Richard Pharro, Founder & CEO of APMG talks to Paddy Dhanda, QA’s Agile Practice Director about:

  • Who APMG are and why they have certified over 2m learners globally
  • The breadth of their certification portfolio
  • How their portfolio has developed in line with business needs and technology over the years
  • The ‘culture’ of certification
  • Why certification is even more important right now in looking for new roles
  • The success of the Agile Project Manager qualification
  • The up-coming trends in training and certification
  • The rapidly accelerating world of virtual learning

 

 

- [Paddy] Welcome to the Inspire The Nation podcast. We at QA are super excited to be bringing you a regular dose of thought leadership, industry insights on all things related to tech and learning. I'm Paddy Dhanda and I head up the Agile practices at QA, and I started off as a software engineer, and I've accidentally stumbled into the world of learning, having headed up the Agile learning for a global bank and playing lots of Lego along the way. My biggest passion lays in creating, engaging experiences through elements of visual thinking, gamification and storytelling. This is my colleague John Gordon.

- [John] Thanks Paddy, so I'm John Gordon and I am a software practice director for QA, and really what we want to use this, this podcast for, is to inspire anyone into technology regardless of background. So for me personally, I really fell into software. So if I go back 10 years ago, I was working in air traffic control in the military, and really by chance I got into a software development project and really what we want to use this is to meet some amazing guests with a real inspiration of trying to get people into tech jobs.

- So it's the end of the week, I've got my Batman T-shirt on convincing myself I'm a superhero. The kids are back at school, life couldn't get any better. And to top it off, we have the amazing Richard Faro from APMG. And I believe Richard, you're the CEO of APMG. So welcome to the show.

- Paddy many thanks for, for inviting me to, to be part of your program. And it has been a great week. I have seen the kids walk into school when I was out this morning and hopefully the weekend will be, well, we're not too socially distanced and we can actually enjoy ourselves. So yes, I'm the founder and CEO of the APM Group International, APMG International.

- Great, great. So I've heard a lot about you Richard, so I'm really excited to, to discover more as we go throughout today. And talking about APMG, so could you give us a sort of an overview of who the APMG are, the global reach and some key successes to date?

- So we, we started life as a trading arm of the association for project management in the UK.

- Right.

- And in that position we developed as a trading company to support the revenue for the professional body. And this was about 25 years ago.

- Wow.

- And at that time, the question is what could we do? So our big success, our big claim to fame was, we won a contract with government to take Prince2 as a project management method and to develop it as a certification scheme, a qualification scheme, and to roll it out gradually, roll it out internationally. And so we worked on that, we rolled that out into a large number of company, countries, we then built an international business. We have offices in something like 15 countries around the world. An office these days might just be one or two people. And on the back of that, I think we changed the way people talk professional qualifications with they it, at one time, one would have an exam every three months, in conversation with the community, we decided we'd have an exam every week. And in conversation with the community, we developed a business model, which was much more community driven with the IPO and the UK government, the training companies. I don't even think QA was around at the time.

- Right.

- I think QA came from that period through a series of mergers and acquisitions and with the trainers. And so our big success was to take best practice, establish a global organization and roll stuff out around the world into multiple languages. At one time, I think we have products in 21 languages.

- Wow. Wow, that's huge. And how many, how many sort of learners have been certified through APMG? I mean, do you, do you have that?

- Well we, we built on that and we probably have about 60 different products now. So over the years, yeah, we built on that. I think we probably have issued something like 2-2.5 million certificates in that period. I think the best year we had was about 260,000 certificates were issued. And that was probably about 10 years ago, but the world has changed since.

- Right. Yes, absolutely. So we'll, we'll, we'll actually talk a lot more about how things have changed, but just before we get onto that, what are some of the, the sort of key learning pathways that you offer as part of your certification approach?

