The Importance of Community: A Q&A With Community & Events Manager Cat Burnett

A QA With Animas Head of Social Impact

5th March 2020

Community is something that has always been important to us at Animas. Having recently hired our new Community and Events Manager Cat Burnett, our Head of Content Sam Chambers sat down with Cat to find out more about her background around, how she is enjoying her new role with Animas so far, what she is currently working on as well as her big vision for community and events next year!

Sam: Hi Cat, thanks for joining me for this conversation. You're our new Community and Events Manager. First of all, talk to me a little bit about your background, perhaps about your coaching journey and how you came to this role with Animas?

Cat: OK, before I started this role I was working as a project manager for a global connectivity and cloud hosting company. I was project managing all sorts of projects - everything from cyber security upgrades, to warehouse moves, to implementing new products. I had lots of varied things to plan and organise, so I guess that's going to help me with the events management side of this role with Animas.

Then when it comes to coaching and how I found Animas, long story short when I was at uni, I was in my second year, and my mum actually trained with Animas on the diploma. I was doing my linguistics degree, and she would call me up and tell me about all of this theory that she was reading about. I lived away from home at uni, so I didn't see the impact that training was having, but she was telling me how it was changing the way that she was with my sisters and about how cool it was to be coaching clients. I just thought, “Yes, cool. This is mum's thing. This is nice.”

Throughout sixth form and university I struggled with high-functioning depression. Basically, until I turned 23 I was consistently depressed, and a few months being 'free' from depression I started to spiral again. At that point I decided, “I need to just sort out my life and figure out what I'm going to do. I need to work out what I want to do with myself,” and life coaching reappeared.

I started looking at different schools, and realised Animas was the right school for me. I might be the only person who's ever followed in their mum's footsteps regarding coaching schools haha!

I went to the open day and decided there and then I wanted to do it, but I was 23, with no savings to put towards the course, so I just decided to start practicing coaching. Then, nine months later, I'd saved up enough to put a deposit down on the course. I started training officially in July last year and qualified in April. Since then I've been coaching loads and I'm now doing the supervision course with the ‘ICCS' - that's my next step!

Sam: Thanks for sharing Cat. Now I know your role now is around community and events management, are there any other communities that you manage outside of your work with Animas?

Cat: So many haha! Yes! The biggest community that I manage outside of Animas right now is the book club that I run. I have an Instagram page that's called ‘The Coaches Bookshelf', where I share all the books I read because I'm a huge coaching (and all) book geek, self-confessed. A couple of months ago, I decided to start a book club on Instagram and have since started a Facebook group around it too. There’s about 100 people in the Facebook group, and almost 1200 followers on Instagram.

So that's the book club, but I also co-run the Twenty Something Club, which is essentially a support group for coaches in their 20s. There aren’t that many of us. I think the last count was about 48 in I think it's 2,500 people in the lounge at the moment.

Before lockdown, I also ran tournament classes for karate. I've done that for various regions in the UK since I turned 17but most recently I was the squad coach for the Manchester team at my karate club. I ran weekly classes, seminars, organised events and, of course, coached when we'd go and compete nationally and internationally. So, I did a lot on that front as well.

Sam: Wow, so lots of experience around managing communities, and I guess, particularly online communities as well, which is key considering the climate we find ourselves in at the moment. I know you're almost a couple months into the role now and I just wondered how have your first couple months been?

Cat: It's been an interesting couple of months. Firstly, it's been great. It's been lovely because it's a whole different way of working. As you might expect from working in a coaching school, the people skills in the team are just next level. Everyone's kind, and nice, and supportive. We've got all of our wins of the week that we share and it’s just been a really welcome reception from the team.

This being said, it’s not been without obstacles. In my second week, COVID hit my household. I had two weeks where my partner had coronavirus and then I had coronavirus. We are both fine now but that added a bit of an unexpected turn to my first month, but it's all good and I’m back to where I need to be! Other than that, it's just been lots of planning and working out what we want to do for the future and getting lots of exciting things plotted for our lovely community.

