A DAY IN THE LIFE - EMBEDDED CLIENT PROGRAM MANAGER
21 October 2022
Toni Black pops in and out of our Burwood office. We don’t get to see her every day because she is an Embedded Client Program Manager at Strathcona Girls Grammar School, which means she spends most of her week at the school, preparing the students and teachers for their upcoming programs. Toni’s career in outdoor education began fortuitously, but today, she wouldn’t have it any other way.
I WASN’T AN OUTDOORSY PERSON
I wasn’t an outdoorsy person when I was younger. I did a placement at The Outdoor Education Group on the Mitchell River in my second year and absolutely fell in love. I became an intern at The Outdoor Education Group in 2016, moved up to Eildon and had the best 2 years learning, leading and socialising.
A few of my friends began working on Journey programs but I found passion and joy in the Camps arena. After my internship, I began coordinating Camp programs while continuing my Bachelor’s at Victoria University.
In 2019 when I saw the Embedded Program Coordinator role come up at Strathcona, it excited me because it would allow me to be more involved in a sequence of programs. I’m currently an Embedded Client Program Manager (CPM) at Strathcona.
MY TASKS DON’T STOP ONCE THE PROGRAM HAS ENDED
A CPM’s tasks start with program design, contracting and building great relationships. We understand, in-depth, the educational outcomes involved in the programs we work on, where they’re going and how many students are attending. We do a lot of the forecasting of orders and booking things like staff and gear. We manage client-facing meetings and deliver student, school staff and parent briefings so all of the information in the lead-up to program is consistent and everyone knows what to expect.
My tasks don’t stop once the program has ended, we are constantly looking for improvement and rolling over up to 12 months in advance!
I’M VERY LUCKY
Being an Embedded CPM, all the usual school coordinating and operational administration tasks are my responsibility. At Strathcona, I get students from the Early Learning Centre all the way to Year 10! I’m responsible for the whole suite of programs and putting them together on our side, and additionally, I manage Strathcona’s administration processes. Keeps me very busy throughout the whole year.
I’m very lucky in my role as I feel like I am part of the school. A big part of the Embedded role is relationships and I’m building on these with every interaction. I’m making sure the students are supported and their needs heard; the staff are supported and are in a position where they are comfortable supporting the students and the families trust their child will be challenged in a safe environment.
A TYPICAL DAY FOR ME
I spend 3-4 days a week at Strathcona, so depending on what programs are coming up, I am making bookings, ordering staff, gear and food, creating risk documents, briefing notes and logistic plans, making sure I have all the relevant medical documents from the families and triple checking the programs are good to go. All this work is super important as it allows for a smooth program.
I talk to each year level about their upcoming camp and answer their questions. I chat with the staff attending the programs and if I have Senior School programs coming up, I deliver a parent briefing in the evening. The parent briefings used to make me so anxious; I’d go bright red, my voice would shake and I’d get the Elvis leg going. I’ve gotten so much better over the years, tailoring my delivery around what the Year Level Coordinator feels the parents’ concerns are.
I get the lucky job of being the Duke of Edinburgh Coordinator, so one day a week, I go to the Year 9 Campus, speak to all the students and help them set goals. It’s a big, personal win when students continue the program and achieve high standards of Silver and Gold Awards.
MY MANY HATS
In my role, I get to act as Course Coordinator for most of my programs, which means I get to go out and support the programs as they’re happening. Once everything for the program is prepared, I get to pack my bags. I’m still a classic night-before program packer, but diamonds are made under pressure!
When I course coordinate my programs, I wear a few different hats and knowing when to switch hats is an art. When briefing my team, I’ve got one hat on, and I can relate to them and their needs because I’ve been in their position. When I’m with the client, I have another hat on and I have to remember the outdoors isn’t everyone’s bread and butter.
I have the privilege of working with The Outdoor Education Group’s Field team. I support them in any way I can and hope to be a positive role model for them.
A PASSION AND A CONNECTION
I love using the outdoors as a tool for education. I love supporting my team in their development. I love coordinating and the connections I’ve made with the school!
If I think about how I started my career in outdoor education, it was by pure accident - I didn’t even know what outdoor education was and certainly didn’t know I could have a career in it. I’ve found a passion and a connection to the outdoors – it’s changed my life. If I can leave an impression on someone else’s outdoor education experience, whether a student, a teacher or a team member, I think that’s what I want to pass on – a passion and a connection.