A woman working on a laptop with a mug of tea in one hand

CPD – the creative approach

By 31.08.16

By Dr Lisa Hollands RSci

Four years ago a job as a teaching technician came up in my old university department – a fantastic opportunity which combined my love of materials science with a passion for teaching and developing people. The following year I looked into professional registration as a way of getting recognition for the skills I had and was successful in gaining Registered Scientist status. In 2014, I was promoted to become a senior technician supporting high temperature materials processing and was promoted again in 2015 to the team leader position. I am now looking towards gaining chartered status within the next few years.

I believe that my passion for personal development and learning about a wide range of topics has helped me to get to where I am now and last year I was highly commended for a Science Council CPD Award.

How I approach my CPD

Initially, I decided to take a critical look at the different areas that go into making my job and also thought about my future career aspirations to work out where I needed extra skills and knowledge for advancement.  I often found that I had to think outside the box about where I could get this development from as funding is not always easy to come by.  I have a personal love for learning new things and working as a technician in a busy University department, supporting teaching and research, means that I need to learn new things every day as no two days are ever the same.

Engaging in CPD can be really simple if you look for the opportunities out there, but sometimes they are not obvious…

Online courses

The first thing that people seem to think about when looking at their development is what courses could they go on, and sometimes it is the best or only way of getting the knowledge that you need – but courses cost money. At work I am really careful about which courses I ask to go on and make sure that there is a really good business case for it. So far I have not had a request rejected – but what if I can’t get the money to go? What else could I try?

Well actually there are courses available in all sorts of topics from universities around the world that don’t cost a penny covering things like ‘people management’ or ‘how to be succeed in interviews’ through to more technical topics such as programming courses, maths, teaching skills, photography etc. – the sky is the limit.

I found I was doing a lot of work with dentists and wanted to know a little bit more about what they do so I could support their work better as my knowledge of dentistry was limited – I found a MOOC (Massive Open On­line Course) where I learned all about it with thousands of other interested people… and it does not end there.

Books, journals and YouTube

Reading around subjects in books, journals and on the internet or talking to experts has given me a greater breadth and depth of knowledge in many areas related to my work. I also found that YouTube has a wealth of videos which can be a useful way of finding out how to do that new thing – I learned how to crochet using YouTube but have also learned about flame working glass and sand casting metals which is more useful for my job.

Involvement in committees and projects

Being involved in committees and projects has developed and expanded more of my softer skills such as improving my organisational skills, project managing and communicating with people from outside the area that I work.

I am now on the steering committee of a very successful project comprising of a group of technicians within my university looking at offering development opportunities for university technical staff (TechNet); this project has now started to include other institutions.

Last year I was even involved in developing and delivering a session on developing your career for technical staff which was a new experience for me. Mentoring or work shadowing people within my organisation has also given me a great insight in to new ways of working and these are just some of the other avenues that I have found most useful. Involvement in all these things is CPD – even writing this blog is.

Development opportunities are all around you if you know where to look… and most of them are free which is an added bonus.

Find out more about the Science Council’s CPD requirements for registered scientists and technicians.