December 2023
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TD Magazine

Protecting the Learning Space

Friday, December 1, 2023

Adaora Otiji


Chief Learning Officer



DC Department of Health


Washington, DC



Bachelor's degree in journalism (University of Maryland, College Park); master's degree in nonprofit and association management (University of Maryland Global Campus); doctorate in organizational leadership (Northeastern University)

Adaora Otiji has built her career around getting to know people and helping them function better so their contributions enable their organizations to perform at the highest level. Her passion for making the DC Department of Health and its employees successful has shaped her work, inspiring the Public Health Certification blended learning program. The initiative provided free training, resources, and certification for 150 employees to bridge the gap in their public health knowledge. Otiji's work is a model for other US public health agencies.

How does learning contribute to your success in your role?

Learning creates space for reflection, self-awareness, growth, and innovation. We can get caught up in the transactional nature of our work, but by making space for learning, we start to create intentionality in our culture and interactions. In my role as CLO, I am able to create and protect the need for that space to spur innovation for the greater good.

What, in your opinion, are the essential elements of talent development?

Strategy, culture, and communication are key elements. Having a clear picture of what you're doing and why helps to create alignment and inform actions that shape and maintain culture.


Thoughtful communication is often overlooked, but it is a key need in TD, especially during change; it reflects the ability to think about the people impacted, meet people where they are, and communicate in a way that works most effectively for them.

What aspects of your work do you enjoy the most and why?

I enjoy offering new perspectives to people and coaching them toward implementation and success. The science of learning is constantly evolving, and I love that growth never stops in this field. We frequently identify new tools through research that I get to put into practice.

What career advice do you have for up-and-coming L&D professionals?

Chart your own course and don't let another person's lack of vision become your own. At multiple points in my career, I've had people tell me I wasn't ready for the next opportunity when I knew that I was. I accepted the feedback graciously and then did what I wanted because, at the end of the day, I'm the one who lives with the choices I've made. I may as well make them good.

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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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