Kerry Morgan-Cranston, Operations & Strategic Projects Learning and Development Manager
I still can’t quite believe that this February will mark my fifth anniversary of starting life at Baker McKenzie! I had worked for some well-established businesses previously, so I thought I understood large organisations. However, Baker McKenzie allowed me to step into a truly global position.
I started in a client relationship role, and immediately loved the variety of clients and colleagues that I got to collaborate with every day. After two years, I transitioned to my current position.
When I secured this role, I wanted to ensure I was abreast of any new developments in the Learning and Development environment. I mentioned it to our internal People team and they were fully supportive from the start.
So, with their full backing, I started my CIPD Level 5 in Learning and Development at Belfast Met in September 2021. I have since been named as the CIPD HR Student of The Year in an illustrious event at the Titanic hotel. It was one of my greatest career achievements so far.
I’ve felt fully supported in my career at Baker McKenzie. People often think of large organisations, particularly those in the legal world as imposing, monolithic corporations but that’s not what it’s like at Baker McKenzie. First and foremost, it is all about people! Whether that be clients, stakeholders, or colleagues.
My role has a particular focus on learning and development, so this means that no two days are the same. I could be creating and facilitating a local training session for our teams in Belfast or London, or I could be supporting the senior leadership team to deliver a tailored programme across multiple regions and time zones. Regardless of which, putting people at the heart of everything I do is absolutely key.
We’ve worked on so many amazing projects but I’m particularly proud of my work with our social mobility committee.
This year we have launched the Baker McKenzie Belfast Student Award which aims to recognise inspirational students, who have been brave, brilliant and kind while undertaking their studies. As a social mobility initiative, it also provides a platform to offer mentorship and support to students, while acknowledging their unique stories.
During this initiative, we have worked with organisations such as Business in the Community, Diversity Mark and a host of remarkable teachers, schools and students. While the 2022 winner will be announced in the coming weeks, we are already planning next year, so watch this space in 2023!
Social mobility is a really interesting area of Inclusion and Diversity, and at times the idea of social exclusion can be very subtle but can also be obvious, when you know where to look.
It has been incredible (and a little emotional) to learn some of the stories of the amazing young people we’re seeing as part of the Student Award. Particularly so as I see echoes of my own life in some of the stories they have shared.
I grew up on a council estate, went to a secondary school and was a “dinner ticket kid.” No one in my family had ever attended university and we were caring for a disabled member of the family. I absolutely loved my childhood, friends, school and community, and I am extremely proud of where I am from but no one in my immediate circle had the lived experience of higher education, the professional networks of senior-level careers or even knew the questions to ask to understand what was possible.
I still joke with my Dad as he was perplexed as to why I even wanted to do A-levels when I had a perfectly good part-time job with "a great employer." The urge to be grateful simply overrode any desire to expect or aim for more.
But amazing secondary school teachers, and I mean AWESOME teachers (Mrs Munroe and Mrs Hurley) encouraged and guided me and my parents. They knew what questions to ask, what forms to complete and what financial support was available. As a team, we secured my University place.
The social mobility hangover doesn’t vanish once you step on campus or into your first professional job. If I am honest, I have only really started to understand that now - all these years later. It is why providing mentorship, and being involved in social mobility initiatives, such as the Baker McKenzie Belfast Student Award is so important to me. It enables us to create a platform to discuss hidden prejudices and consider circumstances that may be contributing to an unfair playing field.
Ultimately, not everyone starts from the same place, and unless we consciously make efforts to close the gap, things will never change. Alternatively, the gap will widen and instead of diverse teams we will foster professional echo chambers and miss the opportunity to introduce fresh thinking and new perspectives.
Growing up with a sister who had a rare, life-limiting condition meant that I became accustomed to many voices extending advice and forecasting outcomes. As a result, I learned to listen and read the room like a ninja. My family's adaptability and sheer determination was relentless.. Most importantly, my family taught me to get back up and be kind, even when the worst happened - this has definitely shaped me as a person.
As a result of my upbringing I am empathetic and genuinely fascinated by people and their unique stories. These traits are really important in a Learning and Development role and continue to influence my approach and way of working.
Resilience and natural empathy are not reflected in an academic grade but nonetheless are incredible skills that the best leaders have at their core. I hope our work on the social mobility committee can help everyone recognise this.