The team at Bill Plant Driving School sat down with Shabnam Nadeem, one of its longest-serving Driving Instructors and Driving Instructor trainers, about her extensive journey within the driver trainer industry. Following a successful career in the finance sector, Shabnam trained with Bill Plant Driving School and ran a successful business teaching pupils for many years, and has now become one of its leading ORDIT (Official Register of Driving Instructor Training) trainers.
What made you choose to train to become a Driving Instructor / what job(s) were you doing previously?
After completing my Business & Finance management degree at Manchester University, I went on to start my dream job in the corporate finance sector working with Deutsche Bank in London. Being young, energetic and with the desire to reach the top, I’ve always had the will to thrive in whatever I do. As time progressed, I found myself perfectly fitting into this career, however, life brings with it changes and time doesn’t remain the same forever.
When I got married and had two beautiful children, a daughter and son, the demands placed on me caused a change in direction. A beautiful new chapter in my life came with all the struggles of a working mum, trying to juggle a demanding job role that I loved, whilst being the perfect mother and wife, trying to support my family with all the best things in life.
As time progressed, I realised that my life had become so busy that it became difficult to be the mother I needed to be for my children. I wanted to give my family more of my time, and I just wasn’t able to given my current profession. Considering the circumstances, I decided that I had to make a change in my life. That’s when I decided that I wanted to run my own business, be able to work the hours I wanted, and take time off whenever I needed to – hence, I decided to train to become a Driving Instructor.
At first, I was a little worried, as this was a complete change of career and something that I had never thought of doing, however becoming a Driving Instructor seemed the best option, as it gave me both the flexibility and the time I wanted to be with my children. Having made the leap, I’m absolutely sure that it was the right decision to leave my full-time job to start this venture.
I wouldn’t change this vocation for anything, as I’ve been able to work on my own terms, balancing work and family commitments. It gives me so much joy and happiness when my students achieve their goals, becoming a Driving Instructor was truly the best decision I could have ever made.
Why did you choose to train with/join Bill Plant Driving School?
I initially joined them as a PDI but I started to train as a Driving Instructor in November 2009 with a different company. Upon passing my Part 2 test, I started to review my training options, as I was disappointed with my previous training establishment and I really wanted to train real students before going to sit my ADI Part 3 test. I came across Bill Plant Driving School, which was not as well-known down in the south of England, but strangely it just felt right that I should call and see what options were available.
After speaking to the recruitment team, I made my decision to join as a trainee Driving Instructor. I successfully completed my training and have been with Bill Plant Driving School as an ADI since 2010. The most attractive thing about Bill Plant Driving School was the family feel. The school was very supportive and everyone was there to help me out if I was in need. I was one of the first female Driving Instructors in London with a Bill Plant Driving School car, which got many heads turning!
What is your favourite thing about being a Driving Instructor?
Transferring knowledge to your students and seeing them succeed with their learning goals is without a doubt the best part of the job. When my students smile and feel immense happiness having passed their tests, I feel I have truly accomplished my goals.
What are the biggest challenges of being a Driving Instructor, how do you look to overcome these?
I feel the biggest challenge that instructors can face is intimidation on the roads. Sometimes, depending on the learner driver, things may become stressful out on the road. You may have a student who suffers from anxiety, who has difficulty remaining composed when other drivers are behaving poorly. It’s a real shame that these drivers don’t see the implications of behaving in this way, but it is our job as instructors to ensure our learners remain completely focused on their learning objectives.
Another challenge is keeping fit and healthy, due to long hours sitting in the car. There are both physical and mental health considerations that instructors should take into account. To address these concerns, I chose to go on a diet and exercise plan in January, as I felt my health had declined due to the various lockdowns. This gave me much more energy and improved both my physical and mental wellbeing.
In what was often considered a male-dominated industry, how do you reflect on being a successful female Driving Instructor?
The days are long gone now, where certain job roles were considered to be male-orientated. While I do realise that there is still, to this date, discrimination against females in certain roles, working in the corporate banking sector gave me the confidence and motivation to do better and to prove that such notions are totally wrong. I was working in a very male-dominated role but still succeeded in my aims.
I feel that the role of a Driving Instructor, is actually very well suited to females and there are many who have excellent careers in the industry. Many female Driving Instructors have been able to demonstrate the patience and perseverance required for the various students that they are teaching. Having both these traits are key to becoming a successful Driving Instructor and I’m pleased to see so many females have made this career a success.
What inspired you to become an ORDIT trainer?
PETER BRABIN! (Editors note: Peter is Bill Plant Driving School’s Head of Training!)
I am someone that always wants to get to the top of everything I do. Achieving one thing is not enough for me and I strive to do better in all aspects of my career. It’s in my nature to help others to the best of my ability, hence I felt that the role of an ORDIT Trainer would really suit my aspirations. “Transfer of knowledge” as Peter Brabin says, is the main inspiration – it’s so true! Sharing your knowledge with others is truly the best feeling.
How do you feel training Potential Driving Instructors (PDIs) differs from teaching learner drivers?
Both roles are completely different! There is no doubt that training a PDI can be very challenging compared to teaching a learner driver, due to the greater complexities involved in becoming a successful Driving Instructor.
Teaching a learner driver to pass their test, helps them to achieve their dreams of becoming more independent in their life, with a newfound ability to drive their cars to work, college or university. Training a PDI similarly helps them to achieve their dreams, in this context, their dream career, which has the potential to completely change their lives.
I do very much enjoy teaching both learner drivers and PDIs, as this helps to keep me motivated and knowledgeable. Both are equally satisfying and it brings me joy to see them all go on and achieve their personal goals!
What is the biggest achievement of your career/any sentimental stories you’d like to share in relation to your profession?
I feel that I have many achievements in my role, but there is always one that stands out to me as it is close to my heart. A lady who I taught around 8 years ago, had tried with many instructors to help her achieve her goal of being able to drive to see her grandchildren.
She came to the UK when she was young and spent her life around her family and children. She had always wanted to drive but never had enough money to learn and gave priority to her family needs. Many instructors had turned her down due to English not being her first language which discouraged her from learning altogether. Moreover, her family were not supportive either and would always discourage her from taking on this new skill!
In my dictionary, there are no such words as ‘cannot do’ – so when she approached me, I took this as a personal challenge, adamant that I would make her dream come true. It was indeed a challenge, however, 3 tests later she passed her practical test with flying colours! I will never forget her tears when the examiner told her that she had passed. Her dream had become a reality, and as she cried and hugged me in gratitude, she told me she would never forget me and always thought of me as her own daughter, as I was the only one who helped her, despite knowing that she may not get through due to the language barrier.
To this date, I still see her driving around in her 4X4! Isn’t she just amazing? It’s times like this that make this job role very rewarding 😊
What are your thoughts on the future of the driver training industry/post covid?
We have a very strong industry, as more and more people are looking to join this profession. It is a very flexible and rewarding career. Right now the industry is thriving and many people will want to learn how to drive. The future of driver training looks very promising!
From everyone here at Bill Plant Driving School, we would like to thank Shabnam for her time speaking with us and for her continued service. We very much look forward to many more years working with her in the future. To join Shabnam and many more of our amazing instructors and learn how to become a driving instructor, start your driving instructor training with Bill Plant Driving School today!