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ATD Blog

My Continuous Learning Journey Through APTD Certification

Tuesday, September 28, 2021
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The Starting Point

I joined the learning field by intention, not by accident. As a business professional progressing through the various stages of my career, I have always admired the discipline and structure of the training process; however, I didn’t always understand all the intricacies and the rigor it implies.

First, I chose to exchange a mid-level executive job in a large pharmaceutical company and the comfort of being an experienced subject matter expert in my field for a training manager job at the same company. It sent shock waves through the system, with most people calling it a lateral promotion at its best, others reminding me that HR jobs aren’t well paid, and even myself feeling a certain level of insecurity.

Why APTD?

My new manager, an accomplished talent management professional who had achieved ATD’s most senior credential, Certified Professional in Talent Development (CPTD), was a great mentor and coach, they told me during my first days in the new job, “Knowing is not teaching.” These words stayed with me for many years.

While my strong subject matter expertise was a good asset in my new role and added value to my new team, I felt that there were so many new things to learn, and I was compelled to do that professionally.

In my group, two colleagues were preparing for their CPTD exams. They were supportive and encouraged me to explore obtaining such a credential. However, they were HR professionals with many years of experience now involved in learning and training. It looked impossible for me at that time to reach their level of expertise.

Some years passed, I changed jobs and employers, and I felt like something was missing, that I was not nailing it as best I could. The European Pharma world—with a few exceptions and most recently —is not known for fostering a culture of continuous learning, especially compared to other industries such as those in the US.

I explored and consumed bits and pieces of knowledge, trying to complete the puzzle. I was “flying the airplane while building it” until one day, I saw on the ATD website that a new credential—Associate Professional in Talent Development (APTD)—had been introduced that required a bit less experience than the CPTD. I decided to go for it!

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Preparing for the Exam

When I first looked at the Talent Development Capability Model™ and went through the APTD preparation materials, it became clear to me I would have to start from scratch in some areas, while in others I could build on varying levels of knowledge that I already had.

The preparation materials are well structured, providing a good foundation. They are well referenced, enabling aspiring APTDs to further explore topics, solidify a better understanding, and retain information.

During my study time, which lasted a few weeks and often involved daily practices, I stayed motivated and never felt overwhelmed. It helped to look for ways to immediately apply novel frameworks and concepts that I learned. I reviewed other literature connected to subjects that felt “heavy” or in which I had little or no experience and knowledge.

My family jokingly said that they hadn’t seen me so dedicated to my studies since university—and I graduated as a medical doctor, which is a serious undertaking!

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After Becoming an APTD

The part that I found the most fascinating was what came next. Based on my experience of working in Europe and in my industry, there is little knowledge or deference toward the value that a certified learning professional can bring to an organization. I cannot say that recruiters started to call or that I was offered a promotion or a new career path because of my certification.

My inner journey was the most rewarding part—the satisfaction of being able to perform at a higher standard, the confidence of positioning myself as a trusted internal performance consultant, the seamless transition from one learning role to another building on foundational knowledge, and the ability to continue to learn and be up to speed.

For me, earning my APTD certification was the formal start to my continuous learning journey—a term used to inspire leaders and learners alike to embrace this as a transformational process that differentiates the best from the rest.

The APTD recertification process offers a clear pathway to achieve just that. It structures the journey and supports APTDs along the way in a meaningful manner.

Since becoming an APTD, I have curated for myself a continuous learning journey that is equally inspiring and challenging to keep me up to date. ATD’s Talent Development Capability Model enabled me to upskill myself in specific competency areas. At work and in life, I made sure to get involved in projects that would allow me to apply what I had been choosing to learn.

Today, after almost two years into this journey, I belong to a special professional group of people, and I am part of a network of experts from which I can continue to learn. At work, I have earned a strategic seat at the table, my opinion matters, my input is sought after, and I receive positive feedback on the true business partnership that my role provides.

About the Author

Ioana Bolog, APTD, has worked for more than 25 years in the pharmaceutical industry. In various business and learning roles, she has supported marketing, medical, sales, general management, and finance teams across multiple therapeutic areas and multiple geographies in more than 50 countries. Currently, she develops commercial learning in a small but very ambitious vaccines company, covering customer-facing roles, learning and training, leadership development, digital transformation, change management, and the adoption of agile learning technologies. She graduated from the University of Medicine as a medical doctor and holds various certifications, such as CPTM, CLO, and many more.

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