WLP06 Sinead MacManus and Digital Skills

How can digital skills be employed in the workplace? Sinead MacManus talks about the work that Fluency is doing in London and globally to help young people improve their digital skills.

00.30 Pilar talks a bit about Sinead' s work (transcript below)
08.00 Sinead talks about her work with Fluency and the blended learning approach
17.23 Sinead explains what ".io" stands for
20.35 Are schools (in the UK) addressing this shortage of digital skills in young people?

In today’s episode I talk to Sinead MacManus, co-founder of Fluency. As Sinead will explain, there are two sides to this business, one is the digital platform, which you can find at fluency.io which anyone can access to increase their digital skills in order to become more employable or, like me, because you’re curious and know that you haven’t quite fully exploited the potential of the internet. When you register on the platform you take a quick test and then as you move forwards, you have various challenges to take.

For example, this week, there is a new challenge on LinkedIn. So when you take the challenge, the platform guides you through setting up the profile, it asks you quiz style questions about how you can use LinkedIn to become more visible or more employable, it gives you advice on how to build your connections etc etc. So a very simple tool that can be accessed from anywhere in the world.

The second part of the business is a blended learning type course targeted at young people. For now, this is happening mainly in London but Fluency is already piloting the idea in other places in the UK, so watch this space. And I will let you listen to Sinead during her interview as she tells me about this over coffee.

So, now that she can’t hear me, I’ll tell you a little bit about Sinead. I wanted to bring her on this podcast for a couple of reasons: mainly, because she realised very early on that giving young people digital skills was an extremely efficient way of helping them to find work. The work is flexible, you can do some of it, if not all of it from home, etc. Now, I’m going to go extremely local in this, but I’m sure it resonates with many other parts in the world, London is becoming extremely expensive to live in. It always has been, but the house prices are now ridiculous. And yet people still need to come in to work into the capital. It’s soon going to become unaffordable to commute into work. So it makes sense to acquire the skills that will let you work from wherever you are, to look for your first sets of jobs.

Sinead's approach is blended, it involves web-based learning but also face to face delivery, informal chats, projects and support as the young people begin to look for and find work.

I’ve known Sinead for a very long while, I think since 2002, when we were both working in the arts sector. And Sinead was one of the people who first realised the potential of technology, of the new applications, of the new social media platforms and she has constantly been looking for ways of using them in her work but also of helping others discover how best to use them.

She was one of the first people who I heard talking about Digital Wellbeing: recognizing that the digital world had the potential to easily become overwhelming, one of the things she has always talked about was using the thousands of tools available, mindfully.

I once attended her From Apps To Zen mentoring group (you can grab her free ebook with this link), which I don’t think she runs anymore, and it was there that she introduced me to Twitter. I had completely resisted it until then but Sinead, who knew me quite well by then, said, You will like this, Pilar. And indeed, I really liked it – at first because it’s a wonderful curating tool, if you follow the right people you can land articles and blog posts that you wouldn’t find otherwise. Then later, as I’ve used it more and more, I’ve made some interesting connections and strengthened some relationships that otherwise would have just dissolved into nothing.

Sinead was also one of the few people I knew who started using webinars to teach others and to promote her business; and she was the first person I met who decided to take what now we call “work holidays”, periods of time when you go somewhere different to your current location, but you take work with you. So you’re not working from your normal place, but you’re still working, even if you are away. And you take that time to recharge, to be inspired by different surroundings, to explore, to have new experiences, whatever you need to. Lisette talks about these in detail and what you need to consider if you’re taking one in the very first episode of this podcast.

So, having followed Sinead’s entrepreneurial trajectory which at the moment has landed her in Fluency – well, she has landed herself, I’m not that surprised that herself and the company have been winners and finalists of a range of awards and competitions.

And that’s why I wanted to go over to Fluency’s offices to have a coffee and catch up with her, see where she’s at, how the business is growing and also the context in which she’s operating. So I headed over to one of the co-working spaces in Shoreditch in London, run by the Ministry of Startups, to have a coffee with Sinead MacManus.