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December 2012
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TD Magazine

An Enduring Legacy

A self-identified lifelong learner, Alan Malinchak has successfully led the learning function in both the public and private sectors.

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Alan Malinchak

Chief Learning Officer, Homeland Security Solutions Inc.

As chief learning officer at Homeland Security Solutions Inc. (HSSI), Alan Malinchak is the executive business developer for instructor-led and e-learning training programs. He conducts keynote presentations, leadership development workshops, and consultations for the administration and operation of corporate universities. Prior to HSSI, Malinchak served as the vice president and chief learning officer at ManTech International Corporation, where he founded and led its first corporate university.

Q: You worked for the FBI for 20 years. How did this experience prepare you for your career in learning?

While in boot camp for the U.S. Navy in the fall of 1969, after having flunked out of my freshman year of college, I experienced an epiphany: I learned the value of education and the impact that learning did and would have on my life.

After boot camp I was an aviation storekeeper at Naval Air Station, Saufley Field, Florida, and immediately enrolled in Pensacola Junior College. By the time I received my honorable discharge in 1973 I had completed my associate degree and enrolled at the University of Michigan, where I graduated in 1975. A year later I completed my master's degree in criminology at Florida State University, began my doctoral studies, and was offered a position as an assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of South Dakota.

In 1984 I was recruited as a special agent in the FBI. During my career, I worked as a field agent, an instructor for the FBI National Academy, the administrator of the National Executive Institute, a special agent squad supervisor, the first chief of the academy's investigative training unit, and chief of the Leadership Development Institute, where I wrote the original draft of the FBI's strategic leadership development plan.

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When I retired from the FBI and became the first chief learning officer at ManTech International, I was somewhat unprepared for the business world of government contracting, so I enrolled in the online business administration doctoral program at Northcentral University in Arizona. I learned the importance of business impact as it relates to the learning function. Last year I was honored to become the chief learning officer at HSSI.

Since the fall of 1969, I have never stopped learning. Today and in the future, I remain a lifelong learner.

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Q: How have your experiences leading the learning function in the private and public sectors been similar, and how have they been different?

In both sectors there are trade-offs regarding the prioritization of leadership and development programs, and decisions to be made relative to budgets and operations. Also, usually there is no difference between learning leaders. Both sectors' leaders are passionate about learning and the impact it will have on an organization.

The difference is related to the impact. Within the public sector, the impact must influence the mission. Within the private sector, while mission is important, the language of business is around finance; possessing business acumen as it relates to the learning function is a driving force.

Q: You possess strong leadership and team building skills. Why are these qualities important for leaders in the learning and development profession?

No one person can manage, lead, or accomplish alone, and delegation is a necessary ingredient for success. Recognize the talent of those around you, and draw upon their expertise, passion, and work ethic by nurturing and allowing them to produce successful results.

A leader must recognize and endorse a relationship philosophy with his team members. I always consider an inverted triangle: The leader provides the support to his staff to enable them to develop, design, and implement learning initiatives that will benefit others along their paths to personal and professional development.

Q: What is one of the greatest lessons you have learned on your career journey?

Learning exists on an infinite continuum of successes and failures. Learning from our failures and sharing both failures and successes with others will provide a legacy that endures. Whether in the public or private sector, leaving a position of leadership in learning better than when you arrived is a singular accomplishment that can be repeated throughout your career.

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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