- Well, that, that, that is an incredibly interesting question. Cause I think we have the same problem probably that you have, and that is how do you catalog things today? So, you know, you put things under a heading, but is that heading relevant for everybody that looks at it? So, yeah, we still have things organized traditionally as program and project management, change and risk management, service management and governance. We have cybersecurity within the, within the pathways. So we have, and we also do something for the aerospace sector. So you put it under that, but you know, these days, you know, when I started my career, I started my life as a civil engineer. So you learn civil engineering, you learnt a little bit so about engineering law and that's what you did. But these days, you know, you've got to know about project management. You have to know about change management. You need to know a little bit about technology and so on and so forth. So the learning pathways are there so we see Agile and we see Change. We see Cyber as been sort of very big products at the moment that people are buying into. But then they're mixing and matching, it's not as simple as it used to be, about I am a project manager, I am a change manager and I don't speak the same language.

- I'm, I'm just waiting for the certification in being an influencer. I'm, I'm just waiting for that one to come out.

- We do have that.

- Oh, you do?

- We do have, we do have a certification in facilitation and we also have a certification in collaboration.

- Right, right.

- And the one on collaboration was developed by a guy who was a facilitator, a mediator, with some fairly well known organizations and individuals. So yeah, it's there.

- Right.

- But not in that, not in that, not described as influencer, described as collaborator and the collaboration.

- Gotcha. I was thinking, sort of the stuff my kids watch where someone's unboxing something and, and you know, how do you get really good at being one of those, those superstars on YouTube? But yeah, I don't know, I don't know if that would be covered in your course, but.

- No, I don't think it will be. But, application is everything. Your knowledge is just part of it, it's application.

- Yeah.

- That actually makes a difference. So you might know this stuff, but are you actually empowered, trusted to apply it, very different situation.

- Yeah, absolutely. And in terms of learner experience, I mean, what, how, how much of a focus does APMG put on the learner experience itself and what is important for you guys when learning organizations like ourselves are offering your products?

- Again, I think that that's part of where we came from. So when we started and we've held to this, for as I say about 25 years now, we think it's three elements, you know. It's the quality caliber of the trainer, so we assess every trainer training. So at one time we had, I think over 2,000 trainers accredited by APMG, all of whom had been witnessed delivering a class. It's the quality of the training materials, so we check the training material to make sure it aligns with the syllabus of the course people are delivering. It's very hard to take a view on, is it good or bad material? Because a lot of that comes into the ethos, the approach of the trainer's organization, and indeed the trainer. And we check the organization's quality management system to make sure they can do things professionally. If you put those things together, then the learner has the maximum possibility of a good experience. Cause those would be the three variables that the learner comes into. But then we do see in a product, a product goes through what I would call a certification lifecycle. So it starts off with nobody's heard of it. You know, and, and you're working very hard to convince people that this is a good certification, this is a new idea, maybe they should buy into it. And gradually you get some people to buy into it. You then start to develop a bit of a critical mass, but nobody wants it, because nobody's yet heard of it.

- Right.

- And then you get to that point where people are starting to hear about it, are thinking about it and they still want the education. So they are, they're very happy to go on a sensible length of training in order to understand the concepts and be able to apply. And then all of a sudden you find that it's a must have qualification, and then you get the volume people coming in, and then they're saying, "Well, why do I have to learn this stuff? I just want to take the certification."

- Right.

- And so you go through that period of, you know, the key thing is the learning, the key thing is being able to apply these things. But after a period, it's the badge that people want rather than necessarily the learning. And that must make life very difficult for the quality training providers who want to get people to learn, understand and apply.

- Yeah.

- And that has a cost associated with it, as opposed to somebody who says, "How can I do this quickly and cheaply and just get the badge." And I think that's a, that's a real issue, I think that as a, as a community or between us as a certification body, offering those certifications and organizations like yours, delivering quality training, and the end-users saying, "I want it faster, cheaper, and now", you know, it's a real, real challenge. And I think that's getting faster and that's getting harder, until something new comes along and then people need the education because it is new and they genuinely don't understand it.

