Blog / 12 December 2017

From Jobseekers to Digital Coach – The Richard Curtis story

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Hi folks, Richard Curtis here, and this is my journey of becoming a digital coach at Freeformers.

Before my time as a Digital Coach at Freeformers, I was still a part of the Freeformers family as a Digital Accelerator in the Academy. This was a 12 month partnership with Camelot (The National Lottery) where a group of people with diverse talents and backgrounds (or millenials for short) were injected into the company to learn more about how the business operated, to be the fresh new eyes, and to be positive disruptors to push the company forward. The Academy gave us an opportunity to discover, develop and accelerate our own skills for the ever changing digital future.

Camelot Accelerators (me third from the left)

Before that, my employment background consisted primarily of retail experiences. From Morrisons supermarket, to being a brand ambassador for Britvic drinks and Hewlett Packard, to even working at Primark for a short period of time before I embarked on the Digital Accelerators. I most enjoyed talking to customers, whether it was having a casual conversation with a customer whilst they were buying groceries, to explaining the ins and outs of a computer to help a customer understand tech. Everyday I would meet someone different and experience a new story.

On my journey the first piece to the puzzle occurred when, due to circumstances (an interview that went horrendously wrong), I had to fall back and apply for Universal Credit (Jobseekers Allowance) for months on end just to get by. It became a furious back and forth struggle between me and my work coach as I was getting referred to entry level retail positions just to re-enter employment. However, my reluctance and arrogance got in the way. I saw them as “just jobs”, a means to an end, not something I could call a career.

The second piece of the puzzle fell into place in July 2016, I was ‘contractually obliged’ to attend a Job Fair at the Oval (I was slightly more motivated hearing that Jeremy Kyle was going to be there). As predicted, I saw many high street establishments, but then I saw a small stall at the fair that Freeformers was hosting. I was told all about what Freeformers stood for as a company and that at some point in the next few months there was going to be an Upload Live event, where I could learn a variety of digital skills.

I enthusiastically attended Upload Live which created the third puzzle piece in my journey. I loved learning about social media, cyber security, ideation. I thought the day was brilliant. I was awarded the ‘Camelot Legend’ prize (a prize I gave to my mum so that she can learn new tech, it was a wireless Sonos speaker) and I remember very vividly being asked by Adam Freeman (a Freeformers Partner) if I was going to apply for the Academy programme at Camelot. I was successful in the application process which was a breath of fresh air in all the interviews I’ve experienced. During the interviews they were observing who we were as people, and our capabilities and skills took a backseat as our interests and motivations, took centre stage. It was this environment that I thrived in because I had no problems in being ‘myself’ in a corporate world.

Fast forward 12 months of Camelot, and here I am at Freeformers, an incredible company that puts purpose ahead of profits and aims to build a digital economy for absolutely everyone through transforming workforces and individuals. To those embarking on their own journey, my advice to all is go and learn something new that is not work-related in any way, shape or form. Be explorative and adventurous, learn a skill for yourself rather than ONLY learning something new just because a job requires you to do so. Don’t forget that skills are highly transferable, and don’t disregard previous experience or talents. You may find yourself in situations where you can invoke previous skills and adapt them into new environments. Probably one of the most precious pieces of advice I keep reminding myself of from time to time, is that the greatest asset you have is yourself, your personality, your character, your quirks and your strengths. Use them to show people who you are, and never be too afraid to let your personality shine through.

In all honesty, just go for it! The world is full of blockers, obstacles and challenges, but it is up to us to overcome these. Resilience is very important in today’s world, and you will hear this a lot that the ability to get back up and push on through hardships is something that everyone needs to have. Stay strong!

Much love — Richard Curtis