Leah de Souza has been a member of ATD since 2014 from Trinidad and Tobago. Here's her story in her own words.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’ve been in talent development as an independent consultant for 15 years and have thoroughly enjoyed the journey so far, both as a learning professional and entrepreneur. My companies have trained and coached thousands globally. I’ve worn almost all hats possible in TD as I’ve grown my businesses, which has allowed me to be an experienced learning and development advisor, a top-requested trainer and speaker, and a trusted coach. While I now live in my native Trinidad and Tobago, I hold two citizenships, speak three languages, have lived in four countries, and have traveled to more than 30 countries, so I consider myself a true global citizen. It’s always energizing to learn about new cultures—corporate and geographical. One thing that is particularly motivating in my field is that no matter even the most negative façade, people truly do have great intentions. My job is to help them stay on track with their execution by making sure they have the skills, practice, and mindset.
What are your personal and professional goals?
I don’t rest on my laurels much and recently launched a second business, LdS Consulting, where I help people fast-track growth—whether they are entrepreneurs, leaders, or high-achieving individuals. My professional goal is to grow this business internationally while continuing to run Trainmar, my corporate learning and development company.
What challenges have you had to overcome in your career?
I’m not one for a victim mentality or a pity party, but a constant challenge in 15 years of business, has been to stay “in love” with my profession and my business. Everyone starts out “hot and heavy” with both but to have a high level of drive and to grow in your field is easier said than done. It is a challenge I welcome, though, as it pushes me to grow as a talent development professional, an entrepreneur, and a human being. I’ve done this by completing ATD programs, becoming a CPLP, attending ATD International Conference and EXPO, other training and coaching, reading books by thought leaders in the field, and using social media to learn from my peers.
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve gained or experienced during your membership with ATD?
I have been a member for ATD for some time now. This is where I became a trainer, when I completed my Train the Trainer program. This is where I get the best TD updates and where I can interact with other TD pros.
However, the best ATD experience was becoming a CPLP. I thought because I had 10 years of TD work experience under my belt that this was going to be a walk in the park. But not at all! I got a chance to share my CPLP journey here: td.org/newsletters/atd-links/how-i-became-a-cplp.
I am very proud to say that I am the first CPLP in my country and the first to attend ATD International Conference and EXPO as a CPLP.
Could you share any professional tips specific to talent development that you have picked up along the way?
Keep learning and keep growing.
For many, it may seem obvious that this is what TD pros would do. But many do not walk the talk. It’s critical, though, if you want to bring impactful value to your audience, whether you are an in-house trainer or an external consultant like myself. Your audience will in turn value the insights that you offer and the transformation that you make possible for the on the job.
I’d also add that we have to be master communicators.
Even though I’ve trained and coached thousands, at the core of it all, I have to be able to connect with the human being. Never lose sight of this.
What’s a common misconception you see when it comes to talent development?
It’s shocking that this is still a misconception, but here it goes: that the answer to a performance problem is training. I still have to advise my clients of the many options they have to improve performance.
Do you have any advice for people looking to further their careers?
I started my career before the information flood that is the Internet today, so I still always start with reading the good books by the great thought leaders in our field, followed by going online to subscribe to their newsletters, interacting with them if I can.
Strive to be best in field and share online. People will take notice of your efforts and your attitude.
If the company or country that you want to work in values certifications, then make sure you get those done.
What is your personal definition of talent development?
An organization is as good as its talent.
How do you stay motivated?
I am a great believer and advocator for having great habits in a structured system. I set annual goals and make sure that at least 80 percent of my habits support them. This way, almost everything I do is linked to something that brings me fulfillment.
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