Back to all news
Written by:
Paul Holland
27 May 2022

When the second lockdown started, like many people, Irina Atkinson found herself without a job and re-evaluating life. Then she saw an advert for a Porter’s job at Trinity Hall: something she’d never even considered before. Buoyed by the tales of Trinity Hall told to her by her late father-in-law, she applied. Now she’s in love with the College and has just moved from being a porter to another important role: helping students as a tutorial administrator.

How long have you worked at Trinity Hall?

I have been with Trinity Hall since December 2020, which makes it one and a half years.

What made you want to join the College as a porter?

The pandemic really changed the way I looked at jobs and my career. After the first lockdown, I started to think about what sectors would be good to work in. I was working in a private-sector customer service role in Cambridge until I was made redundant during the second lockdown, and job searching was very challenging at that time. I was trying to be creative, and I wanted to apply to colleges and keep my options as broad as possible. I saw the position of a porter was advertised and there was so much more to it than I initially expected, so I decided to give it a try. Once I started I realised I liked it a lot!

Why the change to working in tutorial office?

I have always envisaged myself in an administrator job, and it was very hard to get any job of that sort during the Covid period, especially in 2020. When a position in the College came up, I was very interested in applying straight away. After time spent in Trinity Hall, I knew I didn’t want to change college but was happy to rise to a different challenge within Trinity Hall.

What are the similarities and differences between the two jobs?

Both roles closely deal with students, though in a different capacity, but both jobs are here to support students and help them achieve the most during their time with us. The main difference is working hours, also there are different bands of responsibilities, which makes it different and challenging at times.

What do you miss about being a porter? (and do you miss the porter’s uniform?)

Chatting with students! It was very interesting to see their aspirations and how they develop. Also, I do miss the team of porters, as we have an amazing team at the Lodge, that are very helpful and always there for everyone. Though I do have to mention that tutorial office is absolutely amazing, and I love working here too. I guess I find all staff at Trinity Hall very helpful and great.

As for the uniform: it might seems to be one of the perks knowing what to wear every time you must go to work, but I honestly don’t miss it. I do like my bright colours!

What’s the best thing about working at Trinity Hall?

This was the college of my farther-in-law who matriculated in 1968, unfortunately he is no longer with us, but he was so fond of it. That inspired me to apply to work here (we even found an old matriculation picture of him!). The family were so pleased when I got a job here! The best thing about our College is that you feel welcome, and everyone is there for you, it is not just a workplace, it is your working family. I also have to mention the stunning views of the river, and our beautiful gardens.

Does your family have any other Cambridge links?

I’m from Russia and have a PhD in Philosophy from St Petersburg State University and I studied for a Masters in International Business at Anglia Ruskin University. I met my husband, Richard, in London, but he studied at Churchill College and his mother studied at New Hall (now Murray Edwards College). She has very fond memories of celebrating her birthday in Wychfield as my father-in-law lived in Boulton House when they were students at Cambridge.

What’s one thing have you learnt working at Trinity Hall?

Ghosts! It can feel really spooky around College at night. There are so many noises and Cambridge has many tales of ghosts attached to it. When the marquee was up on Latham Lawn it was very noisy at night in the wind and, especially when so few people were in College during the height of the pandemic, it was very spooky doing my night rounds. There’s a lot of wildlife around too making noise: I once saw and heard otters by the river. And you get foxes and badgers, especially at Wychfield site.

What’s your favourite place in Cambridge (can’t say Trinity Hall!)?

Grantchester, if that can be considered Cambridge. If not, then Jesus Green.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to work here?

You need to know the difference between our College and Trinity at the first instance! You need to love history and understand that working here means that you are working at a place that has been around for centuries.