For the next interview in our series, we had the pleasure of speaking with Olga Manzano, Global Partner Manager for the LPI (Learning and Performance Institute), the global body for workplace learning professionals which offers rapid upskilling, certifications, membership, resources, programmes, events and more.
Olga describes a rewarding career pivot from the aviation industry to L&D and why she believes learning is the ultimate purpose in life. We find out why hard work, risk-taking and perseverance, plus some difficult decisions along the way, has led Olga to her dream job and why she thinks a good mentor is invaluable.
We discover what Olga listens to in her precious spare time (when she’s not studying or working) and why she’s dreaming of a Mediterranean buffet breakfast by the sea…
The LPI is an independent organisation and data house whose aim is to improve performance through effective learning. We work with learning professionals through a wide range of services including certification, accreditation, networking, events, consultancy, and membership.
The LPI is constantly evolving and we continue to support the L&D community in many different ways; from charity initiatives and support to the NHS in the UK, to working with global leaders to raise the learning standards in Africa or Latin America.
The LPI’s chosen charity is Dreamflight, a UK charity that takes children with a serious illness or disability on their holiday of a lifetime to Orlando. Every February at The Learning Awards we launch a charity calendar where key L&D figures from around the globe take part, and all proceedings from sales go to Dreamflight.
Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to host the charity auction in 2021. However, to keep raising money for the charity and support the incredible work that they do, our CEO, Ed Monk, has run the equivalent distance from his home in Manchester to the Hilton Park Lane in London (where we should have been together celebrating The Learning Awards).
The purpose of my role is to expand the LPI's services and networks into new markets. I work closely with our partners and internal team to align our resources to our partnerships’ strategies and goals.
I first started my career in L&D around five years ago with the LPI, and both my role and my own professional development has continually evolved as the company has grown.
I don’t think I had heard of Learning and Development before joining the LPI! My background is in languages and international relations and I arrived at the LPI after a drastic career change from aviation.
I loved aviation, but as soon as I finished my Masters in European Studies I felt it was the right time to take a professional turn. I wasn’t targeting a career in L&D specifically, but rather I wanted to join a company with international expansion plans and potential for career development. I met with the LPI and loved what they do and the company culture — so they drew me to L&D!
I began my career at the LPI by supporting the global channel with a focus in marketing and events in the role of Global Business Support, and very quickly my role evolved with a more strategic focus.
For me, learning is the ultimate purpose in life. I am always either going through some kind of formal education programme (I am currently halfway through my MBA in Entrepreneurship and Innovation) or looking out for mentoring opportunities.
I am very fortunate to be surrounded by great professionals who are willing to empower new talent. I have been mentored from the beginning of my L&D career by the LPI's CEO, Ed Monk, and more recently by the LPI's CRO, Kelly Davis.
Before the pandemic, I also learnt through travelling. Learning from new cultures — their mindset, language and cuisine — is my favourite way of learning.
My last memorable trip was to Israel, as my best friend and I chose Tel Aviv for our winter sun holiday. I was fascinated by the beauty of Jerusalem, and the experience of floating in the dead sea really stood out as one to remember.
One thing that I brought back with me from that trip was that in Israel, Saturdays are a day to rest. All businesses and modes of transport are closed and families spend the day together, sometimes even banning the use of technology to be fully present.
I loved the idea of a whole day without screens; just loved ones, nature, and loads of creativity.
A career ‘down’ was finishing my university degree in 2009 - a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Modern Languages at Coventry University - in the middle of an economic crisis, with no work experience under my belt and with few opportunities available for graduates.
Despite these adverse conditions, I persevered. I had to make some difficult decisions, and actively sought out work opportunities and joined networks.
I left a well-paid job in sales (which offered little opportunity for professional growth), my country, and my family to start a career in aviation in Germany. The pay off was four successful years flying around the world leading fantastic multi-cultural teams. During those years, I kept going through formal programmes and joined university groups and interacted on LinkedIn.
My career ‘up’ to date is that, as a result of my hard work and perseverance and thanks to the people who have believed in me, I am now exactly where I dreamt I would be in my career.
