Not waiting for experts sometimes means becoming the expert
At BluLever, we have a mantra that says "We don't wait for experts". It speaks to the fact that if we waited for "experts" to come along to make change in the world, nothing would ever get done. It also speaks to trusting yourself, believing in yourself, and your ability to do great work. Not waiting for experts also sometimes means becoming the expert yourself. As an education startup, our products are all about learning. We also strive to be a learning organisation in more ways than one - an organisation that is constantly learning as well as facilitating learning for our apprentices. As a team, this means we’re all encouraged to take that course, get coaching or explore building a new skill that will help us grow within our roles & careers. In many ways, Miles Collier's story of tackling a demanding project management qualification, and how he put what he learned into practice embodies what it means to be a lifelong learner and why it is so important.
Miles was the first full-time team member to join BluLever and has built and led the client relationship management (CRM) team over the last 2+ years. Before joining BluLever, Miles gained extensive client relationship management experience working in the technology sector in London. The core of his role is to manage all aspects of client relationships including business development, building, and managing client and stakeholder relationships. In addition, Miles has managed some of BluLever's core projects from end to end.
Prince2 Foundation & Practitioner Qualification
Miles joined BluLever to focus on Business Development, but quickly started running other projects - quintessentially practising the mantra of not waiting for experts. When he saw work that needed doing, and projects that needed managing, he put his hand up and took them on. As he started to take on more project management work, Miles began to think about pursuing a qualification to solidify his project management skills. "What I was looking for was a project management methodology or template that would help me to better structure my approach when it came to managing projects. The Prince2 qualification seemed to do exactly this. At BluLever there is a big focus on upskilling yourself and our culture of continuous learning gave me the extra push I needed to take on this qualification. I began to see it as this great opportunity to grow in my role and take on more responsibility."
For all the project managers out there... The Prince2 Foundation & Practitioner qualification takes +-6 months to complete, and consists of two components: PRINCE2 Foundation, where you learn the 4 elements of the PRINCE2 methodology: Principles, Themes, Processes, and Project Environment. The second component PRINCE2 Practitioner, is then applying these elements to a real-life project.
"What I really enjoy about this methodology, is that you can apply it to any project within any industry. The learnings are very transferable and easy to understand."
The Challenge of Studying Part-time
As an impact-driven start-up, there’s a lot we’re trying to achieve at BluLever, and that takes hard work. When Miles decided to take on this qualification, he did so knowing that he would need to be able to balance it, and would need a lot of discipline in order to make it work. "With all part-time study, the challenge is being disciplined with yourself in order to stick to evening studies. As a team, we constantly have a lot of work and deadlines to hit. Dedicating, and being strict on, the time allocated to study was an important part of the process. Being able to sacrifice those sunny Spring Sundays for a little extra time to complete modules is something I won't miss, but grateful for the outcome."
"BluLever allowed me the time to concentrate on my evening studies, and take study leave to attend workshops and exams. Throughout the process, I felt supported & acknowledged for each milestone that I achieved."
In addition to the discipline required to complete his qualification, being in an environment that prioritises learning and developing yourself helped Miles stick to his qualification. At BluLever we try to cultivate a learning culture in many different ways, our culture of learning doesn't stop at formal qualifications, it is more holistic. It's about building a growth mindset where we're actively seeking opportunities to learn every day and then put our learnings into practice. You see this in our ways of working with practices like:
Monday Thought Starters - every Monday a "thought starter" video is shared with the team that creates the habit of kicking every week off with some learning. We then discuss it and unpack themes and learnings together as a group later in the day.
Feedback Carousels - at least once every two months we spend two hours sharing feedback with each and every team member. This practice helps us reinforce the habit of giving and receiving feedback and always leaves the team with newfound insights and learnings and, importantly, a sense of catharsis.
Reflecting on BluLever's support Miles shared that, "the biggest support I received from BluLever was having the opportunity to put what I learned into practice by taking ownership of current and new projects in the team. It goes a long way to have the confidence of your peers."
Putting Learnings Into Practice
As Miles progressed in his learning journey, he took “not waiting for experts” to a new level - putting his hand up to be the expert and use his expertise where it was needed. Miles wasn't just upskilling himself theoretically but was able to bring his new project management learnings into BluLever and begin implementing them almost immediately.
"It was super rewarding to study something you could put into practice every day. Every new approach I learned, I applied it at BluLever."
It was clear that every project that Miles now managed was being approached in a more methodical way and particularly gratifying to see how the learnings that he implemented led to smoother iterations of our incubation programme as well as how the CRM team began to approach apprentice placements. Miles shares what he put into practice…
Artisan Incubation Programme - "Artisan incubation programmes are something that we're constantly improving and iterating upon which means that on top of running the programme for +-30 participants, we're running projects to improve it. In addition, these programmes are run in collaboration with partners. With all these moving parts, this was the perfect opportunity to put what I had learned into practice and begin making more calculated decisions by accurately weighting decision parameters like "cost", "time" and "risk" and doing this effectively at the right time within the project. Stakeholder alignment and communication were also greatly improved (weekly updates, dashboards, project plans)."
Apprentice Placements - "Roughly every 3 months the client relationship management team needs to place 30 apprentices with our partner employers. In the past, this was approached as a continuous rhythm but by transforming this function into project-based work with a clear start and end date we've been able to put into place more effective project rhythms and tolerances. Project tolerances are predefined milestone targets that allow you to create ‘backup plans’ that are triggered if a certain milestone is not complete in time, thereby keeping the project on track. By making it project-based we were able to analyse our performance more effectively and understand when we had a good or bad week (and why) based on our project targets.”
Looking to the future
Part of never waiting for experts is recognising that there is always room for growth and learning. As Miles continues on his journey he will need to continue thinking about where he can grow his own expertise. "As I look to further grow the BluLever CRM team and take on more projects that contribute to the company's vision, I now have more confidence in myself to lead and guide those around me. Part of what I'll be doing is using the project management skills that I have honed during this qualification to begin building out a new department at BluLever - the Operations department. There will be lots of project-based work within this department such as accreditation, new facilities, and hiring the operations team. I will continue to add to my approach in this area, create guidelines for those around me, and share learnings with the team so as to improve as a business."
"While the PRINCE2 was a step for me to become a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), there are other professional qualifications I am looking into to further develop myself as a leader. As I think about my career trajectory, I want to ensure that I am constantly growing and learning, so I am looking into programmes such as a Master of Management, Programme for Management Development, and other professional qualifications."
Miles' project management journey came full circle recently when he took the initiative to be the expert on project management to the rest of our team. Miles reflected on and refined his learnings and then designed a series of project management workshops that helped the team hone their project management skills. The result is that there is a higher standard for running projects effectively at BluLever and a clearer understanding of what great project management looks like. One thing is for sure, not waiting for the experts will test your self-belief and push you out of your comfort zone, and ultimately force you to grow. It isn't easy but if it becomes a habit and you manage to grow comfortable in the uncertainty and begin to trust yourself, sometimes you may in fact become the expert.
If you're interested in working with BluLever or you've interacted with our team and are curious to know more about the BluLever culture and our team's personal growth stories then subscribe to the "Being Part of BluLever" newsletter (below) so you don't miss our next story or learn more about joining our team on the BluLever Career Page.
Thanks for reading.