A day in the life of: David James, learning strategist at Looop
We're always curious to hear how our members and contributors tackle the challenges that the ever-changing world of L&D throws at them. We've got a wealth of experience and knowledge across the site, and what better way to showcase the diversity of our community than to get them to walk us through an average day?
Want to tell us about your way of working? Email us at [email protected], or let us know in the comments below.
David James is a Learning Strategist at Looop, championing social learning in organisations. He's been contributing articles and blogs to TrainingZone for several years now, so we thought it was about time we got to know him a bit better!
So, David, walk us through your day...
07:00 - Each day starts the same when I drop my wife off at the train station and our 2 year-old daughter, Lily, at nursery. This means I’m in the car by 7am and will spend the journey back listening to the Today programme on Radio 4. I find this inspires me to think broadly and gets me interested in all sorts of topics that I would not otherwise be exposed to.
Once home, I have a coffee and some porridge; I do this while checking Twitter and Newsify for the latest HR and L&D blogs from around the world. I’m a bit of a coffee fiend so I’ll expect to get through 3 large mugs of coffee before 9am!
09:00 - I do my best creative work early in the morning so I’ll schedule time to write my articles and blogs first thing. I have recently been writing a white paper so that has had me spending several hours a day with my head in my laptop; it has been all-consuming but well worth the investment.
I will have a quick catch up with Ben (colleague and founder of Looop) in the morning; we have colleagues in Australia, by which time Ben has often been in touch, so we’ll chat through product, priorities and football!
11:00 - It takes me around an hour and a half to get into London so I will always have an audiobook on the go. I’m currently listening to ‘Hooked’, which is a great book about building habit-forming products. I find that listening to books is a great way to get through them, especially with the amount of walking I do. When I’m in town I like to walk between meetings, rather than take the tube, to keep my step-count above 10000 per day.
It’s important for us at Looop to stay close to our customers so that we can help them to continually make Looop work best for them and for us to understand its application better. To this end, we find ourselves sometimes working from client offices and certainly meeting multiple stakeholders within an account. It’s great fun and we find ourselves making an incredible impact as a result.
13:00 - Usually a mix of existing client meetings and demos to prospects. A large proportion will be in London but I find myself all over the country from week to week. Having a background in in-house L&D, I’m always intrigued to understand what people are working on and particularly how they work with their internal clients.
Our client pitch always sparks off interesting conversations and invariably starts people thinking differently about their offering and potential impact. We’ve been talking about the sea-change in L&D for quite some time now and whilst it was new to many at first, we’re finding more L&D leaders who are ready to make a change themselves. We are meeting some very bold and progressive leaders now - especially at a senior level.
15:00 - If I’m at home, I can expect to be spending this time on Skype to clients, prospects and connections. If I’m in town, my colleague Ben and I will try to grab some time to assess where we are, our overriding priorities and further opportunities. Whilst we speak several times a day on the phone, it’s when we have time to speak face-to-face that we seem to bust through problems and find inspiration.
17:00 - I try to travel back home in time to see Lily before she goes to bed. At the same time, I’ll be scanning Twitter for the interesting conversations and shared articles. I set up Twitter lists to guide my attention and can be occupied for hours. I will also spend some time planning the following day.
19:00 - I love cooking and so I will find myself in the kitchen listening to TalkSport as I prepare the evening’s dinner, whilst my wife prepares Lily for bed. I generally find myself cooking an Italian dish, more often than not. I use the app ChefTap to collect recipes throughout the week and prefer to cook something new rather than repeat old recipes, although the Aubergine Lasagne does get made fairly frequently! Rowena and I will find ourselves chatting at the dinner table for a couple of hours and then it’s early to bed to be in the best shape for tomorrow.
Now, tell us...
What would you say are your main passions or things you champion within learning & development?
It will come as no surprise to know that I’m passionate about the opportunities for technology to exponentially increase the impact of L&D in our companies. I think we continue to be misled by e-learning.
If we can challenge the ‘course mindset’ and recognise that technology can help us to just get the knowledge and know-how that is successfully employed within our organisations to those who need to ‘know’ and ‘know-how’ - in a similar way to how we do so with web-search - then we can solve real business problems in minutes and potentially influence everybody’s performance, every day. This is what I work with clients on and their credibility is increasing with their impact.
What part of your job do you enjoy the most?
I’m very lucky in that I have a rich and varied role, which I have crafted for the higher purpose of tangibly improving the impact of the L&D function and helping my colleagues to become more successful and fulfilled as a result. This is likely to seem fanciful but it’s true. I’ve been with groups of L&D practitioners who want to be more credibly regarded by their stakeholders and have clients now who have achieved this - and some!
The variety of my role comes from writing articles to inspire different thinking, pitching to those ready to engage in a different type of conversation about L&D, and consulting to make this happen in client organisations, then working alongside those clients to satisfy demand.
What keeps you up at night?
I have no problem getting to sleep but sometimes I’ll wake at about 4am because I’m raring to get going with the day. I try to convince myself to get another couple of hours of sleep to feel as fresh as possible the following day.
And finally, what one tip you’d pass on to your peers?
We’re used to thinking about how technology can supplement face-to-face learning events but if we flip this and think about how face-to-face can supplement technology then we open up the possibility to support employees every single day.
The problem is that all too often we think in terms of ‘courses’ and ‘events’. The investment in our own time and the money we spend has us value ‘programmes’ more highly than employees do. Think about it, an employee will likely engage in a programme once and as ‘impactful’ as it seemed at the time, that impact will quickly diminish and everything continues as it was.
We’ve put this down to people not the putting into place what they ‘learned’. But if we invest more in creating resources that can be pulled at the learners moment of need (as we all do now with Google) then we can provide employees with the answers and the know-how they need when they are actually faced with their challenges.
This can be done quickly, easily and cheaply - and create continuous learning experiences that make a big difference.
David James is Learning Strategist with Looop and a seasoned Talent Management, Learning & OD leader with more than 15 years of experience in the field. Until recently, David was Director of Talent, Learning & OD for The Walt Disney Company’s EMEA region.