Get to know your peers in the global HR community through our career profile series. Today, we profile Krissie Billingham, learning business partner and head of learning technology at RSA. She shares her career path, her biggest challenges and why she made a jigsaw of her face for an interview – and got the job!
Name: Krissie Billingham
Job: Learning business partner – head of learning technology
Current employer: RSA
CV in brief:
- Learning business partner – head of learning technology, RSA, 2010-Present
- Learning partner – learning operations manager, LV=, 2009-2010
- Learning business partner – leadership, Barclaycard, 2005-2009
- Training manager, Barclaycard, 2003-2005
A day in your life
Tell us about your job and organisation
RSA is a large worldwide organisation, priding itself on its technical skills and abilities – we underwrite and insure some of the worlds most famous landmarks, and in the UK we have an impressive track record on engagement. It’s also listed on The Sunday Times ‘Top 25 Best Big Companies‘ to work for.
Who do you report into?
UK learning & development director.
Tell us about your team
We’re a compact team covering all aspects and elements of the learning life cycle, we’re thought leaders, who love a challenge. Unusually for L&D people, we like to talk to our business in numbers and not words, so a lot of what we do is based around investment, ROI and business impact. We know our organisation really well, we understand the demographic, what they need and what, and how to engage them.
What is the most rewarding part of your role?
Putting a new piece of technology live – once we’ve done the research on the demographic, understood the impact and done all the analysis, is pretty rewarding. What’s even better is when we get feedback from our learners from something we’ve built or designed has impacted their day to day life or career. What’s great about working at RSA is that everyone will share their stories on internal networks and spread the love – with that we can impact more people with our interventions.
What is the most challenging part of the role?
There are many challenging parts of the role, sometimes it’s just a challenge to get people to see the vision you’re trying to create, and how/why it would fit well in the organisation. The impact of intangible investments, there are obviously all the other challenges we all face – budget, influence and implementation – in an organisation, where there are a number of technology legacies.
What does a typical day look like for you?
There’s no such thing as a typical day for me!
Why did you choose your current organisation to work for?
RSA is an organisation with an appetite to progress its learning offering, and they’re not afraid to try something new.
Perks and downsides of your role?
Perks – a lot of what we do is about experimentation, so I get involved at the very beginning of some of the most exciting and engaging learning interventions – a lot of gamification, eLearning, and portal design, which is really pushing the limits in L&D right now.
Downsides – trying to get things to work and land well.
What skills are essential for the role you’re in?
Stakeholder management, project management, communication skills, budgeting, leadership and courage!
How did you get to where you are now?
Leading in an operational environment, I got frustrated with people joining my teams who weren’t where they needed to be in terms of their ability to complete the role. After a conversation with my manager about my frustrations, his response was, ‘well, why don’t you fix it then,’ so I made my recommendations and took it from there. I moved from training to learning & development in the leadership space. I have one foot in learning technology, through a desire to constantly improve how learners can access learning as and when, and when they want it on their own terms.
What were your best subjects in school? What and where did you study?
At school, my favourite subjects were English and art. I went to school in Daventry, a small market town in Northamptonshire.
Have you followed the career path you set out to?
No, I wanted to be a contact centre manager – funny how things change!
What challenges have you faced along the way? How did you overcome them?
A million challenges, and not one that springs to mind specifically. I overcome most barriers by thinking positively about the situations, looking for routes around, and bringing people to the table for help and support. It’s amazing what a few thought provoking people/questions can do for a challenge. I’ve always been really clear about what I’ve wanted to achieve and how I want to get to where I’m going – the challenges are what keeps you focused – think creatively about getting round things, don’t be afraid to be brave, and put your hand up for some more thoughts to add to the mix.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to land a job?
I once was asked to talk about the skills I had to be the best person at the job, so I made a jigsaw of my face (frightening I know!) and asked the interviewers to put the jigsaw together – so overall, with the skills they were looking for, all printed onto my face, I was the perfect candidate for the job!
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
Being featured in the Daily Mail, and working for an organisation where I can say that 40% of our people are now accessing learning via their own mobile devices in their own time. Four years ago, we didn’t use a learning management system effectively, so this is a pretty big achievement.
Do you have any career regrets?
None! Everything I’ve ever done has taught me something or given me an experience to learn from, there is no such thing as a regret as long as you learn from it.
What advice would you offer to others who are looking to get to where you are now?
Where you can – always talk in numbers, be commercially aware, and make sure that whatever you’re talking about or recommending always has a tangible business benefit – even if it’s something qualitative, translate it in a way to show commercials – results talk, and in L&D its no different – its all about ROI and commercial impact, so translate your people measures into numbers. You can measure people impact with numbers, so always try to.
What advice would you give to your 22-year-old self?
Take your time, and be brave enough to get involved in new situations and experiences, don’t be afraid to fail, but fail quickly and learn from the experience.
- Coffee or tea? Both, just at different times of the day
- Jam or marmalade? Jam
- The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? Rolling Stones – much more rock and roll!
- Mac or PC? PC – sorry! I’m just not an apple kinda gal
- The Guardian or The Times? The Times
- BBC or ITV? ITV – the BBC can sometimes take themselves a little too seriously for me
- M&S or Waitrose? M&S – I’m a Christmas kid, and they do it really well
- Morning or night? Night – much more interesting, and easier to look glamorous!
- Rain on snow? Snow – you can’t ski in the rain
- Sweet or savoury? More savoury – I love cheese, crisps and sausage rolls.
- App: Hailo – the convenience of getting a taxi, especially when you don’t know where you are, it’s a lifesaver
- TV show: Greys Anatomy – obviously educational from a medical drama perspective, but also for a bit of Patrick Dempsey
- Song: Mr Brightside, by The Killers, always appropriate, and motivational
- Thing to do on a Friday night: Housework. I know, so rock and roll, but I can have a few G&T’s afterwards, feel guilt free and not spend all weekend doing it!
- Holiday spot: Anywhere in Egypt or the Middle East – guaranteed weather, a bit of culture, and not too far on the plane
- Piece of advice you’ve been given: Ask for forgiveness, not permission – something my very inspirational boss has always taught me as a mantra – learn from your mistakes and get on with it…
By Sarah Clark
Online features editor at Changeboard
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