Member Story

"To Be Good, You Must Continuously Develop Your Skills"


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

Fonya Spielman has been a member of ATD since 2018. Here's her story in her own words.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in a small town in central California. I am a huge music fan (all kinds) and love to do activities pertaining to music: play, listen to, talk about, and so on. My favorite thing to do is go to live concert events and live shows. I enjoy glamping (No tents for me. I've done my time!), traveling to new places, and meeting new people. I am also a voracious reader and usually have no fewer than three books going at a time (one for fun, one for professional development, and one audiobook).

What are your personal and professional goals?
My personal goal is to become the best version of me, whatever that looks like. I am always growing and learning and, most importantly, evolving. My primary goal is just to be nicer to myself. No one is harder on me than me. As Christine Arylo said, "It's hard to be happy when someone is mean to you all the time."
Professionally, I would like to own my own business someday, working with people who need a second chance and helping them set and achieve their goals. I'm not sure if it means being a coach or mentor or creating a network of people who can connect with others, but I know I was put here to help create opportunities.

What challenges have you overcome in your career?
Where do I start? There have been a number of challenges I have had to overcome. Again, I believe the first one is learning to be nicer to myself. I'm human; I'm going to make mistakes. The question is, can I get past them, learn from them, and move forward? This has always been a struggle for me, but I'm getting better at it. I surround myself with others who build me up, guide me, offer sound advice, and expect me to succeed.


What’s the most valuable thing you’ve gained or experienced during your membership with ATD?
ATD has created a network of like-minded people I can go to and say, "Hey, I'm having XXX issue. How did you resolve this issue if you had the same?" and then receive tons of solid advice. I also have developed and heard about skills I may not have otherwise known about, particularly in instructional design.

Can you share any professional tips specific to talent development that you have picked up along the way?
Don't discount anything. Everything has a nugget of knowledge you can put in your backpack to use along the way. Use your network of people to continue to find answers to problems. People love to share what they know and to feel helpful. Trust your gut. It's usually right.

What’s a common misconception you see when it comes to talent development?
That it's easy. It's not easy. To be good, you must work at it and continuously develop your skills.


Do you have any advice for people looking to further their careers?
Network, network, network. In my most recent position, I was having lunch with some acquaintances who mentioned the job to me and suggested I apply. I did—and here I am, doing what I love most, which is helping people develop their skills professionally and personally.
Attend conferences and events you can get to and set a goal to meet X number of people. My goal is to meet at least five new people at each event I attend.
Use the tools available to further your knowledge. I use webinars, software specific websites, communities, and industry-specific blogs, and I have alerts set on my browser to notify me about keywords I have set up. For example, one of the people that has been most beneficial for me in recent months is not even from my industry but has helped me by sharing his knowledge about a particular software.

How do you stay motivated?
I read books with positive messages. I surround myself with people who push me to work harder because they believe in my skills and abilities. As cheesy as it sounds, I do daily affirmations and keep a gratitude journal. It takes like 10 minutes tops and sets me up for a positive attitude to start my day. I also set up a reminder and take 10 minutes at lunch to do a meditation session through an app that I like. It re-centers me for the rest of the day.

How do you find meaning in your work?
When someone comes up to me and says that something I shared, whether it's my personal struggle or a course I facilitated, had a positive impact on them, everything I do becomes worthwhile. Additionally, when I look back on training I created and can honestly say I did a good job on that particular project, I’m motivated to accomplish more projects in the future and push myself harder.

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