- Right. And in terms of the, the sort of the certification culture right now, and I absolutely agree. I see, you know, learners, the first question they'll be asking is, "Is this course certified, does it allow me to have certification?" And it seems to be at the forefront of people's minds. So I guess, what, what are your views on certification? You know, is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing? Is it something that we, we need? You know, and like, it'd be great to hear your experience cause 25 years in the bid, in the industry is an immense amount experience. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

- I, I think it's about evidence. So if you think about it, you know, I can remember someone had a T-shirt many, many years ago and it was, "If you were accused of being a project manager, could they find enough evidence to convict you?" And if you think about it, how do you prove to someone that you have the skills, the competence, the capability to do a job? I actually think that's even more critical today. We were very fortunate, about two years ago, we employed two youngish people in our organization, they were in their early 20s. They had both been out of university for, I think, 18 months or two years.

- Right.

- Nobody had given them a proper job, they'd been temping, they'd been doing bits and pieces, they had done some intern work. And the reason they couldn't get a job is cause they didn't have the experience and they couldn't get the experience if they didn't get a job. So we took a risk with them and they were brilliant. So for me, the certification says, "I've done this here is the evidence that I've done it, now give me a chance." And I think that's becoming more and more important than it used to be. And I do believe that independent, independent certification is critical cause clearly, I mean, QA, huge organization, vast range of products, you could develop your own certification, you could develop your own exam, right? But how independent are they? Would you really fail the senior leader of an organization who was buying loads of training from you? You know, now clearly ethically you would, but in a commercial discussion, that's very, very hard. Whereas if we come along and we run an independent certification, you know, our revenue is the certification fee. So we don't have any fear or favor who comes in to do the certificate. You might have some difficult discussions, you know, and we do run some schemes when someone gets failed and you do get some abuse coming back to you about what you don't know. But I do think the independence of it and the value of the certification is about demonstrating to somebody who doesn't know you to get you onto that worth seeing list if you're looking for a job. You know, and I think that's where digital badging is now becoming very important. You know, so on the digital badge, you can go and click on a digital badge and you can see all the skills and the knowledge that you gained in order to get that digital batch. And then the electronic search engines, looking for skills and competencies to recruit people are searching through those digital badges to find what qualifications cover that element. But without the certification, without the independence of the certification, how do you demonstrate that you have that knowledge or that experience? I think it's more critical.

- Right. And just talking about digital badging. So I guess if you could tell us the difference between someone offering a digital certificate, for example, versus a digital badge, because I believe there's a distinction, so?

- There's a huge distinction.

- Great.

- Though my generation, we used to get a paper certificate.

- Yeah, I've got a few of those somewhere.

- But, and, and the good ones you have put in a frame and you would put on the wall. And that was your hall of honor.

- Right.

- Digital certificates are very the same thing, except they come in a digital format and you can print them out.

- Yeah.

- Now both of those are actually open to abuse. Both of those are open to fraud, you know, you can have systems in place to protect it and watermark it and heat mark it and what have you, But a digital badge, and we work with an organization in the US called Credly Acclaim, who I think of the world's largest issuer digital badges, and it's secure. And so you have your digital badge. Now, the nice thing about it is you can then copy it onto your social media. So it's there for everybody to see. But if you click on it, you go through to the Credly Acclaim website where you can verify that that is a real digital badge, and it's not a fake digital badge. And at the back of it, it says the skills and the knowledge that you gained in getting that badge. So it's a trusted source now that it is a real certificate, that it is a genuine certificate, it's a genuine award. Whereas in the old days, we used to get calls from law enforcement where people had claimed to have a certificate, because they wanted to get the job to defraud an organization. And so the question is, is how do you tell whether that paper's certificate is real or not? People used this and say law enforcement would come back to us asking us a question. The digital badge is there, you use on social media, you, you could encourage people, you can tell people what you've got. Recruiters can find it, employers can find it, it's the way of the future.

