18 Oct Sunday Times feature
This article originally appeared in the Sunday Times Life magazine, title “This is What I Do”
Statistics show that people retain only 10% of what they listen to in a lecture, but if they learn by doing, they remember much more. I’m a trained actress with a background in business, and I set up my own company three years ago to provide role-playing in corporate training courses.
Participants get a chance to work with me and my staff, one-to-one. We play the role of an interviewee or a customer. Usually, we’re pretending to be someone more junior and they’re having a challenging conversation with us. It could be about our work performance and they might have to give us bad news. We give them feedback on how they did, what impact they made and whether or not they conveyed the right message.
I worked for the Bank of Ireland group for nearly 14 years as an HR manager. From when I was young I was interested in the performing arts. I was in school plays and took acting classes , but I didn’t have the confidence to pursue acting as a career.
While at the bank, I joined its theatre group. We competed in festivals, toured the country and had a fantastic time. I took summer-school acting classes, too, but it remained a hobby. Then, in my thirties, I began to think about acting as a career change.
I applied to the Gaiety School of Acting and got in. If I hadn’t been successful, I don’t think I would have made the break. When I resigned there were a lot of shocked people. I was in a division of the bank where there were new employees and I was seen as an old fogey, so they couldn’t believe I wasn’t going to another bank. I went from wearing a suit, driving to work and sitting at a desk, to catching the bus and spending the day doing mime or reading texts, jumping off tables and rolling on the floor. It was a tough two years, but I loved it.
When I left, I got a part as a singing, dancing nun on Give My Head Peace, a comedy show on BBC Northern Ireland. It was filmed in front of a live audience and was great fun. I worked on a TG4 production about vets living in rural Ireland and I did a play with the Red Kettle Theatre Company.
I then got taken on by a big role-playing company in Britain before going solo with my own firm in Ireland. Role-playing is big business in Britain. I got to work with large financial institutions and the big four accountancy firms. I also had an opportunity to travel to Norway, Belgium and Kazakhstan.
In my work, I’ve noticed people are not always aware of how they’re coming across. Irish people like to be liked, so we are reluctant to give bad news. Some don’t get their message across and the person they are talking to goes away without knowing there is a problem, while others are blunt and lack sensitivity.
I like my work. It’s a great mix of the corporate and artistic worlds. When I worked in acting, I used to find there was a lot of negativity. In auditions I was told I was the wrong shape or size or didn’t look right. In the corporate world my team is valued for the difference we can bring to training.
Download the original article here.