Student Stories

i-coach has welcomed students from a wide range of backgrounds and sectors – from leaders, HR and learning professionals, to existing coaches, psychologists and therapists – all seeking to enhance their coaching practice and articulate their unique approach and style of coaching.

Many are also seeking to benefit from benchmarking their practice through our accredited post-graduate programmes, and some choose to progress to a full qualification delivered in association with the Institute of Work Based Learning at Middlesex University.

The stories below are the result of interviews conducted by an independent journalist. Alumni were asked why they chose to study with i-coach.

What key learnings they take from the course? What makes i-coach different from other courses? And what advice would they give to those considering joining to get the most out of the programmes?

Katie Hodgson, General Manager Supply/Demand Excellence at Shell

Current organisation and role:
Business mentor and coach
Organisation and role before starting the course: General Manager Supply/Demand Excellence at Shell
Dates of study: September 2011 to March 2012
Programme level: Foundation
Previous education: degree-level


Katie Hodgson initially took the Foundation in Coaching Practice programme just to improve her mentoring skills, but came away convinced she wanted to coach professionally.

“I really liked the i-coach approach – you learn something and then you go and practice it. It’s the perfect experiential cycle of learning. That was brilliant because that’s exactly my learning style.”

Transformational way of learning

“I was surprised how much you could learn by doing rather than by having theories thrust at you – it’s transformational. But it is essential you are open-minded. You need to be honest with yourself, willing to try something that you think won’t work, because it might. And even if it doesn’t, that doesn’t matter, because you’re finding out what works for your own individual coaching style.”

Developing a clear coaching style gives you results

“Since completing the course I’m willing to call myself a coach, which is a huge change because I wouldn’t have used that word before. I now love coaching and I want to be able to spend a significant portion of my time doing it. The programme has made me convinced that a coaching style will lead to greater success in whatever you’re doing. I’m absolutely convinced having a clear coaching style gives you results.”

A very personal approach

“i-coach as an organisation feels like they are interested in the individual, instead of trying to get hundreds of people through the door. It’s very personal and you get a lot of quality attention, and I think that’s a real strength. It’s not a cookie-cutter approach; instead you have an adult responsibility to get out of it what you put into it. I like to be pushed, but I want to choose which path to be pushed down, which is what you get. There’s a real community with the faculty and the cohort, so you never feel like you are being told what to do. It’s about sharing experiences and sharing learning.”

Paul, director of resources for a statutory body in the healthcare sector

Current organisation and role: Director of Resources for a statutory body in the healthcare sector
Organisation and role when starting the course: Operations Lead in the healthcare sector
Dates of study: November 2010 to March 2011
Programme level: Foundation


Paul is the director of resources for a statutory body in the healthcare sector. He joined the Foundation programme because he wanted to build on his informal learning and attain a recognised qualification.

“I engage with people in a different way now – I feel I’m better at following the individual’s issues and needs and better at helping them explore them without direct input from me. In my career now there are more circumstances where I can have a coaching conversation rather than a managerial one to help people through an issue.”

Excellent teaching

“The quality of the teaching and supervision was excellent, and the core materials were well presented. I found the group work was interesting and challenging, and the faculty were nice people, which of course makes a difference too. There was a good combination of course material that was reassuringly familiar, but also new approaches and applications that challenged and stretched me.”

Learning to articulate a coaching style

“One of the biggest challenges was to let go of pre-conceived ideas of how to work which I’d previously relied on. For example, I felt I needed to move away from storytelling and become less instructive, less analytical, stepping back and making room for the coachee to talk. Not sharing as much was quite a change to make. I can also articulate my coaching approach far more clearly.”

Be diligent and analytical

“My advice to new students would be to get as much coaching practice as possible, be very diligent and analytical when taking notes of your coaching experiences, because that way you will get the most out of it.”

