Michelle Lentz took a circuitous route into the learning profession, but it's the very thing that gives her a fresh perspective.
What sparked your initial interest in the learning profession?
I started out, like so many of us, as a trainer for instructor-led sessions. I studied theater in college, and I think that initially I was able to relate instructor-led training to being on stage. However, as the years passed, I began to have more of an interest in how people learn.
How has your career evolved?
I was a die-hard facilitator until I started working for Trivantis. While I taught instructor-led classes there, I also began to explore e-learning. It was a difficult transition for me. I had to let go of a few preconceived notions and open my mind to change.
Who has influenced you most in your career?
There was a manager at RWD Technology who started me on my career path. I was a technical editor, but he saw my potential as a trainer. It was difficult at first, and I had to learn to take criticism constructively as I learned to teach.
Then I became the sixth hire at Trivantis. We didn't really know what I'd do there—just that I fit in. The job evolved quickly into the training director position, and I discovered a love for instructor-led training in the process.
What are your go-to sources for professional inspiration and development?
Some of my biggest influences haven't been in the learning field at all. For example, I'm inspired by Jim Henson because I think he was able to incorporate effective design (both user experience and instructional) into a lot of his work. He made it so much fun that we didn't even notice we might be learning something.
What are you most excited about in the profession today?
Without a doubt, I'm most excited about mobile learning. We've worked on it at Oracle, and I worry that we'll get so caught up in the new technology that we'll forget great instructional design.
But I believe that eventually mobile will be an everyday thing, and that we'll think about mobile before we think about designing for the web or the classroom. That's the future I find so exciting.
What advice would you give to those wanting to advance their careers in the learning field?
Sometimes we forget that we can learn from outside our trade. There needs to be a willingness to think outside workplace learning—to look at marketing, user experience design, and other creative disciplines. I see so much overlap in how people buy and how people learn, for example.
What is one of the greatest lessons you have learned from your career journey?
Just because I don't have the same education as others in our field doesn't mean I should doubt myself. That's been a hard lesson to learn. I've been in this field around 20 years. In that time, I've had to learn to trust in myself and my judgment.
Trusting in yourself is sometimes a leap of faith. But it's worth it.