- Right, right. And, and having worked in banking for the last 6 1/2 years prior to my time at QA, I can absolutely see the value in that, because I remember when I went to my screening process initially, you know, the sort of questions around what qualifications do you have, prove that you have these qualifications. I was digging and rummaging through all, load of boxes in the loft. And, and I do know, you know, certain individuals who, based on what they had revealed during that screening process, because it was slightly inaccurate. Like they, they literally, maybe not purposely done it, but, you know, just, just in terms of the information that they had, they, they failed. And, you know, as a result, they didn't make it through. So having that digital footprint, having that reference point, I think really is invaluable in those situations.

- And, and I think interesting thing there is, if you couldn't find the paper evidence as, as a quality candidate, you would have been excluded.

- Yeah.

- So the organization would have lost talent and capability as well as the individual losing the opportunity.

- Yeah.

- So, yeah, interesting.

- And, so, here's, here's, here's an interesting question for you. So in those 25 years, I'm sure you've tried lots of experiments, tried lots of different types of courses. Have there been any that have really bombed, right? As in not worked out and was there, were there any surprises in there to think that, "Hey, we thought this would be a great seller, but actually it just didn't work", those examples.

- Yeah. First off you have to, first go back to, to the philosophy, the ethos. So one of the challenges is this, do I want to support something that bombs? Or do I want to say no to something and lose something that's a star? So we're very opportunistic. You know, so if someone brings us an idea, brings us a concept, we are more likely to back it than not to back it.

- Right.

- And unless it clearly is someone's personal view, and it's a very, very niche one. So there's, these two things that, that come to mind. And if anyone who knows me within APMG is listening to this, they will know exactly what is coming. So probably 15 years ago, the training company came to us and said, "We got a client who wants a course in finance for non-finance managers. And they want to put 1,000 people through finance for non-finance managers." So we developed a finance for non-finance managers qualification, based on some work that had been done in university, and I think at the Institute of Directors. In the first year, we sold them. And I think we've got some orders in the last couple of years but we probably had nothing for 10 years.

- Wow.

- So, and every time I have a, a Billy Whizz idea and someone doesn't like it, they look at me and say "Finance for non-finance managers". The other one, which is probably more interesting is a product called OBASHI. Which OBASHI is mapping information flow. Now we've had OBASHI for probably 7-10 years, and it was developed by some guys in Scotland based on oil flow when they were working for shell and BP, and basically said, data flows the same way. Now that's been looking for, been looking for a home, I suppose, or rationale. And of course with big data these days and with cyber security, knowing where your information is, and being able to map in a simple, graphical way, your information flows becomes more and more important. So OBASHI was one of those that had we had this conversation, say three years ago, would have been in that box that it's not really doing much, but we were ahead of our time in back, well, they were very ahead of their time in coming up with the concept. We then backed that, and now we see a lot of interest on OBASHI. But those would be, there's some other things that probably didn't go as well as we would like. But there's very few things that have, that have had the same bomb as finance for non-finance managers or we have been so early as OBASHI. But it's very, very hard to judge the market. You know, it's very hard to know how many people are likely to buy something. We're having phenomenal success at the moment with Agile project management.

- Yeah.

- Yeah. The training company said it's the fastest growing product they've got. And it is about that totality of a project about not just IT development and whatever it is, and bringing all the business areas in order to, to deliver something in an Agile way. And that's, we've had that now for probably 7-10 years, and again, it is really ramping up.

- Fantastic, and selfishly, because I'm sort of, I'm heading up the Agile sort of area within QA, could you tell us a little bit more about some of the other Agile products that you have? I'm just thinking about learners, so if there are kind of business analysts, you know, testers, developers, project managers, what might be some of the, the, the key courses that you would recommend in your portfolio for those guys?

- I think if you, if you, if you draw out y'all in a broad way, so I would argue that sort of Lean, Lean Six Sigma is also an Agile approach within a business.

- Yeah.

