In 2015, the Association of Accounting Technicians commissioned a study into working lives which showed that 46% of their sample (around 2000 workers) would quit their jobs and occupations and retrain completely. There is no shortage of reasons a person might do this: more job satisfaction, financial opportunity, the fear of being made redundant to automation, a better work-life-health balance, exciting new sectors being created. In our Career Changers series, we look at individual stories of people who have made that switch.
Meet Abi Truebig
Abi is an e-learning designer and developer, working on digital training programmes for a national bank. After getting a degree in music, she ended up working in an academic support capacity in universities, which led her back to gaining more qualifications of her own, and subsequently to a new career. She’s now studying at doctoral level to make digital learning accessible to everyone, and to help those who struggle with traditional educational models.
Name: Abi Truebig
Current position: Digital Developer / Doctoral candidate in Education (Digital Technologies)
Previous job: Academic research support
When did you make the change? Gradually (2010 – 2016)
What prompted you to stop what you were doing?
From November 2007, I have worked in Higher Education – mostly research support jobs. I had seen an advertisement for Podcasting Project Assistant at Staffordshire University (November 2010) that would put my audio skills to work, and I was waiting to start at the School of Sound Engineering in Manchester to do a professional course in Audio Engineering.
Did you know what you wanted to move into?
My audio background got my foot in the door, but unfortunately E-Learning as a career required a higher degree, with organisations point-blank refusing to interview applicants without a Masters degree in the discipline. That led me back into research support, as I couldn’t get a job in the area despite getting some experience in it. While I was good at research support, I felt it was a massive waste of my creative skills (including the 4 years I had spent studying music – an HND, a BA and a Diploma). Surprisingly, audio is a lot like video so it’s very easy to switch between both forms of production (AV professionals everywhere are probably rolling their eyes) and I wanted to work in that area within education, as I had the technical skills to do so.
I ended up taking a permanent position in research support at The University of Manchester and received the opportunity for discounted tuition fees, so went about convincing my department to let me do the MA in Digital Technologies, Communication and Education. What attracted me to the course was that I could do it full time, part time, on campus, blended learning or full distance learning. It was the kind of course that really spoke to the future of education and respected its learners, who all have different lives and varying time to undertake the course. I also met a really good friend on the course who was undertaking it part-time, distance learning. We actually graduated at the same time. The whole thing was really well thought out and I’m glad I did it (but that was at a time when the fees were half of what they are now, and I think affordability has gone out the window).
Did you face any obstacles along the way?
I struggled with my mental health in the job I had, so I decided to pack up in Manchester and return to Glasgow. I took a job at Glasgow Uni looking after a Doctoral Training Centre – really I took the job as it would give me experience in using the Moodle VLE. Sadly my mental health spiralled further and I weighed up whether I wanted to fail my masters or keep my soul destroying job. I chose the masters. And I graduated! And once I did, I got my first job as an E-Learning Developer at Glasgow Clyde College. I also want to note that the MA gave me the skills to understand teaching and learning, but I had to scour the job adverts for the software they were asking for – the majority said Articulate Storyline, so I went about training myself in that.
Do you feel like you made the right decision?
Absolutely. I love what I do. I know what it’s like to struggle in education and feel like you’re at the bottom of K2. I always approach instructional design from a learner’s point of view to ensure they are looked after and can find a route through, concerning cognitive processing as well as accessibility skills. Accessibility is another self-taught skill – but it is worth it. I never create my courses without thinking the greater ramifications through.
Have you changed as a person since you changed career?
Life is still difficult. I have decided to undertake a professional doctorate in Education (Digital Technologies) for my future survival, as I am still jumping contract to contract. I know this will work itself out, but it isn’t half insulting when you go to a job interview and have to frankly discuss job security like it’s a ridiculous thing to expect.
Are you using any of the same abilities for both careers?
In a way, yes. When I worked in research support, I worked with academics, businesses, government and NGOs. I had to use a high level of diplomacy in the face of my skills versus their tacit knowledge and expectations. I now work with bankers – they’re hard nuts to crack! The many, many qualifications seem to assuage certain perceptions about what I do, but it’s annoying to deal with.
Do you have further career goals?
I would probably like to move in to research, but we’ll see how it all works out once I have submitted my thesis (which regards adult learners’ perceptions and attitudes towards E-Learning).
If you want to chat to Abi about E-learning or accessibility, you can find her on Twitter @ubiqinstruct
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Author: Katherine Stephen
Katherine is a qualified careers advisor and a member of the Career Development Institute. She has just begun a PhD programme to research meta-skill development in the workplace, and is a fiction editor and publisher in her spare time. You can find her on Twitter at @katobell.