My work goes International

The dream of a glittering Academic Career lasted all of three months. It turns out that the UK HE sector has its own problems. The fine E-learning company PHM ltd. were looking for a Lead Instructional Designer for a major new project, and I was just the man for the job.

The Volvo V40

The first new Volvo to be launched after the companies’ takeover by Chinese investors, the V40 was Volvos’ entry into the C-segment – the best selling segment in the global car industry. My project was to create dealer training – so that the salespeople worldwide would know how to sell the new car. The budget and resources available for this project was beyond the scale of anything that I’d tackled before. Think outside the box, they said. It has got to be amazing.

“I want northern lights. I want sunrise over the mountains.”

A long and careful process of Storyboarding, discussing costs and feasibility with the animators, presenting ideas to the customers in Sweden, then commissioning components for the project began. As the animations sometimes took weeks to build, the specifications needed to be exact. As the components were being assembled, I wrote the copy – using the engineers specifications and material from the Volvo marketing department as a base.

The car did not actually exist at this point – the animator was using a 3D model. No photos were available. This project represented the first time that dealers would get to see the new car. The new model that needed to become a best seller, to safeguard their jobs – many livelihoods would depend on this car.


A 3D Landscape

It wasn’t enough to have a model of the car to use in the films – the car needed to be shown in an environment that we also had to create. A small town, with highways and shopping areas, roundabouts and a country road – these all needed to be created from scratch before we could even start to animate the car and show its safety features. The quality of these components in the e-learning course was so good that they were later used by the marketing department as a video for publication in their own right. 

Presentation techniques, target customers, live events and application development

The suite of training for Volvo brought together elements from automotive technology, from sales and marketing, from environment and modern safety. I created personas for the target customers and had them discussing the new Volvo on a simulated social network. Most of all the training hammered home that the new model would bring Volvo great success. My training was translated into 16 languages and rolled out to the entire Volvo sales network, around 6000 people in 136 countries. I feel a small glow of pride when I see one on the street, because my training has played a small but significant part in the success of this model.

That model has been launched, what next?

Once the model was launched, the training was done. At PHM we were scratching our heads and wondering where the next work was coming from. When I received a phone call from Germany.

Aviation Safety? Work for the EU?

Sounded like a great idea. I like to think that my job contributes to society in some way, and preventing aircraft accidents – who can argue with that? The chance to move away from an increasingly unaffordable London and live in Cologne also appealed. So the next three years were spent making materials to promote EASA and flight safety.