“It’s only 20 weeks, it’s really flexible, just 15 hours a week and you become something marvellous at the end of it”
This was my personal elevator pitch just to me: only going up one floor but a solo trip I took several times a day for several weeks. Once I’d read the Digital Mums website, the inspiring blogs, the tweets and press coverage umpteen times, I was convinced that the Strategic Social Media Manager course was for me. It was time to share the elevator with my husband, teenage children and golden retriever. This ride had to go a few more floors as I knew the course would have an impact on them.
“It’s only 20 weeks, it’s really flexible, just 15 hours a week and you become something marvellous at the end of it. It will fill my skills gap and should help me find more flexible working options. It may mean missing a few Scandi-noirs, Mom’s Cabs may not offer the usual prompt service and walkies may not be up to scratch.”
I won the pitch and took the plunge. Yes, me learning something different — a proper course with a student union card! I applied and was asked to a Skype interview [Dilemmas: What should I wear? Is it ok to have my slippers on? Answers: Nothing loud and garish as their screen may be quite big. They’ll never know.]
And so my journey began. A new notepad, ring binder and pens were purchased. Emails were sent to me from Digital Mums HQ (DMHQ) asking me to sign up to Google Circles, G+, Moodle and Hangouts; so many new words and this was just the start. The fabulous thing about this “Live Learning” programme is that you share your journey with a peer group. I was assigned to team Melinda Gates and there were six of us with a geographical spread from Durham to Gloucestershire and our children’s ages spanned from four months to 16 years. We all had a communications background in common and all wanted to upskill. Our weekly hangouts became an essential sharing platform and our What’s App group became a lifeline. No one minded asking questions however simple, complex or seemingly stupid. There was always an answer. Sometimes it was to share a success, a frustration or have a good moan. There was always someone to respond and find the right emoji or #appropriatehashtag.
The course structure is brilliant: you can flex the coursework around your life. As a Mum you are by definition ‘busy’, whatever the age of your children. If you are working, you can flex your coursework around that too. Very late night and very early morning working were all par for the course in my peer group. Life’s extras may go out of the window but you are driven by the fact that after 20 weeks it ends. Like a new relationship, in the early days there was a frisson of excitement when on a Monday morning I opened up “An Overview of Week X” — what would I be learning this week?! OK, this feeling does die down but you do get a feel good factor when you master a new skill and jargon. You have to keep on your toes and although DMHQ are totally understanding if you need an extension for an assignment, it doesn’t go away …..
A major selling point of the course is that you work on a real client’s channel. Start-ups, social enterprises and non-profits can apply to Digital Mums to become a Programme Partner have a social media campaign run by a trainee digital mum under the watchful eye of HQ. This definitely provides an edge to the course as you are accountable for your actions and see your theory in practice. You learn to crunch the numbers and feel the frustration or reward — both providing learning points.
At the end of 20 weeks I had a social media case study, a huge sense of relief and achievement and flowers and chocolates from my Programme Partner. I also had some new friends: despite the geography we have all met up en masse with our children and it was amazing to hangout with everyone in real life without the help of Google.
The course does take its toll on the household. Empty fridge, forgotten promises and a distracted mind were some of the effects of the course on top of total chaos and a miserable dog. The course even came on holiday with me which is a testament to its flexibility. My family are proud of what I’ve achieved and I am too. And yes, I did feel marvellous at the end of it!