Curiosity and the Learning Professional

A Reflection on my Career in Learning

It was 1980-something when I graduated college with a business degree, prepared for a career in marketing. After several attempts to get a job in a tough employment market, I landed a position doing something I could’ve never imagined — writing proposals for a custom training consultancy in Detroit. Huh?

Corporate Training… What?

I knew nothing about the corporate training industry; hell, I didn’t even know there was such an industry. But there I was, dropped into a job where I was cranking out proposals to win training projects targeted at a wide range of industries on all sorts of topics. Every day, I collaborated with a team of sales people, instructional designers, graphic designers, video producers, and programmers to develop winning proposals for learning solutions. It was trial by fire, and I learned a lot in a relatively short period of time. Despite the frantic pace, I really enjoyed it!

That job eventually led to a position in account management that afforded me the opportunity to walk in and out of several client companies. I met a lot of people and listened with great interest to their needs. I asked a lot of questions and learned about a lot of things, such as how kitchen cabinets are made or how natural gas is stored and delivered. I came to a point about three years in when I asked myself a question:

Is corporate training the field where I want to build a career?

The answer was yes! And, here’s why…

I consider myself a lifelong learner. That is, I’m always interested in how things work, how they’re made, what makes something run, and how technology makes it work better — whether it be a machine, a process, or an organization. I have a perpetual willingness to let go of the way things are in order to learn something new or find a new way to approach solving a problem. That’s been of great appeal to me throughout my life. In short, I have curiosity.

Curiosity is Important

Elliot Masie posted a short video not too long ago about the importance of curiosity in the context of learning. It immediately resonated with me, and validated my approach to my career and life.
I believe curiosity is a fundamental attribute for all who make their profession in learning. In the same way caring about people is paramount to being a successful frontline healthcare worker, learning professionals need to be passionately curious at their core. They need to show interest to solve problems. They need to champion curiosity with their learners and design activities into their learning solutions that foster the same curiosity. As a sales and marketing professional, curiosity was the single most important attribute that drove me to help my customers address their needs.

I’m now very close to retirement. I’ll miss having a front row seat to all the different industries and the new technologies that drive them. But, I’m certain my curiosity will manifest itself in other ways, such as learning new songs on my guitar, trying new techniques in the woodshop, or exploring a place I’ve never seen before.

Some say “curiosity kills the cat.” I happen to believe it’s the reason the cat has nine lives. Stay curious my friends.

One Response

  1. Jim Naughton

    Cheers to a remarkable career, Tom! I’ve had a front row seat to a great part of it, and I’ve enjoyed the ride as you have.

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