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Member Story

"Own Your Career"

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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.

Mary Schneider 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 business performance enrichment specialist who provides coaching to senior executives and individuals seeking to achieve corporate or personal excellence. I have over 35 years of diverse experience ranging from directing five GE leadership programs in over 100 countries to providing consulting services to family-run start-ups and Fortune 500 firms. I am a proven leadership coach with in-depth experience in performance management, leadership development, recruitment and coaching individuals and teams across diverse functions. I've done extensive work with the multi-generation workforce and helped C-level executives develop strategies to align corporate goals with employee priorities. I have an MBA and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor's in Business Management. I am a Certified Trainer for Everything DiSC as well as a DiSC Authorized Partner. I'm a GE-certified Change Acceleration Process Coach, 360 Coach, and have taught at GE's Jack Welch Institute. I'm certified to teach Lominger's Suite of Competency-based Tools. I am Six Sigma trained, Green Belt Certified, and have designed and delivered training seminars to global audiences including sessions in South Africa, Kenya, Canada, the United States, England, France, Belgium, Indonesia, Spain, China, Singapore and Dubai.

What are your personal and/or professional goals?
Personal goals are to have better balance while building my new business that I launched after over 35 years of working for GE and taking consulting roles in between GE gigs. I am also focusing on taking better care of myself and lost 75 pounds a year ago. I feel great.
Professional goals include taking what I loved about my various roles and spending time doing what I love - helping others understand themselves better through more self-awareness, understand their personal life values, and find roles that help them fulfill their dreams. I love the quote "Find a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life." It's what I want for myself and for my clients. So far, so good!

What challenges have you had to overcome in your career?
Some of the greatest challenges were during years of downsizing under Jack Welch and many reorganizations under Welch and Jeff Immelt. I remember that in 2012, it was announced that GE Energy would be splitting into three standalone businesses. We didn't know for six weeks if we had jobs or not while all of the organization details were in flux. I remember coaching employees to stay positive, demonstrate emotional intelligence and resilience during this time of ambiguity. I gave myself the same reminders during those weeks. Luckily, I was able to keep my role leading GE's Financial Management Program for the three standalone businesses. Fast forward to 2017, the Program split into separate entities so I was ultimately affected. That's okay. I had the same discussion with myself that I would have with any employee: Now is a great time to ask yourself - what do you want to do? What gets you excited? What is fun for you? Okay, now go be that, and I am. I love the coaching I'm doing around careers and helping others increase their leadership effectiveness.

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What’s the most valuable thing you’ve gained or experienced during your membership with ATD?
Taking advantage of the many resources available with membership has been quite valuable. Whether it is reading the latest copy of TD or CTDO magazines or the resources on the website, I can always find the information I am seeking. The Explore Content section is especially helpful, giving you links to various categories where you can find topics, many offerings and multiple resources. The blogs are also great and range from ATD to global HR to healthcare to learning technologies. My gosh, there are so many resources on the site that you can literally spend hours on it.
One of my new goals is to carve out time on my calendar to visit the ATD site to keep exploring, keep learning, keep connecting. I shouldn't wait until I have a particular question. I should visit more frequently to learn proactively.

Could you share any professional tips, specific to talent development, that you have picked up along the way?
Wow, I could go on forever on this topic. Let me share a few:

  • Take time to get to know your employees as individuals, their likes/dislikes, interests outside of work, short-term and long-term goals - both personal and professional. Help them map individual development plans to get them there, even if it means losing them to a different role on another team or another part of the organization.
  • Practice emotional intelligence. Be the example you want to see in others. Practice self-awareness and humility.
  • Share your vision for the organization to build excitement and buy-in across various teams. Celebrate small wins along the way. Keep communicating along the way.
  • Take time to meet with employees in small groups to hear their perspective on how things are going and what they would like to see changed. Be open to their ideas.

What’s a common misconception you see when it comes to talent development?
One common misconception that I see when it comes to talent development is that talent development is HR's job. While I have spent many years in HR and can help with processes and coaching sessions, managers and employees are the ones really responsible.
For employees, it is their career to own. I encourage them to be open and honest about what they want and need out of a job and company ... to spend time thinking about the gaps they need to fill (competencies, experiences) to be considered good candidates for those roles, and then to work with their managers to try to make it happen.
For managers, I appreciate the ones who treat their employees as individuals. Each of us is motivated by different things. Motivation can't be a broad-brush approach. I like when managers see value in this and demonstrate that behavior.

Do you have any advice for people looking to further their careers?
Yes, going back to the previous question, I'd say own it... own your career. I'd also say look at your personal life values and make sure that you keep your priorities top of mind as you search for jobs and the right company for your next move. Also keep in mind that your career is years long - it's a marathon, not a sprint. Back to my favorite quote - Find a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life.

What is your personal definition of talent development?
For me, talent development is about helping people improve in the skills, knowledge and abilities they want to be able to demonstrate in order to have the career they'd like. They won't find it all in a book and a classroom ... let's help them find the experiences they need which is far more effectiveness in my opinion. Real-time learning, on-the-job learning. I chose the name Talent Inspirations for my company because I believe if people feel inspired and excited about their work, they will excel in it ... and when they do and are happy, everyone wins - the employee and the company.

How do you stay motivated?
I stay motivated a few ways:
First, by doing what I love and seeing the positive impact it has on people. Making a difference at the individual or organizational level has always been exciting for me. To have employees that I helped coach over the years reach out years later and tell me that I had an impact on them makes me feel great. I honestly love what I do.
Secondly, I have learned recently that I don't have to be working all of the time. When I was part of a global company with 120 direct reports, they knew they could contact me on my mobile any time. We joked that I carried it like a breathing apparatus. Now, I am more mindful of taking time to read or sit outside or dream about our next house project or call and chat with my parents, siblings, children and grandchildren.

How do you find meaning in your work?
I measure my success on the happiness and success of others. Am I helping someone interact more effectively with a tough manager? Am I helping someone chart a path for their next job? Am I helping a manager be more self-aware? I find meaning in helping others. I feel fulfilled when I'm making a difference.

3 Comments
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Many thanks to you for an inspiring journey. I hope to have a story even half as robust as you do!
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I truly enjoyed reading your story. Thanks for sharing!
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Great article and particularly great timing for me to read it.
Thanks for sharing your insight Mary!
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