When I grow up I want to be: a director of training
March 20, 2017 8:11 AM   Subscribe

Not too long ago I posted this question and now I'm an Instructional Designer with a Master's degree and all. I like the work, but I need to see the next steps and to me, that's becoming a director or manager of training and development. So how can I prepare?

The MS in Instructional Design has given me the curriculum building/pedagogy end of training and I have had experience leading in classroom trainings, but I know I need to do more to edge ahead. There are lots and lots of programs and certificates out there to be certified in different things (Six Sigma, Lean, Certified Professional in Learning and Performance, etc)-- but what's worth the commitment? I have the ability to take classes for free and so a direction to another Master's or certificate program wouldn't be out of reach. I am more hesitant about those certifications through ATD or SHRM, as they cost a pretty penny.

I currently work in higher ed, but wouldn't be opposed to branching out into the corporate world. I have looked around at job postings, but most are pretty broad and the world of professional training and development seems to have a lot of different names ("people strategy", "organizational development", etc).
posted by thefang to Work & Money (8 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Hello, I am a Director of Training for a software company and I took a different route here than you, but my experience might be valuable. I transitioned over from the Product Management side of things where I knew the product so well that it made sense for me to start training others in it. Aside from attending L+D conference sessions, I have not needed any professional certifications to do this job and attract attention from other places.
I think if you have your ID masters already, you really are good to go.
Start working, start applying. You should be able to get training jobs on the strength of your ID degree and your experience in higher ed.
My ethos is not to pay for more programs or certifications unless not having them is actively holding you back. It translates into what people want to see in their learning programs as well: Get the job done and make sure people have the resources and knowledge they need without going overboard.
Go somewhere and work your way up top build your resume, I don't believe more degrees will jump you up.
posted by rmless at 8:18 AM on March 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I should add that this attitude is from a corporate side: what you've done as real work matters more than your certifications.
posted by rmless at 8:19 AM on March 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

Instructional design is a BROAD field. I started in higher ed instructional design and moved to an association. While there's definitely cross-over in skills, I wouldn't expect to move up in roles across industries, necessarily. If you want to be a director of training, you would likely need some kind of experience as a trainer (though your experience as an instructional design in higher ed would count for some in terms of years of experience). If you want to move up, I'd either figure out that you want to do it in higher education (and become a program or ID manager) or start planning a lateral move.

It's a great career as there's a lot of room for lateral moves (and sometimes growth in pay though not necessarily title, though that depends a lot).

I caution that they can be different environments and roles even with the exact same job title (more so than I expected, though I am still happy to have made the change).
posted by typecloud at 9:48 AM on March 20, 2017

I've hired training leaders for large multinational tech companies and while the instructional design degree is good to have, it is "on top of" the relevant work. The work is the bigger component. Much, much bigger than any certification; even in the one company I worked for that did actually value Six Sigma.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:51 AM on March 20, 2017

oh, and as to how to prepare: take on projects that establish you as an innovator, leader and effective follow-through-er. Figure out where there's opportunity for improvement in the org you're in, and make it happen. Then when you're asked what your credential is for Director roles you'll have concrete "I built this" examples. Figure out before you do it what the measure of success will be, and get the baseline measurement before and then measure the effect after you've built it; that way you'll be able to point to the specific benefit to the org of what you did.*

*this is what candidates at the big west coast tech companies I recruited for needed. I've never worked in public or university sector so no idea if it's the same there.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:13 AM on March 20, 2017

I should add a small caveat: in my current position, I'm not able to really build on any training skills beyond developing curriculum (for undergrad and grad courses). I was looking to certifications to help provide some of those training skills that I miss out on.
posted by thefang at 10:35 AM on March 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hey, congratulations on your successful move into ID work! I remember your question from before and am happy you've been making major progress towards your goals. My experience comes from the corporate environment, and I would second everything fingersandtoes said about taking on projects you can later use to demonstrate your leadership/innovation skills. I don't believe any of our directors have the kind of certifications you've described above, though they could all speak the language(s) when the clients need it; from that end, it really does come down to what you can do and how adaptable you are.

I'm not really clear as to what your role or team structure is like now, but in general I'd suggest you do everything you can to make sure your client relationship and team leadership skills are strong. It can be HUGELY helpful to have a mentor here, so figure out who the "superstars" of your group are and try to get on their projects if you haven't already. This works especially well if your superstar can model the skills you want to develop, and is willing to hand the reins over to you as you build your skills - e.g., early on I had the opportunity to work under a manager who was great at planning, and I spent a lot of time learning to develop timelines, budgets, team organization, etc. from him; later on I had another manager who was truly amazing at client relationships - even just sitting in on her conference calls was an education, and once I started holding my own calls it was great to have her sitting in to back me up as needed. Work on getting increasingly larger levels of responsibility in different areas (leading junior IDs, talking one-on-one with SMEs, holding meetings with bigger-wig SMEs and the client herself) - you'll want to nail that team/project lead role as a stepping stone towards becoming a director. Good luck!
posted by DingoMutt at 10:54 AM on March 20, 2017

Seeing your update, I would add that if you already have a solid understanding of how to develop training/curriculum, you DEFINITELY want to focus on those project management/team leadership skills now. I can't think of any training director I know who gets down into the details about curriculum development - they need to know what products their team is capable of, be able to "sell" our services to clients, understand the development process enough to (eh, ideally) NOT commit us to unreasonable requests, and be able to step in to ensure teams are happy and fully engaged, the client is happy, the money is flowing in the right direction ... again, in my group becoming a team lead is the first step to becoming a project (and later program) manager, which in turn opens up Training Director possibilities. The best (and biggest-wig!) Training Director I know came up through the ranks and made a name for himself by being great with clients, solid at planning, and just ineffably useful whenever something was needed that wasn't clearly a specific person's responsibility - to my knowledge, he doesn't have a single (professional) certificate to his name.

With the giant caveat that being a Training Director is very much NOT what I want for myself and therefore this is observational advice only: It's probably okay if you can't build any further training skills right now, so long as you can get those chances to start leading people, developing workplans, etc. If your group is large enough to sustain actual design teams, you should be able to get these skills organically.
posted by DingoMutt at 11:05 AM on March 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

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