Editor’s note: Each blog post in this “Career Pathways in L&D” series shares a learning leader’s story and ends with his or her tips and advice for training professionals.
As I reflect upon the path I took to reach my current role of corporate director of learning and development, I realize my journey – like those of many other L&D professionals I’ve met – has always involved education and teaching in some form.
From an early age, I always knew I would be involved in teaching. My siblings can attest that it was not uncommon to hear me “teaching” my stuffed animals as I prepared for a test or school project. My love for music was born and nurtured at a young age, too. As a trumpet player, my journey through all things band and orchestra prepared me for a future career as a music teacher. As an adult, I completed my bachelor of science in music education and landed my first professional job as a band director, with additional responsibilities as a class advisor and junior varsity volleyball coach.
As if that job weren’t enough to keep my plate full, during the same period, I was enrolled in a graduate program in educational computing. That program and my subsequent marriage to a military service member is what opened another door, allowing me to transition into the corporate learning and development field.
For several years, my career was in transit owing to a series of military moves, including an overseas assignment, so it wasn’t always easy to find employment. I believe that the creative elements of my musical background fostered my ability to remain flexible and think outside the box when it came to choosing jobs that would smooth my path to the corporate learning world. I’m immensely grateful for the breadth and depth of training experiences and the various roles these years offered me: call center, non-profit, telecommunications, higher education, Fortune 100 and, for the last 14-plus years, Scholastic, the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books.
I could never have imagined the places I’ve been and the things I’ve been able to do, all of which fostered in me a great appreciation for language and cultural differences; the selection of jobs and roles that expanded my knowledge, skills and experience in multiple industries and functional areas of expertise; and, most importantly, the personal growth I’ve experienced through the people who have partnered with, led and/or mentored me along the way. The ability to be open-minded and accept opportunities that may not have been my first choice helped me develop foundational skills and experiences that benefited me later.
Based on my career journey, here’s some advice I’d tell my former self:
- Like many learners, your path will involve a journey, not an immediate destination.
- Embrace change, and maintain an open mind toward new and different opportunities.
- Be constantly learning, and read all the time.
- Remain engaged with and skilled in advancements in technology, data analytics and measurement that impact learning.
- Most importantly, find mentors who will make you stretch, encourage you and challenge you to do your best work.
My career roots are strong. I still play my trumpet from time to time, although not as often as I would like. Although my daily routine has changed from being in a room full of energized and hungry students and athletes, my routine today is similar when you consider that it involves teaching, mentoring, coaching and leading “big kids”!