Get to know the LN Director: Tom McDowall

I started my career in L&D as a frustrated people manager, tired of sending my people to terrible away days and on ineffective courses. I figured how hard can it be? Well, I quickly learned it wasn’t easy, but that things could be better. Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to work with some brilliant people until I was finally able to start my own business, Evolve Learning Design.

What do you like most about the L&D field?
The variety of challenges to overcome and people to learn from.

What made you decide to stand for the eLN board?
I’ve gained a lot from my membership. From building my network to gaining the confidence to start my own business.

What would your dream job be?
Reclusive author

If you could change 1 thing about the world of L&D, what would it be?
For evidence-informed learning design to be a commonplace approach.

What does a typical workday look like to you?
Most days start with reviews of overnight scripting, storyboarding, and development work. Feedback is given, I then move on to emails and all that dull stuff that keep everything else moving. From there I focus on research, scripting, and development work through the main body of the day. In truth, no two days are ever the same and this ‘plan’ often falls apart about 10 minutes after the day starts!

What is your favourite type of training to either build or deliver?
Compliance training, it’s the biggest opportunity to demonstrate value to a business and show what great learning content can do.

If you could give yourself advice when you were first starting out, what would it be?
‘DON’T LISTEN TO THEM’ I spent way too much of my early career following the poor practice of those I worked with.

What has been your proudest moment?
Running my first IDTX conference last year.

If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to?
The first moment of the big bang

If you were a super-hero, what powers would you have?
Telekinesis and Telepathy

If you could share a meal with any 4 individuals, living or dead, who would they be?
J.R.R. Tolkien, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Keir Hardie

What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done?
I’m not really one for daring. I occasionally remove USB drives without properly ejecting them, crazy I know.

What three items would you take with you on a deserted island?
A generator, an A/C unit, and a good book

Aside from necessities, what one thing could you not go a day without?
Coffee machine

Finally, what would be your top 5 tips for someone new to L&D?

  • Start with the hard work. Spend time on research and practice, avoid shortcut courses, especially those with big price tags!
  • Consider roles across the L&D world. Not everyone needs to or should be an ID. We need developers, coordinators, trainers, and much more.
  • Focus on skills, not technology. Effective learning design is not about technology, focus on core competencies first, then learn to use the tools you need as you need them.
  • Build your network. Join community groups and build your network on social media. Learn from others, their experience, and the content they share.
  • Run towards failure. The quicker your mess things up, the quicker you’ll learn what to do/not to do in the future.