Helen Morris, Independent Coach

Current organisation and role: Independent coach and business development consultancy
Organisation and role when starting the course: as above
Dates of study: September 2009 to May 2011
Programme level: Certificate
Previous education: HND physics, advanced coach training program at Coach U, and much CPD


Helen Morris studied the Certificate in Coaching Practice and says it developed her into a more professional coach who better understands her own personal approach to coaching.

“I chose i-coach because they help you look at what you personally draw on as a coach to create a ‘framework’ which integrates the learning and life experiences that you have. What this programme enables you to do is really develop your concept of who you are as a coach and what coaching means to you and your clients in such a way that you can continue to integrate new experiences and learning in a rigorous and reflective manner.

And I chose this programme because a friend said it was demanding and rigorous. I really wanted rigor, I really wanted to be challenged and sort out what was important and what was less so.”

Building a coaching framework

“What I hold most dear is that I have come away with a coaching framework that I can draw on; that is to say, a clear understanding of who I am and how I practice as a coach. This framework is something structured that I can compare with new input from CPD and client feedback, and which I can talk about with my clients and prospective clients. I test myself against it again and again and again. With each and every coaching relationship conversation, I can go back and look at and reflect on, ‘Was that what I did? How does that sit with who I am? What was different? What does that mean to my coaching? How do I grow as a coach as a result of that?’

My framework is a reflection of my whole foundation now. I’ve grown from somebody who borrowed from other people’s techniques and ideas, to a coach who understands what’s important in my practice and can integrate new ideas into the framework through reflective practice.”

In-depth analysis of personal style

“One thing I was surprised about was how you take your current coaching practice apart – that was really challenging and more in-depth than I expected. It’s a very intensive learning cycle, you need an open mind and a real strong desire to learn not just about coaching practice but about who you are and what you bring to coaching.”

A respectful faculty founded on excellent knowledge

“The quality and knowledge of the faculty is excellent. They are respectful and open, and create a strong space for personal learning. The key strength of the programme is the approach, which enabled me to research my own practice and turn me from somebody who coaches, into a professional who really understands what they do and why they do it and what their clients get from it.”

Hamid Tavassoly, Civil Servant

Current organisation and role: civil servant including a coaching role
Organisation and role when starting the course: as above
Dates of study: April 2008 to May 2012
Programme level: Foundation, Certificate then Masters
Previous education: BSc, MSc, MBA, Chartered Engineer


Hamid Tavassoly has completed the Foundation, Certificate and Masters programmes, and says he has learned from some of the very best names in coaching.

“I chose this course because I wanted something with real depth that really challenged and pushed me. i-coach’s approach fundamentally really sat well with me because their philosophy is that there is no singular way of doing coaching. You’ve got to discover your own signature coaching style and it’s got to be something authentically you.”

Commitment to learning

“What really stands out is the high standard and the rigor of the programme. The faculty really is at the forefront of coaching. If you were going to name the best 20 people to teach you from the world of coaching, you’ve got many of them here. And the programme is a testament to their commitment to learning. They won’t take you on if they don’t think it will work for you, because they are committed to offering the best coaching programme possible. Also, I chose i-coach because of the connection with a university. It was important to me that there was a university accreditation, as it is demonstrative of the rigor and depth of the course.”

Authentic coaching

“The breadth and depth of the programme which combines both theoretical and practical coaching together with reflective learning was really great. On a personal level there’s definitely a great deal of learning about yourself, and this is really important for a coach. You really need to be solid as a coach because you’re going in there and dealing with other people’s lives, so you need to be quite anchored about who you are and be very self-aware.

“One challenge is finding enough time to study, practice and reflect. For people like me who were on full-time employment, that was quite challenging. You need to put a lot of energy and yourself into it to get the most out of it.”

Stuart Whalley, UK HR Strategy Manager E.ON

Current organisation and role: UK HR Strategy Manager E.ON
Organisation and role when starting the course: as above
Dates of study: 2007 to 2012
Programme level: Certificate then Masters
Previous education: BA Hons Business Studies


Stuart Whalley is the UK HR Strategy Manager for E.ON. He said the exceptional quality of the faculty has completely changed the way he sees his coaching practice. He studied the Certificate then Masters programme.

