Mediaplanet: What inspired you to go back to school?
Nikki Mountford: I was looking for a deeper understanding and further application in my current field of work. There was also a significant draw of learning with likeminded individuals, as well as developing a community of practice through the network of resources and shared knowledge with fellow students. Another reason was to experience a formalized learning program to determine if I wanted to return to full time studies, and if I could do so while maintaining a work life balance.
James Garrow: Being a private investigator was something I thought about before,  I did a lot of research, and I liked what I saw so I signed up for the online course.

I enjoyed the courses and instructors, and I was really looking forward to getting back into school after being away for over 30 years. I live in rural Saskatchewan, so being able to do online courses was key. The instructors really helped me get into it and coached me along the way.  Even though it was online, they were always actively engaged, making the whole experience great.

MP: How has continuing your education enabled you to advance your career?
NM: The knowlege and experience I gain through continuing my education enables me to be a stronger leader and a collaborative and confident decision maker in my organization. I have moved from a team lead to a manager within a short period of time and am continuing to increase the capacity and accountabilities of my portfolio. My confidence has increased in the role I have in the department, and the direction I am providing is supported by experience and education which go hand in hand. 
JG: For me, this is a career change. I was in the oil industry for over 30 years, working around the world doing offshore drilling, so this is a big difference.

I like that being a private investigator means being able to work from home. And this career also allows for you to make time for other things in your life if you wish.

MP: Based on your experience, why is it important to go back to school even when in an established career?
NM: 
Everything we do, including our careers, is in some form of continuous change and improvement. Even with an established career it is important to continue to learn and expand your knowledge in your chosen field to stay competitive within your organization and job market. Continuing to learn helps prevent becoming redundant as knowledge supports innovation and inspiration that could lead to other opportunities in your career that you may not have been aware of. 
JG: I think it’s important to go back to school, especially later in life, because it gives you a different perspective. As you get older you need something you can do, and becoming a private investigator is a feasible option. It’s also not as physically demanding as some other jobs, so it’s a great option for some people getting on in their years.

MP: How has pursuing a new degree of interest transformed your career goals?

"Even with an established career it is important to continue to learn and expand your knowledge in your chosen field to stay competitive within your organization and job market."

NM: I find that I am looking at so many different facets in the role I have, as well as where I would like to see myself in another 5 years. It also confirmed, that I am in the right field and that I have such a passion for what I do. In fact, I find that the drive has increased and I am excited when looking where my career goals may take me down the road. My horizon has certainly been broadened by the education but also by the many opportunities presented through the networks created within the various programs I have completed.
JG: Eventually it’s what I want to do, and you need the Private Investigation certificate in order to be licensed. It’s a practical certificate, and I’ve noticed that there is a large demand for this kind of work, so that’s great.

MP: What opportunities have come forth since going back to school?
NM: Developing and being a part of a network of instructors, colleagues and industry experts has been invaluable. Through this network I have been fortunate in meeting my mentor though one of the courses that I completed as she was the instructor. The guidance and support I receive is a constant positive influence as I continue to navigate through my career and continued education. 

Since continuing my education I have participated as part of an international collaboration for online learning in universities across many countries as a result of the experience, knowledge and networking through my continued learning. I also designed and continue to facilitate workplace learning sessions focused on understanding adult learning styles, presentation skills/classroom management and adult learning theories for participants within our organization who are responsible for providing training, presentations and facilitations of workshops.  Further opportunities such as publishing, participation in conferences, presentations, consortiums and initiatives have been presented.
JG: I am finishing my oil field work and then will be using my degree shortly in the future.

MP: Any plans to further your degree or explore a new field of interest in the future?
NM: 
Absolutely.  Completing my first continuing education certificate online gave me the confidence to look at a graduate program. I am now at the midpoint of completing my MEd Interdisciplinary at the University of Calgary with a focus on educational technology and inclusive learning. This program is completely online and is one of the best experiences I have had to date.
JG: Not at the present, but I’m always open to learning and new opportunities. I’m excited to consider taking other courses, and I know that I could definitely go back to school.