The 45-year-old somewhat surprisingly left Cove Rangers after leading them to the Scottish Championship, and will get a first taste of management south of the Border after taking the reins at Victoria Park, having previously served as manager of Alloa, Dundee, and Falkirk.
Hartley is under no illusions that he has a big job on his hands but is relishing the challenge.
"We knew when we came into the job that it was going to be massive.
"We've got to be ambitious. If I came in and said we were just happy to float about the middle of the league then that doesn't show much from me.
"We've spoken about potentially hitting the play-offs but every manager is under pressure and I'm no different."
Describing the atmosphere as ‘more intense’ he continued: "It's a great test for me, completely different to what I was used to at Cove Rangers.
"Trying to get players in isn't easy because we get thrown so many every day by so many agents; it's a bigger market down here.
"We have to have a mixture in the squad. I've got to pick my own players and my head is always on the line whatever the results are.”
Hartley has already bolstered his squad with some players from the Scottish leagues with Jake Hastie, Euan Murray, and Jack Hamilton among those to have moved south.
"There are players I know can do well for us and it gives them an opportunity. It's about boys you know or have come across who you think can do well for you,” Hartley explained.
"I think Jake's gone a wee bit backwards in terms of his development.
"He's still only 23; if we can work with him and improve him we'll have a really good player on our hands. It’s a fresh start for him.
Time will tell how Hartley fares in Durham but for now he is optimistic.
"There are a lot of good people at the club; we're ambitious, we want to make the club better and build a team we're looking forward to it,” he added.
"We're giving it our best shot at being successful.”