Postcard from London: Give it 6-8 weeks!

Di Macdonald Director of learning and development at James’s Place

Please tell us a little bit about yourself, where your home is in Australia, and where you now call home.

So on the 18th May 1999, I boarded a plane to the UK. I’d been working as a Trainer at Optus, renting a flat in Neutral Bay and had a great set of friends, but knew I needed a change.

What led you to move overseas, and what advice would you give for those following in your path?

A new challenge. Oh, and I’d just turned 30 and was sadly having a mild panic that I’d be left on the shelf. Much like Colin in Love Actually, I was just in the wrong country! I had one friend living in the UK who was going to put me up for a couple of weeks in London, then she was heading back home and then I was on my own. I still remember the best advice she gave me. 6-8 weeks. That’s how long it will take to find a job and a flat and get your shit sorted. It didn’t stop me from panicking as the little Aussie dollar didn’t go very far back then, but she was right. I still offer that advice to people moving over here now. 6-8 weeks!

What’s been one of the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome in making your move?

At about week 7 I had secured a job at Cable & Wireless as a Project Manager. Had I run projects before? Nope, but hey, how hard could it be? That was my next lesson learned. Go for it. Stretch yourself into new roles. What’s the worst that can happen? Well the next job soon told me that. I interviewed for a role as Director of L&D at 3 mobile. This would be the first time I’d manage people. Once again, how hard could it be? I’d been a PE teacher in Melbourne and managed 26 children at any one time, so adults should be easy right? Err, no. But hey, you work it out (or get fired). I worked it out. I spent a few years at 3 and that’s where I really started to play with technology in learning. This was 2003, before the iPhone, before apps. I built a platform that enabled us to get training to people through their phones by sending them a text link. We thought it was amazing. And it was ground breaking for 2003. I was then made redundant from 3. Ouch! But good things come to those who wait don’t they? Well I bloody waited! 6-8 weeks?

Not in 2008. It took me months to find my next role, but thankfully it was at Apple. Ahh, lovely Apple. What a fabulous place to continue my love of tech and learning. Another app launch and we started to play with Augmented reality. Exciting territory. My next move was to Expedia. An even better match. Technology and Travel! This is where I stopped creating e-learning in its traditional sense and started to work with film makers. I’ve really learned over the years to go look at the people you’re training as your consumers to really engage them. Look outside your industry, be creative. My resting place now, 23 years after I arrived, is at St James’s Place Wealth Management. Who knew my skills would translate to Finance? Certainly not my year 10 maths teacher. Here I have been able to really kick into another gear using Virtual Reality to train soft skills. This is quite industry leading, very fast and exciting. Oh, I launched another learning app.

What are some of the benefits that have come from becoming a Global Australian?

Obvs. I’m very happy living in the UK. I’m not on the shelf, I married a pom, no kids, lots of tech and travel though. My advice is just go for it. Play with tech. Landing in a new place is scary but invigorating. Things do work out. Just give it 6-8 weeks!

Connect with Di

Di Macdonald has had a successful global career building and leading world class, high performing Learning & Development teams for over 25 years.

Before arriving at SJP in July 2020, she ran her own training company called Like Literally.  Helping young people hit the ground running in their corporate careers and stop saying “like literally” in every sentence!  

Prior roles include the VP of Global Learning at Expedia where she created a truly global team to support over 26,000 employees across every continent. She was also Head of European Sales Training at Apple, Director of Learning for L’Oreal, EE and Three.  She has also held multiple senior roles in the Telecoms and Innovation Consultancy sectors in both the UK and Australia.

She has extensive experience building world class learning teams, curriculums and working with ground breaking digital solutions.