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Your career as a trainer – what you told us!


Last month, we asked members to contribute their experiences of the world of training and development by letting us know a bit about their career to date. Below are some potted responses from TrainingZONE members - if you'd like to add your own, you can do so at the bottom of the page. Some of those listed have also contributed to our more in-depth feature giving their experiences and views of the training profession, and these have been published throughout the month of August on the site.

From the police force to FE in Australia

'While working as a police officer in the Queensland Police Force I began studying management at a Technical and Further Education College in Brisbane. My boss at the Police Commissioner's Office asked me to provide training to civilian staff being inducted. So every few months I'd run a session about the role of the police, the legislative sources of our authority, and how we operated. I really enjoyed those sessions - the interaction was excellent and I got to know many of the public service staff whom I would never otherwise have met. It was a welcome break from the usual rigours of police work! One evening while having a break from a class at the TAFE College a manager from the college and I were discussing the poor promotional opportunities in the police force. He asked me whether I would be interested in a TAFE teaching career and suggested if so, I apply for the teacher trainee intake coming up soon.

After discussing it with my wife I applied and at the grand age of 34 commenced a TAFE teaching career. TAFE paid me to attend a 'sandwhich' program at university and complete a diploma of teaching. I continued to work for TAFE for about a decade gaining quick promotion to head of a business and computing department and working at three different colleges in Queensland. All the time I studied tertiary programs part-time and before leaving TAFE had been offered a training manager's position with an Australian Government Agency for whom I have worked for the past 11 years. Following a restructure three years ago and a consequent change in jobs, I now manage all HR&D related activities for the Agency in its Central Australian Offices. Although I enjoy all aspects of my work, training and development remain my first love and I get involved in local training activities at every opportunity.'

Robin Henry
Senior Development Officer (HR)
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services
Alice Springs

An accidental but logical move

I moved by accident from business into training some 30 years ago. My business background includes working in the US & UK. My business career background includes an engineering degree, working in manufacturing and marketing and advising people on building financial models. My training background includes teaching management for a computer services company, managing a department that covered both own staff and customers, teaching marketing at Ashridge Management College - and of course designing and using my firm's computer simulations for management development and business training. Overall, my career path was a logical and lucky series of accidents!

Jeremy Hall, Churchill Fellow,
Hall Marketing

A sweet vocation!

I started my career as an art and drama teacher, so most people are surprised when they hear I moved into financial services, became a development director and had training responsibility for some 2,500 sales people.

Communication and a love of people are the constants in my life. The last financial services company I joined was a very old respected company who promised me great things but within months the operation had consultants in and the whole operation was closed. I decided to look to my own resources and broaden my horizons. The past decade has seen me training and consulting in organisations varying from health practices to the power industry. The variety has been amazing, one day writing a post-graduate business studies module, another working with children suffering from anxiety. I love every minute of what I do. I have a highly individual style and typical feedback will be, 'I laughed a lot, I talked a lot, the learning was amazing and has positively affected the people around me both at home and in work.' I guess I love the challenge of people centred facilitation, it means you cannot stick to a script and invariably you are on the edge of your comfort zone.

I have learnt that if you are interested in personal and organisational development you must promote your own self development. Some people get really earnest about self development but for me it means variety and so much fun. Over the next five days I have to finish writing a course on personal communication for a company in the city, complete some 1st drawings, well cartoons really, for a book somebody has written on parenting, deliver a course a course on retirement, read some more of Will Parfitt's excellent book on psychosynthesis and finally play lead guitar, percussion and harmonica (not all at the same time!) in an Irish band for a wedding reception.

Was training a calling? No, I thought I would end up running my father's firm wholesaling sweets and tobacco but he hated it so much he said he did me a favour by selling the company whilst I was at college. Did I fall into training? Yes. In falling did I find my vocation? Absolutely!

Kevin Chamberlain

From retailing to training

I am a 36 year old Human Resource Developer. I spent the majority of my early career working as line management in the retail industry after leaving university with a degree in Economics. I drifted into training as one of my roles involved designing stock control procedures which I had to teach to store managers. It was this element of my job that I enjoyed most and I seemed to have a natural rapport with the people I was training. I realised that there was a strong need for manager training and put a proposal to the senior management team.

I became the company’s management trainer covering a range of programmes looking at operational procedures to soft skills. I completed my Certificate in teaching Practice which I found an excellent grounding. I was then promoted to Training & Development Manager for the company and designed the training programme for the biggest project in the company’s history. This was challenging but very rewarding. I am now completing a Full Time M.A In Human Resource Development and Management Learning at Lancaster University Management School. It is here that I have learnt the theories behind the practice- If only I had known back then what I know now!

