Featuring our GCATD President, Kristie Schoonover, SHRM-CP. She is currently the Associate Director overseeing Learning and Development at pep, a marketing operations agency. One of the most enjoyable aspects of her work is taking a concept and making it relevant.
Q: Introduce yourself to our members. What is your role and what you are currently focused on?
I am an Associate Director overseeing Learning and Development at pep. We’re a marketing operations agency headquarter in Cincinnati with teams in over 10 satellite locations. My three main goals this year include ensuring we have the tools and resources available to support internal growth and development as roles become available, partnering with subject matter experts on skills development for the greater team, and continuing our focus on diversity, equity & inclusion.
Q: Why are you a GCATD member?
I originally joined GCATD because I was a team of one in learning and development. I could read and attend webinars, but I didn’t have visibility to real people and what worked in real life. I started attending SIGs and walked away from each meeting with at least one good idea to implement. I have stayed a member because I have continued to grow in those connections and continue to learn from my peers.
Q: What made you decide to become a Chapter volunteer?
I wanted to stretch and challenge myself. I kept saying, “this is something I’d like to do when I have time.” Eventually I realized there would never be a perfect time to try so I put my name out there. At the time I was working on building our employer brand messaging at work. I volunteered for the Director of Communication role because it allowed me to use similar skills and grow in that knowledge. Volunteering can help you learn a new area, refine skills within a specific skill set, and grow your leadership skills.
Q: What is one of your most memorable career accomplishments?
I saved this question for last because I was having trouble thinking of a single memorable moment. I know it’s rare these days to say you’ve been at a company for 16+ years. When I started we were 14 people in one office (literally knocking down walls to make room for us all.) Over the course of those 16 years we’ve grown to 200+ people across the US. In that time I’ve worked with others on the team to establish processes on the client services side. I’ve created a role in Learning and Development and grown the team. In that role I’ve worked on developing training as we’ve rolled out new scope or added new clients. 16 years ago we’d plan training by signing our names of a physical sign up sheet in a common area. Now we have a team, systems, processes, resources, and subject matter experts. New hire training and onboarding was our main focus of training and is now just one piece of the puzzle. So one of my most memorable career accomplishments is being able to look back on the growth and what we’ve been able to accomplish.
Q: What led you to where you are today in your career?
During my senior year of college I took a career assessment that said I should be a teacher. My advisor wisely told me to finish out my marketing degree, get a job, and if in a couple of years I wanted to go back to get a Masters in Education I could always do that. Luckily I found a job at a startup marketing agency. We were growing quickly so along with my day job of executing consumer promotions for my clients I was working with a committee to decide how we would onboard and train new employees. Eventually this led to an official role where I was 50% assigned to a client facing role and 50% focused on training. For the past 9 years I have been fully focused on Learning and Development. Over that time my role has moved from more tactical to strategic and my team has grown. The time I spent working on the business and traveling to the different offices helps me now to be a better business partner and I continue to work closely with business leads to ensure I’m providing the most relevant solutions for their teams.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your work?
I like the opportunity to problem solve and come up with creative solutions. So the most rewarding moments are when it all comes together. It’s when you see those ah-ha moments, connections being made, and the learner sees the value of the training.
Q: What is the best career advice you ever received?
You can’t want something for someone more than they want it for themselves. We can make the tools, resources, programs, etc. available to our teams and mentees. We can do all the research to make sure that we’re current with trends on adult learning styles, training in a virtual environment, and the future of learning. We can share the “what’s in it for me.” At the end of the day there’s still a choice of the learners part to engage and make it a priority. We can’t want their growth and development more than they want it for themselves.
Q: What is one piece of advice you’d offer working moms?
Look for a role where you’ll have work/life fit. A perfect balance is never going to be achievable and you’ll always feel like you’re falling short. Are your peers and leaders supportive of you when you want to step out for a couple hours to attend the class party or assembly because they trust you’ll still deliver on your work? Do your teammates and family understand that there will be times when you need to fully throw yourself into work to complete that big project or assignment? And do they also acknowledge that there are times when life will need to come first? Do they step up to help you in those moments? Understanding the culture, values, and support system around you is so important to being able to work towards work/life fit.
Q: What interests you outside of work?
Right now I’m pretty sure I’ve watched every show that exists on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and HBO. I’m also 10 books ahead of schedule on my reading challenge for 2021. I’m definitely looking forward to the days when we can get outside, explore, and travel more frequently again. Some days I’ll hear a song on the radio and realize I never got a chance to hear that band live so I hope we can return to a time of live music. I also love to try new restaurants. Nothing against carryout, but I’m looking forward to an actual sit down dinner at a restaurant. Then there’s my travel list – some places I’ve been and some places I need to get back to: Italy, Southern California, Washington DC, Arizona, Austin, Asheville, Scotland.