Getting to Know Our New LN Chair: Tom McDowall

Tom LN Chair 2023

Firstly, congratulations! How does it feel to be voted in as Chair?
Mildly terrifying, but very exciting. The network has helped me grow so much during my career. I’m really pleased to be able to give a little back.

What made you decide to stand for Chair?
Momentary insanity. But mostly, that same desire to support the network and bring it to more people in our industry. I firmly believe it stands out as something very different and valuable within the L&D world.

What will you be bringing to the network within your role as Chair?
I hope to continue the good work done by others. Staying focused on organizing great experiences for our members and reaching out to the wider L&D industry to get more people involved.

What does 2023 look like for the network?
More events, more webinars, more networking and roundtables, incredible speakers, and mentoring opportunities; the list goes on. Most of all, we’re focused on facilitating impactful conversations and development opportunities for our members.

What challenges do you think L&D will face in the next few years?
How long have you got? The economic climate remains a concern for all business areas, but I think it will heavily shape the needs that L&D must meet over the coming years. New technologies continue to develop, and with them come new opportunities and the risk of falling
prey to ‘shiny stuff syndrome’. Organisations are looking for more value from all their functions, including L&D, the coming years will need us all to reach for greater professionalism and focus on driving value in our respective organisations.

What types of support does the network offer that can help with these challenges?
Mentoring remains a powerful tool for development. Many of these challenges are familiar and talking with someone who has seen them before can really help. The social aspect of the network also offers an opportunity to step outside of your organisation and look at the wider L&D space. This wider perspective can help put challenges into perspective and expose you to novel ideas.

Our webinars and events give you the opportunity to learn from industry experts and practitioners whilst broadening your own network. The back catalogue of webinars is available on the member’s dashboard, so even if you can’t join live, you don’t have to miss out.

What do you look forward to most being Chair?
Not trying to run zoom webinars on a pc that hates zoom for some unknown reason… But beyond that, a big focus for me this year is to deliver as much value as possible to our members. That means for events, webinars, resources, and the return of Connect.

This year also saw many new board members join, so I look forward to working with all of them as they take on their new roles.

What has been your proudest moment in the network so far?
Talking with members and prospective members at World of Learning back in October. I met people I’d only ever spoken to virtually and introduced the network to many who had never heard of it before. It was a real wake-up call as to how much value we, as a network, can bring to our industry.

What would be your top 5 tips for someone new to the network?

  1. Dive in. Join Slack, introduce yourself, and start asking questions. You will not find a more helpful and welcoming group of L&D pros.
  2. Make use of the members’ area on the website. There is a host of webinar recordings there and it’s growing all the time. The resources section will also be growing this year… but more on that soon.
  3. Consider submitting an article for the Learning Network blog, it’s a great way to share a case study or something you’re passionate about. It might even end up in the newsletter!
  4. Organise a meetup. We love to promote networking, so, why not organise a meetup with your fellow members in your area? We’ll happily help you spread the word.
  5. Attend our events. Whether it’s a regional event, the awards showcase, or Connect itself, all Learning Network events present an opportunity to grow.

Finally, what would be your parting words to Gemma as she stands down as Chair?

Thank you. It’s a small phrase, but I like to think it means a lot. Gemma empowered the board to make things happen and allowed us to attack our designated responsibilities in our own way. She and all the board members last year guided the network through a tricky ‘coming out of covid’ year. Gemma always brought our focus back to one thing, our members, and that focus will remain, in every decision we make.

Thank you, Gemma!