Kevin Ryan

IT training - 16 years later...

I knew that I wanted to teach, but with a degree in Music, I knew I didn't want to teach in a school so used my skills on the keyboard to a new effect and taught myself typing (easy, co-ordination and strength in fingers already there from piano playing). Many moons later, I was working for a computer company and as a super-efficient secretary was asked to train in-house personnel on a new e-mail system. Then someone in the local customer training centre was ill, and with a class of 12 students, they asked if they could borrow me for a day - I stayed 3 days, following my nose and minimal instructions, found that I had a talent for communication and was taken on by customer training and never looked back!

I was told that after 2 years of training you would either give up and move on, or be hooked for ever (I am hooked!). 16 years later I'm still enjoying it - OK, so my role has changed and I did venture briefly into soft skills training and then into selling training, but the pull of the job satisfaction pulled me back each time. I have attended a number of "How to Train" courses and like to refresh myself every few years and attend training conferences when I can. I'm now working for a company of 500+ people as the only IT Trainer, so I manage, TNA, learn site specific software, teach, develop user guides and report to management - and still love it!

Lynn Wood
IT Trainer
Technip Offshore UK Ltd

Trainer by accident!

After spending 23 years in the NHS, I returned to Higher Education. I graduated in 1993 (at the ripe old age of 53!) and decided that I did not wish to resume my career in the NHS. I thought seriously about Adult Careers Guidance, but found the strict criteria for entering into a PGDip in Careers Guidance meant that I would have to spend a further 2 years before "earning" a living and paying off student debt. Instead, I undertook a PGDip at Birkbeck College in Careers Counselling and Consultancy - a "new" thing for the Department of Occupational Psychology. I "fell" into a job as a Job Club Leader, continued with my PG studies for the first year, and have learned a lot of what I know whilst being "in the job." I undertook a National Vocational Qualification at Level IV in Guidance and still practice part time, as I'm now 62, but don't feel ready to give up.

It hasn't been an easy road: many organisations sponsor their staff to undertake courses, this includes most of my fellow students at Birkbeck, but I have, almost exclusively, funded myself from my salary. I still get a tremendous buzz from what I do. I'm also a Job Coach and mentor, as well as running workshops for unemployed clients under the New Deal, previously working with 25 plus age group, now with the 18 - 24 year olds. Every day is a challenge, but I have never thought of myself as a "trainer", although I do have knowledge of many well known models such as Belbin, Schein, Egan, Dryden et al. The point of all this is that I still consider myself a "learner" and still find it all great fun!

Mo Georges.

I started training too late

My interest in training & education started when I went into FE colleges, Further education for decades with variety of learning methods –correspondence, distance learning, lecturers and Open University. In the meantime I was training on an Ad hoc way at work. Then I fed my desire to help learners so I lectured for 20 years on post grad courses. Then I was made redundant and started my own training company 9 years ago now I am doing what I should have done 2 decades ago. I marry the practical knowledge I have gained and the academic experience I have gained. Addition I have a experience of learning – what was good and bad and follow this to help others.

I still have a desire to learn and am continually improving my knowledge and training techniques. So I will be looking at blended learning as a way to help others in the future. So I have taken a long route to training, but here I am doing what I like – Training & learning with others. Best job in the world (after Purchasing of course).



Avoiding the easy option

I retired from the Royal Air Force in 1995 having spent some 25 years in various job roles. Although my main job title civilian equivalent was Medical Practice Manager my last 2 years of military service was spent as an IT Systems Implementation Team Leader. The job included instructional duties teaching medical personnel in the use of computers. On retirement it seemed a natural progression into an IT teaching role but this proved anything but the case. Qualifications and previous experience were not considered compatible with a civilian training environment. Following re-qualification I commenced work (1998) with a national vocational training company providing a Government funded youth training programme. Since then I have progressed through IT tutor, Job search training, basic skills training, business start up courses and financial accounting. I am currently a "hand on" Centre Manager spending 2 days a week in a teaching/tutoring role.

Ray Bunnage

Chosing another path

I went to University as a mature student and completed a BA Majoring in HRM in June 1999. I had a couple of HR admin jobs following on from finishing Uni, however I felt that generalist HR was not a discipline in which I saw my career progressing.

After various short term contracts and some time out, I decided that I wanted to follow the learning and development path. At that time, I had the opportunity to train UK based staff in the use of a new computerised system. This gave me the experience required to complete the CIPD Certificate in Training Practice and re-inforced in my own mind that I had indeed found my vocation, my calling.

