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In conversation with... Mary-Beth Whittingstall

In conversation with

Mary-Beth WhittingstallWelcome to a new series of ‘In conversation with...’ articles which will introduce you to some of our learners from our grade 2-5 development programmes.

Our learners contribute so much to our programmes bringing such a richness and diversity of experience and insight to them. We want to bring the programmes to life  through their experiences – and give you an opportunity to get to know them!

Our first learner in the spotlight is Mary-Beth Whittingstall, an Engagement & Communications Officer in the Digital Education Service.

Mary-Beth talks us through her experience on our Fresh Steps programme - an innovative personal and work development course which enables people to review their professional progress, reassess their priorities and direction and to set and achieve new personal and work goals.

What was it that first attracted you to the Fresh Steps programme?

After experiencing a challenging few years, including a cancer diagnosis during the pandemic that required many months away from work, I found myself at a low point. Taking time off to recover from surgery and treatment had left me feeling set back in my role and had eroded my confidence in my abilities.

In my eagerness to move forward, I decided to explore OD&PL’s courses, and that's when Fresh Steps caught my attention. It appeared to offer a more holistic approach compared to traditional classroom-based training, with content that resonated strongly with me.

How is the programme run?

The programme is made up of 3 full day workshops and includes a mixture of working as a full cohort, small groups as well as working solo. There was a walking component (which I loved, as we have a beautiful campus with plenty of green space to enjoy!) and some relaxation elements.

What did the programme cover?

Over the course of the three workshops, we delved into a wide range of valuable content. We began by exploring our current life situations, followed by guidance on fitness and wellbeing, personal strategies for managing risk and change, alongside examining our interpersonal relationships, and putting our goals to the test.

What about the programme did you find challenging?

The programme played a pivotal role in pushing me to challenge my way of thinking. Working in small groups, we were encouraged to reflect on our strengths and achievements, some of which I had long forgotten but were crucial to my personal development. This experience has given me the confidence to present myself more assuredly and explore opportunities that had previously seemed out of reach.

What was the most impactful aspect of the programme?

It was genuinely humbling to hear from fellow participants and share our common experiences as individuals at similar career and life stages. Discovering that I was not alone in my journey was comforting.

Throughout the three workshops, the programme both challenged and uplifted me. It equipped me with new strategies for coping with change, reignited my awareness of my strengths, and bolstered my self-assurance. Ultimately, Fresh Steps steered me in a new direction with a renewed sense of purpose, which is precisely what I had hoped for.

 What do you know now that you didn’t know before you attended Fresh Steps?

Having a dedicated space to reflect on my professional progress really helped me to understand what I need to do to change what needs changing, and how to find the confidence to make those changes.

Would you recommend the programme to others?

I wholeheartedly recommend Fresh Steps to anyone who has been in their role for some time and perhaps feels a little ‘stuck’. It's an outstanding programme for those seeking greater fulfilment at work or in their personal lives. It guides you in evaluating where you want to be and identifying what might be hindering your progress towards your goals.


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