Being Your Best Self: A TLDC Event Recap

Illustration of a diverse group of women. The caption reads "The Training, Learning, and Development Community's Women of L&D Conference 2022."
This post summarizes key takeaways and quotes from the Women of L&D 2022 conference, hosted by The Training and Learning Development Community (TLDC) on March 17 and 18. If you registered for the event, you can still catch the replays by using the event link you were provided. If not, recordings will be posted to the TLDC website in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can see what you missed by reading my recap. There’s a lot to unpack, so this is a long post. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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Introduction

TLDC’s annual Women of L&D conference provides a platform to amplify women’s voices, build connections in the L&D community, and share women’s stories, accomplishments, and wisdom. It’s an inspiring, enlightening, and empowering event—by women, for everyone.

Besides being on the planning team, I was honored to host panel discussions at the end of each day. One of the panelists shared this advice for building community (which also works really well for just being a good human):

Be transparent. Be consistent. Be compassionate. And be empathetic. Be motivating. And be loyal. And trustworthy.

I loved Molly’s list so much that I decided to structure this post around another set of “BE” statements that summarize the advice I heard throughout the conference.

Be Yourself

Authenticity came up several times, and the speakers shared stories of their authentic selves with full transparency and raw emotion. Some especially poignant moments happened during the keynotes, in which Cara North spoke about self-care and Megan Torrance shared some career wake-up calls.

During the panel discussion on the first day, we had a conversation about how much of our personal lives to share now that so many of us are working from home. When inviting clients, coworkers, and bosses into our home for Zoom calls, will we be perceived as unprofessional if our kids walk into the room or our dogs bark? Does being professional mean never letting our personal lives bleed through? I loved Rubina Halwani’s advice about this.

Don't apologize for being a whole person at work.

(P.S. Toddi Norum’s dogs have adorable barks, and I NEED to meet them.)

Be Confident

I found every session of the conference to be empowering. A few of the speakers discussed imposter syndrome and overcoming fears and challenges to build their own self-confidence. In particular, Vanessa Alzate’s session—titled, “Throw on Your Sequin Jacket and Get on That Stage!”—was chock-full of wise advice for overcoming your fears, believing in yourself and your skills, and kicking imposter syndrome to the curb. If you’re interested in speaking at conferences or other events, or you just need some confidence boosters, be sure to catch the recording of Vanessa’s talk for both inspiration and practical tips.

One of my favorite tips from her was to keep a folder of “happies”—compliments, thank you messages, kind words, performance results, and other things that build up your confidence. When you’re feeling down, you can go to that folder and, as she put it, “remember that you’re a boss.” In her session, there was also plenty of that raw emotion I talked about, as Vanessa shared her authentic self.

In her session called “Can You Regulate?” Rhonda Curtis Waller reminded us that practice may not make perfect, but practice does make permanent. We have to take authority and responsibility for ourselves and practice how we respond to situations that are difficult for us (more on that in a moment). She shared that people think of her as a strong person who doesn’t fold easily or let things get to her. But she learned to be that way through practice.

You can change the way you present yourself to the outside and to yourself.

Be Proactive . . .

Many of the messages throughout the two days revolved around the idea of being proactive—about our wellbeing, our careers, and asking for what we want.

About Your Wellbeing

Cara’s session focused on self-care and putting yourself first. She shared an impressive list of accomplishments since the pandemic began, also sharing how drained she felt as she experienced several personal challenges—including a health scare that put things into perspective. This led her to make some changes to put her metaphorical oxygen mask on first.

Putting yourself first isn't selfish. It is the definition of self-care.

If you follow my blog, you might have noticed some radio silence lately. That’s because I experienced not one, but TWO concussions in the past few weeks. As a “day off to recover” turned into more than a week, I felt like I was letting my clients and colleagues down. But I’ve been down this road before. I knew if I didn’t listen to my body, it would interfere with my recovery and do more harm than good.

If you don't make time for your wellness, you will be forced to make time for your illness.

It shouldn’t take an injury or illness for us to push the “pause” button. We shouldn’t let ourselves get to a breaking point before we set boundaries.

My mindset . . . has been stealing time for myself virtually and making myself unavailable when I’m unavailable, and available when I’m available.

Likewise, when we take time for ourselves, we shouldn’t feel guilty about it or like we’re “stealing” that time. It’s ours for the taking.

Self-care includes not only setting boundaries, but also doing things you enjoy that build you up—such as reading, painting, exercising, playing music, or spending time in nature. It also includes regulating the way you respond to negative situations. Rhonda likened a negative emotion to a package delivery, and she advised us, “Don’t sign for it.”

About Your Career

Cara’s session also discussed the need to plan for our future and where we want to be, reminding us that “success doesn’t happen without failure.” Megan Torrance picked up that thread on the second day, beginning her presentation with empowering messages about following our dreams and going after what we want.

You can do anything, and . . . there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do all the things.

She also shared strategies and tools for planning for our career journey, reminding us that doing our job really, really well isn’t enough. Referencing an article about Tiara Syndrome, she advised us to use our network, our voice, and our reach—the tools in our backpack for our journey.

Vanessa shared the R.E.S.E.T. mindset for rewiring and training our brains to rid ourselves of limiting beliefs and go after what we want to do.

You don’t regret starting; you just regret not starting sooner.

About Asking for What You Want

Megan shared that, through failing to negotiate, women give up half a million to a million dollars in salary over our lifetime. She pointed out that women often don’t negotiate because we’re penalized for doing so.

