’s a favourite part of my work.

Towards the end of the day I might have a one-on-one session of coaching and mentoring with a staff member. That can range from working through training exercises together, to more unstructured chats about career goals.

Finally, I will review the portfolio of projects to make sure that things are on track, before signing off and making dinner and getting into my volunteer work or pursuing outside interests.

What does a ‘day in the life’ look like for you?

My days are quite diverse, but typically involve a mixture of meetings and workshops with clients and staff to progress evaluations, data collection and analysis, proposal and report writing, and contributing to strategic focus and direction.

What’s something your clients may not know about you?

Most clients I have worked with already know that I’m a trained opera singer and a foster carer for rescue cats (they make regular appearances in video calls).

But most of my clients outside of the disability sector may not know that I am Autistic. While that presents some challenges in how I work (I’m not a fan of unexpected phone calls), it’s also a strength in that I tend to process information differently to others, and that can result in useful insights and new ways of thinking.


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