Claire Line, learning technologies manager at global law firm, Lovells, is passionate about her work. After 17 years in training, she talks with enthusiasm about what she is currently doing and the possibilities for the future. But, she says, she never anticipated training as a career on leaving university.
'I studied languages, and naturally went into roles that would use them,' she explains. Beginning in international market research in telecommunications and IT, then moving into the field of translation for a governmental agency, she joined international investment bank Goldman Sachs in 1991, using her combination of technical and language skills.
'When I was being trained on a new IT system, the head of training mentioned that I asked a lot of questions and asked me if I would be interested in becoming involved in IT training. I had been thinking about doing a PGCE and it seemed like the perfect opportunity. I haven't looked back since.'
Claire soon found herself travelling the world training, including living in New York for several months managing a major training project. She was promoted to senior trainer, then European training manager and finally executive director for global technology training.
In 2003, she joined Lovells LLP, and found the working environment in an international law firm not dissimilar to that of an investment bank. 'Time is valuable and this needs to be taken into account when designing and delivering training,' she says.
Claire loves the international aspect of what she does, but that doesn't mean she spends so much time travelling the world these days. In fact, she has worked to reduce Lovells' trainer air miles.
'One of the first things I did at Lovells was to look into virtual classroom technology,' she says. 'When I joined, almost all training was being delivered face-to-face via training visits, with trainers flying out from the UK. The training service for international offices was not as effective as it could be. Training was too infrequent, and when it occurred, it was too intense.'
Claire focused on increasing accessibility to learning via online courses which were developed in-house. There were challenges developing online learning: none of the training team had e-learning experience.
'We attended e-learning instructional design courses and engaged an e-learning instructional design consultant to set up templates and get us started. He helped with look and feel, navigation and language.'
Claire had been charged with building relationships with heads of other areas of training and she worked closely with the head of legal training to identify ways in which learning technologies could be used for legal training as well as for IT. She became legal and IT training manager in 2005 and spent 18 months learning about legal and legal skills training. Claire was managing two diverse teams which presented a new set of challenges.
'IT training can be a poor relation, far removed from the glamour of leadership and management training,' she says. 'This is something which can, and should, be overcome by ensuring IT training is business focused and is seen to contribute to the bottom line.'
Claire sees the steps she is now taking at Lovells only as the beginning. 'They are part of the way training is evolving,' she says. 'It used to be about the technology whereas now productivity and context are vital to ensure IT training is seen as adding value. The trainers spend time talking to learners in the business to understand the issues and challenges they face and get real examples of their work so we can design and adapt training to meet their needs. That way they are more engaged, learn more, and remember more. Putting the learning in context is vital.'
It's all well and good having 'perfect' training examples but they don't reflect reality and the way people work, as Claire found to her cost one day when applying her Excel sort techniques to a double entry book keeping spreadsheet containing non-contiguous data. The 'Undo' tool came in particularly useful that day.
Claire is keen to ensure her trainers have a chance to develop and learn new skills and encourages her teams to attend events and experiment with new areas in training, whether it's using virtual classroom technology or developing e-learning for the first time.
For her own professional development, Claire has attended external courses and conferences (as a delegate and as a speaker), and spends considerable time talking to peers and consultants in the fields of learning and development. It is this dialogue with other learning professionals that is an essential and often under-rated way of learning.
The e-learning Network (eLN) is one of her favoured forums. 'It's been a huge networking opportunity and a chance to meet and learn from experts and people in similar positions to me,' she says. Claire has been a member of the e-learning Network committee for the last two years. She has organised a number of events during that time and, last year, was one of the judges for the national e-learning awards.
Over the last few years, when starting out in the area of online learning, she worked with Vaughan Waller and Phil Green, both past chairmen of the eLN. 'They acted as trusted advisors over a considerable period of time and I learnt a lot from them' she says.
Another influence, specifically in the legal sector, has been Fae Longman from city law firm CMS Cameron McKenna. Fae is one of the founders of the Training Manager Forum which was established in 2000. 'Every quarter, about 25 of us get together at one of the member's offices. Although the meetings are structured, a lot of benefit is derived from the conversations. It's an invaluable way to find out what’s happening in the industry, share ideas and keep learning.'
In a way, the forum epitomises Claire's approach. Learning works best when it is engaging, focussed on the needs of the delegates, and accessible in a way that works for them. Or, as she puts it: 'It's about being open and sharing information with others, not just taking it. You can learn so much from talking to peers in similar situations, facing similar challenges.'
Claire's areas of focus within the arena of learning and development continue to expand. She has introduced online language training at Lovells, and, more recently, has worked with the client relationship manager for legal training to advise clients on online learning. She is also working with the risk management team to explore the use of online learning for compliance training.
Claire is now turning her attention to performance support for all legal and IT training. It is not just about the 'how do I...', it’s about best practice and improving productivity.
Claire Line's career timeline
Studied languages at university, and began her working life as an international market researcher in the field of telecommunications and IT.
1988: Joined Crown Agents as a translator, working on international tender documentation in Spanish and French.
1991: Joined investment bank Goldman Sachs, working on presentations in different languages, moved to IT training, rising to executive director for global technology training.
2003: Joined leading global law firm Lovells LLP as global IT training manager, promoted to legal and IT training manager and then learning technologies manager.