Jane Cooke has been a member of ATD since 2008. Here's her story in her own words.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I'm a native Texan who hasn't lived much of my adult life in Texas. I have lived in nine other states (mostly California) and three European countries. Although I work for a very large corporation, I'm a "child of the 60s" and struggle with political correctness on a daily basis. I absolutely love learning about anything, and especially love helping others to learn as well.
What are your personal and/or professional goals?
My personal mission statement is to make a positive difference in the life of every person I meet. My professional goal is to do my best to serve my stakeholders and learners by creating the most effective, interesting, and enjoyable learning experience possible.
Most of my achievement goals have been around educating myself. Personally, I got a master's degree in education with a specialty in instructional technology, and professionally, I have attained my CPLP (Certified Professional in Learning and Performance). I would like to get my doctorate and also my CPTM (Certified Professional in Training Management); however, I have only a little over two years before I retire . . . not sure I'll be able to complete those goals.
What challenges have you had to overcome in your career?
Early in my life, I got to experience quite real and unsettling discrimination regarding my gender.
Then, I was married to a professional whose career came before mine . . . so, I always had a "job" rather than a "career." When he passed, I found that I needed to quickly find a career in order to survive . . . hence, the master's degree.
Finally, I am quite the introvert, so to be able to get in front of a classroom or on a presentation platform, I need to put on my designer/trainer personality and forget the fears associated with large crowds and strangers!
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve gained or experienced during your membership with ATD?
I think the whole CPLP journey was one of the most enlightening and rewarding experiences of my life. Not only did I learn a lot that was never discussed in my college courses, I also got to associate with other professionals from other worlds and learn as much from them as I did from the course offering. It also proved to me that I can accomplish an almost impossible task with enough drive and support. I wholeheartedly believe that the experience of preparing for the CPLP is much more valuable than the actual certificate (sorry). And, I prolonged that experience by assisting with a couple of CPLP study groups in my previous ATD chapter in Denver.
Could you share any professional tips, specific to talent development, that you have picked up along the way?
I'm not sure if these are actual tips. They are really more lessons learned (some the hard way!).
The content is never "yours." You can make it fancy and put in all kinds of lights, bells, and whistles; however, if it does not serve its purpose nor meet the expectations or business needs of your stakeholders, it isn't good content.
I am an extremely quick developer. That's because I do all my work up front with analysis and design. By the time I put pen to paper for the development phase, all I have to do is follow my already-approved detailed design document and turn it into prose format rather than outline format. (I mostly build instructor-led content; however, this also works when storyboarding for e-content.) And, yes, we are being "encouraged" to do more agile development; however, effective analysis is never wasted, no matter the development methodology.
What’s a common misconception you see when it comes to talent development?
That anyone, especially SMEs (subject matter experts), can write training. Many can . . .but, it sometimes seems that the few who can't are the most prolific "developers." Creating training is much more than putting together a PowerPoint presentation—and, believe me, I've seen enough pink, lime green, and orange decks to last a lifetime! Effective and impactful content takes knowledge and skill in many diverse areas of learning, graphics, semantics, culture, art, and project management (plus many other fields), not just access to the Microsoft suite of products and a printer or projector.
Do you have any advice for people looking to further their careers?
Study, study, study. Knowledge truly is power. Even if you don't get a degree or a certification, become the most knowledgeable person about as many learning topics as possible. There are so many ways you can educate yourself nowadays. Then quietly and confidently share your expertise when it is most relevant to do so. Build your personal brand of being a learning professional. Network with other professionals and learn and share. Build your knowledge to the point where you can confidently discuss whatever your specialty is, and then be unafraid to step into the next level of responsibility. Never forget that you can always learn something new, that there are always people who know more than you do, and that you will most likely never be the smartest person in the room. And, if you are, then mentally pat yourself on the back and figure out a way to share your expertise and intelligence with someone else—because you will usually get much more than you give.
What is your personal definition of talent development?
Using your own education, knowledge, and skills to create opportunities and experiences that assist others in growing personally or professionally.
How do you stay motivated?
I meditate (a lot), use daily affirmations that support my goals and endeavors, regularly write down my intentions for making a positive difference in any project to which I'm assigned, end the day with a review of all the things I've accomplished, and give thanks for all of the wondrous gifts I have received. Whenever I encounter negativity, constraints, or less-than-laudable behaviors and moods, I make a conscious decision to try to determine what I can do to alter the situation. Sometimes I'm successful, sometimes not (in truth, many times not); however, I always tell myself that I did try.
How do you find meaning in your work?
I think my stories in the previous questions answer this question; yet, to summarize, I find great joy in seeing the "aha" moments when someone figures out something from one of my courses. I also find great satisfaction when I can show that the information I gathered and provided helped my company as a whole succeed in their business goals. That's what it's all about: Giving information to people who need it to improve their lives or careers.