Keeping people safe is a rewarding task
Creativity and safety are two words which are rarely seen in the same sentence.
For media developers working in safety-critical industries, making learning fun is at the heart of keeping people safe.
Steven Mann comes to work in the morning thinking about innovative ways to incorporate instructional media into the learning environment.
The 32-year-old, who has worked with some of the biggest companies in the oil and gas industry as part of his role at digital learning technologies company Atlas Knowledge Group in Aberdeen, considers himself lucky to have been able to turn his passion for design and technology into a career with never-ending possibilities.
“I had no idea what I wanted to do when I left school but I knew that I was interested in computing and graphics so I went to Robert Gordon University to study multimedia development,” he said.
“My course allowed me to explore my capabilities and be really creative. I enjoyed what I was doing so I joined Atlas on a contract basis as soon as I graduated.”
Five years on and Steven has become a key member of the media development team, having progressed on to a full-time member of staff within a few years of starting.
“My job is massively varied and interesting. One of the most exciting things is that so many people get to see the work which myself and the team produce,” Steven said.
“Atlas provides a vast range of courses to a range of industries in over 110 countries. Someone, somewhere is looking at the work we produce every minute of every day which is amazing. It’s also incredibly technical and on most projects we are continuously learning new things.
“A great example of this is a recent project we did with a major global oil and gas operator. The scope was to create a course which imitated a software tool which the company uses for training personnel in risk assessment and management. In theory, this project could have been a basic replication task, however, using a multitude of software products meant that we had to train ourselves to use software which I hadn’t used extensively.
“The idea was to use a series of screenshots to create a visually identical course, which would allow the users to fully explore the consequences of their risk management decisions in a completely safe, training environment.”
The project covered a total of 13 modules, all of which were replicated using software which Steven and his team became self-taught experts in prior to starting the assignment.
While there are many creative and functional challenges like this that Steven comes across every day, one of the biggest issues he sees is delivering cost efficiencies for customers in the continued low oil price environment.
“Keeping everything on or under budget is definitely a challenge right now but this opens the door for many organisations to be open to a fresh, new, creative approach to workforce development.
“The variety in terms of the different types of software which aren’t always fully compatible is also an obstacle that we face all the time. All of this means we have to continually be challenging ourselves and looking for different ways of driving results.”
Other compatibility issues arise with the continuous growth of technology and the ever increasing expectation that content should be available at anytime, anywhere in the world and on any device.
A huge part of Steven’s job is to ensure that courses can be used on different operating systems including Apple and Android; and on different platforms, such as tablets, smartphones and desktops.
“There is huge scope for this to grow in the future and my role will likely evolve into a more instructional design-focused position, which will see me continue developing engaging courses for safety critical industries outwith oil and gas, including petrochemicals, aviation and construction,” he added.
He also hopes to work with exciting new technologies such as gamification, which aims to increase user learning retention through the addition of gaming techniques like testing scenarios, scoreboards and time challenges.
“Keeping people safe is the number one priority for all the clients we work with around the world and the knowledge we transfer to them is a vital part of ensuring they go home safely at the end of the day.
“Helping to create motivated, engaged learners who are ready to deal with the real life risky situations they may face and help them fulfil their career aspirations – jobs don’t get much more rewarding than that.”