“I was attracted to i-coach because of the strong experiential element and the way it asked me to bring ownership of my own learning. It was about examining my actual actions, not just what I said I thought I could do. The course had good academic theory, but was also about my own application of that learning, allowing me to start applying it very quickly for my organisation’s benefit.”

Exceptional understanding

“The faculty are exceptional in their understanding of how to frame coaching methods in something that makes sense to people. They have a really well thought out, academically robust method for helping people understand their coaching process.”

Self-discovery and exciting insights

“What surprised me was how much self-discovery there would be, it constantly challenges your pre-conceived ideas about the world. That’s so exciting – that’s why you’re there. There are new insights cropping up all the time – it’s addictive.

Articulating my framework

“What I’ve learned is that I can be absolutely explicit to clients about how I operate, the types of people I work with, what results they say I get, and what a client can expect in terms of experience. That’s something I couldn’t articulate before the programme. And it has reinforced my confidence that I am doing the right thing, and making sure I do not cause harm to clients, organisations or myself.”

A major commitment

“I bring my coaching expertise to all my work now, and it’s helped me shape my career aspirations to work with teams, individuals and organisations to develop and grow. That’s not something I could have done without the programme.

“The Masters is a major commitment of time, but if you are passionate about learning a lot more about yourself so you can really help others change, sign up.”

Louise Sheppard, Independent Coach

Current organisation and role: Director of Clarity, Clarity, Clarity Limited
Dates of study: 2005 to 2009
Programme level: Masters
Previous education: BSc in Economics and Politics, Bristol University. Post graduate Diploma in Personnel Management


Louise Sheppard wanted to build on her 15 years of coaching experience and get real insight into her own practice. She says working with i-coach has developed her confidence as a coach and helped her move from working on a freelance basis to running her own coaching and supervision business.

High calibre thought leaders

“What i-coach does is very high calibre – I don’t think you are exposed to such gurus in the field on other courses. Ernesto Spinelli, Bruce Peltier and Anton Obholzer in particular were fantastic, bright thought leaders, and it is stimulating to study with them.

“What also stood out was the way i-coach provided supervision, which I think is absolutely essential. Some courses just leave it up to the individual, but I think it is vital to experience good quality supervision.”

Flexible learning to match your lifestyle

“I liked the way the course wasn’t focused on just one model. Instead it allowed me to reflect on what I was doing. I’d already been coaching for 15 years, so it gave me the opportunity to build on what I had learnt to date, question it, understand what my theoretical underpinnings were and to develop a more robust framework.

“There’s no doubt that it’s a big commitment of time. It’s not just the module days; you need a lot of time for practice, reading, assimilating and reflection. You need a willingness to learn outside the course – you need that curiosity and openness to challenging the fundamental beliefs you have about yourself. But what also appealed to me about i-coach was the flexibility of the timescales. You can take time out between the different programmes. I did because I was working full time and had to consider my family’s needs too.”

Academically challenging and respected in industry

“What really surprised me was how enjoyable it was to do the MA. I thought it could have been a bit of a grind. While the programme is academic and challenging, it is also practical and fun. Doing the research for my MA enabled me to spend time on a topic that interested me¬ – coaching women – and to publish an article and speak at conferences. My MA gave me an area of expertise in the coaching field which I can build upon.

“I’ve noticed that the i-coach framework and approach is recognised by key organsiations, such as Smithkline Beecham, Standard Bank and the NHS. Some organisations have drawn upon the i-coach approach in their own coach assessment processes. Having been through i-coach’s rigorous assessment process, I notice that I am not phased by employer’s assessment processes. i-coach gave me an excellent grounding in preparing and surviving coach assessment. I’m very grateful to i-coach for that.”

