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 Mica Ashmore | December 2022

Organization:  Alterman

Title: Learning and Development Specialist / Continuous Improvement

Favorite Quote:  “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them” – Albert Einstein

Education:  BA in Biology from the University of Kansas; MBA from Touro University; MEd in Organizational Learning, Performance, and Change from Colorado State University.

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/mica-ashmore-69218050/

How did you get started in talent development? 

At the midpoint of my Air Force career, I was fortunately selected to teach professional military education to our military partners in Latin America. That experience led to various roles overseas in international training management, which included identifying training and performance needs and capabilities assessments for a variety of US and international military and government organizations. That mix led to a second career in learning and organization development after I retired from the Air Force.

What aspect of your role do you find most rewarding, and why?

I love collaborating with individuals, teams, and organizations to create a path to turn wild ideas into reality.  It’s the thought partnership that I find the most rewarding and valuable aspects of my job. It’s amazing to me how seemingly impossible tasks or challenges can be resolved when the right people work together.

In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge you think content creators are facing today and what are you doing at your organization to overcome it? 

In many contexts, there is often too much information to process. Sometimes we (including myself) get too caught up creating an ideal or perfect end product–which often results in either nothing getting done or an opportunity fading away.  By taking an incremental approach and incorporating continuous improvement in the plan, not only does the ball get rolling, but it opens up opportunities to make it better through feedback. This can also serve to instill a sense of ownership to those who took the time to share their thoughts on how the product could improve.  This can have such a positive impact!

Tell us about a time when your strength in change management had a positive impact.

I’m a firm believer in the ideas presented by Chip and Dan Heath in their book “Switch”, where they propose that you, teams, or groups have emotional and rational sides–you have to understand both, and also create a path for them to succeed.  To me, this is at the core of implementation versus adoption.  We can implement new programs all day, but until people believe in the program and use it, only then is it truly adopted.  We recently implemented a variety of new programs and I attribute their success (and adoption) to our team truly seeking to understand the emotional and rational sides of our target audiences, and creating paths that consider those needs.

What advice do you have for our members about being a collaborative consultant?

I’ve found that truly listening and trying to understand where others are coming from makes a huge difference in how diverse ideas can be synthesized into greatness. Sometimes you need to put aside your own biases and make room for different perspectives, ideas, and points of view on the table. This leads to an environment where everyone can hopefully believe that they have a voice for change and creativity.

 Patrick Hale | November 2022

Organization: CPS Energy

Title: Interim Director, Talent Development

Favorite Quote: Success happens through constant pressure relentlessly applied.

Education: BA in Human Communication from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Oswego. MA in Organizational Communication from Texas State University.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/patrick-hale-pmp/

How did you get started in learning & development?

While studying at SUNY Oswego, I was required to read a chapter out of Communication Training and Development by Dr. Steve Beebe and several co-authors. I felt like this chapter gave my degree purpose, and I started learning more about what it meant to "do" training. I eventually learned that Dr. Beebe taught at Texas State University, and they had a highly respected master's program. The plan for my master's degree was very open. So I focused every class on learning a skill that would help me in the L&D world. I took a graduate-level training class, a class on assessment, instructional communication, education technology, and many others. While in school, I constantly networked with former Texas State students employed across Texas. One of those employees worked at CPS Energy as the Manager of Power Generation Training (the same role I held until I was recently promoted). He offered me a job a week before graduation. I have been at CPS Energy and in L&D since

Tell us about your journey from Instructional Designer to Manager, Power Generation training at CPS.

I started out as an Instructional Designer in Power Generation Training. My job was to build courses for power plant operators progressing through their apprenticeships. Each day I would meet with an SME, and we would work together to create curriculum. The SME would bring knowledge of the plant, and I brought knowledge of how to build courses and engage learners.

After a year of working in Power Generation Training, I moved to the Poles and Wires side of CPS, where I did the same thing. While with that group, I was asked to lead a project leading the development of a course to assist individual contributors in deciding if they wanted to cross the line and become leaders. This was my first opportunity to lead a project, and it was a success and I liked the work. From there, I lead many other Learning & Development projects across many business units. Some of them were technical, and some were soft skill-based.

One of the most significant projects I led was standing up a Heavy Equipment Training Program for all of CPS Energy. Before we created a formal program, equipment operators were taught mainly on the job. Once this program was stood up it needed someone to oversee it and that became my role; Supervisor, Heavy Equipment Training. In that role, my team and I developed and maintained the company's equipment training procedures.

After leading that team for about two years, I was offered the role of Interim Manager of Power Generation Training, and after about a year, I interviewed and accepted the position full-time. In this role, I oversaw all the apprentice training, regulatory and compliance courses, and journeymen refresher courses for Power Generation. The Power Generation Training Team is made up of a mixture of former Plant Welders, Machinist, Electricians and Instructional Designers, and Program Project Managers.

What is your favorite aspect of your role?

In the Manager, Power Generation Training role the bulk of the work is ensuring that Regulatory and Compliance Training is completed. We assign over 11,000 courses at the beginning of the year; historically, we can drive a completion percentage of around 99.9%.

 While this training is vitally important to the operation of our business, it can be very monotonous. What I really enjoy being about to do is help our internal customers solve their develop needs. We oversee the apprentice programs for Power Generation. Most employees who enter the apprentice program do not have much experience in the craft they have entered. Our program will give them the knowledge and experience they need to become a Journeyman in our plants. It is amazing to see someone grow from feeling completely overwhelmed on day one to a amazingly confident journeyman in five years.

 Another aspect of my job is developing our SMEs. Even before I began leading this team they were developing SMEs to take jobs outside of their craft. I have worked to improve that development. Our goal is for any SME who comes to our department on rotation to grow in their skills. Every SME who has spent significant time with us (and wanted a new opportunity) has been promoted.

What project are you the most proud of and why?

I am extremely proud of the work we did on the Heavy Equipment Training Program. Before standing this program up we did not have a consistent training program for equipment operators. At CPS Energy, we have over 1,100 skilled craft workers who operate at least one piece of equipment (forklift, backhoe, mobile platform, skid steer, etc.). As a result of this program, we have a committee that oversees the training, a set of standards for the training curriculum, and a refresher program that is tracked in our LMS. Because of the program, we can confidently say that our equipment operators are trained and refreshed.

What are the energy industry specific challenges you face as a learning & development professional, and how do you overcome or balance them?

It is hard to say exactly if the issues we face are specific to the utility business, but we definitely have challenges. Here are a few that I see:

  1. Forty percent of our workforce is retirement eligible. We are bringing in new employees at a rate that I have not seen in the 10 years that I have been here. These employees need to be skilled up quickly to meet the wave of employees who will be leaving.
  2. The utility industry is in a time of exponential growth and change. Because of this our internal customers are having to pivot quickly and make business decisions without the luxury of long testing or R&D periods. As a result, we have to be ready to do the same. Traditional training teams that take months to develop in-depth courses will be made obsolete by teams that can produce an adequate course in a quarter of the time.

 Jenifer Wheeler | October 2022