Sharing a video clip of Kelly Cutrone, Cara discussed how “women are taught not to ask for what they want.” But we need to end the cycle of accepting less than our male counterparts. Coincidentally, shortly after the conference ended, I ran across a Twitter thread about how to negotiate for a higher salary.

While you’re asking for what you want, don’t be afraid to reach out to someone you’d like to have as a mentor. As Megan pointed out, “the people you want to be your mentors are the people who want to mentor.” But don’t take it personally if they don’t have time; see if they can refer you to someone else.

A good mentor will help you see what you know . . . and what you don't know.

If you’re like our panel discussion participants, you might want to ask to continue working from home once the pandemic is over. The chat during that discussion was on fire with conversations about the advantages of remote work—including better work-life balance and fewer micro-aggressions experienced by people of color.

Speaking of micro-aggressions, Rhonda shared the advice that if someone says or does something hurtful, we should assume that the person didn’t mean to offend us. She recommends addressing the issue one-on-one, letting them know how their actions or words were harmful. Then if it happens again (after they should know better), we need to stand up for ourselves.

And for goodness’ sake, we need to stop apologizing when we have nothing to apologize for.

Be a Part of Something Bigger

A recurring theme throughout the conference was the importance of building support systems. Vanessa talked out finding our “hype people” and calling them before speaking gigs (or, presumably, whenever we need a pep talk).

When you’re in the right space, when you’re in the right community, that uplifting is what makes it so important, and that’s how you grow.

During the panel discussion on the second day, we talked about what community means to us and how to find our place while serving others.

Despite how much you put into [your community], you can always get so much more back.

As L&D professionals, we also play an important role in our workplace communities. Tanacha Gaines suggested making sure L&D has a seat at the table when things like learning environments, learning management systems, and data affecting learning are being discussed. By encouraging open communication and building connections, we can help break down silos, build organizational trust, and strengthen our organizations.

Be Empowering

Megan also shared how she handles being the token woman in the room, saying “I may not like how I got the seat, but I am actually getting a seat, and I’m going to use it.” Then she uses that seat to invite others to join her.

You can make room for someone at a table once you are at the table.

In a perfect example of women lifting each other up, as Megan was speaking about mentoring others, Gwen Navarrete Klapperich shared in the chat that it sparked an idea to create peer mentoring circles. Reach out to Gwen if you’re interested in participating.

Toddi and Molly presented a session about how mentors can break the bias and gender inequity that exists in the workplace. Women can give each other safe spaces to seek advice and ask questions.

As women, we have to be positive and hold each other up.

Be Reflective

Nicole Papaioannou Lugara’s session, “Lessons from Learning to Mom” was all about reflecting on what she learned about learning while learning to be a parent. (Very meta.) She walked through some parent training tools and products and shared what she discovered about user needs and user experience criteria. She reminded us to focus more on purpose than production when we’re designing learning experiences, and that tools must be:

  • Useable
  • Accessible
  • Useful
  • Credible
  • Desirable

The best experiences exceed users' needs.

Nicole’s session conveyed a great deal of information, so I encourage you to watch the replay or read her related blog post for more of her insightful takeaways.

Reflection is not only a critical part of learning but also being better learning experience designers. It’s a big reason why I write this blog, and especially recaps like this.

Rhonda’s session also touched on reflection, as she discussed being aware of our thought processes and how we react to stressful things.

When is the last time you slowed down to reflect on a course you created, an article you read, or an example someone shared? When was the last time you reflected on an emotion you were feeling and analyzed why you were feeling that way and how it was affecting you? I encourage you to take a few moments now for reflection.

Summary

This year’s Women of L&D conference was such an inspiring and empowering event that it’s hard to believe it was free. I want to thank Luis Malbas (again) for providing this opportunity and platform for women to share their stories and wisdom. I also want to thank the other men who attended, demonstrating that they’re listening to us. We see you, and we appreciate you. (Next year, invite your friends.)

Thank you to the amazing speakers who gave freely of their time, talent, and expertise. Here’s a rundown of the event’s sessions. I’ll update this list with the event recordings when they’re publicly available. 

  • Cara North—Beyond Self-Care: Putting Yourself First
  • Nicole Papaioannou Lugara—Parenting L&D: Lessons from Learning to Mom
  • Rhonda Curtis Waller—Can You Regulate?
  • Panelists—The Changing World of Work
  • Megan Torrance—Career Wake-Up Calls You Need to Hear
  • Vanessa Alzate—Throw on Your Sequin Jacket and Get on That Stage!
  • Torri Norum and Molly X. Gee von Holdt—Can Mentoring Break the Bias?
  • Panelists—The Importance of Community

Lastly, I’d like to give a shout out and huge thank you to the other volunteers who helped organize the event and served as panelists:

  • Devin Torres
  • Gwen Navarrete Klapperich
  • Rubina Halwani
  • Tanacha Gaines
  • Theresa Francomacaro

Resources

The following resources were shared during the event.

 

*NOTE: The website for this app says it “analyzes voices on the basis of biological sex.” Putting aside the problematic implications of the phrase “biological sex,” based on this information, it’s unlikely the app will produce accurate results for trans men and trans women. And it excludes people who are nonbinary or gender fluid. I assume it would also yield inaccurate results for cisgender women with deep voices or cisgender men with high voices.

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