Career profile: Marc Burns, training & development manager,

Written by
Sarah Clark

10 Oct 2014

10 Oct 2014 • by Sarah Clark

Basic details

Name: Marc Burns

Job: Training and development manager

Current employer:

CV in brief:

A day in your life

Tell us about your job and organisation

I work for as operations training and development manager. We are a leisure airline based in the north of the UK (I feel I have to explain this, as my friends who live in the south usually respond with ‘Jet-who?’). My key area of responsibility is to design and implement the learning and development strategy for employees who work in ground operations. This covers over 1,000 employees in the UK, Spain and Portugal.

My industry is obviously extremely regulated so a lot of what I do is about ensuring compliance and standards are met. As well as the operational training, I manage the behavioural training strategy in ground operations to ensure we manage our talent and succession effectively.

The sheer variety of my role is what I love most. I am fortunate to get involved in all kinds of projects which keep me really busy. One minute I am in HR, discussing succession planning strategies and the next I’m working on uniform standards, deciding on how high a female employee should wear her bun or what shade of red lipstick she can wear! It’s busy and it can be stressful at times, but it’s a great job if you want to make a difference.

Who do you report into?

I report into the general manager of learning and development as well as the director of operations.

Tell us about your team

In two years, my team has grown from nine to over 40 trainers, across 15 airports in three countries.

Being a holiday airline, the majority of our ground operations employees join us on a seasonal basis, so our trainers do a fantastic job in bringing new people into the business and getting them out working with our customers and on our aircrafts safely and efficiently.

I feel so proud when I observe the trainers delivering solutions that I’ve designed and seeing how passionate they are about what they do.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

Coming from an operational background and working in the terminal with the customers. I still get a buzz thinking that I am responsible in some way for people having a great experience on their holiday.

I help design the business’ customer experience programme so I get excited when we are implementing things that can make a real impact on people’s holidays. I love receiving feedback from our customers to say they’ve had a good experience in our airport(s).

I also love seeing the progression of our employees. Succession planning is one of my key responsibilities, and it’s great to see people succeed and develop in their careers, I get a great sense of achievement.

What is the most challenging part of the role?

The scale of the role can be challenging, as it’s difficult to get out to all the airports as much as I’d like to. I work at head office a lot on various projects, so effective time management is a must.

My desk is often decorated with post-it notes with various reminders and my good old-fashioned diary keeps me right.

The travel can get a bit tiring at times but that’s outweighed by the excitement and variety of my role.

What does a typical day look like for you?

On a Monday, I work at Leeds head office. I get up at 5.30am, enjoy a nice little commute from Newcastle to Leeds, and am in work for 8am. I discuss projects with the recruitment and HR teams. The office can be a bit hectic, especially in the summer when all the airports are busy, so there’s always something to get involved in.

I touch base with the training and management teams, I may deliver a development workshop or coaching session, and check-in on how the new recruits are doing and if they need any support from me.

When I visit airports overseas, I’ll do the same again but get up at 4am, catch a flight, and head home later that night. The airline industry never sleeps so my Blackberry is always on hand to take calls or pick up emails when I’m not in the office.

Why did you choose your current organisation to work for?

I remember starting up and the company always intrigued me. I saw how fast they were growing and that they were doing things differently to other airlines in the market. I’ve always been passionate about customer experience so the fact they were so customer-focused, really attracted me.

Perks and downsides of your role?

One of the best perks is that I get the opportunity to travel around Europe meeting new people and seeing them in action. I also work with some amazing characters who never fail to make me laugh.

The only downside is that I spend a lot of time away from home. I usually leave on a Monday morning and come back Friday evening. But it’s worth it, as I have a great time doing what I do and feel extremely lucky to have this job.

What skills are essential for the role you’re in?

You have to be flexible as things change regularly, and willingness to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in where necessary.

Stakeholder management is essential so you have to be an effective communicator. In any L&D role, you have to be able to think outside the box and look at the bigger picture.

Never see learning and development as a ‘box ticking exercise’ and look at creating a culture where people want to develop and progress in their career. And try to make it fun. My boss once asked me how we could get more people on our training courses. My answer was simple: ‘make the courses better!’

Career path

How did you get to where you are now?

At 18, I started working as a check-in agent at Manchester Airport. I was at university at the time, and only really took the job to get me through the summer holidays. I ended up staying on a part-time basis and well, the rest is history! I soon found myself getting involved in training and working my way up to management level, and worked there for eight years. The crazy shift patterns meant I sometimes missed out on social events but I absolutely loved working in the airport.

