Connections and New Directions: Learners share their experience

A lifelong learner, a campaigner for online security and a pilot cross farmer – we recently caught up with a few of our learners to chat about their experience on Digital Skills for the Workplace.

Tell us a bit about yourself

Constance Talbot describes herself as someone who has “always been on a learning journey.” She’s of Chinese and Malay descent, grew up in Singapore, but now calls Wellington home. With a background in marketing and communications, Constance noticed how fast the digital world was moving after she took a career break to become a full-time parent. This, alongside the changing market and workplace, was the jolt she needed to move into a new space.

“It was time to dive into the deep end and learn from the experts.”

In January 2021 Constance started a contract with Te Ohu Rata o Aotearoa (Te ORA) The Māori Medical Practitioners Association, and realised improving her digital skills could bring a lot to this new role. So she signed on to the 7-week programme!

Our next learner, Samantha, has to be a little bit more careful when she shares her story with us as her role requires a great level of security, which is always front of mind for her, in both her professional and personal life.

Samantha is from South East Asia and migrated here in late 2002. After a range of contract roles, she was job hunting at the end of last year when she came across the Digital Skills programme. Realising it would be a great opportunity to brush up on her digital skills, she signed up for the Individual variation of the online programme.

“For me it was about more than being up to date, it was being able to utilise new and emerging digital skills and be prepared for the variety of roles that are out there.”

Constance had a similar drive. Although she had a reasonably good grasp of how the digital world operates, she didn’t feel media-savvy with all the up to the minute apps and platforms. She knew she needed to step up her game to start utilising the emerging world of online workplace tools. Constance took part in the Small Business variation of the programme.

Grand Rhind, our third student, is a trained airforce pilot who now wears two very different hats. On one side he works in big business in his busy and vital role as Head of Training and Checks at Tasman Cargo Airlines (a subsidiary of DHL). On the other side he maintains a piece of farmland just out of Tāmaki Makaurau, which backs onto land run by their whānau, Ngāti Paoa. Alongside his busy full time job running training sessions and making sure pilots are completing their regulatory checks, and his busy life with his wife and two young sons, Grant plans to work with his whānau to further develop the potential of the farmland. His vision is to develop the land, Artemis Farms, into a small business, and do something special with this special whenua.

“We lost my father in November last year and the piece of land we have is a great way to continue his legacy, also as it connects with the land of our whānau it means an awful lot to us.”

Grant signed up to Digital Skills for the Workplace wearing both of these quite diverse hats, big business and small business, and realised how important these skills were, for both roles.

So, what did you get from it?

Constance could see the benefit of broadening her knowledge and learning almost straight away. She used her project assignment to understand how to use social media channels to engage the members across her client’s organisation, and make sure the content on these channels is created with the members in mind. She’s delved deeper into building personas for her audience, and has particularly noticed how personas can be a lot more in depth now with the help of more data points.

“There’s more information and you can be a lot more specific when you’re creating personas,” says Constance. “You know so much more about them now. I am grateful for the insightful feedback I received on my assignments; it pushed my thinking.”

Samantha had a different focus, and was particularly impressed with the online security aspects of the programme. The programme covers protecting your online privacy and the prevalence of online scams, which is more important now than ever. Samantha has found this incredibly helpful in her new role.

“Online security is vital in both our professional and personal lives, and issues in this space are so prevalent – nothing is safe in the digital world. We need to be more aware, and brush up on our safety measures and online etiquette, which I loved learning more about in the programme.”

Grant loved the style of learning, the content itself, and the connections made across the programme. 

“There was a lot of enthusiasm from the learners and the people running the programme. It was great being able to go into break out spaces and hear people’s stories and learn about their small businesses too. Everyone took the opportunity for a bit of promotion which was all part of it.”

He also loved learning about SEO, and getting to peek under the hood of that world, especially with Artemis Farms in mind. After all of the new ideas and platforms, like Coggle, Trello and Slack, Grant can really see the potential of digital skills in his DHL workplace too, especially being across Aotearoa, Australia, and Hong Kong. The style of teaching and learning was something that he really enjoyed taking in, and he believes he can definitely bring this into the training he delivers

“We can do so much more, we’re in a busy space and there are a lot of ideas that I can bring into what I do.”

Samantha also loved learning about all the tools and could see first hand how digital skills could be make or break for businesses in the pandemic.

“When we were in lockdown I saw how some food establishments had to close, which was very sad. After learning more about digital skills, I had a better understanding of how they helped some of these businesses survive during the pandemic.”

Were there any surprises?

“The programme taught us a lot about how important it is to be resilient with digital skills but also how important it is to evolve with the times. I was also surprised with how I could utilise what I learned in both my work and personal life,” says Samantha.

Constance was surprised with the sheer amount of topics and learning that was packed into just 7 weeks! The people also stood out as a key element for her.

“The programme was diverse, across both the teachers and the students, it had a real international feel! All of the people were also super friendly and we could all learn from each other – it didn’t matter where you were from or what you did.”

Grant was impressed by the level of interactivity, and how different the learning was from traditional training he was used to. No worksheets or stand-and-deliver on this course! However, he was mainly surprised at himself.

“I guess I was surprised at how I stuck at it! Initially I just signed on to check it out. I had quite a big project going on at work, so studying part time alongside that was quite a big deal – but I really enjoyed the process and it didn’t feel like a chore.”

Advice for other learners?

“Owning and running a small business you really have to have some sort of understanding of this stuff – you have to know what’s going on, with both your business and the market. Some of these tools can make such a huge difference. For my role at DHL it’s allowed us to be so much more personal when we connect with teams across the world – I can see huge potential in that big business space as well.”

Grant

“It’s a super friendly, kind and understanding team, and it’s doable! The prospect of assignments can seem scary, like where are you going to find the time, but the team are there to support you and help you through. You can also refer back to all the learning as it’s all recorded and stays online well after you finish the programme!”

Constance

“Just take the plunge, give the course a go. It’s so much more than you’d expect, and the digital skills can be used in our daily lives. It really helped my confidence, when helpful and supportive people are there and willing to help you learn, why not?!”

Samantha

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Ready to upskill?

Our 7-week online course, Digital Skills for the Workplace, currently has full scholarships available for New Zealanders. Learn key digital skills in a safe, fun and supportive environment and make new connections with people across Aotearoa.