As part of our new ‘World of Work’ series, our in-house writer Holly Pigache interviews members of the EdTech Lobby community to find out about different professional pathways. Here, she interviews the Creative Director of ELT Songs and Founder of Learning British English, Benjamin Carter.
What was the path to you becoming Creative Director at ELT Songs and an English Second Language Tutor at Learning British English?
Let’s start with the latter. I emerged from my Masters degree with a desire to vary my career path – I’ll try to make this brief.
In late 2008, things were pretty desperate on the global economic front. Fortunately, I got a job and within a few years I was a project manager, working on international projects in a range of industries.
A few more years down the line, what I would describe as a significant life event happened. Spurred on by some sage advice from one of my heroes: my grandfather, I took a break and spent six months in the mountains of Switzerland following a lifelong dream. Upon my return, my view of life had changed, and I started to work for myself. This new outlook initially saw me take on projects in the construction industry, but then I started using my language skills and began tutoring.
After beginning tutoring, it was a short hop to creating helpful videos for English learners. I began to become increasingly passionate about all aspects of creating these videos: lighting, filming, editing, posting online etc. I gained quite a following and set up www.learningbritishenglish.com to provide even more free resources for my students, as well as a way to advertise my services.With my ability to multi-task, get a team working together, and my passion for creating content, I started working with ELT Songs at first to provide a sounding board for ideas and help out where I could with filming and editing. As that relationship developed, I found more and more of a place for myself there, as well as opportunities to learn and grow.
What is the most interesting part of your job?
I have a few answers for this. For tutoring, it has to be that “lightbulb” moment when someone really understands a concept that you are teaching and they are clearly excited to go and use the new thing that they have learned. In terms of my role as a Creative Director, I have grown to love getting in front of the camera. This is not only for the fun part of filming, but because for me it has been a motivator to learn British Sign Language. This has been a win-win situation, as I am learning new things all the time, but I am also sharing an additional learning opportunity with people who learn from these videos.
What is something that surprises you about your work?
How difficult it can be to get the image in your brain of what you want down on film and, more than that, edited correctly in good time. Imagine how long you think editing takes, now multiply that by five time – or more!
Have there been any key turning points in determining your career progression?
As mentioned before, without a couple of life perspective focusing events, I might still be working in a corporate organisation running SaaS projects for other international businesses!
Describe your career journey in three words.
Eager. Holistic. Reborn.
Do you have an ultimate career goal? If so, what is it?
My ultimate career goal is to help as many people with their learning goals as possible. This will end up ranging from helping with 1-2-1 sessions to compiling useful courses to help a much larger group of people, for whom there are not enough hours in the day for me to help one by one. However, this includes moving towards being able to help, advise, and collaborate with other individuals and companies to help them reach similar goals.
I have a smorgasbord of experience and with that I have made and learned from many mistakes. I hope to expand the amount of my available time to be able to help others to find their own successful paths, hop over the pitfalls I discovered, and learn from different mistakes together!
Would you do anything differently if you could start your career again?
I heard a fantastic answer to this recently. Assuming that I am able to get to the point in this timeline where I have achieved everything I want to achieve, if I went back to make different choices, I would go in a wildly different direction to experience something completely different.
My grandfather’s side of the family were in the timber trade in various ways for over 300 years. I remember wondering at various points when I was a little younger, what if I had gone in a “practical” direction and followed that side of the family path.
If you could do any job in the world, what would it be?
It’s a cliché, but I have found a lot of what I want in a job so far in the exciting work that I am involved in at the moment. Every time I add something, change something, or remove something, I ask myself if this is what I want, if it is healthy for my work-life balance. In this way, I am always in the process of building or renovating the building which is my dream job.
What’s the main piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to become a Creative Director?
The only thing that is ever holding you back is really your self-confidence. When there’s something you think you want to try, there’s always a voice in your head which says, “You can’t do that because…”. However, the more you do something, the quieter that voice gets, until you barely register it. Then you’re able to genuinely assess whether that thing is something you love and want to continue doing, or whether that was just a lesson in life.
Whether you have a clear career goal or not, the important thing to remember is to break the task down into small steps. If you trip on one step, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed and you should give up. If you fall down, if you get hurt, if you feel dejected, you can either stop, or you can carry on, and treat it as a lesson learned.