Generally speaking, when someone’s career is said to have “gone to the dogs”, it’s a negative thing.
For Griffith University alumnus Dan English, the expression could not be more positive.
The CEO of Guide Dogs Queensland is in charge of a beloved and beneficial organisation that has been helping blind and visually impaired Queenslanders for almost 60 years.
And while the dogs themselves are iconic, Dan says they comprise just one aspect of the Guide Dogs Queensland operation.
“From building life skills to teaching adaptive technology to people of all ages, orientation and mobility are at the heart of so much of what we do to change the lives of Queenslanders who are blind or vision impaired,” says Dan.
After completing a Graduate Certificate of Disability Studies at Griffith University in 1997, Dan attained a Master of Human Services (Orientation and Mobility) in 1998. In the process he received the Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence.
Starting out as a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor (GDMI) – the qualification being a stipulation of his Masters – in 2002 Dan became Business Development Manager for Guide Dogs SA/NT.
In 2008, following a stint as Guide Dogs Service Manager for Guide Dogs Tasmania, Dan became CEO of that organisation until taking on the Queensland role in November 2015.
“When I first became a CEO, I missed working with the dogs and with our clients,” says Dan.
“But over time I realised the satisfaction I obtained from being part of the development of our clients and our dogs, I could now obtain from the development of our staff.
“As such, taking an organisation and having a significantly positive impact on culture is the thing that makes me most proud.”
A particular career highlight was Dan’s appointment as an International Assessor for the International Guide Dog Federation.
“This role has allowed me to visit Guide Dog schools around the world and meet some of the most amazing people in the profession,” he says.
Dan credits his time at Griffith as being instrumental in his success.
“Professionally, I have been very fortunate,” he says. “My Masters was immediately applicable in terms of working as a both a GDMI and as an Orientation and Mobility Instructor across Australia.
“The qualification is uniquely portable and allows you to work almost anywhere in the world.
“What I didn’t realise at the time, however, was how important it would be in terms of senior and executive appointments. It has opened doors that otherwise might have remained firmly closed for me.”
Dan wholeheartedly supports plans for Griffith to launch a Graduate Diploma in Orientation and Mobility.
“A career as an Orientation and Mobility Instructor can be uniquely rewarding,” he says.
“The blindness sector has such a strong focus on enablement. Our focus is not on what a person can’t do, but what they can do.
“And with a national and international shortage of qualified Orientation and Mobility Instructors, the employment prospects are very positive.”