Over the past few months I’ve seen a few stories about how people got into the field of Learning & Development. In the spirit of sharing, I thought I’d share my story of how I got here.
I feel I should start with my current role, because that’s where this story is heading. I’m a senior Instructional Designer in the healthcare industry. My journey has been long, winding through three industries and a handful of organizations. While not as haphazard of a journey as most, I’ve still gone through a lot of changes.
My journey began a long, long time ago, during my employment in the K-12 industry. I was finishing up my undergraduate degree, and working in an elementary school as a computer technician.
Being a computer technician, it would appear that I was only involved in the Information Technology world. My work was interwoven with elementary school teachers though. This was my introduction into the world of education, just a different kind of education. My role was IT related, but my everyday work was related to supporting the performance (or development) of kids.
During this time, I was going to school as a designer for the web. What a wonderful pair my work and school provided. Designing web pages and working with technology, the possibilities for student development.
Up to this point I had no introduction into the Learning & Development world, or Instructional Design. The introduction came during one of my web design courses. A professor I often had, received a Masters degree in Instructional Design. I didn’t take an immediate interest though, it was passing information that sunk into my subconscious.
Full Speed Ahead
After completing my undergraduate degree, I continued combining IT with the California public school system. It wasn’t until I desired to expand my reach of helping people learn that I recalled my professor being an Instructional Design graduate.
The path I wanted to go made sense, so I researched taking my web design knowledge, and focusing it on education. This spark didn’t occur for a year after graduating my undergraduate program though.
Seeking to go into the same program my professor had gone through, I looked at the same school I graduated from and knew had the program. Budget cuts had taken their toll in the California public school system though. Various programs had been cut, many of which were graduate programs.
I continued to seek out a similar program. With luck, I found one! It was from a Southern California State school and fit my needs. I wasn’t prepared, nor will I ever be, to move to Southern California though. Luckily it was almost completely remote.
I traveled to Orange County only two times during the entire program, and I’m fortunate to have family just 20 minutes from the area. I not only got to see relatives, I brought my family along also and made a mini vacation out of it, Disneyland here I come. Oh, and startup bootcamp which is what they called the first meeting.
Beginning the Climb
During my graduate program, I began climbing deeper into the Instructional Design world. My life revolved around the topic and its many sub-topics. My graduate program was personal, with a structured set of classes. All 26 or so of us were in a cohort who went through the entire program together, and graduated together.
In my desire to expand my reach, I made the jump from a small California school district into the Silicon Valley area. While my role was not L&D related, I created opportunities to involve myself in other’s learning.
I was able to volunteer to train peers within my role, including those in the Russian office. I was also able to create a self paced training module to assist new team members in getting up to speed on what the company sells.
While I was in this role, I was able to complete my graduate program, and seek a role that would better align with my goals.
This brought me into the staffing industry, where I learned to put my formal Instructional Design knowledge to work. My audience was expanded, and I was having a great effect on the organization. I was able to not only fine tune my knowledge, but expand it by innovating with new technologies and methods.
To create the best stuff possible, I needed to innovate and take my creations to the next level. Twitter and the Learning & Development community allowed me to do this.
I not only began to take part in the online L&D community, I began writing in my own blog to better reflect on my learning.
My thirst for knowledge has yet to let up, and has increased during my time as an Instructional Designer.
I am currently in the healthcare industry, always on a mission to feed my hunger for knowledge to better affect my organization. I’ve worked with a lot of great people, which I have learned a great deal from. The online community has been a great resource for information and inspiration also.
Currently I take part in as many new learning opportunities as I can. Online Twitter chats fuel my inspiration and knowledge, and I take part in #chat2lrn. Other’s blogs fuel my knowledge, desire, and ability to try new things in my current role.
Going to Innovate
My ultimate goal is to expand my effect on the organizations I am a part of, and work with people who have these same goals. From social enterprise networks, to mobile learning, I love new technology. I love looking for new ways to innovate in the field of professional development with technology, new and old.
Beyond my organization goals, I also would like to write a book and speak at a conference. Further out on my goal timeline is to move into the consulting world as a free agent.
Now that I’ve shared my story on how I got here, I’d like to encourage you to do the same. While my story isn’t as haphazard and unplanned as many stories I’ve heard, people are still interested.
The biggest mistake you can make in your career is to think that people aren’t interested in what you have to say. If you think that, you’ll never get the feedback and idea sharing that expands you.
Share your work, share your learning, play a part beyond consumer and lurker because your opinion is valued. You can’t innovate in your own life without the inspiration from others sharing with you.
If you haven’t written anything for the public to see, do so. You can start by leaving a comment here on how you got here, wherever you are.