Lessons inside and outside the classroom:

Something a little different from me in this blog post. I have always suffered with imposter syndrome and still do to this day. I’m either convinced that I’m wrong or convinced that there are far better people than me out there that know about information type stuff so who am I to pass comment on such things? Having said that I do acknowledge that I have been and continue to “go places”. Essentially what I am saying is that I am a conflicted little soul that is always looking to learn.

I have been lucky enough for the last few years to be invited to take part in a University College London class as part of their qualification in Archives & Records Management.  To spend time with those just starting out in their information careers and be able to have discussions with them on issues of the day really is a treasured opportunity, and something quite humbling.

I was there representing the Information & Records Management Society (IRMS) as part of a panel of 4 professional membership societies working in the IRM world. There was the IRMS, the Archives & Records Association (ARA), the Business Archives Council and Archives for London (who unfortunately couldn’t attend last minute).

The purpose of the panel discussion was to present what each body does, how they benefit their members and the purpose / function they serve to the IRM profession and ‘sector’. We would then debate relevant matters with the students there so they get an idea of the benefits that professional bodies can bring not only to professionals but also the profession and practice we all work within.

Hosted & chaired by the renowned Elizabeth Shepard, each of us gave a short presentation on our respective organisations and then we sat down to field questions that the students may have. And as students do the questions were direct, on point and once we got past that initial shyness were coming in thick and fast.

The main points were around diversity. Is this a good or bad thing? And pretty much across the panel agreement was that it was a good thing. All 3 organisations, while in the “information world” all had different missions, different support bases and different offerings. Each of which isn’t necessarily a right or wrong path but instead is a view of the information world from the corner in which we operate.

On key issues that affect all of us it makes sense to join forces and “cry out in one voice” that a particular matter is important. However for general day to day IRM related matters, to understand the issue and make the progress on it, sometimes you can’t beat that specific focus and attention rather than a larger ‘catch all’ type approach. Movements like the Information Management Alliance are brilliant ideas for our cause, but ultimately they are the sum of their parts, each part being as important as the rest.

The points raised by these students were all valid and indeed quite refreshing. Students & new professionals are, in my not so humble opinion, one of the best sources of challenge and fresh ideas. Even by just reading the Alison North IRMS New Professionals  Award entries over the last few years you see a wide range of thoughts, ideas and challenging concepts (mine excluded, I was just having a humorous moan about the then proposed draft Data Protection Regulation).

This commitment to learning and being open to new ideas is even more important in this time of change. As the Data Protection Regulation approaches (see it made its way back into a blog post) Data Protection Officers (and even other IRM professionals) will need to adapt to Data Protection being a more serious, high profile and indeed more complex area to work in. In order to ensure the Data Protection Regulation don’t just get seen as a tick box exercise (which is an opinion held by some) we will need to look at new ways of embedding and promoting compliance including learning to speak new languages (no not the language of love, but instead that mystical language of the Board).

But more on that in another blog post. For now, let us star 2016 with a reminder that life is a lesson and that you never stop learning. For to stop learning, is to stop growing.

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