The main house at the Lodge RSPB reserve, UK headquaters of the RSPB, Sandy, Bedfordshire

Merlin Systems Manager

What does a Merlin Systems Manager do? Find out more.

Q&A with Colin Campbell

Job title: Merlin Systems Manager 
Company: RSPB 
Location: UK Headquarters, The Lodge, Bedfordshire  
Typical hours: 9am until 5.15pm, five days a week

What is Merlin?

Merlin is the system the RSPB uses to store its conservation data and plot the data on a map. Staff use the finished maps to help plan their work for wildlife on our nature reserves and across the country.

What are your main duties and responsibilities?

My main responsibilities involve a lot of management. I manage two people, and they each manage their own teams of three. The support team are in charge of systems and support. They answer questions, give advice and provide training, consultancy and mapping experts for all departments. The species data team have more of a conservation background, and they collect, check and share data – they're like the guardians of mapping data.  

Also at the minute most of my time is being spent on the Merlin redevelopment programme, which will make the system available to everyone within the RSPB. I sit between the users and the developers, translating a lot of the technical stuff.

Can you describe a typical day in (or out) of the office?

At the moment I'm nearly always in. My day is usually spent talking to the team, having one-to-ones with people, testing and designing screens and liaising with external screen designers. There is also the occasional map consultancy. I spend a lot of time working on the direction and strategy of the team, as well as our new conservation strategy.

Which qualifications are useful or necessary for this field of work?

I completed a Degree in Biology followed by a Diploma in GIS (Geographic Information Systems), which I did whilst working here. Some of the people I know working in my department have backgrounds in geography or biology, but others have come into it from completely different careers.  

Which personal qualities do you feel make you suited to this job?

Having an eye for detail is important, as I'm constantly having to get things right. Wanting to help others is also important, because I'm working in a service department and so working to help others rather than myself. I think it's also good to have an understanding of how other departments work, problem-solving skills, and some creativity – maps are very visual. 

Which route did you take to enter this field of work?

After university I entered a short-term contact working 2 or 3 days a week mapping out reserve boundaries. I sort of stumbled into this job. A lot of people I know, and at least three people in this office, first entered the RSPB through volunteering, and later went on to get paid work. 

For you, what makes it worth coming into work each day?

The people here are the best reason for coming in each day. RSPB people in general, but especially the team I work with, are absolutely passionate about what they do.

The variety is also great. You get to work with all sorts of people, from conservation scientists to people in PR and marketing.

The work is also very productive, we work on a lot of small projects which means we get a lot done. Finally, working here I get to feel as though I'm making a difference. 

Are there any downsides?

Not that I can think of – this is a really great place to work. Other people would rather be outside, but I enjoy what I do. I get the opportunity to travel and meet lots of people. It might not be a glamorous job, but I get to play an important part in all projects, not just one. For somebody who is interested in maps and data, I would definitely recommend it!