Sam Humphrey, Independent Coach

Current organisation and role: One of the founding partners of Moller PSF Group Cambridge and head of the Coaching Special Interest Group and founder and owner of Grit Ltd a coaching, supervision and leadership consultancy
Role when studying with i-coach: Global Head of Coaching for Unilever
Dates of study: 2003 – 2005
Programme level: Professional Masters in Coaching
Previous education: Post-grad


Sam Humphrey graduated from i-coach’s Masters programme seven years ago, and here explains how joining the academy has played a major role in shaping her career since then.

“When I was looking to learn more about coaching, there wasn’t as much choice of courses as there is nowadays but I knew I wanted something that would give me a qualification or training ‘currency’ that everybody would understand. I wanted academic rigour at a time when accreditation of coach training really was in its infancy, and the faculty that i-coach offered was very impressive. Even now, I don’t think many other academic programmes on coaching are as good as i-coach. It has held its position very well and I’ve got nothing but great things to say about my experience of the Masters programme.”

“During my time at Unilever, I had done a lot of coaching training and this had been very process-driven. I then took on the role of Global Head of Coaching and wanted to make sure I knew more about coaching and this was why I wanted a programme that was credible. The course hugely exceeded my expectations in that there was so much more that I was able to translate into practice and take back into my job.”

A course of real depth

“It was the breadth and depth of the programme that I found most impressive. Many people in my cohort were doing the programme because they wanted to become professional coaches but while I did do coaching at Unilever, my role was much more about managing the strategic infrastructure of coaching and acting more as an internal coaching consultant. That meant helping the business think about the type of coaching that fitted into the global leadership offering, the key touchstones we needed to hold across the business, that is, our standards around coaching, how we selected external coaches, and how we trained internal coaches, and so on.

“I had high expectations of the programme giving me a lot in terms of how to be a coach but I hadn’t expected to glean so much learning about how to manage coaching and how to think about it from an organisational point of view.”

Paving the way for a coaching career

“After leaving Unilever and completing the Masters, I set up my own coaching business called GRIT which is still going strong. Then three years ago, myself and 17 others set up the Møller Professional Services Group Cambridge delivering a number of different services specifically to the professional services sector. I was also a faculty member at Meyler Campbell for five years, a niche coach training organisation that works with senior business professionals hoping either to become professional coaches or to develop their coaching capability.”

The professionalisation of the industry

“Without a shadow of a doubt, compared to 10 years ago clients now put more far emphasis on the need for coaches to have high quality accredited coach training, so having a Masters has really paid off for me. It’s a currency that holds its own as buyers understand the level of a Masters qualification. I think what is even more impressive to buyers is that I did it almost 10 years ago when it was much easier to do a shorter and less rigorous training programme.”

Coaching as a passion, not just a day job

“My interest in coaching goes beyond me and my business. I have a huge passion and interest in the whole field, which is why I sit on the board for Coaching At Work magazine and contribute regularly to it, I’m a member of the CIPD Advisory Board on Coaching and I’m a qualified supervisor. I take a huge interest in standards and ethics and try to contribute to the field. My current ‘project’ is a Professional Doctorate in Coaching Supervision that I am studying through Middlesex University.

“I would hazard a guess that people who come to i-coach have a deeper interest and passion in the whole craft of coaching and like me are trying to develop deep expertise in the field rather than just wanting to be a competent coach.

“I may not have been able to articulate this as my aim when I first started at i-coach and I would never have predicted back then I’d be doing all the things I’m doing now, but i-coach has been a very, very significant step that has helped me in my journey.”

I found Caroline to be an astute empathetic coach, who was highly skilled in holding the conversation and helping me to move forward on my issues.

Senior Leader,
Defence Academy of the UK

I’m confident, assertive, whilst more relaxed in my own style of leadership, and comfortable around senior people. In being more confident, I am already making a greater impact at work.

