Key Takeaways from the Women of L&D 2021 Conference

Women of L&D. A group of multicultural business women smiles at the camera.
Did you get a chance to attend TLDC's Women of L&D Conference on Friday? I share my five key takeaways in this post. (They're not just for women!)

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Introduction

Did you get a chance to attend The Training, Learning, and Development Community’s Women of L&D event on Friday? In this post, I share my five key takeaways about leading, learning, and embracing change. (They’re not just for women!)

1. Take time to do the things that feed your soul.

I almost didn’t attend the TLDC’s Women of L&D virtual conference on Friday. Multiple project deadlines were looming, and I knew if I attended, it would mean working on Saturday to catch up.

Between client projects and running a business, I had been working long hours—filling others’ cups but not my own. I thought, “I’m too busy for a conference.” But an inner voice kept nagging at me to go, and I’m glad I listened. Spending an entire day learning from and interacting with other learning professionals—successful women who are killing it in L&D—was good for my soul. It was rejuvenating and nourishing.

When is the last time you took time out for you?

2. Build your learning network and join communities.

As Cara North shared in a particularly powerful session, we should seek those who fan our flames. In other words, we should surround ourselves with people who lift us up and help us become our best selves.

I am fortunate to work with some amazing friends and colleagues. But I work from home, and my circle is small. This conference allowed me the opportunity to expand that circle and meet other women in L&D from whom I can learn.

Cara shared advice from Zsolt Olah about three types of people we should connect with:

  • Peers
  • Those who are 6 months to 1 year ahead of you
  • Those who are where you ultimately want to be

Connecting with peers on LinkedIn, following L&D leaders on social media, and subscribing to learning blogs have been integral to my professional journey. These are easy ways to expand your circle and learn from others in the field.

For me, the Women of L&D conference also reinforced the importance of learning communities. This was my first experience with The Training, Learning, and Development Community, and I’m excited to now be a member. It’s only $75 for an annual membership.

Some other groups I’ve found helpful are:

I’ve also found a great deal of value in the eLearning Freelancer Bootcamp from IDOL courses. It includes a learning community and regular live Q&A sessions with industry experts. (There’s an IDOL Academy for beginners too!)

3. Be the change.

As a learning and development professional, you can have a great deal of influence in shifting mindsets and organizational behaviors. Rubina Halwani talked about how training can help mitigate disparities related to race, ethnicity, gender, and accessibility. She asked us to consider what we can do in our role to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

(Also, I love that Rubina calls herself a JEDI—Justice, Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion Advocate.)

Megan Torrance and Jessica Jackson of Torrance Learning discussed the different identities each person has. They pointed out many types of diversity such as race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical ability, neurodiversity, mental health, social class, and body size.

Even if you’re not asked to develop DE&I training specifically, here are some ways you can foster inclusion with the learning experiences you design:

4. Be your authentic self.

Heather Younger began the day with an inspiring talk about showing more heart at work. Rather than the old advice to “leave your personal life at the door,” her message was to be 100% who you are, wherever you are.

If you’re working from home, do you worry about appearing unprofessional during Zoom meetings if your kids walk into the background or your dog barks? Remember how we were all amused and heartened when Professor Robert Kelly’s young children videobombed his BBC News interview? We didn’t berate him for being unprofessional or see him as any less credible. We related to him, even more so now that many of us have had similar experiences. The lesson is it’s okay for your clients and colleagues to get a glimpse of your life and see your personality and interests. They know you’re human!

If you do a video call with me, you’ll see my dogs in the background as they make themselves comfortable on the armchairs in my office (that I keep meaning to recover—don’t judge). They might even bark.

So what?

A shaggy, beige-colored miniature poodle mix looks at the camera from an armchair. A shaggy white Bichon mix sleeps on another armchair.

My big takeaway about being authentic wasn’t just about not caring what people think about my furry office mates or my old chairs. It was about learning not to be afraid to talk about the things that make me, me. And that leads me to my last takeaway.

5. Share your story.

Sarah Elkins of Elkins Consulting spoke about how you can clearly communicate who you are and what you stand for through the stories you share.

After starting my L&D business, I wondered whether I should revise my personal social media accounts and change what I share there to be more “professional.” Should I worry about my clients seeing my profile and knowing personal information about me?

Most specifically, I wasn’t sure whether to share that I have (invisible) disabilities—and whether to disclose what those are. You see, well-meaning mentors had advised me in the past not to do so, because it might hurt my career or cause people to see me as less professional. Now I’ve come to see that if a client would think less of me because of my disabilities, that’s not a client I want. So I decided I’d share my story. But you’ll have to wait until next week, when I’ll write about accessibility and inclusion lessons from the pandemic.

Summary

In Cara North’s session, she asked us to consider several questions including, “What can I do now that will pay off in the future?” and “How can I keep growing?” I found the Women of L&D conference to be an investment in myself and a great opportunity for me to connect with others who will help me grow. I also hope to pay it forward. After all, that’s why I got into L&D in the first place—to help people become their best selves. I hope the five takeaways I’ve shared here will help you do just that.

Chime In

What are you doing to feed your soul? Share your thoughts in the comments!

If you attended the Women of L&D conference, I’d love to know your key takeaways. If you didn’t get the chance to attend, or just want to revisit the pearls of wisdom shared that day, you can watch the recordings.

If you want to expand your network, use the social media links at the bottom of the page to follow Scissortail. Also feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn—as long as you’re not trying to sell me stuff. Full disclosure: If you follow my personal Twitter, you get the real me; I don’t use it strictly for L&D posts.

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