Admittedly, I sometimes feel like an impostor in this industry. After 10 years in legal services and politics, I finished my MBA and traded continents and industries to start over in digital learning. I appreciate everything I learned my first 10 years running political campaigns and law firm operations, but I really wanted to try my hand in an industry keeping pace with technology (as opposed to one still relying on fax machines).
I haven't been disappointed. As I continue to find my footing in digital learning, I find it exciting, and I hope to experience a lot of success as I continue to chart my path. After hitting the ground running since November, I felt like Learning Technologies was a dive into the deep end of the pool.
Here are a few thoughts from a Learning Technologies first timer:
1. Buyers and decision makers are inundated with choice
It doesn't take long to figure out that the e-learning landscape is a crowded minefield for buyers, but walking the floor around Excel Centre was a rare opportunity to physically experience that.
With all the lights, brochures being pushed my direction, and crowds of people, I must say, it was an overwhelming experience. It reminded me of the first time I saw Times Square in New York. I was a bit dazed, as my brain tried to process each stand I was seeing trying to make a quickfire decision about whether I wanted to learn more about each company or keep walking.
After that experience, I went back to our stand and noticed I was quicker to tell visitors, "that's not what we do," if they were looking for a solution that we didn't provide. Why waste anyone's time? In fact, I directed them to other stands if I saw something else on the trade show floor they wanted. It's a daunting task to make vet and make decisions about partnerships in this space, and I have a newfound appreciation for the pressures that buyers face.
2. Many L&D decision makers are well versed in the technology that's out there
Most decision makers I spoke to seem well informed not only about the challenges at their organisations, but about what solutions they want and need in order to solve the problem. It really made me appreciate the role that our Chief Technology Officer needs to play during the scoping of projects. He has a wealth of specialist knowledge that potential customers want to have discussions around in order to fully understand the value of what we can provide.
Many potential clients can chat easily to our Head of Learning Design about the learning theory behind solutions, and, I'm unsure if this is a change or if its always been this way, but I'm surprised and really impressed with the technical knowledge that discerning buyers are showing.
3. Big industry events spark thought-provoking conversations
I'm a big believer in changing my physical perspective whenever I feel stuck or uninspired. Taking a stroll outside with my camera, or working from a coffee shop gets me thinking differently and Learning Technologies was no different. Being in a big space with four walls and a concentration of industry talent was inspiring. It's easy to choose to choose the lens of negativity and focus on the things that I saw and didn't like, but instead, strolling the space with our Head of Learning Design, Luke Merrick, we found ourselves chatting about our wishlist projects, and what we saw other companies doing well that we'd like to accomplish at Junction-18.
Sometimes we get so caught up in the day to day of finishing projects for clients that it takes an event like Learning Technologies to get us away from the desk and thinking beyond the task list. I look forward to getting more inspiration from next year's event.
4. This was a great bonding experience for our team
Junction-18 has doubled in size in the last 6 months. Most of us are new to the company. Several of us work remotely in different cities or countries (occasionally other continents, as I type this from Texas). We're very rarely all working on the same project, so Learning Technologies was a rare, shared experience of working toward the same goal. At the end of every day, we'd hang out at dinner moaning about how much our feet hurt, recounting interesting conversations that we'd had during the day. By the end of the week, I felt I'd gotten to know members of the team better.
5. Newcomers from outside L&D can contribute to the conversation
I've struggled with impostor syndrome my entire career, but as I dove in and spoke to stand visitors, I realised that my experiences as someone who's worked since the age of 16, received training, undergone onboarding processes (or a lack thereof in some cases), managed HR at a growing organisation, and studied organisational structure and management theory during my MBA, all helps me empathise with the problems that decisionmakers are facing.
In my brief time in the industry I've found most professionals in e-learning to be incredibly welcoming (despite one unfortunate run-in). I'm also fortunate to work for a company that values my experience outside the industry. I genuinely enjoy connecting with people about the pain points their organisations are facing. I hope that as I continue to learn and grow I can strengthen my ability to relate and offer solutions that have real impact on organisations that I admire.