Chiara L Fusco

From sales management to training

I had a successful management career in sales and sales management for 18 years, following redundancy 3 and a half years ago, I decide to follow a career change and diversify into training. I made my decision based on the premise that most of my satisfaction in my career had been derived from, working closely with and developing people to perform and achieve their potential.

My first aim was to achieve an employed position, however the view of most employers was ' I can see you have lost of management experience however you are not a trainer' at which point the conversation and contact ended.
I therefore decided to follow the self employed route to gain experience with the initial aim of trying the employed market in the future with the credibility of experience under my belt. I have since been successful working on a range of Government contracts and gaining experience along the way as well as working on contract for 2 Large Private sector companies. additionally I achieve my Certificate in Training Practice to gain associate status within the CIPD.

My skills have been enhanced and developed and a far wider perspective of the overall training,development and consultancy market has been achieved so if I do consider a permanent position I feel better equipped and prepared to challenge the assumptions ' so what is a trainer then'?

Peter Keep
Keep Training Ltd

Thrown in at the deep end!

When I moved back into the public sector from the private sector in the 1980s I found my colleagues kept coming to me and asking advice on dealing with people. I also had to do a lot of public speaking representing the Department at retirement seminars.and there I again found that people would come and ask my advice about how to present themselves for new jobs.

So I decided that I might as well make it official. So I asked for a career planning interview with my area manager and asked if I could be considered for the next area training position. He said OK but there's one condition-go up to the Cromer office and help them sort themselves out and don't come back unless you are sure they can manage afterwards on their own! I went and I did - and I when I returned 3 months later I was sure - and I was right to be confident - and the rest is history as they say!

Jenny Jarvis

From doing the job to training the job

You asked for reader’s experiences. I am sure mine are similar to other peoples’ in that I moved from “doing the job” to training others “to do the job”. I find this adds considerable credibility at both the consultancy/diagnostic phase and in the actual delivery. My first career was as a Chartered Surveyor which means a specialist in anything to do with land, property and construction. It was whilst working as a Surveyor I began to get more and more involved in helping others with their professional exams and in other small training events and it all started from there. I eventually persuaded the board of my company that we needed a centralised training department and asked for the job. They gave it to me and I spent a very happy 5 years developing the strategy and designing specific events and programmes to support the business and at the same time studying for my CIPD qualifications. I left 2 years ago to become a consultant and work with a wider range of organisations but still try and focus on property and construction where I find I have considerably more to offer than other consultants as I understand the business and the marketplace.

I am sure there are many other people who would like to make the same move from doing the job themselves to helping/guiding/ training others to do it and I think we make some of the best teainers. I thoroughly recommend it!

Mary Ann Reynolds BSc (Hons), MRICS, MCIPD
Coburn Consulting

Taking the scenic route

I definitely took the scenic route when I approached training as a career and the path was often hard to navigate, but when I reached my current destination and looked backwards the route seemed quite clear and straightforward which was odd!

I graduated from Bristol University with a BSC Honours in Zoology and a passion for animal behaviour in 1993. Up until then I had acquired and practiced this "hobby" in a variety of ways from studying the various flora and fauna found on family holidays, with a father who also had Gerald Durrell tendencies, to teaching at a local primary school dealing with little beasts of a different nature!! After college I ventured off to Mauritius to work on a conservation project looking after an endemic species of pink pigeons on an uninhabited island off the main land for a year. Returning to Britain feeling distinctly short of money and human contact I registered at an agency in Gloucestershire to top up my funds and look for pastures new. I managed to swing a job in a pharmaceutical company who seemed amused by my bizarre interview when their questions of "do you work well in a team?" were greeted by unorthodox answers such as " I would love to be in team, I've been totally alone for 11 months". My integration back into a populated society proved to me how important it was for me to surround myself with people and feedback.

Having satisfied my need for involvement with people and being in the scientific world, I was then reminded of problems I had experienced at school with combining my scientific requirements with wanting a niche in which I could be creative. At school I found this in combining Biology, Psychology and Theatre Studies as my A Level choices, which I had to justify on numerous occasions for college and job applications!! In a rigorously controlled workplace however, I found that there was little room for creativity in the testing laboratory or in the manufacturing facility! Consistency and quality are the requirements within the pharmaceutical world and the training is paramount in conveying this message. I found myself more and more interested in how this training was delivered, and became involved with a pioneering e-learning company who were looking to deliver content and platforms designed specifically for the pharmaceutical market. I worked as a customer of theirs for several years and at Christmas of this year I was employed full time as their Business Development Manager. If I can assist people to see their "path" and it's many routes to their chosen destination I would be thrilled. I would like to think that I might be able to pass on some of the good fortune I have had of finding a job whose description describes my very personality, and its potential also my own.

Frances Beck


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