In the fourth of my Paths To Success blog series, I’ve been talking to Louise Scanlon who recently started her own business, helping other people make their businesses successful and bring their product ideas to life. Whilst formal education wasn’t the best fit, she described how she made it work for her.
For those of you who haven’t been following the blog series so far, this year I’ve been particularly interested in the paths that people take after education, especially following the increase across the UK in encouraging schools and colleges to embed employability into their lessons. The first time I tried this with students, I was met almost audible rolling of eyes – kids have genuine skills in detecting something that’s been “embedded”, much like a careers version of hiding vegetables in their spaghetti. They know.
So instead, with exam results fast approaching I decided to buck the trend of the many posts telling students that “results don’t matter” (they do, you worked hard), or “I didn’t need GCSEs” (no, but you had something else) and create a positive set of real careers stories to help motivate both my students and other teachers. I’ve been talking to an array of interesting people about how education shaped their own employability skills and their often irregular paths to success.
Louise Scanlon is an entrepreneur who owns the Product Academy which specialises in mentoring & teaching businesses how to successfully market their physical products.
Hi Louise, could you tell me a little bit about your experience at school.
I loved learning at Primary school but really struggled at Senior school. I found it restrictive, couldn’t really get on with the teachers, and didn’t really fit in with my class. But the subjects I enjoyed – IT and Psychology at GCSE and Business Studies and Economics at A Level have been the foundation of everything else.
I attempted uni but had similar problems to school and instead taught myself the things I needed to learn by reading, experimenting or attending short courses. I don’t think how you learn is as important as continuing to learn. Just find what way works for you and keep doing it.
I’m a massive fan of lifelong learning too. It’s good to hear that even though traditional education didn’t fit well you found your own way of learning. With it being the end of the school year, I have to ask: do you have a particular teacher that you remember?
I remember all my teachers and there are lots of lessons that I refer back to. My business studies and economics tutor has sadly passed on but some of those lessons definitely helped shape what I do today.
It’s interesting to hear that you went onto university even though you weren’t a fan of traditional education. Could you tell me a little bit about your experience at college / university?
I didn’t do my research and I didn’t have a clue what to expect or how to make the decision so overall, it wasn’t a great experience! Definitely research!!
However, despite that, I spent a year studying International Law at the University of Copenhagen. It blew my mind and I finally felt like I was where I was supposed to be. I was having important conversations about whether the US invading Iraq was legal, with a tutor who happened to be advising the Danish govt on the invasion that afternoon.
University is a different world to college and if there is any part of you that wants to go, don’t let school be the reason you do or don’t go. Choose your next step based on what interests and excited you and find a way to learn it that fits with who you are.
That definitely sounds like the advice I’ve been giving. Is there any other advice you would want to give to students receiving exam results this year?
Take a deep breath, accept whatever they are is a snapshot in time. If you have done well, be proud of yourself. If you haven’t done as well as you hoped, it doesn’t define your future. Figure out what you want and go for it!
Thank you so much to Louise for giving up her time to tell us about her journey into an exciting career and how she uses her own experiences to help other people create success.
Louise can be found at www.theproductacademy.co.uk where you can find out more about marketing products as a business.
In the third of my Paths To Success blog series, I’ve been talking to film maker & Producer, Jay Shurey who describes himself as a rather eccentric creature from Sussex.
In the second of my Paths To Success blog series, I’ve been talking to Donna Lister who showed me that it wasn’t just me who took a right angle career turn!
This year, I’ve been particularly interested in the paths that people take after education, especially following the increase across the UK in encouraging schools and colleges to embed employability into their lessons. The first time I tried this with students, I was met almost audible rolling of eyes – kids have genuine skills in detecting something that’s been “embedded”, much like a careers version of hiding vegetables in their spaghetti. They know.
Donna Lister fully qualified female electrician. I have been running my own electrical business in London for over 12 years, but she hasn’t always been an electrician. Often we talk about STEM jobs being the areas where women are under-represented, so it was great to chat to a female electrician and entrepreneur.
Hi Donna, could you tell me a little bit about your experience at school.
I found school rules really annoying and always tried to break them! However, I did quite well at school academically.
Now that sounds familiar! In fact I think my rebellious streak has stayed with me into adulthood. Have you found the same?