- So we have a portfolio in Lean Six Sigma, a number of people didn't like the Six Sigma, didn't like the, the mathematics, the calculations associated. So we have a Lean course that is going quite well, where people are just understanding the basics of working in a more Lean friendly way. We have a relationship with the Agile business consortium. So most of the products that we offer are owned by either a membership group, a not-for-profit, or maybe an organization that has developed certain concepts, so we don't own the intellectual property. And that's our business consulting came out with ESDM, which was around software development, as you'd know. But then they realized that there was this broader thing around that job, so they developed the Agile project management qualification. We now have Agile, Agile Business Analyst. We have Agile Portfolio Management, although I'm personally, I'm not sure about Agile portfolios. I think a portfolio contains both Agile and non-Agile. We have Agile Change Management. So in that space, this project, this change, there is program, there is portfolio for people that want it. We have a scrum product for people who are in the software development and looking at, you know, how scrum teams work. So, so all of those products are there and they're aimed at the individual. We're actually in conversation with someone that has a business agility concept. So how does a business become more Agile rather than the people within the business be more Agile? So we're interest to see how that transpires over the next several months as we have those conversations. But yeah, if you're an Agile project manager, if you're an Agile BA, there are those things. If you work in operations, I would suggest that Lean Six Sigma is in that Agile space. And if you're involved in transformational change, Agile change, we have a product called the Agile Change Leader, which is for people to help their colleagues understand what they're going to experience when they go through the change. So there's a whole host of stuff in there.

- Yeah, no, fantastic. And I think what I do like about some of the sort of courses you mentioned there that, it's not just a single course, so certainly the Agile PM there's that foundation level, and then the practitioner level so it gives people that ongoing journey of learning, which, which is great to see.

- And, and that's an interesting comment cause the other thing we are seeing probably more recently is organizations, clients want to put things together to create, you know, what is right for them. So I think gone are the days when you would put everybody through the same course, people are now saying, "You know, for this group, we'd like that, that group of courses. But then for something else we would like to add in another flavor of something." And then it gets built as, I don't know, a journey for career professional progression within an organization. We've seen more of those things come up. And everyone's also talking about transformation, everyone's talking about technology. So you need to know a little bit about that.

- Yeah, yeah. It's like, it sounds like there's so many super powers we need to build in today's age. It's a complex environment, complex world that we live in, so absolutely. And great for learning organizations, I guess, you know, in terms of trying to figure out what is the right level of learning for the right sort of mix of skills. It is a constant challenge, it makes it a little bit more interesting I think.

- I think you're right. And I, and I think, you know, we've, we've had some success in working with organizations where they've come up with a concept and they come to us and said, you know, "Can you actually credit this? Can you provide a certification for it?" You know, and the answer is you can, providing there is sufficient governance and independence about the process.

- Right.

- You know, but then you do have to question whether company specific schemes will have much validity over the longer term. So if the organizations could actually come together to think about an industry relevant scheme, then all of a sudden you've got much more critical mass because most of the companies, organizations in that industry must be suffering the same issues. So the question is, you know, how do you take a company problem and then actually expand that into an industry solution for the benefit of everybody.

- Right. No, absolutely. So Richard, we're gonna jump into a, sort of a fun part of the podcast. So I'm gonna ask you a few personal questions, not too personal. Just to get to know you a little bit more. So it's gonna be a quick fire round and just have a little bit of fun. So let's have a think which one we're gonna ask you. Okay, what gets you out of bed in the morning? What's the thing that will really get you happy?

- The challenge.

- Right.

- Every day is a challenge. Every day is about how do I actually, you know, deliver a service, provide a solution, engage with people, every day is different. And every day is a challenge. And, and it is a challenge, it's been a challenge for years, I think when I lose the challenge feeling, that's when I would retire.

- Great, job for life then here Richard?

- In effect.

- Fantastic. What's on your music playlist? So are you a big music guy?

- I don't have a music playlist. I don't have the technology to have a music playlist, but what music I listen to is probably around the, the Motown Gold stuff. So if you talk to people, younger people in my organization, if ever I do a presentation, I have used it. They always ask if they could choose it next time.

