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Bernice Allport is currently communication manager for an IT change programme with the Environment Agency. She recently passed her Advanced Diploma (with a Distinction, no less!) with the IoIC and, here, she tells us how things have changed since.

What role were you in when you signed up for the Advanced Diploma?
When I began my Advanced Diploma I was working as a communication lead in DWP, largely focused on staff engagement communications. I was keen, having no formal communication qualifications, to both validate and grow my experience and skills.

Why did you sign up for the Advanced Diploma?
The IoIC Advanced Diploma offered a great opportunity to work with other communication professionals, gaining a wider understanding of how internal communications work outside of Government. It also appealed to my practical side, having come to communications from within an operational arm of DWP.

Which was the most enjoyable part for you?
The group project was fun; we all had a slightly different view of our topic which was broadly to look and theorise on the future trends for internal comms. Being part of a supportive cohort really came into its own when one of the group became unwell and was even considering leaving the diploma early. We all rallied round, helping where we could and encouraging her to stay, which I am pleased to say she did.
The group work was also where I got to learn the most about the similarities and differences between public, civil and private sector communications. It gave a tangible backdrop to our discussions about internal comms and the pace of change depending on the organisation.

And which was the most challenging?
In my view the most challenging aspect of the work was by far mapping my experience to the Skills and Knowledge requirements. I found myself getting mired in the detail and having real difficulty with the cross referencing to ensure I had covered every item.

What did you find particularly useful?
The conversation I had with the group mentor really helped unlock my mental block on that work. She advised me to see this as a chance to be proud and tell my story, my journey as a communication specialist. For me, that provided the light bulb moment, and then it all made sense.

How has the Advanced Diploma helped you in your career?
It isn’t possible to stress just how thrilled I was to pass (at distinction level!) my Advanced Diploma. I guess I had always had a bit of a chip on my shoulder about having worked my way up through communications where my colleagues had University degrees in the communication disciplines. I could now say I had a legitimate qualification which allowed me to provide expert advice and prove that I knew what I was talking about!

What has changed for you as a result of the Advanced Diploma?
Since gaining the qualification I have grown in confidence and when the opportunity to work elsewhere in Government arose I grabbed it with both hands. I can honestly say that, after 31 years in one department, the qualification was a huge factor in my determination to take that leap of faith.

What would you say to anyone who was thinking about undertaking the Advanced Diploma?
I would encourage anyone else to apply for the Advanced Diploma, whatever stage you are at in your career. I could have decided that I didn’t need the validation the diploma offered me. I could have decided not to push myself, but I honestly believe that the magic happens when you step outside your comfort zone. So, sign up, be prepared to work hard, and then be open to where it will take you.
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