Interview: Learning Professional Finalist: Sarah Ratcliff

Learning Professional of the Year Finalist Sarah Ratcliff Answers Our Questions

Sarah Ratcliff has spent the past 3 years as a learning and development partner for Ann Summers. Prior to this, Sarah spent 12 years as a regional trainer for Weight Watchers. Sarah has recently been announced as a Learning Professional of the Year finalist for the 2020 LEARNING AWARDS. Operated by the Learning and Performance Institute, they are the learning sector’s annual celebration of outstanding achievement, best practice and excellence in corporate learning and performance.
Sarah was kind enough to take the time to answer our questions about the LPI Awards and provided valuable insight into her approach to learning and development. We are very grateful to Sarah for taking the time to answer our questions and wish her the best of luck for the awards ceremony on the 20th February.

MBM: You were recently announced as ‘Learning Professional of the Year Finalist 2020’ – Please tell us about this.

Sarah Ratcliff: I have had quite a journey during my time at Ann Summers and have brought in some new thinking around live online learning, social learning and resources which have resulted in some great results.  Sharing this with the LPI has resulted in becoming a finalist and I am really excited about attending the awards.  Keep your fingers crossed for me!

MBM: What’s the most exciting thing about your job?

SR: The most exciting thing I get to do is be able to get into the field and speak at events surrounded by our fabulous teams.  The enthusiasm at Ann Summers is incredible and we have a lot of fun.  Our subject matter can be quite enlightening!

MBM: What one mistake have you made at work? And how would you do it differently if you had your time again?

SR: I have made loads of mistakes, and will hopefully continue to do so – then I know I am trying new things.  All I ever ask of myself is to learn from each one.  I’m a big reflector so I try to put things straight back into action.  I was always taught that if you fall off the horse, you get back on.

MBM: Do you have any hidden talents?

SR: Erm, that I want to divulge… I have won karaoke competitions and am qualified to teach both English and Western horseriding.

Female speaker in a conference Sarah Ratcliff
Learning Professional of the Year Finalist Sarah Ratcliff

MBM: What is your favourite self-development book and why?

SR: How People Learn by Nick Shackleton-Jones was a real enlightenment for me, I realised why I do what I do.

MBM: What are your top 3 proudest moments in life? At home and/or at work?

SR: Proudest Moments are:

  1. Learning Professional of the Year Finalist
  2. Diamond Leader Award at Weight Watchers
  3. And of course, when my kids do amazing things, there is just nothing quite like it.

MBM: What is your favourite piece of resource for learning? (Blog, video, guide, etc.)

SR: I have to say I use the CIPD Knowledge Hub a lot, but mostly talking to like-minded people, it really helps you gain the perspective and context.

MBM: What is your favourite film of all time and why?

SR: Dirty Dancing – because nobody puts baby in the corner!

MBM: What words of encouragement do you have for people struggling to create a learning culture in their business?

SR: Keep talking, ask yourself the big questions, ask the people the same questions, try to understand what they need.  And keep going.

MBM: Do you have a favourite model? I.e. trust model, or the learning model, not ‘supermodel’

SR: The model that made a significant difference in my early career would be the GROW model for coaching.

MBM: What advice do you have for anyone wanting to come into the world of learning?

SR: Use all the free content out there to help you learn.  Ask lots of questions.

Learning Professional of the Year Finalist Sarah Ratcliff
Learning Professional of the Year Finalist Sarah Ratcliff

MBM: What would you say to your 25-year-old self?

SR: Be confident in yourself.

MBM: What was the best piece of advice that you were given?

SR: Not to waste my ability.

MBM: What famous quote inspires you?

SR: There are so many… one of my favourites is:

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ – Maya Angelou

MBM: If you were a product in a supermarket, which one would you be and why?

SR: A Jaffa Cake because underneath the surface is a crazy, zesty and fun centre.

How do you ensure that learning sticks in your business?

SR: Engagement is key at the outset and I look at how I can support the learning with helpful resources and how to can continue to keep subjects alive by social learning.

MBM: What is the toughest challenge in your job in your business and how do you overcome it?

SR: Everyone has been on a ‘training course’ and so, everyone has an opinion (sometimes differing).  Helping our people to understand the new theories, methods and technology is a challenge.  How do I overcome it?  I never stop banging my drum!  I also show evidence where it works.

MBM: What annoys you about learning?

SR: That it can still be seen as a tick box exercise.  I did the course – tick!

MBM: If you had a magic wand, what would you change about the way people learn?

SR: I would furnish everyone with a positive and open mindset, and to not take things too seriously.  Life is an adventure.

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