Meet the Experts: Lisa, Lynne and Kevin

Meet the Experts: Lisa, Lynne and Kevin

With an ever-increasing portfolio of applications, Microsoft Office is more than a software, it allows flexible working, collaborative opportunities, a high level of security and more. To learn Word, PowerPoint and Excel requires motivation and hard work, but teaching any of these types of software is even harder. You have to have the expertise and knowledge that our trainers have demonstrated throughout the years. We interviewed our Microsoft team: Lisa - an engaging IT Microsoft trainer; Kevin - a fun and considerate IT professional with over 30 years of experience and Lynne - an honest and tenacious expert who also develops her own application templates for the course.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in Microsoft software training?

Lynne: It was the logical way to go in the late 1990s when Microsoft Office became the tool of choice for many industries. It allowed me to expand my portfolio of offerings to a wider client base.

Lisa: I really enjoyed courses in Word, Excel, etc when I worked in an office. I applied the skills learned to improve the systems where I worked. I just wanted to help others do the same.

If you could go back, what career would you pursue today?

Kevin: Apart from Ski Instructor, probably a Financial Analyst.

Lynne: I fell into training and I fell in love with training. Times have changed so much that there are many interesting careers today that did not exist when I became a trainer in the late 1980s. I enjoy social history, researching, explaining, and organising things so perhaps a Museum Curator.

Tell me how you got into freelancing and how this changed your career.

Lisa: I was on maternity leave at a training company where I was the training manager. At that time the company went into administration.  I lost my job but wanted to be flexible as a mum and I thought freelancing would be a good option. 

Kevin: Having had a year trying different positions and then having taken redundancy, freelancing seemed the right move for me. I wanted to be my own boss.

Lynne: The training centre where I was permanently employed as an IT Trainer, specialising in Adobe FrameMaker, was taken over by another company and they chose to close the centre. They suggested that I work as a freelance trainer for them. During my last week at the centre I received a telephone call from one of my contacts at Adobe, telling me about an exciting development for FrameMaker training. Six months later, I was delivering FrameMaker training on behalf of Adobe at their European Training Centre. As one door closes another one opens. I was in the right place at the right time. I saw an opportunity and I took it with both hands.

What advice would you give to freelancers today?

Lisa: Don't undersell yourself.  Be flexible. Don't say yes to work/new customers if it doesn't feel right.  Maintain your integrity.

Kevin: Network, sell yourself.

You're known to be a professional software trainer. What's your favourite Microsoft software and why?

Lynne: My favourite Microsoft software is Excel. It's such a flexible tool, it can be anything to anyone. 

Kevin: Microsoft Excel ‐ hated maths at school, but I love spreadsheets, as it's all about patterns.

Tell me about a recent training program led by you. How did you ensure the skills were transferred successfully?

Lisa: Using questioning to check the delegates' progress/understanding.  Asking delegates to share their screens after exercises to make sure they were on the right lines.

Lynne: I recently led a PowerPoint training course. When I felt the delegates had enough knowledge, I set more open and challenging exercises. They were able to create interesting slides without any prompting from me and began sharing their own screens, telling the others how they had managed to create the slides and effects. They were clearly taking responsibility for their learning.

What is the recipe for software training to be effective?

Lisa: Variety in teaching methods, interaction with the delegates, using examples of how the learning can be applied.  Most importantly, lots of exercises so the delegates get the chance to practice themselves.

Kevin: Make it relevant and fun! Be aware of delegates' body language, know when to pull back.

What are the challenges to developing effective training?

Lynne: The biggest challenges are time and unrealistic expectations from clients about what can be delivered in a one or two-day course. It's a balancing act trying to put together topics and exercises which both meet the brief and fit within the timeframe.

Kevin: Skill levels of delegates, if these are very different from each other.

Tell me about a situation when someone achieved success from your training session that made you really proud.

Lisa: This doesn't really happen as you rarely get to meet delegates again after training them to discuss how they've applied what you taught them.  However, what tends to happen is that people learn something that they wish they'd known a week/month ago as it would have saved them a huge amount of time.  You know that this won't happen to them again ‐ they will remember this new, time-saving skill!

