Cordell Dixon | May 2022

Organization: Southwest Business Corporation 

Title: Training Design & Development Specialist

Favorite Quote: “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” – unknown.


Karen Wagner High School (Salutatorian)

St. Philip’s College courses


Train The Trainer (The Bob Pike Group)
Everything DiSC Workplace (Wiley)


Congratulations on your recent launch of SWBC’s Leadership Academy! How did you approach the design and development of this program?

Thank you! This has been something that my leadership envisioned for quite a while. It’s exciting that we have finally hit the ground and are in motion!

The process was very collaborative. I had no experience in program development when I was initially invited to help create and design the program. My AVP, Yesennia Gonzales-Reyes, and our SVP, Mandy Smith, were very patient with all of my questions and did a really good job of guiding my thought process and explaining the ‘why’ or ‘why not’ behind a direction they recommended.

In the initial stages of development, we thought what better approach than to ask the division leaders directly what they would like to see their leaders grow in and improve upon. We received a wide range of feedback and filtered the things that would be most impactful and measurable. That became the baseline for the competencies we would focus on developing throughout the program. From there, it was just a matter of researching content and being very intentional in how things were framed to inspire introspection in the leaders to apply the principles to themselves and their roles/responsibilities. In addition, a few from outside SWBC who have initiated different leadership programs graciously shared their wisdom and insight with us on how to create a program with the most impact.

Considering that this is the pilot year, we wanted to make sure that we’re keeping a consistent pulse on the program by sending out feedback surveys to the participants. Their valuable and immediate feedback is letting us know what’s working well and what things we may need to reconsider before the program is available company wide.

 What was your biggest professional hurdle in the past two years, and how did you overcome it?

I think many in the training industry are aware of the struggles virtual learning introduced, especially for an organization that didn’t already incorporate virtual learning into its curriculum. Our experience at SWBC was no different. There was so much trial & error for the first several months while converting our catalog from in-person to virtual. Realizing mid-class that a certain activity didn’t make sense, the learning curve for the less than tech-savvy participants, technology mishaps, you name it! Yet, the hardest part for me was not letting those things get me down too much. I tend to be very tough on myself, even in things that are out of my control. I knew the potential for virtual learning but struggled to accept that things wouldn’t be perfect right away and to allow myself grace when bumps in the road presented themselves.

A huge part of overcoming the hurdle was leaning on my team for support. We all collaborated in the conversion process and shared our experiences and best practices. It helped me to feel less like I was on an isle alone when things didn’t go right. Through perseverance, we were able to figure out the new normal and deliver virtual learning at the high standard I’d become used to.

How does diversity, equity, and inclusion factor into your role and work as a Training Design & Development Specialist?

There’s a direct correlation in content development and DEI. There are so many areas where differences exist beyond the more obvious in race and gender. Differences in economic status, culture, mental and emotion wellbeing, etc. are very real influencers for how someone may receive information. The goal of a facilitator is to impart knowledge and principles that can be applied once your training session ends. But if I’m explaining a principle from only the perspective of my experiences, I’m missing out on so many potential teaching moments, or even opportunities to expand my own schema.

An example of this realization in my own life came a few months ago when I was preparing to facilitate a class on working more effectively with the different generations. Part of this class involves reviewing pivotal historical moments that occurred during each generation and discussing how those things impacted that generation’s view of the world. Some of those moments in history are very polarizing, depending on what “side of the tracks” you grew up on. I made sure to highlight those (possible) different perspectives, and the result was better than I expected. Because safety and trust were established, we had individuals share their experiences as a member of a marginalized group that they may not otherwise had I not invited a different perspective on the world event.

Overall, knowing how important this conversation of diversity, equity, and inclusion is has made awareness that much more important in my role. Making sure I’m constantly checking my unconscious bias and expanding my vantage point of the world through others’ experiences has, without a doubt, made the privilege of facilitating richer and more meaningful.

What important skills did you develop in your previous role as a Senior Sales Representative that you brought over to talent development?

Empathy was one of the biggest takeaways from my previous role while in the banking industry. Finances are a tricky thing. One on end, it’s as simple as making sure you spend less than you make. But, as we all know, it’s never that simple. There were many times when someone would come to my desk for guidance on what kind of loan could work for them because of a situation they found themselves in. Often, the situation was avoidable. So, in the process of helping them know how loans worked and which one made the most sense for their situation, I always tried to impart some financial wisdom as well. So many adults wound up in a difficult position because they never had anyone teach them how to manage their money. I never wanted to see someone struggle financially, and that empathy helped me to always be on the lookout for things I could do or share to help someone keep from making a potential mistake in their money management.

When I think about the skills I try to impart during training classes it’s no different. For example, leaders, even with the best of intentions, are struggling to retain talent and foster a healthy team dynamic without ever having been taught the basics of managing and leading people. How could one expect them to be proficient at navigating such a heavy task without having even the most basic of leadership skills to start with? The same empathy from my previous job roles pushes me to be constantly aware of trends and best practices to share with the leaders I influence.

