PME Conversation - New Skills for a New Life

Photo by Lim Weixiang



    I have been a visual practitioner specialising in visual recording for the last three years. Visual recording is a very new approach of documenting meetings, workshops and seminars. I am basically a scribe who uses text, illustrations, and numbers integratively to capture and reflect key concepts and questions, stories, thought processes, and decisions generated by participants in realtime. Visual recording translates group dynamics and outcomes into visible forms that convey intent, direction, and meaning more quickly and richly than words alone can.

    I was first exposed to visual recording in 2009, when I was a public officer working in the Civil Service College. It was at a workshop conducted by David Sibbet, who is a pioneer in visual recording and facilitation. Although it wasn’t one of those ’epiphany moments’ where you suddenly realise, ‘this is my life’s calling’, I enjoyed the workshop greatly. I saw it as a useful skill, but I had little idea of how it would help me in the work that I was involved in then – learning design. I experimented with it at two internal forums, and kept in touch with David through emails, sharing my experiences, but nothing bigger came out of it.

    It was only later on, when I took a year of no-pay leave to cope with my medical condition, that I was able to devote more time to honing my skills in Visual Recording. At that time, going on a year-long sabbatical was a rather novel practice. But I have started to hear of more people doing that, and I think going forward, it will be something that is much more common.

    In the same year, I learned that David Sibbet was in Singapore for another workshop and we arranged to meet up. David was very happy to hear about the progress I had made in the craft and suggested that since my interest lay in that area, I should consider becoming a full-time visual practitioner. David’s support was very encouraging, but at that point, I was still unconvinced. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to give up my job and all the stability it provided.

    When the time neared for me to return to work, I started to take stock of my life. In the time that I had been away from work, my health had improved, and I was able to spend much more time with family and friends. I was proud of the work I was doing at the Civil Service College. The work-culture was great. It was a place where I felt valued. But I realised I had been running at full steam since the day I entered the workforce and what I really wanted to do was to slow down my life.

    My bosses were really wonderful. They were willing to explore a flexible work arrangement to accommodate me, but in the end, I felt that it wouldn’t be fair to the organisation which had given me so much. I decided to take a leap of faith.

    It has not been a bed of roses, that’s for sure. There’s always the worry about where your next paycheck is going to come from. But I feel I have gained a lot as well. A lot of hubris has been removed. I have shed a lot of unnecessary excesses in life. I lead a simpler life but I feel a lot lighter, happier. I am more in touch with myself. I have learnt to say ‘No’ more often, so that I can say better ‘Yes-es’ to the things and people who truly matter.




This story is part of the PME Conversation book which was launched in April 2015. To read more stories, click here.






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