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Spotlight: We shine the light this week on Tim Drewitt


Tim DrewittTim Drewitt gives some upfront and useful insights into technology in training, and suggests some great advice on how training can really evolve and improve.

Name: Tim Drewitt

Age: 39

Job title: Director, business and product development, Academy28

Brief description of the job that you do:

I am responsible for the sales and marketing of a range of online learning products ranging from online behavioural preference assessment tools to webinar development services. I also work on developing the overall product portfolio to meet the needs of our corporate clients.

1. Why did you become a learning technologies practitioner?

I started off in training back in 1994, at the then Lloyds Bank, having just come off their graduate development programme and been successful in applying for my first 'proper job' in the bank, within the training and development function, managing the bank's network of multimedia learning centres. Before then, I'd spent six months looking after one of these centres at the Liverpool area director's office, as a project. At the time, I never thought I'd end up looking after and growing the entire network from 125 to 450 centres over the following four years. I got the job, apparently, because I demonstrated business acumen during the interviews, seeing training as only the means to the end and not the end itself.

2. What do you love best about your job?

I'm driven by solving real business problems and finding ways to use new technologies to do this. In my current role, every day I'm uncovering new approaches to using behavioural preferences to solve everyday business challenges and new ways to use live web-based training. The chance to apply creativity, coupled with nearly 15 years' experience in the learning technologies field, is great. And now that the technology has caught up, I'm able to do things that I only dreamed about back in 1994.

3. What do you find most challenging?

The conservative nature of our industry can sometimes be a challenge. I'm passionate about using technology as part of the training mix – and I know sometimes my ideas are too forward-looking for some – but over time, I've realised that today's challenges will only be short-lived. I just need a bit more patience!

4. What's the best advice that you would give to someone new to learning technologies?

I would recommend that they take their time and try lots of things out. Fifteen years ago, there were very few books on the subject. Now Amazon is bulging with books, but most only scratch the surface or are too US-centric in terms of the training models they promote. I find the more you experiment with learning technologies, the more you realise how powerful they can be. Don't follow the hype... create your own!

5. What's the best advice that's been given to you that has helped you in your career?

It has to be the feedback I received having completed the Myers Briggs Type Indicator back in my banking days. I learned for the first time that I was strong on 'big picture' thinking, but not so strong on the people-centred areas, despite thinking the opposite. But the feedback was well-presented and literally within days, I found myself making a much more concerted effort to think both people and process. This has clearly helped me to achieve more, through being able to build even stronger levels of rapport and to obtain the buy-in of others more quickly and more solidly.

6. How do you see learning technologies developing over the next few years?

The next few years are going to be very exciting. Elearning is becoming more and more widely accepted, as we settle down into sensible patterns and models of usage. Having been a passionate supporter of the wide-spread use of generic content, I predict that we'll see even more emphasis placed on custom elearning solutions going forward. I also want to see more activity in the live elearning space, which is the use of web-conferencing tools to create training webinars. The US is ahead of us here. I've been delivering webinars on a monthly basis for three years now and believe they offer so much potential to combine the advantages of elearning with the undisputed benefits of live instructor-led training.

7. What's the best career help book that you've ever read?

I'm not really into this sort of book – too many elearning ones to read! But whilst travelling in the USA last week and passing through five airports, I kept seeing the new book from Tom Rath 'Strengths Finder 2.0', the updated edition of the popular book, 'Now, Discover Your Strengths'. Unlike other books of this type, this one is short, very quick and easy to read and is supported by a complete online learning space, which is great!

8. What's the best event within the training community that you've ever attended?

I was invited to present an interactive exercise at a conference on blended learning in London back in 2002. The keynote speaker (a business leader not a training practitioner) lambasted the "training purists" in the audience for not getting the message that whilst they dotted the is and crossed the ts, perfecting their "beautifully crafted training solutions", their organisation had moved on to the next pressing issue. He called for more "fit for purpose" training solutions. He argued that although they may not be "perfect", just being delivered when the business needed them was so much more important. I've always felt the same – just never had the courage to speak out so clearly about it. Gradually though, I think we're getting that message. The dramatic rise in rapid elearning courses, authored by the subject matter experts themselves – and not the training department – is evidence of this.

9. Who do you think is the most inspirational member of the training community and have you ever met them?

When I worked at McGraw-Hill Lifetime Learning, our publishing division got the rights to publish what, at the time, was to be the leading text book on corporate elearning, 'E-learning: Building Successful Online Learning in Your Organisation'. The author was Marc Rosenberg, and I was privileged not only to get to meet him after the book was published, but also to be invited to comment on the draft by the book's editor in our New York office. In fact, I still have the black and white, unbound, draft copy next to the final version on my bookshelf. Marc clearly articulated the key success factors that would enable a company to deploy elearning successfully. His experiences reflected my own, so I was very excited that such a work would go on to be a top seller.

10. What else would you like to share with our members?

In 2008 and beyond, I hope that, as a profession, we concentrate even more on what happens after a training event, rather than putting all our efforts into the event itself. We need to take more responsibility for what happens back in the workplace and not abdicate that responsibility to others, who have little time - or the experience - to do this. If we're to be regarded as true business partners, then we need to be seen to be active in making our learning solutions work at the frontline.


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