Road to becoming… a learning and development specialist

Petra Bauer-Björklund


University of Gothenburg, 2009 – 2015, Bsc Human Resource Management and Labour Relations

Work experience:

2019: learning & development specialist at Social Enterprise Academy (Edinburgh)

2018: learning & programme officer at Social Enterprise Academy (Edinburgh)

2017-2018: learning coordinator at Social Enterprise Academy (Edinburgh)

2016-2017: learning administrator at Social Enterprise Academy (Edinburgh)

2016: learning volunteer at Social Enterprise Academy (Edinburgh)

2011-2015: senior instructor with Scuba Schools International (Thailand)

2011: speciality diving instructor with Professional Association of Diving Instructors PADI (Thailand) 2010-2011: sales co-worker at IKEA (Gothenburg, Sweden)

2006-2010: sales & customer service coworker at IKEA (Helsingborg, Sweden)

Tell us about your job? I work as part of the Global Learning Lab at the Social Enterprise Academy, developing learning and development programmes for people working for social change. As part of my role, I work with clients, partners and learning facilitators to design new products and develop existing products to meet the needs of clients and the sector.

How did you land your current role? Having worked as a diving instructor in Thailand for a few years, I came to the UK in 2015. I applied for a learning administrator role at the Social Enterprise Academy but unfortunately I didn’t get an interview. After almost a year of unsuccessful job hunting I realised my strategy wasn’t working, so I signed up to volunteer with Project Scotland and by chance, the Social Enterprise Academy was looking for a volunteer at that time. A paid post came up while I was volunteering and I got that job, which I had for about two years. During that time I was quite set on what I wanted to do, and was explicit with my manager about how I wanted to develop. Grabbing opportunities to learn is so important – whenever you see a way to try something new.

Have formal qualifications helped you in your career? I don’t use my formal qualification explicitly in this role, but I don’t regret doing it as I’ve always chosen to study things I’m interested in. I’ve used my past jobs and experiences more, like being a Diving Instructor in Thailand, which involved working with people and helping build their skills and confidence. With my diving students it was a bit more extreme because if they didn’t learn their new skills properly they could hurt themselves, but I think it’s really helped my career being able to understand learning in different contexts.

What made you want to work in learning and development? I’ve always been interested in the different ways people can challenge themselves and develop – it doesn’t matter if you’re preparing yourself to dive under water or developing skills to lead a team. I think especially within the third sector, people are doing such important jobs and changing people’s lives and they don’t often get the support they need and deserve to develop themselves.
What’s the best bit about your job? Being able to support people working for social change and seeing the impact we’re making to people in the sector who maybe aren’t used to having these types of opportunities. Also getting to work in an area I’m really interested in.

What has helped you to develop in your role? I think not being afraid to ask to learn about the areas I’ve been interested in, even when it’s not been in my job description. I think I have also been lucky enough have a great mentor to learn from, and to work in an organisation that encourages people to develop. I also had the opportunity to go on an Academy Leadership Programme, which was great.

What are your top tips for someone looking to become a learning and development specialist? L&D can be hard to break into, so I would say show an interest through your own personal development. Look at how you can do small bits of it, whether that’s doing a formal qualification or exploring volunteering options. Also, speak to your HR department to see how you can get involved in that area, even if it’s on voluntary basis. But mostly, as with any role, stay focused on what you want and do what you can with what you’ve got