High Potentials Programme 2022 or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Project Management

Two days ago I graduated as part of the 2022 cohort of the High Potentials Programme, a 12 week leadership course delivered by Blenheim Chalcot and Avado Learning that looked at change/project management, leading teams and creating commercial value. Fancy.

A certificate that says "This certificate is awarded to Matthew Champion for the successful completion of the High Potentials Programme July 5th 2022", with logos and signatures from Avado and Blenheim Chalcot
I got a (digital) certificate and everything!

Now you might be wondering why I, a software developer, decided to take on a course that was such a departure from my day job and career so far. Well:

  1. Learning is awesome. Like seriously cool. Love it. Can’t get enough of it. Learning about anything and everything is my jam and this is no exception.
  2. Although I’m not currently in a management position I feel like one day it could be something for me; I don’t ever want to completely move away from a technical role, but I’d definitely be interested in leading a team from a higher level and helping build others up.
  3. I’ve worked with my fair share of project managers (PMs) and business analysts (BAs) who loved to talk about change management this, project management that and it would be nice to be able to understand them better/speak their language.
  4. In situations where I’m not working with a PM because of the size of the team or scale of the project I’m working on, someone still ends up doing the work traditionally given to a PM like communicating with stakeholders, evaluating project risks or running meetings. When that someone has been me I’ve largely made it up as I went along, so I figured it would be good to get a better idea of how to do it at least vaguely correctly.

What did it actually entail?

So while this was a 12 week programme (which initially sounded a bit daunting) the actual work associated with it ended up translating to a 1.5 hour Zoom session with an instructor every week or two and some associated reading from the online modules which was another 2~ hours a week. As such, it was probably about 3 or 4 hours a week in total which I found achievable around my job and other life commitments.

While the first 9 weeks were all about participating in sessions and learning the theory, the last 3 weeks were dedicated to a group application activity that was designed to put what you’d learned into practice. I won’t go into detail about the activity itself other than to say that it was a case study where you had to analyse some data and recommend a few things such as new change and project methodologies and explain how you came to these decisions.

The whole course was done virtually (except for a few optional meet-ups which were well worth attending) meaning that you could join in from wherever; I was actually away for a week in the middle of the course and I managed to keep up with the online modules during some spare time I had while travelling and in the hotel!

What was good?

I really enjoyed a lot about this course, but to name a few things in particular:

  1. There was a lot of interesting stuff to learn about. I hadn’t heard about STEEPLE analysis, Six Thinking Hats or The Five Dysfunctions of a Team before (among many other things) and even though I may not use them directly very often they’ve already given me new ways of thinking about or approaching things.
  2. The sessions were top quality. There was clearly a lot of work put into the presentations and layout of the sessions and all of the different instructors did a good job of balancing sharing information, encouraging attendee input and group activities.
  3. Talking of groups, the entire cohort was was full of very smart and interesting people from a bunch of different organisations. It’s much easier to be engaged when others are jumping into the discussions and contributing really salient points!

What could have been better?

My only real gripe with the course was to do with expectations around the online modules. We’d been given access to Avado (the platform that the modules were hosted on) early on in the course and I’d logged in and looked around but had held off on starting any of them until receiving more instructions on which to complete and by when (since the session and module titles didn’t match up). It was only a couple of weeks later after talking with other people in the programme that I realised that we all felt confused about what we should be doing, so I decided to bite the bullet and get in touch with the course facilitators to see when we’d be starting the modules. That’s when I found out that we should have already finished the first few.


Cue pretty much the entire group diving into the modules or temporarily skipping ahead to try and catch up.

Now I certainly can’t lay all of the blame at the feet of the organisers; we could probably have gotten in touch earlier when we hadn’t heard any explicit instructions. I also believe that this is the first time this course has been run, so it’s definitely a learning experience for all involved.

In the end it wasn’t a major issue, but it would have been a smoother experience to have been working on the online materials from the very start.

Would I do it again?

Absolutely! Not only did I learn a lot (seriously, I love learning stuff) but I met a lot of really interesting people and got to apply myself in a completely different way than I’m used to. I’ve already been using some of the things I’ve learned day-to-day which is pretty much exactly what you could hope for from a course like this!

I’d definitely recommend the course to anyone who has some interest in change/project management, leadership or business in general, regardless of your current role. Think of how much you’ll learn!

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