Lynne: I recently delivered a one-to-one customised Excel session remotely. The lady I was training told me she hated Excel because she felt she was constantly fighting it as it never seemed to do what she wanted or expected it to. We had looked at the syntax of some of Excel's functions and the reason for creating absolute cell references. By the end of the day with more practice she was on my side and eager to see what else Excel could do.

Kevin: Just last week, a CFO on an Excel Advanced session said she could probably save four hours a day with the new knowledge and skills developed.

Tell me about a time when you had a difficult team to train. How did you deal with that? 

Lisa: I try to remain professional, fair, honest and kind when faced with difficult situations.

Lynne: The difficult team I had was online. All the delegates were from the same company and had differing levels of IT and Excel skills. The training was organised for them to be upskilled in Excel and work with more complex calculations.

I dealt with it through classroom management allowing them to discuss their feelings about the new tasks first and what they were frightened of.

During the training, I was then able to show them how the skills we'd covered during the sessions related to the new workbook. To prove the point I then split them into breakout rooms and set them some challenges.

How do you keep updated with the latest trends and ideas about Microsoft training?

Lisa: I subscribe to weekly updates so receive them on a regular basis.

Kevin: I love watching YouTube videos of the “experts I follow.

Lynne: I network with other trainers and training companies. I'm part of the Insiders community at Microsoft and then it's generally researching on the internet. I also attend other training courses to refresh and update my skills.

If you could change one thing about Microsoft products, what would it be and why?

Kevin: Rationalise the many versions of Office products, and keep the feature consistency with every version.

Lynne: I'd remove the text effects feature. It's reminiscent of the 1980s and 1990s and that's where the feature should stay.

Tell me about the companies you've worked with and your process for securing those collaborations.

Lisa: Most of my customers are training companies like Media Training ‐ I found them through searches online during quiet periods, sometimes met them and then it really went from there.

Lynne: You have to look at the company and approach it with the best strategy you have. Some of them want to see a list of your formal training credentials and who you've trained, others are more interested in price. A lot of it comes down to networking, recommendations from other trainers, knowing your stuff, and being in the right place at the right time.

What advice would you give to freelance software trainers today on how to secure a training project?

Kevin: Be flexible, adaptable, and willing to work as part of a team.

Lisa: Be yourself and don't be scared to accept new challenges. Stretch yourself to expand your portfolio.

Why did you become a trainer at Media Training?

Lynne: Simply put, they found me! Whilst contracting for Adobe at their European Training Centre in 1997, Media Training contacted Adobe asking for details of a FrameMaker trainer, my details were given and here we are 24 years on.

Kevin: Expanding my network and getting in touch with training companies, I came across Media Training. I read their reviews and liked their look. At the beginning of 2019, I was kindly invited for a chat and it went from there.

What is it like to be a trainer at Media Training?

Lisa: Lovely!

Lynne: It's great. I feel valued and part of the team. I know when I work at Media Training that I am supported before, during and after the training.

Kevin: Fantastic! From the get-go in 2019, everyone I met was so positive and driven. I have enjoyed the support from all. The Covid situation has strengthened the bond, as a result of the amazing team effort which kept us all going.

What courses do you teach?

Kevin: 80% of the time Microsoft Excel, followed by Microsoft Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, Access, OneNote, Teams.  Just getting into Google Sheets.

Lynne: I teach a range of courses. I still deliver Adobe FrameMaker as well as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Visio, Publisher and InDesign.

Lisa: Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Visio, Publisher, Outlook.


If a delegate attends one of your courses, how will this benefit their career?

Lynne: When a delegate attends one of my courses, they will learn efficient and current techniques to use the software application. It benefits their career due to an improvement in knowledge and speeds them up allowing them to complete their tasks more efficiently.

Kevin: It will give them the confidence and skills to use the tools more efficiently, so they can focus on their main task objectives and become an effective team member.

If you're interested in booking a Microsoft Office course and being taught by one of one expert, we'd be more than happy to assist you based on personal or company requirements.

by Lisa, Lynne and Kevin | 27 Sep 23

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