I picked up qualifications in training and L&D, and importantly, gained operational experience. An opportunity then came up in Newcastle Airport to work for, looking for a manager with training experience to head up a new operation. I wanted to push myself, so I went for it. Next thing I knew, I was heading up the A1 in my little Renault Clio filled with my life’s belongings.

The role was a fantastic platform and provided great networking opportunities. I got involved in the design and implementation of our company’s customer and colleague brand values programme. It was through this that led me to my current role.

You have to take risks and push yourself to keep moving forward. If I hadn’t bitten the bullet and moved, I wouldn’t be doing my dream job right now.

What were your best subjects in school? What and where did you study?

I was always good at drama and music. I also got good grades in PE and languages. I loved French and German. I then completed a marketing degree at Manchester Metropolitan University.

What was your first job? How did you get it and why did you choose to work there?

My first job was in a music store. I worked there at weekends and I absolutely loved it. All I can remember is spending my days singing and dancing on the shop floor and talking to people about music. Who wouldn’t enjoy that?

Have you followed the career path you set out to?

I didn’t have a career path. I fell into working at the airport and then realised I was pretty good at it. I then started working in L&D and found I was good at that too, so I stuck with it. It’s only really been in the last few years that I have started to make a plan. I use the word ‘plan’ loosely as you never know what opportunities can pop up in this field. I’m happy to go with the flow and see where this role takes me. There’s definitely a lot more I can achieve doing the job I do.

What challenges have you faced along the way? How did you overcome them?

Establishing credibility in my role was a challenge, as it was new in the organisation, so no one had done it before me. Of course people were going to question whether I could make it a success. My main aim was to work hard to get us to the place where we needed to be, build trust with my stakeholders and then let the end result speak for itself.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to land a job?

I wanted to impress a potential future boss when they were visiting an airport, so I arranged my team to do a flash mob at the boarding gate on a flight to New York. We were sitting among 250 customers and then we started to sing and dance to ‘New York, New York’. I was high kicking and giving it my best Sinatra, as my potential future boss looked on. We sounded terrible but the customers went wild. It was a bit cringe but I got the job, so I must have impressed them!

What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?

Besides the antics at the New York boarding gate, I feel very proud of a leadership programme that I designed and presented recently to over 150 managers in three months. We have seen a great return on investment and the programme is now being rolled out in other areas of the business.

Do you have any career regrets?

I really don’t have any regrets, although I did once go to work on Christmas Eve at Manchester Airport wearing a very Christmassy green jumper and red tie (I thought it was really festive). We had a really bad day in operations, and my boss at the time referred to me as a useless elf!

What advice would you offer to others who are looking to get to where you are now?

Don’t be scared to take risks and push yourself. If you’re scared of something, that’s a good thing. The sense of achievement you get when it all comes together, is amazing.

What advice would you give to your 22-year-old self?

Be patient and work hard. I always wanted to run before I could walk. Oh and save more money. Ask yourself, ‘do I really need that All Saints jacket?


  • Coffee or tea? Tea please. Strongly brewed with plenty of milk, no sugar
  • Jam or marmalade? Jam all the way!
  • The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? The Spice Girls?
  • Mac or PC? PC, I haven’t converted to the Apple way of life yet
  • The Guardian or The Times? I’d say the Times, only because my old flatmate used to buy it
  • BBC or ITV? BBC, as I hate adverts
  • M&S or Waitrose? M&S. Waitrose stores are few and far between in the north east
  • Morning or night? I wake up early everyday so I suppose I’m a morning person
  • Rain on snow? I’d say snow as we see it less frequently
  • Sweet or savoury? Savoury, always


  • App: Twitter
  • TV show: I love the original Prisoner Cell Block H (don’t judge me). I also watch a lot of tennis and athletics
  • Band: I really like Twin Atlantic at the minute. I also love Clean Bandit’s singles so need to invest in the album
  • Song: ‘For once in my life’ Stevie Wonder always gives me a bit of disco toe
  • Book: I really like ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Kahled Hosseini
  • Sports team: I can’t say I follow a team but when the Olympics were on in London in 2012, I literally sat on my sofa in my tracksuit for two weeks cheering on Team GB. That was incredible
  • Thing to do on a Friday night: Have my partner cook me dinner, open a nice bottle of red wine and catch up about our week as we don’t see each other Monday-Friday
  • Place to eat: I love cooking and trying new things so I would say my kitchen followed closely by Gaucho, as I love steak!
  • Holiday spot: The Maldives absolutely blew my mind. There are some great spots in the Caribbean too. I have been lucky enough to travel a lot through my job so I have loads of great memories of the different places I’ve been to
  • Piece of advice you’ve been given: The best tip I reviewed from an old boss, ‘sacrifice today to position yourself for tomorrow’.