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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My Road to Becoming an Accidental ID

Have you watched, read or heard about a new book "The Accidental Instructional Designer: Learning Design for the Digital Age"? Written by Cammy Bean the book talks about getting started in eLearning.  I was moved by the title and relevance of the story so I figured I would share my Accidental Instructional Designer story with you....



In 2006 I gave up on my lifelong dream of teaching. In between the crappy economy, an unplanned pregnancy and general dissatisfaction in the University and their program provided  I choose to stop going. I found myself with a useless Associate degree, a beautiful child and feeling like I was trapped in a never ending tunnel of employment and schooling options. I went back and forth from being a stay at home mom and working jobs that I found unsatisfying.

After three years, a job assignment ending and with another baby on the way, I decided that if I was going to back to college now was the time. I started a Business Administration Associates degree after loving an accounting position I took through a temporary employment agency.  I used many of the credits I had previously received to complete nine courses in two semesters. I had to sign a waiver that said I was limited in time, money and the courses I could take.  The whole time wondering if I made the right decision. I struggled with the idea of going back reminding myself how it felt to leave education behind. I would have to remind myself every so often that Business Administration is stable, there are so many avenues to choose and the success latter is pretty straight forward. I was almost done when I found out that my financial aid ran out and I was forced to walk away with only one course remaining.

After having my second child, I took a part time job as a receptionist at an Educational Center. During this time, I worked closely with HR to get teachers and therapists ready for the school year, maintaining safety for children and staff, creating documentation on processes and policies and setting up professional development opportunities. It was at that moment when I realized that Education and Business could intersect.  That I could combine Education, which I loved the most, with Business, the one that I felt stable.

I started seeking employment hoping to go from part time to full time when I came across a job opening from a local college. The title was listed as a Content Assembler and I was stumped.  I tried googling the title and looking up information on what that meant or how it worked but came up with nothing. The posting was cryptic and had foreign words to me like course authoring, Lecotra and SCORM. Something on the page was screaming at me. Something felt right. I decided that this is where I needed to go next and submitted my resume hoping that I wasn’t packing boxing or stapling papers all day long.

After clarifying the tasks in the interviews, I was ecstatic.  This is what I was looking for! The position ended up being an eLearning developer contract position for a Fortune 50 company. I learned course development software, techniques and theories, graphic design and honed my professional skills. I dove in deep learning anything and everything I could: self-teaching myself to teach others.  I soon branched into the concept of translating material volunteering for a new service to be provided. I learned process life cycle and the importance of documentation while building relationships with other employees. Finally, through hard work and dedication I rose to a half time Instructional Designer position that opened up the opportunity for me to work with SMEs, review courses and implement Instructional Design best practices and theories into every day development and process.

I knew that I wanted to continue my skills and unfortunately, the position did not offer any more advancement or professional development opportunities. So I began looking locally.  After a conversation with my sister about her considering moving to Denver, I turned to my husband and asked why we couldn’t move out of state.  The pros outweighed the cons and we decided to open up the search to include the whole United States. I started researching companies and softwares and reading reviews and doing geographical research and checking into school districts and creating spreadsheets, and overall becoming way to over whelmed with finding a company and location we liked. 

Finally, I started submitted resumes over the course of months until one day I received an email.  I’ll never forget what it said….”You do realize this job is in South Dakota, right?”. “Yes”, I replied eagerly.  “I’m looking to relocate and came across your company.” We set up an over the phone interview and then an in person before I finally got the call.  “We’d like to offer you an Instructional Designer position. Let me know if you’re interested.” My hard work had paid off.  Within a month, we moved 900 miles. The company I’m at encourages my growth, offers a new business sector and a developing Learning team.


By accidentally stumbling into ID I have opened up opportunities, the globe and most importantly my confidence. I feel committed and ready; as if I finally have a professional purpose. Now I just need to talk myself into getting a Bachelor’s degree…..

How did you get here?  Do you have an Associates, Bachelors or Masters Degree?  Are you an accidental ID?

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