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Interview: Meet Lettie and Vic – our new Heads of Operations

29 February 2024

Living with us as students, working their way up through our operations teams and with experience in our central support functions – Lettie Hubbuck and Vic Simmons are the perfect ambassadors for Unite Students.

With Lettie and Vic having recently been promoted to Heads of Operations across our Scotland & the North and South & Central regions respectively, we caught up with them to find out what their core principles are for student accommodation.


Lettie Hubbuck, Head of Operations for Scotland & the North at Unite Students

Lettie Hubbuck (Head of Operations for Scotland & the North)

Q: How does it feel to be leading up one of our three operational regions? And what was it that made you apply for the Head of Operations role?

A: It’s a privilege and an honour to have the role. I’ve spent the majority of my career in this patch, in these cities with these teams, and I’ve missed the variety of people that you speak to and feeling close to students; it’s a reminder of why we do what we do.

I loved working in central operations, but for me, it was never the endgame. I always had a return to field operations in the back of my mind, but I didn’t expect the role to come up as soon as it did. It’s a bit of a transition when you’re enjoying what you do, and I had great plans and ambitions for my previous role, but these opportunities don’t come up very often – especially not in my home turf.


What did you learn from your time working in our central operations team?

In my previous role, I spent a year and a half writing processes and looking at how things should be done. There’s the written process and then there’s the actual reality, and I understand how things should work – but actually how things are working is different. Is the process right, is the delivery right, or is it somewhere in the middle? That’s going to be really interesting for me.


What are you most looking forward to about returning to our operations teams?

So far, it’s been great getting around and seeing our new properties. I’ve been around all the cities in my patch and I’ve done night shifts as well to meet the team. There’s a lot of familiar cities and people, but there’s also a lot of differences. The business has definitely changed in the last 18 months and I’m very aware of that. It feels like I’ve been away and I’ve come home, but people have moved the furniture around and I’m trying to figure that out.

I’ve had some great opportunities; the culture of innovation at Unite Students gives you those options to work on other projects, grow within your role and learn different things. Certainly for me, that’s something that I want to work on with the teams in the North. Someone gave me opportunities – I want to make sure that my teams feel like they have those opportunities too.


What’s one thing that you’re really passionate about when it comes to purpose-built student accommodation?

We don’t have a business without the universities, we don’t have a business without students. We have to work with them and meet their needs. That’s why we’re here. Everything that we do should support students in getting their degree as the primary focus – that they get a good night’s sleep, that they’re able to do their coursework, they can use the Wi-Fi, they’re safe, warm and dry.

It’s brilliant basics. That’s what we really need to aim for. We talk about our check-in experience, but if a student walks into their bedroom and there’s a leak coming from the ceiling or the room hasn’t been cleaned, there’s a smell, something doesn’t work… there’s no balloon arch or cupcake that’s going to make that better.

Other things that we do are important too, but if we don’t keep a focus on the core basics then all of the other stuff doesn’t matter. Students want us to help them settle into a community, absolutely. But first of all, they want to be safe, warm and dry.

Read our previous interview with Lettie, about her history of living with and working for Unite Students, here.


Vic Simmons, Interim Head of Operations for South & Central at Unite StudentsVic Simmons (Interim Head of Operations for South & Central)

Q: How does it feel to be leading one of our three operational regions? What was it that made you apply for the Head of Operations role?

A: It’s an immense privilege to be a Head of Operations while Steph Dale is on maternity leave. I’ve worked across so many areas of Unite Students – the contact centre, accounts, operations, sales, IT, strategy and, most recently, our Build to Rent (BTR) operation. I’ve been here a long time, but I definitely haven’t stood still. Each role has taught me something unique and has given me a new skill to take forward. It’s also given me the opportunity to work with some incredibly talented people who have left a lasting impression on me and helped me to make this step up.

Heads of Operations roles don’t come up very often, so it was an incredible role to consider. I always want to know that I can contribute with whatever step I take in my career – not just that I can do the job, but really make a difference, add value and develop. This role ticks all of the boxes, brings together all the opportunities and experiences I’ve had so far, and is a huge stepping stone for my career.


Your previous role was in our strategy team as Innovation Manager – what did you learn from your time working in our support functions?

The key skill when working in a support team is to develop relationships in every corner of the organisation – these are key to success. I’ve never worked in a role where I haven’t needed to reach out for support outside of my area.

You also get a huge amount of insight and understanding from getting to know all these different teams. Again, that’s essential when you’re supporting such a varied operating business. It’s also a lot of fun being able to talk to a huge amount of really interesting people across the organisation, many of whom I now consider to be friends.


What are you most looking forward to about returning to operations?

It has to be our teams. They’re made up of special people who go above and beyond, day in and day out, to keep our students, buildings and each other safe. I’ve worked in our cities for many years and so I come from a place of understanding and admiration.

Our local teams are also the closest to students and universities, and that’s where my passion lies. We have a huge role to play in ensuring our students enjoy their unique university experience, and our university relationships are so important too. Understanding our partners’ needs and wants and seeing where we can support that isn’t always easy, but it’s a privilege to be a part of the conversation.


What’s one thing that you’re really passionate about when it comes to purpose-built student accommodation?

For me, it’s about those relationships – and it’s also about helping our students create positive lasting memories during their time with us. Doing things right all the time and stepping in when they need us. For my teams it’s understanding we are student-first, we understand what this means, and we unblock anything that’s getting in the way.

I had a really difficult time at university. Financially it was stifling; I had to work to pay my way and felt I didn’t fit in with those around me. I look at what Unite Students delivers for students now – be it our Support to Stay student support framework, supporting the Unite Foundation, and help via the student app – and it fills me with pride that if there’s someone like me at university, there are now so many options to help everyone have a great time.

Read our previous interview with Vic about her time living with Unite Students here.