Fiona McBride at #LndCowork

We recently decided to bring our 'juiced' rapid learning into the workplace launching our own self-directed learning platform for businesses, which made its debut at the CIPD Learning & Development show earlier this year. Among the many great connections we made at the show - and beyond in the Twittersphere - was this savvy lady, Fiona McBride. Who got our attention with a tweet that stuck up for self-directed learning.

Fiona McBride - Learning & Development Consultant

Of course, we couldn't agree more. But let's delve in and find out exactly what is going on in the world of learning and development and why self-directed learning is indeed a 'thing'.

First off, tell us more about you in your own words...

I’m a freelance learning and development consultant. I started out in HR initially, then moved to L&D, and have been there ever since. I have been working in learning and development for over 10 years and a freelance consultant for just over 3 years now. My areas of specialism include: management & leadership development, facilitation skills, social media, personal learning networks, self-directed learning and mentoring HR professionals to build their skill set in the areas of communication, training and business partnering. I am a huge fan of social media and you can find me most days over on Twitter (links provided below). I am also the Vice-Chair for the Central London CIPD Branch and the co-founder of a monthly meet up for L&D/HR professionals called #LnDcowork.

When did you take your first step into learning and development?

I was working as an HR Advisor and my Head of HR at the time asked if I’d be interested in working in a Project Support role during a huge change and restructure the organisation was going through. During the time of the reorganisation I got to work with a group of brilliant OD consultants, I was able to get involved in employee engagement, organisational development and learning initiatives. I found it to be really interesting and so positive that I knew at that point I wanted to stay within the ‘L&D’ arena.

What is it about learning that makes you tick?

I love helping people learn. Supporting people in recognising their strengths and in learning new skills is pretty cool. Being part of someone’s learning journey is quite a privilege.

Why is self-directed learning something that more businesses should embrace?

Because it’s happening already with the pace of technological advances and accessibility of information.

If people in your business are taking initiative and finding out new information, learning new skills to enable them to perform better, they are likely to be more motivated and in control of their jobs. The impact for your business is extremely positive.


Are there any other learning trends that need to be given more attention than there are already? Conversely any buzzwords or trends that have been overdone?

If we look at the growth of self-directed learning, I think we might need to redefine the role of the L&D professional. If people within businesses are managing and leading their own learning and development, what role do they now play? I find this really interesting and I don’t think it is something that some L&D professionals are comfortable with just yet.

As someone who has worked within the field of L&D for over 10 years now, I have always considered myself a curator, sign poster and supporter of others’ learning. I don’t see this mind-set consistently at the moment across our industry.

What has your experience as a freelancer been like? Does it allow you to have more objectivity and offer more value for clients on L&D?

My experience as a freelancer is a wonderful one. I feel very lucky and so supported by my peers and friends in the industry.
It isn’t always the easiest of jobs, running your own business, however it is very satisfying and gives me wonderfully interesting and fun opportunities.

When did the idea of #LnDcowork come about?

Via a conversation between myself, and two others (Michelle Parry-Slater and Liam Moore) – we were all discussing how it can be quite lonely working as a freelancer and how often we miss the opportunity to test out ideas, and just be in the same space as others. So in June 2015 #LnDcowork was born, working out of the National Theatre café for the day and it has been growing ever since. We now have #LnDcowork happening regularly in London, Manchester, Birmingham and we are about to launch in Brighton.

It is a monthly get together of L&D / HR / OD professionals, coming together to work on our own stuff but in the company of colleagues. Bring your laptop, notebook or whatever you are working on. If you work at home, or you're the only L&Der in your organisation, this space is great for sense checking, learning, working and networking. Plus there's always someone to share a coffee with.

Do you think the growth of freelancers is actually in part due to learning and development or issues within working culture?

One reason I think is due to the fact we have more opportunities to work from anywhere in the world than we have in the past. The technology available to us enables working at great distance whilst retaining the ability to keep in touch and collaborate. Recently I produced a piece of design work for a client and we didn’t meet face-to-face once. We communicated using Skype, Instant Messenger and shared documents with each other using Google Drive.

The growth of social media has also created a very effective space for networking, checking and sharing of ideas. I mentioned Twitter earlier; this social media platform has enabled me to build a wonderful network of colleagues, peers and friends who I see as my very own Personal Learning Network (PLN).

I also find technology has created a learning space where I can ask questions, participate in online discussions and debates (like #LDInsight) and also learn slightly more formally too. I am currently studying via an online learning course with UCL Why We Post: the Anthropology of Social Media. It is exploring the varying uses of social media around the world.

If there was one piece of advice you could give to a business about learning and development what would it be?

Find out what learning is happening within your organisation - people are smart and doing stuff already so find out what that is and share it! Show your people that you trust and respect their experience and knowledge.

There you have it. Self-directed learning is a thing

Not only that there are many more 'things' around the corner to watch out for in the learning and development industry. You can find out more about Fiona on her website at, follow her on Twitter @fionamcbride or following the coworking meetup group on Twitter @LnDcowork. You can also join the conversation via the hashtag #LDinsight

Come along to Brighton's first #LnDcowork

We are very pleased to be hosting the very first Brighton #LnDcowork meetup on Tuesday 22nd August 10am to 5pm. If you would like to come along just get in touch with Fiona via Twitter, LinkedIn or email