Instructional Designer Origin Story


The lovely Kristin Anthony interviewed me last week for her podcast, Dear Instructional Designer (which is bananas – thank you, so much!). After our recorded session, we had a little informal chat about my path, and she asked something to the effect of ‘have you ever blogged about that journey?’. I had to think about it for a moment, because I’ve blogged about it a lot but in several different posts, so it’s a bit disjointed. In any event, I figured I would take the time to let my readers know about the path I took to get from novice Instructional Designer to my present day self…maybe it will become my origin story and I’ll get paid as much as Hugh Jackman in Wolverine…maybe I’m delusional?

Like many, my road to Instructional Design was accidental. I had just graduated with a BA in Linguistics and Psychology, my friend (a former K-12 teacher) told me her company was hiring and that they needed warm bodies and she thought I was smart enough, so I interviewed and got the job (which I’m pretty sure was because the VP at the time was super impressed with my background in Linguistics, thinking I spoke multiple languages…a moment in my life where staying silent was a good thing).

I slogged around there for about 5/6 years, in a training company with very little training, worked on a lot of really cool projects, met a lot of great people (many of whom I still play softball with each year), and completed my Masters of Education (Post-Secondary Studies). At the time, I had freelanced a bit, but it was bumpy.

Initially, my goal was to pay off my student debt, so I took on really random projects (proofreading PhD thesis, transcribing audio interviews, etc.) that I really felt kind of gross about – some were alright, but many were a huge rip off. When I paid off my student debt, I vowed off freelancing, because that was a horrible experience. After about a year or so, I went back to the freelance game, but with a target in mind of providing Instructional Design and e-learning development services. After cultivating a small regular client base, I jumped corporate ship and haven’t really looked back since.

One of my early contracts was with the university I now work at full-time. Yes – I’m not a full-time business woman in the grand scheme of things, but my passion was higher education, so I couldn’t really turn down an offer of full-time employment at a university. Since accepting that offer, I’ve scaled back my business in terms of which contracts I choose to work on, but believe me, I’m still as busy as ever, essentially working two full-time jobs, but I love what I do!

Working in an academic environment is a very interesting experience, much different than working with military personnel, but that’s for another post…

Working two full-time gigs is rewarding because I get my fill of analysis, design, implementation, and evaluation at the university, where my role is predominantly project management, but independently, I get to work develop e-learning for clients that I really love working for! It’s the best of both worlds. In the last year, I’ve been able to take my business in a more strategic direction. Instead of working full-time and having 20+ contracts a year, I’m working full-time at the university and full-time for my business, but I’m working with much fewer clients with more repeat business. It’s been great!

That takes me to present day – I’m getting ready to hit up some professional development opportunities at ATD ICE (for my independent professional development), and CAUCE-CNIE (for my institutional-self), so if you’re at either of those conferences and run into me, please say hello and ask me anything you want to ask! I won’t promise to have all the answers, but I’ll try to be as helpful as possible.


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