At the end of the day, employees of any industry are people with lives, families, and concerns. Whether a leader or a team member, I have the privilege to help them grow as an individual, and empathy helps me to keep the right perspective during class development and facilitation.

Lifelong learning is critical for today’s workforce. How do you prioritize your own learning?

I credit my grandmother with my view on learning. When I was a child, she would say that I could ‘read every book in a library and still only scratch the surface of all there is to learn in the world.’ To this day, our conversations are still very intellectual in nature, and she’s constantly challenging her thought process on things. And so I make it a point to attend webinars and watch TED talks that relate to my field of training. In addition, I’ve found that inviting others to share their lived experiences with me on any subject does as much in expanding my perspective as reading a published work. The science in a book may be well researched, but without varied human perspective, its application is limited. When I learn or hear something from a training webinar, one of my favorite things is to share my takeaways with friends and family and invite them to give me their thoughts or share their feelings on the subject. What they share may not align with the hard data from the book or webinar, but their input expands my perspective on the topic, which helps me to be a more well-rounded learner and facilitator.

Kristen Lueck | April 2022

Organization: Comal Independent School District

Title: Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instructional Design

Favorite Quote: A quote that is currently resonating with me… 

“When we are sure-footed in who we are, we always have something to come back to. When we know what defines us is not any job or thing we own or professional title we carry, it makes us less likely to lose our way if we lose any of those things.”  -Luvvie Ajayi Jones


B.A. in Spanish for the Professions & Education, Marquette University

M.S. in Learning Design and Technology, Purdue University


How did you get started in curriculum and instructional design?

I started my career in education as a teacher. I enjoyed working with students and collaborating with adults. After a few years, I realized I enjoyed working with adult learners just as much. I sought opportunities to improve my craft and through that I became an instructional specialist. Wanting to learn more about adult learning and performance improvement, I went to graduate school to study Learning Design and Technology. Ever since, I have been on a mission to help others become their best selves and improve performance through learning and development.

What aspect of your role do you enjoy the most and why?

Problem-solving in cross-functional teams brings me joy! The opportunity to improve our processes and systems brings challenge, fosters creativity, and allows for collaboration. This think-tank, scrum-like process, considering all the stakeholder perspectives, is when I know we are bringing about positive change to improve outcomes for others.

What is your biggest challenge as an instructional designer in education, and how are you working through it?

Oddly enough, having the time to practice instructional design is my biggest challenge. With competing priorities and tasks that don’t align to design work, my days are spent in meetings gathering and sharing information. I have begun to intentionally block time in my calendar for deeper thinking, allowing for more consistent needs analyses and strategic thinking.

Tell us about your passion for strengthening yourself and other women for executive leadership.

Learning is my passion, and it’s what I do to ensure I’m continuously working toward my next best self. I have the honor of working alongside a group of exceptional women who lead teams toward our organization’s mission with passion and purpose. Increasing knowledge and improving skills is what empowers us to be more impactful. It’s my job as a leader to nudge our team forward to the point where any one of them could take the lead and do it better. Rarely satisfied, our consistent drive to know and do better is what keeps us strong.

What advice do you have for talent development professionals working in education?

The cyclical nature of education work can lead to a cadence of doing what has always been done, oftentimes overshadowing what could be improved iterations or great innovations. Embracing change and adopting a growth mindset opens the door to creativity and continuous improvement, something both students and education professionals can benefit from.

Kristin Baer | March 2022

Organization: Defense Language Institute English Language Center; Lackland AFB

Title: Training & Development Specialist

Favorite Quote: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Viktor Frankl


B.A. in Communications and English – Southwest Baptist University

M.A. in Biblical Exegesis and Linguistics – Dallas Theological Seminary


How did you get started in Training & Development?

I started investing time and energy in areas that I loved such as facilitating, curriculum design, and self-awareness assessments.  Over time,  I realized I could pursue all these interests in Training and Development.  I still remember the joy of discovering that Training and Development fit my greater life pursuit to connect others to authentic and meaningful experiences that propel them to grow as individuals and communities.

What are your top focus areas as a Training & Development Specialist for the Defense Language Institute?

I love the diversity of areas that I get to be a part of in my role with needs analysis, design, development, strategic planning, program management, coaching, and facilitation.  My key focus area is leadership development.  I value being a part of a multiplying effect to equip leaders with skills they need to lead and develop others such as change management, conflict management, and teambuilding.

What project are you the most proud of and why?

As part of the 2021 Steering Committee of the Alexander BriseƱo Leadership Development Program with the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, I got to help redesign and facilitate the program.  Engaging in rapid learning on a cohesive team with a diversity of strengths in a COVID environment was a challenge and opportunity.  I’m most proud of updating this program because of the shared love and purpose that brought our motivated team together.  We were able to impact not only individual leaders but also the community with tangible growth. 

Tell us about a major industry challenge that you’ve faced and how you overcame it.