- Oh dear, yeah, I get that. I get that often from my kids, so yeah, I feel, I feel your pain there, Richard. Okay, your top three recommended books?

- For anything or?

- Yeah, I guess we could, we could focus on maybe project management then, it sounds, that seems to be a bit of a theme for today. So maybe around project management.

- If, if you, I think the best book, if it is a book, is a report by the Institute for Government on the success of the London Olympics.

- Right.

- And if you read that, I think it gives 12 tips on what to do to be successful. So that would probably be the one. I quite enjoyed reading The Goal by Goldratt about, you know, basically process flow and scheduling, which is a reasonable story that most people can understand. The Phoenix Project.

- Oh yeah, DevOps, yup.

- DevOps about bringing design and execution together, okay it is about, DevOps is about IT, but I think it is relevant for each. But if you wanted a project management textbook, it would have to be the Handbook of Project-based Management by Rodney Turner.

- But only by the handbook because all of his other books basically have the same content with a little bit of extra. And the one, the one project management book that probably has post influence on my life of course was the Prince2 handbook, cause that enabled me to build APM Group.

- Wow, great. Thank you for that. Oh, my favorite question of all, what's your biggest regret, if any?

- You know, there's a philosophical answer to that, and there's a practical answer to that. So I'll start with a philosophical actually. I have no regrets because if I'd done something differently, I wouldn't have done what I did. So you know, where would you be if you'd taken the other fork in the road, road when you had a decision to make? So in that regard, no regrets. I have a couple of personal regrets where I wasn't around at the time when something happened in, in the family, so those are always there. I suppose my biggest regret is I was on the board of IPMA International Project Management Association and a group of us had a meeting in America with the Project Management Institute about developing a single global body of knowledge. And had we achieved that, then there may have been one global standard on project management. Whether that will be good or bad, I think it's too soon to tell, I wouldn't know the answer for that. But is that a regret, cause if we had done that, then all the work that followed from the International Project Management Association with the other stuff wouldn't have happened. But if I looked at it and said that something that I wish had happened, that didn't happen, in my professional career, that's probably it.

- Right. Kind of consolidation of best practice.

- Yeah, yeah.

- Yeah. Okay, great. And in terms of the APMG, do you offer any ongoing resources for learners or people that have been certified? Is there any resources that people can tap into?

- Yes and no. I mean, we've always had this relationship with the training companies that the learners are their clients and we're providing the service to, to both learner and to the training company. So we do very little contact with the learners direct, but on our website we have white papers, we have some podcasts, we have our Midday Mentor program, we run lots of webinars, you know, some case studies, there's lists of the qualifications and what they could do and how they could help get them. You know, we have about 2.5 million visits a year to the website. So we, we get quite a lot of traffic, but we, we're not a membership body. We're not a community organization. We work mainly with the training organization and to then have those direct links. So there's a lot of stuff there, but there's no real guidance as they might be if someone came to yourselves, and say, "What are you going to do about my career?" We do have general guidance, but not in the same way you would get from a membership body.

- Yeah, no, that makes sense. And just talking a little bit about the future then of APMG, is there any, any sort of plans that you can speak about now? Anything that you're really excited about that's coming up over the horizon? I know you alluded to, you know, the, the sort of agility area, but yeah, it'd be great to hear what's, what's in the future.

