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People of the North: Ian Dowd, Head of Marketing at High Speed Training

People of the North: Ian Dowd, Head of Marketing at High Speed Training
Ian Dowd, Head of Marketing at High Speed Training

Established in 2008, High Speed Training is now one of the UK’s leading online training providers.  The founder and Chief Executive, Dan Jordan, set up the business with a friend from school with the belief in a future where everyone has the freedom and opportunity to learn.  The company’s mission is to deliver training that helps people to be engaged, effective and safe in the career they’ve chosen.  With over one million learners supported to date, Ilkley’s High Speed Training believes in the power of lifelong learning.

We caught-up with Ian Dowd, High Speed Training’s Head of Marketing, to find out more about how he got into marketing and what he sees as being the current business challenges.

What is your current position/responsibilities?

I’m Head of Marketing and I guess what it’s really about is understanding customers and helping them fix problems;so whether that might be barriers to training, in terms of budget, location, timescales or access to technology, we can help solve it.  A lot of our training is compliance based – things like food hygiene, asbestos awareness, manual handling or working at height. This means helping customers stay up-to-date and comply with legislation, industry regulations or whatever it might be. Or they might have a new skill that they want to learn to either forward their career or start a new one.

 What did you do before you joined High Speed Training?

I’m originally from Luton, went to Lancaster University and then moved to London before ending up in Leeds. I studied marketing management at university, where I had a tutor who said that a lot of the best marketing people have direct sales experience. This means that you understand people’s problems and can help them find a solution and fix that problem.

I did that for a while and then moved back into marketing; I’d moved to London after graduating and worked for a number of IT companies before moving up north when I met my future wife. I’ve worked in a variety of marketing and IT roles and was Head of Marketing at a company called Phoenix, which has since been acquired by a company called Daisy. I joined NGA Human Resources as Marketing Director, then I worked for a couple of smaller companies in the north and moved to High Speed Training just over a year ago.

Who or what was the inspiration for the current career path you are on?

Before I went to university I was interested in products and services; understanding customers’ needs and all of the things involved in bringing them to market.  I remember telling my careers adviser at Luton Sixth Form College that I was interested in marketing or history and he said that there weren’t that many jobs in history, so marketing sounded like a better long-term bet!

What is the most important thing you’ve learned during your experience of working in marketing? Any mistakes or anything you would have done differently?

No, not really! The good thing about marketing is that it is so varied and can be taken in many different directions, and you can see the results of it quite directly. Also, if you’re able to connect with customers and help them in some way you can measure that quite tangibly.

Is there one bit of advice that you wish someone had told you before you started on your career path or at High Speed Training?

One would be, don’t be in too much of a hurry! The second would be, make sure you enjoy it! I think good things tend to happen, but sometimes you just have to wait for them, or it’s a matter of timing.

Is there anything you’ve picked up from your career in marketing? Any advice for others setting out?

My advice for anyone else is that it’s about people. Sometimes you can get absorbed in technology and technical solutions, which are important, but marketing is about people. This means that you usually have to manage a team of people in order to get things going. You have to be good at both managing people and at understanding your customers.

What do you see as your current business challenges?

The key thing is change: the scope, the scale and the speed of change, which will only accelerate. Change isn’t a new thing, but the speed of it possibly is;certainly in the technology sector.  This means that if you’re setting out to do something with a company or within your career, other stuff happens and comes along. You have to do what you originally set out to do whilst responding to change, whether that’s Brexit, coronavirus or something in your local market.

What would you like to leave as your business legacy?

In all of the roles I’ve been in, the questions you ask are: is the company or the business better off than when you set out? This might be in terms of finances, brand, customers or awareness. Are people better off than when you started? Are they further forward than they were, and have you helped them with their career? And are your customers better off than before? If I can say ‘yes’ to these questions, it’s a successful legacy that I’ve left behind.

What would you say your biggest achievement has been in your career so far?

When I was at Crisp we won a marketing award from LinkedIn for Best Campaign of the Year, and at NGA we won the top industry accolades two years in a row in two categories.  However, I think the successes you value more are when you bring something new to customers, you help people along in their careers or you help someone who’s having a tough time.

What sort of things do you do to relax outside of work?

I’ve got two young children so I don’t think that constitutes relaxation! I used to do karate when I was younger and have picked it up again more recently. I also enjoy running, keeping fit and reading.

If you weren’t doing what you are doing, what would you be doing?

It would probably be something charity or not-for-profit related.  Being useful and helping people in some way – that’s what I really love!


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