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How Did I Get Here? Steve Dineen, Chief Executive of fuel

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How did you come to work in training?
I suppose it started when I was at university when I found that I enjoyed helping other students to learn. When someone told me they understood something I had explained in five minutes, that the lecturer had failed to make clear in two lectures, it was the best feedback you could get. I then started working at Ingram Micro and after beginning in pre-sales consultancy and gaining confidence in my presentation skills, an opportunity came up in training, teaching high-end systems. I had a good mentor and a lot of natural enthusiasm, so I enjoyed it and was pretty successful.

Describe your role
I work with clients and colleagues on the development and evolution of education and recall, and then apply it to corporate learning. In my role as chief executive I work hard with the senior management, especially on the vision and strategy for the business and our work. I want to build on fuel's reputation as a forward-thinking company, challenging current thinking both in the market and within the organisation, to take it further, grow the business and market, and make it more profitable.

What activities do you spend most of your time on?
I get involved with sales or operations when there are issues. But generally I like to spend my time on strategic or research issues. In particular, when I go to our office in India, I get a chance to think, to see how we can constantly evolve, improve efficiency and understand our clients' needs better.

What are the best and worst aspects of your role?
The best aspects are meeting industry leaders in marketing, sales, R&D and IT, discussing the latest thinking in their fields then considering how the ideas and technology can be used in training. Even better is putting ideas into action and gaining client feedback when it is successfully implemented, especially when it has resulted in a sales increase for the client.
The worst aspects are anything that makes me feel as though I am doing something that means the business is standing still.

What is your most over-used phrase?
Well, aside from ‘groovy’ it’s got to be ‘ignorance is futile.’

What is the best lesson you can pass on?
Try to see what you are doing through the eyes of the person you are listening to or speaking to - through the eyes of a learner you are trying to teach.

What has been your worse training moment?
There are actually two that spring to mind…
One was a 5-day IT course where the 12 students had massively varied previous experience. Three had no core competencies, six had some and three knew everything I was teaching. It was a long time ago but is still vivid - just impossibly awkward and frustrating for all. The second was when I had to do some stand-up training abroad with someone translating what I was saying. What I was taking a minute or two to explain, the translator was saying in just two words! It really freaked me out!

What influences do you think have had the greatest impact on the training sector in recent years?
Technology. The Internet has revolutionised the way we think, giving us the ability to access anything, anywhere, anytime. In addition, we have a deeper understanding of how the brain works, which helps us to understand how we recall information, and enables us to gain insight into how to trigger it.

Do you think that training professionals should have a greater say in planning national training policy?
Yes, there should be fewer academics and consultants and more front-line professionals who really know how learning works. At the moment, tender documents are not decided based on knowledge. We should be viewed as partners not suppliers. The Ministry of Defence is realising this and using professionals for leading-edge advice.

How do you see your work changing or developing in the next few years?
I will be less involved in the day-to-day details of projects as the senior management team grows, and be more focussed on strategic issues and research and development.

* Read more career insights on our How Did I Get Here? page.

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