- Well, I mean, I'm always excited by, by what the future may hold, because I think, you know, we're in a great position. We have a lot of products, there's lots of translations going on. And I suppose we're updating something, one of our products at all times. And we're currently in conversation with an organization in Denmark who came to us to help us take the product that they've developed for, on behalf of the Danish government, and they're using Danish industry. They'd be working on that for four or five years and they want to take that global, so that's quite exciting. That's in, that's in this space of more Agile business, more Lean business, more effective business. So that's quite good. We getting more and more into technology. So we recently launched a qualification on SRE, Site Reliability Engineering. So I learned a little bit about that. And so that's in the market. We have some enterprise big data for managers, enterprise big data with Python, for technical people. And you can see more of those technical issues, technical things starting to come up where people are looking at, you know, the need to understand the technology at a management level. The last big development we did is probably for the World Bank on Public-Private Partnerships, which we finished about three years ago. And that's going very well now, globally as more and more people are moving into PPP, but I don't see any of those big ticket items coming. I see much more, I don't mean fragmentation in, in a bad way, much more modulization or segmentation as people are looking as say, you know, Change Management and you now have Agile Change Management. You know, I can see Agile becoming more relevant, but hopefully not overworked because you can't just put Agile on the front of something and it's different. But, you know, we do some work on cyber security and there was conversation the other day, you know, what is the essence of cyber security that any manager needs? You know, so that could be a piece of work that we start to look at, you know, so cyber security for the HR person, cyber security for the project manager, cyber security for the accountant, whatever that might look like. And I think it's this development of more businesses wanting to be more Agile, Leaner, or flexible, more fitter, whatever you enable to pivot, whatever phrases you want to use and therefore what the people need to know. So modulization, you know, I can see smaller learning. I think the online learning that most people are now moved towards. You can see people asking for, "Can I have two hours of something, can those two hours build up into something, is that two hours, can you have a qualification on the back of it? Do you not have a qualification?" And I think those are the challenges that we're all going to face as people want to move away from the traditional three days, five days in a classroom, to doing it more online. How do people like yourself break that down and make that engaging? How do organizations like us respond to that? You know, how do we help people become better online trainers? Cause it's a very different skill to being able to stand in the classroom. You know, and I think those challenges that come in, you know, we will, I think collectively organizations like APMG organization, just like QA, will find a way through that. So it becomes a better learning experience and a different learning experience. I mean, I was amazed the other day, someone was only 10 about to start a class, and he had delegates from Newcastle in the UK through to Saudi Arabia, in Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia. And you just think about the challenge, the excitement, of facilitating, Cici in that group, with all those different cultures, different experiences, different languages that you'll never experience in a classroom, or very rarely experiencing in a classroom. So I think that's going to be the, the main development, I think more Agile, but at the business level, rather than as an individual, I have lots of Agile as I say at the moment for particular roles, more transformation, more how to use technology in certain situations. And yeah, it's exciting. But no, we don't have, I don't know if anybody has a three-year plan. I don't even think people have a 12 month plan. You know, I think it's, you know, it's the next three months maybe, you can plan, but no.

- Yep, no, as Mike Tyson says, "You can have all the plans in the world until they get punched in the face", right, so.

- Yeah, but because he's very fortunate, you know, not many people did that to him.

- Yeah, no, that's true. I mean, it's interesting, you're talking about the, sort of the switch to more virtual offerings and the demands of, from learners have really changed. I'm just looking back at when COVID really hit and, and QA as an organization, you know, I believe in about a week we had to pivot and start to convert our courses to virtual delivery pretty much, you know, throughout that week. And it was, it was all hands to the pump, I think, you know, our sort of catalog of over 1,500 courses that we have on, on our catalog, we managed to, to convert pretty much all of them. And it was just amazing the effort that was put in, but it had to be done, and that was the demand at the time. And we're currently building sort of more blended solutions as well to, to really, you know, fulfill that demand that learners are having. So we're definitely seeing the same from our side as well in terms of how people want to learn versus how traditionally we had perhaps delivered some of that learning. So I think it's exciting times for learning organizations, challenging, absolutely. But you know, some, some real opportunities to, to play with some cool stuff. And as you know, Richard, I, I do a lot of visual thinking and I love to doodle. I've been getting my pens out and although, you know, I'm not in the room with learners, this, the technology still allows me to do a lot of that and just make it a little bit different. You know, you still bring some of the creative flare if, if people prefer that type of learning, so.

- Because you were very fortunate cause you had an online platform, and you did have some online material, and you had taught some of your trainers to teach online. So you actually had a nucleus around which you could grow. Some organizations had none of that.

