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Member Story

"Do Not Let People Tell You What You Cannot Do"

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Headshot - Aldeana Harris - 75th.jpg
The worldwide talent development community is diverse. Our members bring a wealth of experience and insight to their work. We're spotlighting their stories.

Aldeana Harris has been a member of ATD since 2017. Here's her story in her own words.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a Training Support Department head for the Naval Safety and Environmental Training Center. In this position I set the direction for department goals that line up with the command's overall training mission. I supervise personnel in a variety of professions and levels. The department is responsible for a variety of programs including the command's instructional system design process, student control, and data analysis (identifying trends). I manage the budget for the department and ensure funds are available for the professional development of personnel. I collaborate with other department heads to ensure cross-functionality of programs.
In addition, I am an officer in the Virginia Air National Guard, where I manage the bioenvironmental engineering flight and am the safety officer for a joint Army and Air Guard Emergency Response team.
These positions have created an opportunity for me to work with diverse groups with varied cultural norms.
I am currently in my final year of course work for a doctorate in strategic leadership at Regent University with a concentration in foresight.

What are your personal and/or professional goals?
My short-term personal goal is complete my doctorate in strategic leadership with a concentration in foresight. My long-term personal goal is to speak at conferences and workshops on leadership topics.
My short-term professional goal is to obtain higher-level positions within organizations I represent and become an adjunct instructor for higher-level educational centers. My long-term professional goal is to become a part of the Senior Executive Service.

What challenges have you had to overcome in your career?
The challenges I have overcome include a lack of self-confidence, being restricted professionally to one career field, moving out of my comfort zone, and learning how to deal with issues beyond my control.

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Could you share any professional tips, specific to talent development, that you have picked up along the way?
Do not let people tell you what you cannot do. At the very least give it a try; even if you are not successful you gain something valuable from the experience. You learn or attain a new skill; recognition that there is growth in failure; the knowledge that you can accomplish something and overcome challenges; an increased network, which will be valuable with future endeavors; and a better way to approach similar circumstances in the future.

What’s a common misconception you see when it comes to talent development?
A common misconception I see when it comes to talent development is the belief that it is only for certain people or professionals. That their development is not important to leadership.

Do you have any advice for people looking to further their careers?
Do the research to determine what is possible and do not lock yourself into one specific field. Ensure you are marketable by diversifying your skills and abilities. Certifications are great, but select one that is aligned with your long-term goals instead of your short-term goals.

What is your personal definition of talent development?
My definition of talent development revolves around what I call “the village one inhabits.” This village changes over time as the person moves from one position to another. However, within this village there are mentors and coaches one can look to for guidance. There are opportunities to gain new experiences and develop skills for current and future positions. There are support systems that provide encouragement and understanding. So instead of looking at it as a definition, I consider it a system where all of these things can occur.

How do you stay motivated?
I stay motivated by staying focused on my goals. Even when I am stressed I remind myself that no one is guaranteed a perfect path to success. Everyone is motivated by different stimulus. I would tell people to get to know themselves and not try to be motivated by what motivates someone else. If it is not personal to you, it will not motivate you.

How do you find meaning in your work?
I find meaning in work by helping others. Also, I ask the question, “Did I help someone today?” More importantly, laughter. It may seem crazy, but find a reason to smile, laugh, or just enjoy the experience. Even when things do not go quite as planned, find the humor in it and do not take yourself so seriously.

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