Member Story

"Begin With the End in Mind"


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The worldwide talent development community is diverse. Our members bring a wealth of experience and insight to their work. We're spotlighting their stories.

Sarah Crawford has been a member of ATD since 2016. Here's her story in her own words.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I'm a California girl at heart—I was born and raised in the Golden State and love easily exploring the ocean, vineyards, and farms or the mountains and lakes. I'm a busy, active mom to three kids (one in elementary school and two in high school), a wife, a daughter, and career-long trainer and instructional designer. I've been blessed to spend my entire career thus far (more than the last 20 years) in the corporate training and talent development industry. I've worked in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors, and I've been a training assistant who set up the classroom, to the one who designed the courses, to the one who conducted the train-the-trainer sessions for multiple state agencies, to managing teams, to consulting with businesses or public entities. It's been a fun ride!

What are your personal and professional goals?
This year my professional goals have been focused on building our local community of talent development professionals as board president of our local chapter at ATD Sacramento and expanding my experience and knowledge in topics related to employment practices, California HR law, and effective training techniques to affect real change in our workplaces. My primary personal goal has been to spend as many moments as possible with my growing kids since my oldest is reaching college age, and I feel the clock ticking on our family moments together.

What challenges have you had to overcome in your career?
After surviving the economic downturn but enduring mergers and acquisitions and downsizing in the early 2000s, probably the biggest career challenge was when I left full-time employment and chose to be employed as a mother full-time while also working on my master's degree in HR/OD and doing volunteer project-based work and small project-based consulting gigs.
After a 14-year gap, I returned to working full-time and needed to refresh some of my skills. I didn't view it as a challenge so much as an opportunity to invest in myself to get up-to-date on technology improvements (online learning grew exponentially while I was out of the workforce) and in newer techniques in brain-based learning to be the best candidate for the positions I was applying for. ATD was helpful in providing much of that professional development.


What’s the most valuable thing you’ve gained or experienced during your membership with ATD?
ATD is where I went for professional development when I began my career in training and talent development, and it was where I went to get back into the workforce after I had took a break to raise my kids. I refreshed my skills and stayed current by obtaining training and practice in e-learning instructional design through partnerships our local chapter had in our community. And I networked and learned about job opportunities I probably never would have explored had I not been involved with the chapter. Since then I've expanded my expertise in online training facilitation and instructional design techniques through ATD’s workshops and certificate programs. Really, ATD has shaped my career. I don't know where I'd be without it.

Can you share any professional tips, specific to talent development, that you have picked up along the way?
The great Covey principle of "begin with the end in mind" really sums up my approach to talent development. Focus on the learner and what they need to be able to do to get where they want to go and build any learning experience with that as the primary focus to ensure that they're able to be successful. Too often I see educators/trainers focused on themselves and all the great things they need to impart on their student, but a participant-centered approach will be more effective, relevant, and more fun for everyone involved.

What’s a common misconception you see when it comes to talent development?
I hear a lot of people who aren't in the training industry who think that "training" is a waste of time or something they're mandated to do. I'm on a mission to improve those classes to make them practical and useful and change the context of mandated training to something that can make a difference. I think the training industry is morphing into this broadened definition of talent development because it expands the repertoire of tools we can use to help the workforce grow and develop—and that's a good thing.


Do you have any advice for people looking to further their careers?
Get involved with the professional development organization for your field of interest. Roll up your sleeves and help the volunteer leaders in that organization put on events or sessions focused on the topics that interest you. You'll learn more doing that than you ever would by just attending. If you want to build a career in training or talent development, you need to get involved with your local ATD chapter. And if you don't have one locally, start one!

What is your personal definition of talent development?
Unfortunately, I think many people don't really understand what talent development means. It's not from an episode of Star Search or America's Got Talent. They don't realize that it encompasses all learning and growth, from a variety of modalities. Talent development happens every time you have a question and search Google for the answer, then find an article, or class, or person who has input or steps or a theory for you to explore. Or, when you talk to others with more expertise than you and you learn from them. I think talent development is how we grow our workforce and how we grow personally.

How do you stay motivated?
As a busy mom, wife, working career woman, volunteer, and more, I need my downtime to recharge. I actually build it in to my daily schedule and purposefully plan multiple trips and experiences each year with my family, so I can get away from work and reset my mental state on the things that really matter. Professionally, I stay motivated by attending trainings or webcasts or reading articles about topics related to our field—always in search of practical takeaways I can use myself when teaching or in sharing as a resource to others.

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Thank you, Sarah. I really enjoyed reading your personal story, and your perspective on our profession. As a TD professional living abroad, I’m usually too far from any ATD network events; your article inspired me to research / create opportunities. Thank you!
Thank you, Valerie! Connecting or creating connection is always a great idea. Even sitting down with a couple colleagues for a cup of coffee to chat is a great way to get a group/community started. Best of luck to you!
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