April 2023
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Samara Reich-Thomas
TD Magazine

Teacher Turned Trainer

Friday, March 31, 2023

Samara Reich-Thomas


Training Specialist



King County


Seattle, Washington




Master of arts in multicultural education, educational equity, and cultural diversity (University of Colorado at Boulder); bachelor of arts in history/Spanish language and literature (University of Colorado at Boulder)

As a teacher in King County, Washington, Samara Reich-Thomas joined her school's professional development committee and began contributing to other teachers' L&D. She went on to earn several talent development-related professional certifications and now is a training specialist for King County. She manages the training program for its centralized procurement and payables team. She also develops and delivers training.

What aspects of L&D work do you enjoy the most and why?

My favorite part of L&D work is when I have the opportunity to collaborate with my team to identify pain points, analyze root causes of issues, and develop a holistic, strategic approach to address those issues. Approaching L&D in this way allows for clear communication, alignment across the organization, and development of resources to support change that is impactful and actually sticks.

What are the biggest learning-related challenges you've faced in your current role?

Understanding when training is necessary. Training is not always the answer but is oftentimes the solution that people identify first. My role as a training manager is to help my colleagues and stakeholders identify the root causes of pain points and develop strategies to address them, which sometimes includes a training component.


How do you lead by example to enhance company culture?

While I don't have positional authority in my role, I am a leader. I lead by example by leaning into crucial conversations. That is particularly true when it comes to aligning our training materials with King County's values. I remain open to feedback from my colleagues and my customers, reflecting on and applying that feedback to grow as a professional. I also play a key role in supporting change management activities and fostering transparent communication with our stakeholders. Finally, I approach all my work with the goal of breaking down silos and enhancing partnerships across different teams within the organization.

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

The best advice I can offer others is to be open to trying things on. Stay committed to lifelong learning and open to new challenges in your career. Learn to leverage new technology and strategies and be willing to take risks to develop innovative approaches.

Who is your biggest role model?

My grandmother, Leonore Reich. Her family fled Nazi Germany and emigrated to New York in the 1930s. They started over, and she and her sister were very successful in their careers and personal lives. My grandmother earned her doctorate and went on to teach at the college level. When she retired, she continued working as a volunteer with the Nature Conservancy and the League of Women Voters. She was a renowned scuba diver at a time when women were not very active in the sport. From my grandmother, I learned the value of lifelong learning, leading the way, and building community.

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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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