Training – Who Benefits?

by Michael on 10 July, 2012

I went to the Memorial Service for Derek Holder last Friday (6th July). Derek founded the Institute Of Direct Marketing in the late 80’s and was Chief Executive until his death in February 2012, and during that time the IDM has trained over 64,000 people in the UK.

The  service hit just the right balance as a tribute and as a celebration of a life and his achievements.

Seeing a collage on a big screen with Derek’s date of birth kept reminding me that I’m actually older than he was. And as a regular attendee at IDM events, that’s not a new feeling, as I’m regularly one of the oldest attending. Which makes me wonder how everybody else who has been in this business for 20, 30 or 40 years plus keeps up to date, in a fast changing world.

But the good thing for me was that many of the great and the good from the early days of the IDM, and even earlier, turned out to pay their respects, so for once I wasn’t in the oldest decile, or even quartile in the room, and it was a good chance to catch up with quite a few old (in both senses of the word) mates. And one common theme was that for all the skills of the new generation of digital experts, and despite the best efforts of the IDM, many of them hadn’t stopped to learn the basics of our industry before getting into their own specialist, digital silo.

I didn’t know Derek that well, and it was mainly from pre IDM days in the 1980’s when we both went to the same events, Derek ran the BDMA Diploma Course, and I even lectured on it one year. But I’m obviously aware of his achievements with the IDM.

Some of the speakers struck particular cords with my career. The first, a university buddy of Derek, told how he had got onto the Ford graduate recruitment scheme. Two years before he did that, a university friend of mine did the same. We were green with envy, as it was the gold standard at the time of all graduate recruitment programmes – £1400 a year and a company car. Not like today, where it would be a management consultancy or financial one on £50,000 a year, which maybe says something about our manufacturing base as well as our priorities. I didn’t apply for it, and fell into direct marketing on £1000 a year, which made me a bit of a failure amongst my peers – until five years later when I was earning more than all of them and had a company car too – and our business still has the potential for rapid growth for individuals. But at that time, we got very good on the job training across a broad range of disciplines.

Then we had Simon Hall, Chairman of the IDM, remembering his time on the BDMA diploma course in 1986. Which reminded me that I co-owned the company he worked for in 1986, so I paid for his training! We should have asked for a percentage of future earnings to justify the investment. I do remember paying for another member of staff to go on the same diploma course, who left for a better job immediately on gaining her diploma – but that’s a fact of life, and we all benefit in the end with a better more professional industry.

And one little gem of advice that Derek gave to the last speaker, who was a relatively recent IDM Diploma graduate. That was to join an agency first, rather than a client, and I don’t suppose he meant a specialist digital agency. The rationale given was that he would get a broad, multi-discipline training and understand how everything fitted together, before going client side or specialising.  Which sort of brings me back to the point about digital specialists in silos.

The IDM is the largest digital trainer in Europe – maybe they could add a module or two on wider marketing understanding and particularly on data, for their digital specialists, or even better an add on course. Or maybe not – 30 years plus experience still has to count for something!

Michael Howe

July 2012

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