Three years ago, I had an idea. I was living in Bethnal Green – a relatively poor area in East London – and knew a lot of families would be struggling as benefits were cut and jobs were still hard to find. As a freshly freelance SEO consultant with some great clients already under my belt, I realised I had some spare time each week and wondered how I could give back to my community. I liked the idea of providing training, but I wanted it to lead to actual income at the end of it. Google Adwords seemed to be the answer; I could train people to pass the Google Professionals Exam and once they were certified, it might open doors for them at an agency, or to find work online. All the material for the exam was provided by Google – I’d only need to turn the info into an eight week course, find a location, get some computers, source some students…
Er, yes. It started to look a little more complicated than I’d first imagined. I put out some feelers locally and met with the guys at School of Everything who were encouraging and offered to lend me classroom space. Next, I spoke to Action for Employment in Hackney to see if they had any suitable candidates. The response from A4E was this: great idea, but a lot of our clients are struggling with basic computer skills – could you come and teach those instead? After some deliberation, I accepted: it might not be the vision of teaching I’d imagined, but if I could be useful, that was enough for now. I learnt a lot too. Many of the people I worked with were setting up an email account for the first time. It illustrated to me how much computer knowledge I take for granted, and how much harder it might be for someone to process all the Google Adwords course work. When I moved out of the area and thereby stopped volunteering for A4E, I paused the training plan – maybe it had been too ambitious to begin with anyway?
Then, in February this year, I had lunch with an old client of mine. He was now working for Google, and I mentioned to him my idea of providing free Adwords training. He liked it, and said I should contact the Youth Engagement Agency Livety as they might have someone suitable. And that is how I was introduced to Christina.
Each week for nine weeks (spread over about three months), I’ve met with Christina at Livety’s offices in Brixton, and spent two intense hours trying to make sense of Google’s learning material. Then during the week, Christina would fire over questions as she studied the next section. I also created a Memrise course to help Christina learn the key components of the Fundamentals exam (which would assist and frustrate her in equal measures, as Memrise mostly deals with language learning and so was overly pedantic about correct spelling). Christina is a great student: she’s smart and has excellent attention to detail, and working previously as a web editor for Livety she has strong computer skills in place already which, I’ve discovered, is paramount. She often worried she was asking too many questions but in fact, the level of feedback was perfect for me to see if my training (and my training style) worked. Although I manage active client accounts every day, there’s a lot of Adwords functionality I don’t often use. Christina has really pushed me to provide reasoning’s behind the sometimes frustratingly oversimplified learning material, and make sense of it all.
Christina and I will be sitting the two exams – Fundamental and Search Advanced – on Thursday (the certification expires after two years, and so mine has lapsed). Christina has covered all the course work and has made major head way in her revisions. I, on the other hand, have not. Come Thursday, we could see a scenario where the mentee passes, and not the mentor. Hopefully this isn’t the case and we both pass with flying colours (*studies frantically*), but whatever the outcome, it’s been an amazing few months, and I’m so pleased that the original nebulous idea three years ago has achieved some type of fruition. And fingers crossed for Thursday.