What’s been your career path?
I am formally educated in nursing as well as in business. My clinical expertise was in emergency and trauma nursing — so for the first 25 years of my career, I was in emergency medicine as well as emergency management and emergency medical services. I spent many years on the frontline and went from a staff nurse all the way up to a vice president. It prepared me for my chief learning officer role because I came from operations and understand the health care culture and exactly what it’s like to deliver our services to our communities.
What about learning and development attracted you? What keeps you doing it?
Interestingly enough, I wasn’t attracted to it. I believe my CEO wanted to create this strategic structure and offered me the opportunity to help do that, but once I became involved in it, I really came to find the passion in it, since one of the major goals of a chief learning officer is to create strategy with the stakeholders to facilitate the success of an organization. In the beginning, I never thought 17 years later I would still be the chief learning officer, but here I am today, and it’s been quite a trip from my first nursing job over 40 years ago.
What lessons have helped you?
One is organizational readiness. In my younger years as a chief learning officer, coming out of spending years working in emergency medicine or emergency management, you have a tendency to collect your data very quickly and respond to it. You don’t need to do that when you’re a strategist. I had to learn about ensuring that the organization was ready for change, to build coalitions to help you execute strategy and to take feedback from key stakeholders. I had to learn that there’s not much we can do by ourselves, that we really need to work in a team.
What will the role look like in five or 10 years?
I came from operations and learned and developed the role in our organization. I think one of the most important things is the role needs to be connected to the senior leadership of the organization. I’m fortunate — I actually report right to the chief executive officer. I sit at the table, I’m always connected to the strategy of the organization and what my role is in executing that strategy.
For chief learning officers, their role should always be relevant to what the business objectives are. I also think chief learning officers should not be off in a silo creating strategy without understanding the culture of the organization, exactly what that boundary employee is delivering in terms of products and services to their customers or, in our case, to our communities. They need to be very much engaged in the business of their organization as well.
What’s the most important career advice you can share with CLOs?
Chief learning officers need to have — as part of their professional and personal philosophy — the desire to be a lifelong learner. There is no finish line when it comes to the work we do. We have to continually learn about our roles and keep up with the new innovations around learning. To learn from other industries, to get out and network to see what others are doing, to see if there’s any application to something that another organization or another industry is doing that you can bring in to your own organization. My advice to future chief learning officers is look to other industries to see what they have done that could be innovative and could be brought into your organizations or adapted to your organizations.