Susan Thomson

Susan Thomson works in college in Scotland as a People Development Lead and is also an internal coach with the organisation. 

She tells us that, “My role involves supporting the professional learning of staff, including teaching qualifications, and coaching staff around professional or personal matters. I thoroughly enjoy my different roles where I am allowed to support others to develop their learning and teaching approaches, and to grow professionally and personally.”

What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your professional journey/venture/initiative and what inspired you to choose this career.

As a child and young person growing up I had parents who were very supportive and caring. They encouraged me to work hard at school so that I could reach my potential and go onto further studies. I had had a very lovely teacher for my final year at primary school and I did think about following in her footsteps and becoming a teacher at that stage. However, I decided to go to university. My undergraduate degree was in English and Psychology and afterwards I trained as a primary teacher with the plan that I would work for a couple of years before continuing my studies to become an educational psychologist. Instead I taught in a primary school and completed my Masters in Education on a part-time basis. Soon after an opening as a lecturer in Early Years Education came up at the local college and I jumped at the chance to take on this new role. I enjoyed lecturing for several years before I moved into my current role within the college.

Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it.

I had the plan aged 18 to apply for teacher training to become a primary teacher. The application form sat on the mantelpiece at home for two weeks and I didn’t complete it. There must have been some doubt in my mind that I was doing the right thing. One evening changed my direction. A family friend visited one evening (a teacher) and advised that if I was in any doubt about teaching, then I should apply for university instead. That was a turning point: I applied to study English, Psychology, alongside Political Science, Social Policy and History, and thoroughly enjoyed learning the different subjects. I feel that was the right step for me at that time and am so grateful for that teacher’s guidance at age 18!

Tell us about your goals, interests, and role models.

As well as the lovely primary teacher I had in my final year at that school, and my parents, I would like to mention my next door neighbour when I grew up. Mrs. Brown was a retired nurse matron and I learned so much from her. We would do patchwork, play scrabble and gardening, have afternoon tea (with her lovely china). In the absence of my own gran who had passed away when I was very young, Mrs. Brown was like a gran to me, kind and loving. l am thankful for her being a role model. I am in the early stages of running my business while I am still working in my current role, and will continue this once I retire. I am keen to include different offerings in my business going forward. in my offerings: as well as being a qualified coach, I am a Reiki Master/Teacher and also a Qi Gong instructor (both approaches tap into the universal life energy known as chi or ki) and I can see those offerings coming together. They all have the potential to help someone grow and flourish.

Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?

I would say that having been a teacher all my working life, I am not naturally a business person. I have so many different aspects I wish to set in place and it is often different to know where to start. What I have found to be really useful is to seek out a coach myself. This has allowed me to clarify my thinking and my plan of action. It is really useful to have someone who will check on my progress and ask me useful questions to get me motivated and clear about what needs to be done.

What impact do you feel you have been able to create with your work so far and how would you want to grow in the next few years?

I have had very positive feedback from people I have coached and also people I have treated with reiki and led in qi gong sessions. This feedback really boosts my confidence that I am taking the correct direction for my future plans! In the coming years, I am excited to see how I will grow as a person. I am open to learning from the new people who will come into my life.

While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level?

When Covid hit, at work we moved to using online conference calls using MS Teams. I also became familiar with zoom with calls to external organisations. Virtual meetings with anyone in the world has allowed me to join networks and attend workshops and conferences that would previously not be possible. I often think, what would my grandparents have made of this? Coaching people from different countries has been an amazingly rich experience. Now I work from home much more, blending virtual meetings with face-to-face meetings and lesson observations I carry out as part of my role. I must say after working from distance for so long, it is lovely to see people in the flesh. Going forward in my business, I look forward to having a similar blend of in person and virtual connections with people.

Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?

I have been pleased to have taught so many students over the years. If I have positively guided them on their own journey I will be pleased.

Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?

I would like to see the world an inclusive and accepting place, with everyone given a chance to reach their potential.

What’s the most important thing you have learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life?

In my professional journey, I would say that I have learned there are so many opportunities for professional learning, for example courses, workshops, shadowing opportunities, coaching and mentoring. I have been so lucky in the opportunities I have been offered, and those I have said ‘yes; to. Sometimes I have placed myself outside my comfort zone and this has been the place of growth and learning! In my personal life, I would say one learning I have had is that much is to be gained from giving to others of your skills, your time and often just a listening ear. Kindness and looking outward is so rewarding. My personal motto is a Scottish phrase: We are all Jock Tamsin’s Bairns. This translates as ‘We are all John Thomson’s children’. What I feel this means is as human beings, we are linked by common concerns and common hopes for our lives. As individuals we should treat others the way we would like to be treated. I especially like the motto of course since my surname is Thomson and my grandfather was John!

Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?

Women have come so far in the workplace. I feel so grateful for the opportunities I have had in comparison to previous generations. There is still so much more women can do to progress in their careers and having positive female role models to pass on the baton will be important to the next generation.  I am excited for the future for these women!

With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?

I wish them every success!