Oh, I hope so! A few people told me I’d never make it as an electrician, so of course that made me more determined than ever! When I was younger and broke, I changed parts on my car despite being told by the ‘man’ at the garage that there was no way I’d figure it out. I remember driving past the garage in my car after I fixed it and tooting my horn at him!!
With it being the end of the school year, I have to ask: do you have a particular teacher that you remember?
I guess my maths teacher, Mr Lewis inspired me. He taught me A level applied maths at St Cyres Comprehensive in Penarth, South Wales. I remember him being quite funny but also strict – he would sometimes throw the board rubber (essentially a wooden block!) at you if you weren’t paying attention. This was in the days when it was OK to do this, of course!
Lots of my students are in the process of applying to college or university right now. Could you tell me a little bit about your experience at college / university
After leaving Uni I realized the career I had chosen wasn’t for me, so I took another post grad course. I think I must get bored really easily as I have swapped careers lots! However, all my past experience make me what I am, so I never view it as ‘wasted’.
I had a mid life crisis and gave up my job as a charity director to retain as an electrician – most people thought I was bonkers, but that just spurred me on! Best thing I ever did – being self employed has given me the freedom to do other things – travel, learn new skills outside of work and now I’m setting up another business (completely non related to electrics)
Wow! So what made you choose electrician as your new career? Has it been different going into that field as a woman?
I’d always been interested in DIY and enjoyed maths too. I didn’t fancy plumbing because of the ‘yuck’ element, so electrics seemed to be the logical choice – it can be quite lucrative if you are prepared to work hard. Some years, I certainly earned more than I made at the charity. I honestly think that being a women has helped me, I know that some of my customers choose me because they prefer to have a female working in thier home. However, you still need to be good at your job and super organised.
After being a successful electrician for 12 years, you’re setting up a new business – can we have a sneak peek at what it is?
I’m at an age now where I need reading glasses. But while wearing them I can’t put my makeup on as they get in the way! GRRR! So a friend (who has the same problem) and I decided to develop a solution – after 2 years of product design, protoyping and testing – FlipZees magnifying makeup glasses were born! Of course we’re now having to learn a whole new set of skills around beauty marketing, website development, social media and sales. You can take a look here www.flipzeesglasses.com
Is there any advice you would want to give to students receiving exam results this year?
When I look back to where I started to where I am now, I am quite amazed at how on earth I got here! There was no plan! So don’t worry too much about making the ‘right’ choices now – you are on the start of a long journey and you can always take a different path! In fact, that’s the fun bit!
Thank you so much to Donna for giving up her time to show my students that the path to success isn’t always as we planned and that twists and turns in life really are just part of the journey!
Donna can be found at www.atb-electrical.co.uk where you can find out more about the qualifications needed to become an electrician. Or you can watch her interview with Two-Fifty Volts here:
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So instead, with exam results fast approaching I decided to buck the trend of the many posts telling students that “results don’t matter” (they do, you worked hard), or “I didn’t need GCSEs” (no, but you had something else) and create a positive set of real careers stories to help motivate both my students and other teachers.
To start this Paths To Success series I had to accept that as a teacher my previous employment and growing businesses likely means very little to my students (and rightly so, I am just one person in an industry that they know). Instead, I’ve been talking to an array of interesting people about how education shaped their own employability skills and their often irregular paths to success.
This week, I’ve been chatting to Karen Hickton, a Resilience & Body Language Specialist who built up her own business working with an array of people and organisations including the National Trust.
Hi Karen, could you tell me a little bit about your experience at school.
I was a shy introvert with dyscalculia*. I got through school on determination.
I remember dyslexia just starting to be mentioned, but never dyscalculia at school. With maths being quite a big thing running a business, what strategies did you use to cope?
I learnt to be very resourceful growing up and as soon as I hit a road block in life or in business I just immediately think; who or what have I got that can help me right now? For example I have a great accountant who has the patience of a saint in explaining things, my partner is self-employed and helped me to put an easy filing and book keeping system in place.
I use google and YouTube as resources if I don’t understand things and I usually have the solution quite quickly these days. It is very different from when I was at school, college and university; biggest advise I was ever given when starting my business was to not even try and set a business up doing it completely on my own. Asking for help used to be a huge issue for me because I thought it reflected my inability to cope, I soon realized it was quite the opposite. It isn’t about knowing everything in life, it’s about knowing the questions; the rest follows from there.