- Right.

- And so they really did struggle. You know, we did work with a number of training companies, to be put on them, built an online platform, to help people go online, you know, the small organizations that couldn't afford the investment to do it themselves. And you're right, you know, some people love it. You know, some people say they will never go back. You know, I had to, not that I need it very often, but I had to book a haircut online because of social distancing. So you go onto the website of the local barber and you book an online session, then you turn up and you have a haircut and everybody's working differently.

- Yeah.

- And, I mean one thing that I am truly grateful for is the reliability of the technology. If we, if this, if COVID had hit us 10 years ago, we wouldn't have had Zoom, we wouldn't have had Teams. You know, we wouldn't have all had laptops, what would we have done? We would have soldiered through somehow, but, you know, we, I wouldn't say we're lucky, but we are fortunate that we have the technology to enable us to work in the way you described. And yeah, it will be different. Classroom will come back. I don't think you can beat having 10 or 12 people in a room committed to learn with an engaging facilitator or instructor, and, you know, you have that debate. I don't think you can beat.

- Right, yeah.

- Now, maybe, you know, in a few years time with virtual reality, you'll sit here with your virtual reality headset on and your avatar will be in the classroom. That you'll be able to smell the person next to you, through some level of technology, you'll be able to sense feeling through some level of technology. And then everybody will say, "Why do we ever need to travel?" I don't know if that's my nightmare or whether that's my utopia, but, you know, who knows where it will be in a few years time?

- Yeah, well at least you won't have to have a haircut. Hey Richard, that might be a positive.

- You're right.

- No, Richard, it's been a pleasure today. So thank you so much, really great insights. I do feel, I know you're a little bit better or a lot better actually. So really appreciate your sharing some of your personal stories. I do really feel like I've gotten much closer to the APMG sort of journey and your philosophy, so that's fantastic to hear that. I guess just any final messages from you for any of the learners out there, any words of advice, especially for some people who are really kind of struggling at the moment. I know, you know, in terms of the job cuts and people being furloughed, what would you recommend as your kind of maybe one or two tips for those folks?

- Crikey, I suppose it is about don't despair.

- Yeah

- Yeah. I've been sacked from a few jobs. I mean, I was sacked from a project that we're about to kick off because I upset the project sponsor by asking him to make a decision, which was a tough decision. And you look back and say, "Would I do it again?" The answer is, yes. I think my, my question might my points, are probably not about the individual it's about organizations and that is to give people a chance.

- Yeah

- Yeah. It's a tough, tough world for everybody, but there is an awful lot of talent. And if we can give the talent a chance, then I think organizations will be better off. And, you know, we have some products I think could be quite useful for people. So we have something called the PSP, Professional Services Professional, which is five modules, which gives you the basic understanding of business. So if you are moving from one role into a business role, you know, you could take a qualification that actually shows that you do know a little bit about something, which comes back to my comment earlier, just gives you that step up. So I think, you know, that's the case. I mean, the story's always, you know, there's an opportunity out there, but you just have to have be given a chance, which comes back to if you've got a digital badge, you know, if you understand a little about change or Agile or a little bit about not necessarily cybersecurity, I think you need a deeper understanding of that, but you can look at some of those things and then, you know, me my personal effectiveness, and that might just get me into that interview, which might just get me into, into a job. But I think as in, as businesses, we do need to look in and say, "How can we help somebody by giving them an opportunity or a chance in order to get back into work?" So I, yeah, there is no easy answer cause there's gonna be lots and lots of people looking for those roles. You know, some people will be devastated and we need more support, government industry, training companies ourselves, to come up with programs that help people back into work.

- Fantastic, no, great advice there. And I absolutely concur with that. I think organizations really do have a big challenge, but big responsibility as well. So thank you so much once again. And that's the end of the podcast, so hope everybody enjoyed that session. We'll be coming up with lots of other guests in the upcoming weeks. So stay tuned and what's this space. Thank you everybody.

- Thank you very much, Paddy. Thank you.

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