Sam: Glad to hear you're both better! On the topic of planning, what is it that you're currently working on that we can maybe expect to see coming through in the coming weeks and months?

Cat: You might already have seen if you're on Facebook that we've been running Coffee & Connect sessions, which are essentially little half an hour break slots where you can just come on and have a chat about anything, which has been wonderful. I’ve really enjoyed meeting people in the community that I probably never would have spoken to otherwise.

We're going to be running those throughout December and next year, but they're going to be coming in specific times and days. At the moment, we have just been playing with different time and date slots to see what worked, but we're going to pin them down and make more of a noise about them.

Copy of Coffee Connection

Other than that, there's lots going on. We're currently planning a winter social for the 17th of December (save the date!). You can expect then that if we have a winter social, we will also have a spring, summer and autumn social. They will be coming next year, and as soon as we have the dates the community will be the first to know. Hopefully, one of them will be in-person, but we will have to wait and see.

We're also going to be running an Animas book club that we'll be launching in January. I do love a book club after all!

Alongside all of this we’ve got so many more educational events coming up. You'll see ‘CPDs' coming in every month, all throughout next year, and there will be a lot to choose from. Then we're also working on a multitude of other events that I'm not going to confirm just now because I don't have specific names for them, but I can confirm that they’re coming, and they’re exciting!

Sam: It's always good to keep a bit of suspense! There’s some exciting stuff that we can expect to see coming soon, which is brilliant. My next question is, what is it that you enjoy so much about working with communities?

Cat: I think community is just really important. As individuals, we can do a lot, but we can do so much more when we're with like-minded people who are supporting us and who get what we're about and who want to be involved. I think what we have at Animas is already such a diverse, inclusive, and vibrant community, but there's so much more we can do with that.

It's an exciting time to get involved and see how much we can build our community now that we're not so London, Edinburgh and Berlin centric. We are doing virtual diplomas across the world in all sorts of different places. How can we really make people feel like they're part of this journey? I think that's the biggest thing to me. Getting as many people involved as possible is what is important to me.

Sam: You’ve actually touched on my next question. Why do you think community is so important? And particularly for an organisation like a coaching school?

Cat: With coaching, if you don't have that community around you it can feel like you’re alone. When you have that community there are so many benefits, shared expertise, support and encouragement which can be really useful as a coach at any point of the coaching journey. I know that the Animas diploma doesn't teach you how to do business but in the community, there's so much knowledge. Every new coach finds themselves with people around them to support them and help them with any issues or questions that arise as part of their journey.

You don't have to sit there, worry, and try and figure it out alone. There are people that you can say, "this is going on. What do I do?", and you'll get an abundance of helpful advice. That's so important when you're growing your coaching business, but also even if you're a really experienced coach, it’s important to have that support around you.

Sam: We spoke a little bit about your background and what you're working on currently. When you think about the big vision, what does that look like and what’s the impact that you want to have?

Cat: Well, on the community side of things, I really want to build on that vibrancy and the buzz within the community. I want to see people connecting that might never have met each other before, building beautiful things because the community exists. I want to see friendships developing and coaches really expanding their coaching skill and confidence because of the community around them.

That's one side, but then obviously the events are a huge part of what I'm going to be doing. It's really building that mix of having social and networking events where we can get to know each other but also having that array of educational or academic events where we can all continue to grow.

I think what I love so much is that I'm now planning things that I'm really excited to attend myself! It's a whole new experience when you're project managing things that you are so invested in. I'm going to benefit from putting these things on as a coach, as well as everyone else. We want to expand on the amazing stuff we already have, and explore: what’s that next level? What specialisms can we bring in and learn more about as a community, and how do they help us develop and increase the impact that we have?

Sam: So a lot of the vision is around making as big an impact and doing as much stuff as you possibly can within the community and beyond.

Cat: That’s right. Just world domination basically haha!

Sam: Haha brilliant, thanks so much for talking with me Cat, it’s been a real pleasure. I want to welcome you again to the team and I look forward to joining some of the new events soon!

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