Practitioner Diploma / “I loved the community and sense of supportive learning”

21st June by Lee Robertson

Reading time 7 minutes

Share this article:

Twitter LinkedIn
Ashley Proud, AoEC's Practitioner Diploma graduate

With an extensive background spanning two decades working in leadership roles in a variety of humanitarian contexts across the world, Ashley Proud is now an accredited executive coach offering personalised coaching and consulting to individuals and teams. We were delighted to talk about her experience of coach training on the AoEC’s Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching and her work through Proud Coaching and Consulting.

Your professional background has been in leadership roles in a variety of humanitarian contexts. Who or what introduced you to coaching and led to you signing up for coach training with the AoEC?

While I was working for a humanitarian organisation in Syria, I was part of a leadership programme and I was assigned a coach as part of that process. I loved the experience and learned a lot about myself and my leadership style. My first job, before humanitarian and development work, was as an occupational psychologist and I have always been fascinated by human behaviour and what motivates us to do what we do, so when I was introduced to the idea of coaching, I started dreaming about becoming a coach!

I loved the idea of helping clients really dig deeper into their understanding of themselves and work through tough issues. Specifically, I started dreaming about being a coach focused on working with humanitarian and human rights professionals - I really saw the value in being an informed, experienced coach with an aid work background.

I found out about AoEC through my own coach - this was 2018 and I was back in my native Scotland on maternity leave with my second son and thinking again about making a career shift towards coaching. AoEC was hosting a course in Edinburgh, and I was excited about the way that they really encouraged the development of your own, unique coaching model and approach. They seemed less prescriptive and more creative and open than other coach training groups. I was really excited to sign up for the AoEC Practitioner Diploma course and to learn more!

What were some of the positives and challenges you experienced while doing the diploma?

I loved the community and sense of supportive learning that I experienced as part of the diploma course. I was in a time of real transition myself, and it really was a leap out of my comfort zone to join the group. I was used to international humanitarian work and I was worried that I might not fit in. I found our cohort to be really warm, welcoming and interesting. Our coach trainers, John and Kay really made us feel safe to explore this new skill and to be vulnerable in front of each other. I particularly enjoyed learning in person, as it helped me to feel closer to others in the group, we really got to know each other. I was juggling two little kids and supporting a sick parent at the time, and so there was a lot of pressure from my personal life! Coach training was a safe and exciting space that was just mine. I also loved the opportunity to be reflective, introspective and really think about my own motivations and coaching style.

What is your top advice to others considering coach training?

Do your research and be clear about what you really want from your coaching training. There are so many offers out there. Factors such as remote vs. in person, the length of the training, and the coaching approach are all important. I would also say that it’s important to take on coach training when you really have the time and headspace to do it. The process is quite intense and you will get more out of it if you are not trying to balance many other priorities and can give yourself the reflective time that you need to get the most out of the experience.

Looking back at doing your diploma, what has been its lasting impact on you as a person and you as a coach?

On reflection, that time of my life was really pivotal. It was a time of change and looking back, I can see that completing the diploma was a first really significant step out of the humanitarian aid work world and into this new phase in my career and life where I have my own business and have a lot more balance in my life. 

Can you tell us more about your personal coaching model and how this has evolved since doing the diploma?

I looked back at my notes from my diploma recently and it’s really interesting to see how I developed my coaching model. It’s also interesting that really little has changed - the elements that I identified as really critical in 2018 are still at the forefront of my mind when I work with my current clients.

Firstly, I coach from a place of compassion and curiosity. Compassion has driven many of my life and career choices, and so has curiosity! I travelled to Rwanda back in 1998 and learned about the genocide that had happened just a few years before. I remember being so struck by that sense of evil that drove people to do such terrible things. That curiosity is partly what drew me into humanitarian work, and it motivates me as a coach too. I’m always curious about what motivates the terrible and wonderful things that we do.

Secondly, I coach from a deep interest in my clients, their motivations and their desires. Thirdly, I coach with a huge amount of respect for my clients’ inner worlds - I believe that we are all drawn to light and positivity and that intention and light exists in all of us. I coach to help people find the light within themselves.

You now work as a team and leadership coach with your own practice Proud Coaching and Consulting; can you tell us about the type of clients you are working with?

Right now, I work with a huge range of clients from all over the world! Most of my clients are working in humanitarian or human rights organisations. Right now, I am working with clients from Singapore, Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Mexico, the US and the UK. It’s wonderful to have so many different cultural elements in my coaching relationships and I am constantly, constantly learning. I am also working with teams in non-profit organisations in New Mexico, where I live now, and I am finding this work to be extremely rewarding - combining individual perspectives with the synergy of a wider team is really exciting, and I’d love to do more team coaching.

What are some of the issues and opportunities you coach people around?

Many of my clients are in a time of transition - many of them are moving into or seeking a more senior role at work. Some of them are in a time of personal change, and they are seeking a different direction personally or professionally.

One issue that is common across all my clients is overwhelm and burnout. Humanitarian work is very demanding and often involves working in challenging places and with people who have suffered a lot of trauma. And the pace of work just keeps increasing - the advent of more online meetings is making things even more intense for many of my clients.

In terms of opportunities, I would say most of my clients are incredibly resourceful and positive people - they are constantly evolving and seeking the light in themselves that allows them to be a positive force in the world. I love that energy and that is what keeps me coaching.

You also recently joined the Mercy Corp coaching bench. Can you please share some more information about the coaching you will be doing as part of that?

I worked for Mercy Corps for eight years, so I am particularly passionate about joining their coaching bench! I am really enjoying coaching as part of their Next Gen programme, which is a leadership development programme conducted every year with emerging leaders from all over the world. I am also available for coaching referrals from any of the Mercy Corps teams - sometimes team members seek out coaching as part of their own personal development or to help them manage specific transitions.

You have gone onto be accredited with the ICF at ACC level. Why was becoming accredited important to you and what value has it brought your practice?

When I completed the diploma, I felt that it was really important to maintain my professional accreditation as a coach and to formally link with the ICF. There are a lot of coaches out there and clients are seeking more evidence of professional qualifications and ongoing development. I also enjoy engaging with ICF Chapters wherever I live in order to grow more of a network and to find opportunities for coach mentoring and supervision. It’s a good way to link into my coaching tribe. I am now working towards PCC accreditation and I’m really enjoying the continued growth that comes with that.

Can you share a success story or testimonial from one of your clients that highlights the impact of your coaching?

This is a testimonial from a client named Florian, a human rights worker that I had the pleasure of coaching last year:

"I sought Ashley's coaching service for two major topics that were concerning me: my mid-term career development and a very concrete staff management challenge I was facing at the time. Ashley was the perfect coach for me to work with on both topics. With her expertise and empathetic approach, she enabled me to develop new perspectives and find clarity and confidence in my decisions. It was extremely helpful to know that Ashley has an extensive professional background in the non-profit sector, which gave me a strong sense of connection with her from the start and made it easier to open up. For me, working with a coach like Ashley, whom I knew understood my situation and therefore being able to ask the right questions, was tremendously beneficial in my journey. I wholeheartedly recommend doing a coaching with Ashley and she remains my top choice for any future career coaching endeavours."

What do you find most rewarding about your work as a coach?

Definitely the sense of joy that comes when a client has a breakthrough and you can see the light dawn over their faces! Those ‘ah-ha’ moments are so precious. I love knowing that my clients are out there doing wonderful things in the world and I like to think that coaching can help keep them resilient, purposeful and whole. That’s a huge motivation for me.

Our deepest thanks to Ashley for sharing her personal journey and experience of coach training at the AoEC.