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February 2013
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TD Magazine

A Learning Entrepreneur

Joe Ilvento has used his innovative, "can-do" attitude and relationship-building skills to be a successful entrepreneur in the learning and development profession.

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Prior to his role at CommVault, Joe Ilvento was global director of learning and development for global functions at Citigroup, where he led a team that delivered training to all company functions worldwide. He is the author of three industry books and has received numerous training awards and recognition certificates from the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Secret Service, Cable & Wireless Communications, and Learning International.

You have broad expertise in a variety of roles, including training design and delivery, leadership development, sales, and customer service. Which of these specialties is your favorite?

I am a product of all of these experiences and believe I bring a piece of each to the work I do on a daily basis. If I had to pick one, I would say customer service is at the core.

Coming from a restaurant family, I was taught at an early age by my grandfather, father, and co-workers that an "attitude of service" is necessary for success (and good tips). Anyone can make a sale, but creating a customer for life requires sincere regard for the people with whom you interact.

In other words, it is about the long-term relationships you create—not the transaction. I see all of the work I do in the context of relationships and delivering against a set of expectations that others understand as collaborative, long term, and most of all, sincere.

How have your entrepreneurial skills benefited your career development?

Entrepreneurial skills are a key differentiator in a corporate environment because they encourage you to make the most of available resources such as people, budgets, and deadlines. An entrepreneur brings innovation to every project and motivates others by creating solutions not readily observed by those who have yet to hone such skills. Where many see obstacles, an entrepreneur sees opportunity and can help others also see the vision and collaborate—not only to overcome challenges, but to make the process engaging. This approach creates a synergy that carries from project to project and builds your employee brand as a "go-to, get-it-done" person.

Who has influenced you most in your career?

My current manager has most influenced my career. I am fortunate to have worked with supervisors throughout my career who allowed my entrepreneurial spirit to thrive.

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During my 13 years at Citigroup, my time now at CommVault, and in all of my jobs prior, I have been surrounded by leaders who understood and empowered me to execute against a shared vision. In doing so, their goals became my goals, and my vision became their vision. The result is a genuine, daily passion to create something bigger than myself that benefits hundreds—and often thousands—of people around me.

What excites you most about the profession today?

I get excited by learning and development technology and the ability to scale beyond the traditional classroom. I was an early adopter of distance learning technologies. Because the best teachers and storytellers are no longer limited by the brick-and-mortar walls that surround them, more people can learn and grow through live and on-demand training. The ability to scale and create repeatable events that are measurable and impactful in real time energizes me every day. A true learner-centric world is evolving with the ability for professionals to more easily capture metrics and decide which training is most effective.

How do you stay current in the field?

John Wooden once said, "It is what you learn after you know it all that counts." I truly am a lifelong learner: I read all of my emails (especially those unsolicited from vendors); attend webinars; read industry magazines from both an L&D and business acumen perspective; attend conferences; meet with vendors; and keep up-to-date with the latest research and findings from major thought leaders.

Most of all, I listen to the feedback from my learners and their managers. In more than 20 years in the business, I have found the ability to listen and effectively help others meet their career growth and personal development objectives to be the key to learning success.

About the Author

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is a professional membership organization supporting those who develop the knowledge and skills of employees in organizations around the world. The ATD Staff, along with a worldwide network of volunteers work to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace.

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