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How Did I Get Here? Graham O’Connell, Development and Training Consultant


As part of our feature on trainer development, we asked TrainingZONE members to tell us a bit about how they came to be involved in the training profession, and offer some thoughts on what it means to be a trainer today. We received a fantastic selection of responses, which will be published throughout the month. Here, Graham O'Connell, a Development and Training Consultant at the UK Government's Centre for Management and Policy Studies responds.

  1. What's your current job role? I am a Development & Training Consultant at the UK Government's Centre for Management and Policy Studies. This involves me in running open courses and qualification programmes for Trainers and Training Managers, plenty of bespoke events for clients and some interesting overseas work - everywhere from Kosovo to Bermuda. I work mostly with 5 colleagues in what is a superb team. I don't have a job description, which is very liberating. What I do depends on the opportunities I can create and the contracts we win.

  2. What did you do before this job? I was in the Department of Social Security doing mostly Management Development and Trainer Training. This was a very good grounding.

  3. Describe your route into training Having qualified in Marketing and having worked in the private sector I drifted in to the Civil Service and loved it (working in Social Security in Liverpool is not everyone's idea of fun but, boy, you sure learn a lot!). Shortly afterwards there were major changes in legislation and I was asked if I wanted to be involved in running some sessions. I did and got a real buzz from it. My fate was sealed when I was then asked, because of my acting background, to help make some training videos. Although I started by specialising in legal training I soon spread my wings in to interpersonal skills and beyond.

  4. Did you always want to work in training and development? Not at all. I quite fancied window cleaning before I went in to production control in engineering. But looking back I was searching for what I wanted to do with my life. As soon as I found training - in 1981 - I knew it was for me.

  5. What would you say has been the most significant event in your career to date? What a difficult question. Managing my first multi-national consortia training contract in the Czech Republic was a big one. But perhaps the most significant was when I carelessly messed up feedback to someone on a course
    - I learnt more from that experience than from all the training events I have been on.

  6. How do you think the role of the trainer has changed since you began your training career? I could rattle off a whole list of items including trainers now tailoring events and the impact of blended learning. However, the role is still about learning and development. For technical trainers I think things have changed remarkably little, unless you are in e-learning design. For experienced trainers in management or organisational change there are far more methods and interventions at their disposal. For them the role is about organisational learning and that is certainly different.

  7. What single thing would improve your working life? A real Personal Assistant, especially one who can write up all my ideas so I don't forget them!

  8. What's your favourite part of the TrainingZONE site? I enjoy 'Any Answers' because I can either do a quick browse if I am in a hurry or ponder more leisurely over specific tips and advice.

  9. Do you have any advice for those looking to embark on a career in training? Learn. Learn by watching and working with experienced colleagues. Learn by reading. Learn by getting properly trained and qualified. Learn by reflecting and experimenting. Training is a great place to learn things and I have found the training profession to be full of generous spirit.

  10. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the trainer today? Only two - organisations and people. Organisations (and the managers that work in them) are often stuck in unhelpful habits reinforced by well-meaning procedures filling peoples' days with too little hope for positive change. Trainers need to do less training that just maintains the status quo and promote more learning that constructively rattles and shakes the organisation. People are rich with untapped potential. We need to do less competence training (the avoidance of incompetence) and do more excellence training & learning (getting talent to flourish and using it to create success). Easy really!


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