Five minutes with Angie Taras
February 24, 2011
Angie Taras, Director Client Relations
Angie Taras is the Director of Client Relations at DeakinPrime. Angie is accountable for new business development, collaborative development with Deakin’s faculties, solutions consulting and market communications. Angie fosters corporate alliances with new and existing clients, contributing strategically and operationally to the development of educational programs and services which enhance capabilities and help drive business performance.
As a member of the DeakinPrime Leadership Team, Angie contributes to strategic direction and orientation toward delivering client growth. It is her responsibility to listen to the market, both corporate and academic, and advise on how best to innovatively optimise client organisation performance.
Before joining DeakinPrime in 2001, Angie had 20 years experience in secondary and adult education in the VET sector, holding both teaching and management positions.
Angie, if we look at DeakinPrime’s client base we see clients from a diverse range of industries. Can you tell us how they end up partnering with DeakinPrime?
Certainly. Clients partner with us through a number of avenues. The number one way I’d like to think is through client word-of-mouth and other referrals, so within their network they tell other potential new clients about the wonderful work we have done in the past and so we have a lot of recommendations. Our facilitator database as well is quite extensive and some of our clients find their way to us through recommendations from our facilitators and the academic community of DeakinPrime that also engage quite extensively with the broader industry and community. Another way of course is through active contact, and we focus on a push strategy with several industries that are relevant to the university. So we make a point of connecting with these industries and seeking connections, and that could be through networking events or also through our eNewsletter that we put out and also our website.
No relationship is perfect. Can you tell us about how you ensure that client relationships remain both positive and productive?
Sure. My approach to relationship building is to treat them pretty much as I would family and friendship relationships. I feel fundamental elements to good relationships are:
- respect and
- spending quality time with the person you are trying to have a relationship with.
For example, with BMW we’ve had a long term relationship for many, many years and that has a challenge in its own way because keeping relationships fresh and ongoing can be challenging especially when you can take one another for granted. Fundamental to the success of our BMW relationship is to spend a good amount of time together and if and when things go wrong (eventually they do) it is important to be honest and to attend to the corrections in a professional way so that both parties feel that the problems have been overcome. In summary, my number one element is to always deliver on your promises.
You’ve spent around 10 years at DeakinPrime. You must have seen some trends occurring in Learning and Development. Can you perhaps share with us what you see those trends have been over time?
When I first arrived at DeakinPrime, I was looking after membership-based associations whose driver was joint awards with the university. Now that has changed quite a lot over the years, and in my experience universities were seen as the provider of a degree or of a non-award qualification. It was quite a transactional relationship. Where they had a particular need, we provided a service to fill that need. But over time I’ve seen a lot of trending away from just simple management program solutions to more advisory requirements where organisational development is the driver. And how that links to performance of people at work is very, very important. We find that, in addition to programs, we also have expertise in organisational development so that we can advise and connect with our counterparts in organisations, learning development and HR to provide solutions. So there is quite a trend from the transactional to the strategic L&D space. In leadership, there’s been quite a change in different leadership approaches. As we build on that knowledge there are more advances. Different neuroscience methodologies add to the approach and how we provide solutions there.
Now I would like to talk about Steve Jobs, Apple’s founder, for a moment. Steve Jobs’ mantra was ‘focus and simplicity’ and I think we all know that, using Apple products. He said that ‘simple can be harder than complex, but it’s worth it in the end because once you get there you can move mountains’. Can you tell me Angie, whether you agree with this and how this relates back to the world of learning for organisations
I certainly do agree with that perspective. Some of the most complex projects we do here at DeakinPrime are design and development projects and they can be programs that range from a one-day workshop to a one-month intervention. However, they can all be brought down to a very simple methodology, and the approach we take here at DeakinPrime is to always understand what the challenge is or what the requirement is, and to give sufficient attention to that understanding process, so that when we get that right, the rest flows very smoothly. So, gaining an understanding, doing thorough planning then implementing the program, then reviewing that and taking learnings are a very simple methodology. However, it makes a very complex design and development challenge very simple. So I absolutely agree with Steve.