This leadership development guru counts the ways to advance in your chosen career path.
What sparked your interest in the training profession?
I was always a teacher at heart—I taught dance as a teenager and earned a teaching assistantship while studying for my master's degree in intercultural and organizational communication at the University of Maryland. At first I thought I might enjoy staying in academia, but the experience helped me redirect my efforts toward corporate training and development.
How has your career evolved?
My first corporate T&D stint was as a training assistant with a medium-sized financial services company. I worked my way up to the position of training manager, became involved in launching the company's first-ever management training program, and fell in love with the subject matter. I then sought opportunities to specialize in leadership, management, and performance consulting with other organizations, yet still in the finance world.
Eight years ago I took the leap into entrepreneurship and launched my consulting company, TalentGrow. It's been a thrill to build a business by doing work that I love, with a diverse set of clients in many different industries and sectors.
What lessons did you learn along the way?
I've learned many lessons about the craft of facilitation, instructional design, and management. I've also learned a few lessons about organizational politics and the importance of good influencing skills.
It's not enough to be smart, hard-working, and accountable. You need to network to really break through impasses and win at work. Most of all, I've learned about the value of taking risks, of stepping outside your comfort zone and growing as you go. Nothing comes to those who wait for the perfect timing, or for others to give them opportunities. You have to take courageous action toward achieving your boldest goals.
Who has influenced you most in your career?
There have been many great people who have influenced my career over the past 20 years. Two of my mentors hold a special place in my heart, however.
Kathryn Gaines is a former graduate school colleague who started her own consulting firm several years ahead of me. When I was contemplating starting my own business, she gave me some incredible advice and continues to help me to this day.
My other mentor is the prolific author and "trainer's trainer," Elaine Biech, who helped me build my business and become an author. I am grateful to them both for their positive impact on my career.
What advice would you give to those wanting to advance in the training and development field?
Keep learning—read, attend workshops, listen to podcasts, watch videos, and never allow your skills (or your passion for your work) to become stale.
Get involved with your local ASTD chapter or another organization—there is nothing that will build your skills, give you insights, and grow your visibility, credibility, and influence like taking on a leadership role within a professional organization. This is advice that I got from my mentor Kathryn and it was priceless. It is the single most valuable move I made in my career.