From Nurse to Technology to Fish – meet MADE Cymru’s Mike Swanson


Anyone studying a MADE Cymru course might have met Mike Swanson. Or at least heard his voice in an online class. Mike assembles the Microsoft Teams, creates the Friday webinar events, sends the invites, monitors the live events, promptly responds to student messages, creates, and oversees Zoom events, updates the Moodle pages, keeps the register, manages the CRM database, creates extravagant Excel spreadsheets, and helps Amanda Hayden out (another MADE Cymru star).

Mike is passionate about continuous improvement and that makes him a fantastic advocate for learning and studying. In a rare moment of quiet, we made Mike a coffee (we knew this would go down well) and asked him a bit about himself. What we uncovered was both surprising and impressive!

Mike’s continuous improvement journey

I have an interesting list of qualifications. I’m always telling students to keep learning and not to be afraid to follow their interests. I think my own education history is quite eclectic! Are you ready for this? My qualifications read as follows:

SEN (M) – State Enrolled Nurse, Mental – Psychiatric Discipline

HND – Higher National Diploma in Business Administration

BA (Hons) – Batchelor of Arts Joint Honours, Management Informatics

PGCE – Post Graduate Certificate of Education, Adult Education

MSc – Master of Science, Learning Technologies

CIPD – two different Foundation Certs in Management and Leadership, and Human Resources

Microsoft Faculty Fellow

Microsoft Innovative Educator

AECDL – Advanced European Computer Driving License

RSA II – Royal Society of Arts Certificate in Word Processing, Part II

PRINCE II – PRojects IN Controlled Environments

Oh, and I’ve done a lot of little courses and online learning with Edinburgh, Purdue and Duke Universities as well as Coursera, Moodle (the organisation) and digital badges with Mozilla Foundation. Plus, stuff like First Aid at Work, Food Health & Hygiene, Secondary Swimming and……. BRITIAN’S BEST FISHKEEPER! (more about that later).

Mike’s work history

My work history will hopefully provide some context to my qualifications. After qualifying, I was a nurse at Cefn Coed Psychiatric Hospital in Swansea and several private nursing homes throughout the 1990s. Fortunately I don’t have many photos of this as I was also going through a whole series of experimental hairstyles at the time.

I spent ten years as a Psychiatric Nurse before retraining in Business Administration (HND) and Management Informatics (BA Hons) which resulted in a few years in several companies including back into the NHS as a GP Practice Manager.

Eventually I started a career in education IT training at University of Wales Trinity Saint David. I spent over 16 years moving through IT, Personnel, Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) before joining the MADE Cymru project.

Nursing to business is quite a jump?

Although I loved nursing, working in business had always appealed to me. And during studying all aspects of business, I discovered I was rather good at remembering computerised processes, which is what base level IT is all about. So, I drifted into IT.

Although nursing does sound very different to what I do now, I believe the communication skills and patience I learnt in nursing have helped me when working with academics and students. I’m also very passionate about supporting wellbeing in the workplace and my psychiatric training helps me understand why people feel and behave how they do.

What advice would you give to students?

Keep reading, read everything, something will stick eventually. Also use ONENOTE to store, process, compile and retrieve all your information. Don’t feel you have to be stuck in one career. I am proof that you can change paths at any time. All skills are transferable and if anything, it will make what you offer unique.

Speak to a lot of people who are doing things you think you might be interested in to see what they like and dislike about the job and how they prepared to enter that field themselves.

Do you have any future learning plans?

Currently I am considering the Master of Innovative Education at Microsoft Academy but there is a lot of prep involved, I have not yet committed to it. I’m always looking for new things to learn – can’t you tell!

What single thing do you wish you could tell your younger self?

Don’t have kids but write books for children; particularly featuring teenage wizards, there’s some excellent career advice

How did you become Britain’s Best Fishkeeper? Tell us more!

Officially my title is ‘Trop Idol’ but the editor of Practical Fishkeeping Magazine, Jeremy Gay, called me ‘Britain’s Best Fishkeeper’, so I use that. I have kept fish since I was 12 when my younger sister brought a goldfish home from the fair and could not care for it. I took over. I have always had one or more aquaria since then, most was 5 at one time. Practical Fishkeeping advertised a contest to promote the magazine and I signed up. I was lucky enough to be selected to participate and competed with four other aquarists in a series of contests to create appealing aquaria that the readership voted on. I think I won because I presented a ‘Native Rock Pool’ as my Marine entry which anyone in reach of the coast could re-create for practically free.

What are your hobbies?

Tropical Fishkeeping, reading and creative writing, Cosplay, 3D printing, arts and crafts generally, computer & board gaming, cookery.

Any final life highlights you’d like to mention?

My wife and children. Definitely. I wouldn’t have got anywhere without them. Also, my achievement of ‘Britain’s Best Fishkeeper’ in 2008 (did I mention that!) and finally my sense of humour that keeps me getting out of bed every morning.

You can meet Mike and the rest of the MADE Cymru team if you sign up to one of our fully funded courses starting on June 10th. CLICK HERE for a leaflet outlining the courses, but please let us know if you’d like to arrange a chat with one of the tutors or if you have any questions we can help with.  Please contact us on 01792 481199 or [email protected] to find out more. Or complete the contact form below.

MADE Cymru courses are fully funded by the European Social Fund through the Welsh Government. Delivered by University of Wales Trinity Saint David.