From this experience, I have learnt the importance of making difficult decisions in order to achieve your full potential, as well as surrounding yourself with people who want to see you doing more and better.
I would recommend finding a mentor. From my experience, a good mentor can help you discover your untapped potential and explore career paths that you may not have seen yourself. They can also work with you to identify opportunities and clearly define the steps you need to take to achieve your career goals.
Yes, as the needs of L&D have changed drastically, the LPI has had to adapt very quickly.
The LPI team has worked harder than ever during the last year to provide L&D professionals with what they needed, when they needed it — such as rapid upskilling in live online delivery and the provision of strategic thinking.
The LPI has encouraged L&D professionals and organisations to consider learning not only as attending training courses, but as cultivating the skills needed to tackle future challenges. Skills that are not only linked to the pandemic, but which include technological changes, industry changes, or new competitors.
Also, to create learning that is (1) compelling; attracting employees like a magnet, (2) constructive; fulfilling a purpose within the company, and (3) convenient; available when and where the learner most needs it.
At the same time, we have had an overwhelming demand from current and new partners to support their territories in the same way, which is very positive.
The downside is not being able to travel and be able to meet with our partners and their customers face to face.
I believe that, more than ever, companies will need to rely on their human capability.
Organisations will need to adopt new technologies and processes — but these won’t work without the right skills to make them successful.
Skills + technology = performance; but to make this happen, L&D professionals will also need to focus on reskilling and upskilling themselves and their teams.
I find inspiration in the great minds of people working in all fields, including start-up founders, scientists or inspirational women — as they open new doors and lead with new thinking.
My current favourites are US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, her story is truly inspiring, and Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and Co-Founder of Ellevest, and one of the few women who has made it to the top in Wall Street.
When it comes to L&D specifically, my go-to place is the LPI networks. Our networks are filled with professionals from everywhere in the world, small or global organisations, with extensive experience or new ideas to share.
Show up and ask for what you want!
Self-confidence can abandon us in the most inconvenient of situations, but I believe that a moment of bravery can lead to amazing things. Being a young professional working closely with very experienced teams and leaders, I have had to tell this to myself many times.
Life is very short, and every day is an opportunity to create, share, and make this world a better place.
I have seen some organisations where L&D teams work as a start-up and bring in new business opportunities — and they are thriving. I believe this will become a trend together with Virtual Reality [VR], Augmented Reality [AR], and capturing and understanding data and providing solutions based on how and where employees learn.
The best part of my job is working with people from different cultures; learning what they do differently and why, and then applying that to the wider business and also in my personal life, in many ways.
For example, learning about the challenges experienced by Chief Learning Officers in Africa, and how they tackle them, and then sharing that with the LPI team, Or learning that in some cultures, the important business conversations take place over a nice meal rather than in a meeting room.
At the same time, this can often be the most challenging part; as different ways of communicating, leading, giving feedback and trusting can sometimes lead to disengagement. Different cultures have different ways of communicating, and so we risk misunderstanding each other — and then losing interest in the conversation and the relationship. I believe the only way to overcome this is being aware of our cultural biases and learning more about the cultures we are working with.
My alarm goes off at 7.00am and I jump out of bed!
I dream of eating porridge while sitting at my desk working.
Unfortunately, I have to put up with a Mediterranean breakfast buffet with my feet resting on the white sands of a quiet beach.
Joking! I’m sad to tell you that it is in fact the opposite way around…
As I spend all day looking at a screen due to work and my MBA studies, I have been listening to lots of podcasts lately. I find there is one for every mood, every topic, and every moment!
My current top informative podcast is Economist Radio for their analysis on global affairs, technology, business and how it all translates into our daily lives. My top inspirational podcast is Girlboss Radio, as they interview inspiring female entrepreneurs.
Before the pandemic I used to travel and explore a lot. During the past year I have invested my spare time in my MBA and have even started my own venture - Her Lab - to inspire and educate young women in defining and achieving their financial goals!
You can find out more information by following Her Lab on Instagram.