With vast experience in the service industry, Linda Conway had gained a good understanding business operations. However, she had a desire to gain a formal qualification as she knew this was an essential step that would help her navigate the path ahead.
Having researched the CIPD accredited programmes at National College of Ireland, Linda made the decision to apply for the CIPD Diploma in Professional Human Resource Practice as people management and employee relations is her specialty and this course would enable her to receive a qualification that would recognise her skillset. Not being based in Dublin, the online classes meant that she only needed to visit the campus for a small number of in-person sessions which also worked well for Linda and her busy schedule. She shares her story, including insights into her experience returning to education, below.
CIPD Course Information Webinar
We are hosting an online information session for anyone interested in the Certificate or Diploma in Professional Human Resource Practice or the Certificate in Professional Employment Law starting in February and March. Visit the event page to register.
1. Tell us about your career and educational background?
Growing up in recessionary times in 80’s Ireland, third level education wasn’t an option for me. This became my Achilles heel as I always felt I had to prove that my practical expertise alone was sufficient. Through sheer determination I carved a successful career for myself and I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with wonderful and inspirational mentors. Their influence taught me the importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace and how it contributes to increased productivity and organisational success.
I had a 15-year career with a leading fashion and beauty company, 11 of which were as an area manager overseeing a portfolio of businesses with 200 employees in my remit. With the business acumen I had gained, I joined a family business in tourism and when the pandemic decimated this industry (which has thankfully since recovered!) I found myself seeking new opportunities. I reached out to an agency and again whilst my lack of formal qualifications presented hurdles, they assured me that my skill set was very transferable. Ironically, whilst Covid rendered me unemployed I now found myself working in a Public Health response team at the epicentre of the pandemic. I was immersed in a realm that under different circumstances I would never have explored, working with medical professionals as part of a multidisciplinary team. This was truly an incredible experience, providing me with meaningful challenges and a rewarding sense of accomplishment.
"I’ve demonstrated resilience throughout my career but when this project came to a natural end, I decided it was time to return to education and gain the accredited qualification I fervently desired."
2. Why did you choose to study the CIPD Diploma in Professional Human Resource Practice at NCI?
People management and employee relations was my forte and I knew that a recognised qualification was now an essential step in navigating the path I aspired to follow. After much research, I discovered various options, with some colleges even offering accelerated/condensed courses.
However, CIPD accreditation is a prerequisite for most companies when hiring for HR positions so this led me to NCI. It was very evident from the onset that there is a highly efficient team working at NCI, the college offers a holistic educational experience creating an innovative learning environment with a commitment to student success. Not living in Dublin, the option of facilitated online study was an added benefit and this played a pivotal role in my decision-making.
3. Tell us about your experience studying this programme at NCI.
Embarking on this educational journey as a mature student felt somewhat like I was starring in my own version of ‘Educating Rita’!
Academic writing was alien to me but with the support and guidance of the expert lecturers I quickly became competent at paraphrasing, referencing and able to present my research in a clear and well supported manner. The lecturers themselves bring a rich tapestry of experiences, each with a unique professional journey which enriches the overall learning. They shared their own anecdotes and real-life examples creating engaging and interactive sessions and encouraging student participation.
"Study groups were set up and I found this support network promoted collaborative learning and created a social and interactive dimension to the overall experience."
The course is intense, with assignment deadlines for each module and with day-to-day life happening in tandem it is crucial not to procrastinate. The employee relations module very much appealed to me due to its insightful content and practical applications. Conducting a disciplinary hearing and negotiating a pay deal between management and unions were two of the practical assignments which stood out as being remarkably enjoyable aspects of the programme for me. These assignments provided a dynamic learning experience allowing us to apply theoretical knowledge to real-world scenarios.
4. How have you been able to apply what you have learned on the course in your current role?
I worked in a SaaS company throughout my studies and was employed as a Learning and Development Specialist. As the global lead for onboarding, the insights gained from the course proved immensely valuable. I created effective onboarding programmes, delivered engaging presentations which enabled me to contribute meaningfully to the organisation’s talent development initiatives.
5. What advice would you give to anyone considering a CIPD programme in HR at NCI?
Be under no illusion, this is a big commitment and my advice would be to fully embrace the learning experience, engage, build a network of fellow students for support, stay committed to the course work and the outcome will be so rewarding.
6. Finally, what’s next for you and your career?
The aspiration was to return to a people leadership role and I am now about to embark on a new journey having just secured a HR manager position. I firmly believe that this NCI course and the CIPD accreditation I obtained contributed significantly to me securing this position which aligns perfectly with my career goals. As quoted by Malcolm X, “Education is the passport to the future.”
Linda studied the CIPD Diploma in Professional Human Resource Practice at National College of Ireland. This course offers direct progression to Stage Two of the BA (Honours) in HRM Strategy and Practice, an accelerated Level 8 degree. Visit our CIPD Hub to learn more about these accredited courses.