Ministry of Defence Civil Servant,
Coaching Client

Incredibly enlightening...... Caroline taught me how to understand I operated, what I valued, how people were different ...once you have such an understanding it then becomes far easier to succeed in managing relationships.

Senior Leader,
Coaching client

I expected that the coaching sessions would give me some professional guidance and advice around my personal development and particularly on my leadership skills. The coaching sessions certainly helped me to enhance my listening skills as a way of ensuring effective communication between colleagues. Now, I feel better equipped to coach junior colleagues as well as connecting more effectively with more senior colleagues when I am running my production performance meetings. For me, it was all about improving my interaction with other team members to help achieve the best team decision. my coach helped me to achieve that.

ALDP Participant,
BP Angola

Early 2007 I was transitioning to a new role, which was in a completely different area of the business, with very different challenges compared to my previous role. The ALDP coaching programme really helped me to quickly go through the steep learning curve of the new role, and improve my personal effectiveness and self confidence. I was assigned a coach to work with, who had a lot of experience and was passionate at coaching. His simple, but structured approach to coaching was enjoyable and really helped me to find the right direction, make the right decisions, and become confident to challenge and communicate effectively.

ALDP Participant,
BP Angola

Using different styles and tackling a range of work and personal issues [Caroline] pushed me and challenged me to take me out of my comfort zone. She really made me think about me, my role, my style and my development potential. I am now putting a lot of what we discussed into practice and I recognise that today it is having a positive effect on my approach to both my work and my professional development.

Senior Leader,
BBC Operations Group

Eunice Aquilina is a jewel in the coaching crown. Endlessly patient, she enables you to arrive at the right solution for you in a way that makes you realise that you have owned it from the beginning. Her impactful coaching style builds confidence and facilitates personal development which leads to a much more effective approach to solving difficult business issues. She is clear, confident and extremely challenging, but in a way that leaves you wanting more. I found her coaching to be invaluable to my business needs, and fun too.

Senior Leader,
BBC South

What was excellent was i-coach academy’s flexibility with how people were responding, as well as their attention to how RCN wished to see coaching sit within the organisation’s culture.

Julie Carrington,
Royal College of Nursing

Caroline’s skills in learning design are … evident in her contribution to the design of the programme and her continuous feedback on ways in which we may still improve for the benefit of the learners. Her module on coaching I regard as best practice for both its theory and the facilitation of the learning process.

Birgitte Davy,

Professor Mike van Oudtshoorn is a passionate speaker, a clear systematic thinker and the most powerful advocate for the profession of coaching. We were all impressed by the speed with which he got to grips with our business issues and identified where our needs lay. Mike made everyone feel at ease, from the most senior executives down and we were soon sharing the challenges and engaging with the issues in a very constructive atmosphere. He didn’t spoon feed us with solutions but enabled us to develop our own ideas which was far more valuable. In the true spirit of coaching, he was facilitative rather than telling, addressing our business needs and communicate the big picture. In particular, Mike managed to make performance management seem easy with his clear and logical way of explaining how to get the best out of people. He truly is a leader in his field.

Sarah Bater,
Kingfisher PLC

The depth of expertise in i-coach academy combined with their professionalism and skill in learning design and delivery has seen them deliver a series of successful programmes, which have really made a difference to the participants’ ability to perform in our organisaton.

Paul Ellis,
Defence Academy of the UK

Throughout … Caroline has demonstrated the right balance between empathy and challenging me to focus on the end result. … I feel that I have developed a relationship of trust with her. I felt that she had a lot to offer not only as a professional coach but also because of her international experience and background which enables her to understand different contexts with the right level of sensitivity and interest

Tana Holness,
BP Angola

Both Caroline and Eunice handled the group with exceptional professionalism and with authority which stemmed from their vast knowledge of coaching.

Steve Eades,

Working with i-coach was inspirational. The programme was a huge success for BP.

Joanna Yates,
Programme co-ordinator, BP