Over the years, as a civilian in the Air Force, I have faced being different than the norm of the culture I support.  This meant that building credibility and finding my voice was an uphill battle at times.  At times, I lost confidence or doubted my contributions.  A fellow trainer asked me, “When you think of those people closest to you who you seek advice from, is there diversity of gender, race, ethnicity, background, age, and experience?”  Surrounding myself with diverse voices encourages me to bring my full self and strengths to work and learn how to connect to support everyone in the organization.

 What advice do you have for someone who wants to break into coaching?

1)     Reach out: A great starting point is to connect to coaches and ask for advice. 

2)     Access free resources: My favorite coaching book is Michael Bungay Stanier’s The Coaching Habit.

3)     Volunteer: Community opportunities like TEDx always need volunteers and will help train you in the process.

4)     Train: I highly recommend the ATD Coaching Certificate as a formal training option.

5)     Practice:  Start using the skills you learn in everyday conversations.  Stay curious one minute longer and ask one more question to begin developing a coaching approach.

Darryl Bogan | February 2022 

Organization: USAA

Title: Learning Performance Consultant Lead

Favorite Quote: “You didn’t make it on your own” - LeRoy Bogan (my father)


BS Social Science – Troy University
MS Management, Strategy, and Leadership– Michigan State University


How did you get started in Training & Development?

Throughout my service in the Army, I had the honor of developing and training the servicemembers in my unit. Noncommissioned Officers are considered the master trainers and it is our responsibility to train, coach, and mentor the Soldiers within the organization. I took pride in identifying significant skills gaps within the organizations and developing training to improve those critical skills. 

What do you find most rewarding about developing leaders?

What I find most rewarding is watching the proverbial light bulb light up. My greatest enjoyment is not only watching the leader grow, but watching these leaders inspire those they are charged with serving to grow and be better.   

The pandemic forced talent development professionals to adjust their training and development strategies. What project or initiative, in response to the pandemic, are you the most proud of and why?

The pandemic coupled with social unrest were tense times for our organization. Our ability to adjust our delivery of content from face to face to a virtual platform was phenomenal. This was especially important when we delivered resilience training, centered around racial injustice and the pandemic, to an organization dispersed among 20 states in the Midwest.

How did your military career prepare you for your current role?

The military develops several skills that are important to the nature of the work we do in the defense of our nation. One critical skill that I consistently use at USAA is humility. Pivoting from the military to the corporate environment was intimidating (still is) and it’s been my willingness to humble myself that has led to a successful transition. Having the courage to admit that I do not know it all, understanding that growth takes time (no matter how much bubble gum you swallow), and accepting that you will not be an expert overnight takes an abundance of humility. This understanding has been important in my continued growth.

What leadership advice do you have for our ATD San Antonio members as champions of learning in their organizations?

Jason Reynolds said it best, “Your way is only yours, but the rest of the world has theirs…your sort of life isn’t the only life.” For leadership to work, we must understand that leading is about serving those who may not always believe what you believe. Your willingness to accept that fact will allow you to display both empathy and compassion for people totally different from you.  Once you can do that, then you have trust and with trust anything is possible…

 Tina Garza | January 2022                                                          

Organization: Security Service Federal Credit Union

Title: Instructional Designer

Favorite Quote: “Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo.” – Jon Sinclair


BS Chemical Engineering, Texas A&M University - Kingsville
MA Human Dimensions of Organizations, University of Texas at Austin.


How did you get started in Instructional Design?

Back when I was an intern working in the Quality Assurance laboratory for a chemical manufacturing company, everyone was responsible for curating content for weekly safety meetings. I didn’t realize until I moved into a formal learning & development role that I have been designing, developing, and facilitating training my whole career!

What aspect of Instructional Design do you enjoy the most and why?

This is a tough one for me. I love instructional design as a whole: the problem-solving process of coming up with a training solution that helps improve individual performance but also aligns with organizational goals, the opportunities to be innovative with simulating real life in virtual and eLearning environments, and the creativity to deliver aesthetically pleasing assets. I get to be both scientist and artist. I can truly say, I love what I do.

What project that you’ve been a part of are you the most proud of and why?

When I was working in the oil and gas industry, my manager asked me to start delivering monthly safety training for our team. He said safety training was boring. Back then, safety training was notorious for being death-by-PowerPoint (it may still be in some places). I was determined to prove him wrong…and I did! The safety training I designed and developed was so engaging that attendance was nearly 100% month over month and we had no safety incidents while the program was in place. I love knowing my work made an impact.

What do you see as some of the most exciting trends for Instructional Design in the future?

There is so much out there and I have only started scratching the surface of researching some of the latest advancements but I read an article recently on the Metaverse that was interesting. We seem to be trending to virtual reality and I am excited to learn more and experiment with some of these concepts in the near future.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to break into Instructional Design?

Build a foundation in adult learning principles. In my experience, without formal education or training in instructional design, there is a tendency to design based on our own experiences which, in most cases, is heavily influenced by how we learned in school. Training adults in the workplace is a completely different ball game. Employees need relevant, immediately applicable, knowledge and skills to perform well on the job. Training adults is about involving them in the learning process to cultivate the critical thinking necessary to work through processes and relationships that aren’t always cut and dry.

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