My Geography teacher Mr Palmer, he retired the year before we left and I still remember his grey messy hair, tweed jacket, infectious laugh and sense of humor. He was the wisest teacher I have ever known and I would even say life coach.
“People will only make you feel bad if you let them.” Was what he said to me one afternoon after a group of girls rounded up on me. He gave us a lot of room to learn, to discuss and debate and he taught us how to think for ourselves, to question and be okay with being who we were.
Mr Palmer was a teacher with boundaries though (another great lesson to learn), you crossed those boundaries then you were in for it. He would set you a Percy Pig story to write and it could be one side of A4 or 2 sides. The next day after registration you had to stand up at the front and read out the whole story in front of everyone. Each story also had to have a life lesson in there, they were funny but serious. His idea of consequences was more about taking responsibility and learning from it.
University became obvious of my learning issue and I was also partially deaf however I discovered trail running which grew my confidence and I graduated with a rocking smile on my face and started my career in trauma nursing with a huge amount of life energy and potential.
I kept quiet at university, I had experienced a lot of bullying in school and college due to my differences and had developed a real sense of social anxiety and isolation. I’d moved to a university far away from home as well so I felt mixed emotions. I became anxious that if I spoke up I would somehow lose opportunities so it was my inner fear that held me back from being honest. I learnt to compensate, adapt and work as hard as my brain and body would allow, I became so determined that I would have my own wins one at a time which I did, over time my confidence and assertiveness began to improve and I began to trust in my life opening up more.
So university put you on a path to nursing, so how did you end up owning a business as a body language expert? That’s quite a change!
Although I spend a lot of my time supporting women in businesses to help them develop a sustainability using my resilience and communication models and training; I also work with women on a one-to-one level
At 23 I was diagnosed and registered with partial deafness but as we worked back on my time line, it had been there for many years. What a relief to have that out in the open and wear a hearing aid for the first time; I could hear again and my world suddenly became much bigger. A very emotional moment.
I had learnt to read the movements of lips, micro fascial expressions and body language growing up so I had a real knack for it, that was how I got by, I spent hours watching people’s behaviour and movements around me and this grew into a fascination of mine.
In college I studied a psychology, sociology and behavioural sciences which led me to wanting to learn so much more. I went into nursing to combine it all because I wanted to know HOW the body worked. I spent 15 years working front line trauma and my body language skills were essential on every level. I understood my patients, I could second guess, predict, deal with an emotional crisis, support families then immediately communicate with consultants then back to the patient again. I could adapt my body language and communication to whoever I was with at the time, I could negotiate services, read the situation and of course read and support my colleagues.
I became an education sister across two hospitals where I went into more teaching and mentoring of staff and students, there began my coaching career. So the connection between it all is very strong, I loved coaching and got great results and I do believe that the quality of our relationships is greatly influenced by the quality of our communication. Not just the communication with other people, but the communication within ourselves first.
I began working with women in business and the results were impressive, I watched many grow their business, refocus, expand and become much more connected with who they were and what they were doing so I knew I had a new role to take up and I have never looked back. .
Is there any advice you would want to give to students receiving exam results this year?
Every obstacle we see is actually an opportunity to transform something about ourselves so that we can live bigger, better and happier. Run your own race, live your own life. There are always different routes to get where you want to go, there are always options, resource yourself and know that you are never alone and that there is always someone who can help you in some way.
When I hit the floor and tell myself I can’t do something, I check in with myself, I resource and I find the way forward. I always find a way forward because there always is one. Losing my hearing made me listen more, being unable to work numbers and formulas made me connect with people and ask for help. I don’t personally consider that a disability for me and it’s what I see that matters for me. So, like I said; run your own race and live your own life.
Thank you so much to Karen for giving up her time to show my students that the path to success isn’t always as we planned, and that me banging on about positivity and resilience really is a vital life skill!
Karen can be found at www.karenhickton.com where she has some excellent information about using body language throughout your career.
* Dyscalculia is a specific learning difficulty which presents itself as having difficulty with maths, but if more complex than maths anxiety. There is much more understanding of Neurodiverse learning styles in education now, but the most valuable understanding of what helps still comes from students and parents, so don’t be afraid to tell your teacher what works for you. For further information on dyscalculia, please visit The Dyslexia Association.
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