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October 2017
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TD Magazine
Explorer With a Penchant for E-Learning

Heidi Hess-Bynum has a passion for learning that has led her from teaching to training to e-learning.

A self-proclaimed e-learning adventurer, Heidi Hess-Bynum works for Bluegrass Cellular as a sales training manager. She has a master's degree in training and development with emphasis in e-learning from the University of St. Francis and a bachelor's degree from Transylvania University.

You call yourself an e-learning adventurer. What inspires that description for your career?

Growing up I was fascinated with Indiana Jones. He represented something that I couldn't articulate as a child. He was out looking for relics and getting in trouble instead of sitting behind a desk grading papers, but he always did the right thing in the end.

He's hardly the perfect role model, but those stories gave me the idea that academia and learning could be exciting. Because our field is evolving so rapidly, I feel like an explorer, with every step leading to the next amazing discovery or maybe imminent doom. It's never boring. I get to challenge ideas, take scary risks, and tell amazing stories. The icing on the cake is when I can get learners to take on new challenges that make them feel like adventurers too.

How has obtaining a master's degree in talent development helped you?

My master's degree helped me to expand my skill set as a training generalist, while specializing in e-learning. Working for a small company, it's been invaluable with the variety of projects and learning needs I take on. I'm able to better diagnose a problem and really consider a spectrum of approaches to find the best fit.

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Degree programs and certifications are important in strengthening the credibility of talent development. In our field, qualifications are not so clear-cut and we have a variety of specializations. It's becoming more common to see employers asking for degrees and certifications, but there's still work to be done.

What about serving as a volunteer leader for the ATD Kentuckiana Chapter?

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I'm so glad I got involved with ATD Kentuckiana. There's something for everyone no matter where you are in your career. I love bringing these resources and networks to others and being part of the amazing team that makes up the chapter. ATD has affected my career in a very positive way, so I enjoy introducing it to someone who is new to the field.

Where do you see your talent development career going in the future?

I love creating and administrating e-learning, but there is a literal technology revolution going on. Learning teams are uniquely positioned to lead organizational change and technology implementations. In recent years, I've had opportunities to play a role in such initiatives, and I want more. Hopefully, I can continue helping teams evolve while aligning learning programs to strategic business objectives.

What advice would you give someone who's just getting started in the field?

Think of yourself as an entrepreneur, even if you have a boss. Find ways to invest in yourself and keep growing and learning. Go to the conference. Take the class. Get the certification. Find a way to make it happen. It can be hard to do, but investments in yourself never lose value and you really own those investments when you make them yourself.

Get involved with your local ATD chapter. If there's not one in your area, start one. This field can be very isolating, but when you start reaching out to people, you find this incredible network of knowledge, experience, and support.

Most importantly, have fun.

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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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