For the first interview of the year, I’d like to introduce a seasoned member of IATEFL BESIG. Many of us will remember Oksana Hera from her voluntary work on the BOT, and I wonder how much you know about her as a teacher. Let’s find out!
Oksana Hera is a business English and intercultural communication trainer from Lviv, Ukraine. She helps professionals to improve their communication in teams. Her interests also lie in enhancing in-company training and learners’ motivation.
Tell us about what went on behind the scenes during your time on the BOT (IATEFL BESIG online team)?
I joined the BOT before the online symposium in 2017 and immediately realised how much work goes unnoticed. The BOT was constantly at work preparing webinars, annual conference simulcasts, IATEFL BESIG EVO offerings, and managing the social media. At that time, the new IATEFL BESIG website was being launched and the team had to transfer all the materials to the new platform. That was when I rediscovered the IATELF BESIG members’ area: a treasure trove of information on how the community has evolved and how the understanding of business English has been changing over the decades. IATEFL BESIG has managed to maintain its continuity for almost four decades. Truly fascinating!
After March 2020, the work of the BOT became even more prominent. With all the expertise of the BOT and the IATEFL BESIG volunteers, we managed to pull off an amazing online conference, the first ever annual online conference for IATEFL BESIG.
Do you feel the investment (both monetary and time) you made in going to conferences across Europe has paid off?
Well, Mandy, I suppose we all have a different understanding of ‘pay off’ and the benefit we expect to get once we invest in something. To start with, I feel extremely grateful for the opportunity to travel and learn: it’s truly a gift from above for me. It has given me an invaluable insight not only into what is happening in our industry worldwide, but also what life is like for people in the countries and cities that IATEFL BESIG has taken us to. This becomes even more true now that we are in the second year of the pandemic restrictions. One of my last trips was to the conference in Berlin and I can’t describe how much I’m looking forward to meeting everyone again, as we now say, offline. There are things that can’t be measured by the investments you make.
How did your experience with IATEFL BESIG impact your professional situation in Ukraine?
Ever since I joined IATEFL BESIG in 2013, I’ve been inspired by the fact that I’ve found a community that nurtures each other’s growth. Every time I returned from a face-to-face event I was ready to take the next step in my career: from committing to a long-term project with a new client to quitting the job that no longer allowed me to practise what I believed in.
IATEFL BESIG has helped me become who I am as a professional, being part of it has empowered me to accept challenges and stand up for what is best for my learners and their growth. For one thing, I’m not sure I would have ever started speaking at international events had it not been for IATEFL BESIG.
You have given many talks and workshops. How do you come up with a topic?
I sometimes think that giving a talk is a good excuse to explain to others why you’re going to yet another conference. Speaking of the topics, they often come last. First, I try to explore the audience and what they would find of interest. After that I look at the cases I could share with our community from my learners’ experience, and then I try to describe what would be the key idea I want to get across. This seems also like a perfect moment to thank all my learners and clients who have kindly allowed me to use their stories and materials in my presentations. None of these would have been possible without their support.
Who do you teach and how do you tailor your courses to your clients’ needs?
I mostly work with professionals from the IT industry, as there’s a huge need for everyday communication in English there. The way we identify the needs and adapt to them is through constant exchange of information, even between the sessions, numerous questions and a lot of listening on my part. I also try to maintain a high-level of flexibility, up to the point when the learner can join the class and we put aside everything planned for the day and start working on the task which they have to complete urgently. It’s much harder with group sessions, for sure, but with realistic planning, adequate time management and the right learning environment, that has also proven to be possible.
You teach, you blog, you volunteer, you are really active in our field: how do you manage your time so well and do you have any free time?
I know it may look scary at first sight: in my reality all these activities are interconnected, they complement each other and, frankly, they are more of a passion than work. It’s also a great exercise in setting your priorities and learning to say ‘no’ to things you can’t connect with at a certain stage in your life.
Without free time there would be no inspiration for anything: we all need it to unwind and have quality time. In this respect, I am forever indebted to my family for all the support and for being there with me every step of the way.
Tell us about some fond memories you have had over the years with IATEFL BESIG.
My first ever talk in Birmingham when my mentor introduced me to the life at IATEFL, the strolls in sunny Munich, Brighton, and Liverpool, watching the storm in Malta after packing the conference bags, and trudging through snow on the runway in Iasi, setting up simulcast equipment in Berlin and enjoying some delicious cake at the top of the German Parliament building. There are so many of them both from face-to-face and online reality and I treasure them all because of the wonderful people. And a cherry on top is that at IATEFL BESIG you don’t just join the event or talk to people when you have time, you make time for people and IATEFL BESIG.
I truly believe that the beauty of IATEFL BESIG is that it is a part of something bigger, the huge IATEFL community. Once you come to any IATEFL event, you are bound to make friends and bump into colleagues in many cities around the globe.
Questions by Mandy Welfare
Editing by Elizabeth Molt
16 January 2022
MEET A MEMBER is available to IATEFL BESIG members and non-members alike but only features our current members. Another reason to join us and “BE with BESIG.”