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Why it’s good to have L&D friends outside of your own organization

How many people do you talk with about learning and development outside of your colleagues and co-workers in your organization?

Recently, my friend Betty Dannewitz and I had a chance to sit down and discuss the importance of having “friends” across the L&D landscape, especially people outside of our own organizations, with whom we can talk, brainstorm ideas, collaborate or just plain nerd out.

If you’re not sure where to find people outside of your organization, social media such as LinkedIn or Twitter could be a good place to start. Attending a local ATD chapter event could also be a way to begin connecting with other L&D professionals in your area. Want more ideas? Give this week’s podcast a listen!

Transcript of the Conversation with Betty Dannewitz

Brian Washburn: Welcome, everyone, to another episode of Train Like You Listen, a weekly podcast of all things learning and development in bite sized chunks. I’m Brian Washburn, Co-founder and CEO of Endurance Learning and your host for Train Like You Listen. And today I am joined by– or rejoined I’ll say – by the ever-pleasant Betty Dannewitz, who is the founder of If You Ask Betty and who also has a podcast by the same name. Betty, thank you so much for joining us.

Betty Dannewitz: Thank you so much for having me.

6-Word Biography

Brian Washburn: Well, this is not your first time on this podcast. And so you know, how we start. We always like to start with six-word biographies to introduce ourselves. Today’s topic is really about the importance of having friends in the learning and development industry. And so if I was to introduce myself using six words, it’s pretty simple, I would say, “It’s good to have some friends”. How about you? How would you introduce yourself with exactly six words?

Betty Dannewitz: I would introduce myself by saying, “Find people who are your people”.

Brian Washburn: And have you done that?

Betty Dannewitz: I have.

Brian Washburn: (CHUCKLING) Well, let’s get into the questions here because this is going to be a little different format than typically we have– typically I’ll be the one asking questions and then you’re on the hot seat. But I think that this will be more of a conversation today because I think that this conversation is really important. I definitely have my own perspective to bring to it, I know that you do as well. 

But before I go too much further, I’d love to talk a little bit more about this word “friends” because in a professional context sometimes the word friends makes people a little uneasy, you know. In work, we’re supposed to keep it professional. We’re supposed to keep work and personal stuff separate. So I’d love to hear from you, if you could set the bar for our conversation by explaining what you think this means here when we’re talking about having friends across the industry.

Finding Industry Friends and Networking

Betty Dannewitz: Sure. So having friends across the industry is – like I said in my six-word introduction – “people that are your people”. So as you are networking and learning what people do, something in that conversation will likely click with you. And you’re like, “I think I might like to spend more time with this human doing different things like learning more about them or singing karaoke or, you know, having a sandwich, all of those things”. So like when you feel sort of that little something extra, I think that’s where you’re like, “Oh, this could be a good industry friend”.

Brian Washburn: Yeah. I totally agree. You know, when we’re at work, a lot of times the people that we’re with – we’re often forced to be with them, right? And so when I think of the idea of having friends across the industry, I think of having some sort of relationship that I can choose to have and who I look forward to being with. And so that can be people around the organization and also can be people in other organizations, like going to conferences and having someone to eat with or play cornhole with.

Betty Dannewitz: Yes.

Brian Washburn: And it’s not just that social piece to it – It’s what I can learn from that person as well. And I guess this gets into my next question. I’d love to talk to you and I’d love to hear your thoughts in terms of why having such friends is not just a “nice to have” – I would really say that it’s “a must “if you want to grow.

Why Industry Friends Are Not Just Nice, But Necessary

Betty Dannewitz: Absolutely, it is. Because you need a support system. So, this is how I indicate whether or not somebody in the industry is now my friend: if I can pick up my phone and text them a random question that’s usually about learning and they will answer. And I didn’t have to say, “Hi, it’s Betty from blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Thanks so much. Bye bye”. Like, those are my friends. And that’s what you need because sometimes you’re in the middle of doing something at work with learning, you’re trying to figure this out, trying to do this. And you’re like, “I remember Brian said something about that thing”. And you pick up your phone and you’re like beep, beep, beep” and Brian answers. Look now everyone’s going to text you – you’re welcome.

Brian Washburn: (Chuckles)

Betty Dannewitz: But– and so I think that’s a really important piece is that you have this– you have enough of a connection that you’re both moving towards the same thing. There’s no level of competition. And that’s one thing I really like about this industry is that, for the most part, it’s filled with people that want to help each other – not just sell their latest book or pedal that or whatever.

Brian Washburn: (Laughing)

Betty Dannewitz: It’s, “Yeah, let me tell you about my book but also – oh, you have something similar that you do! Let’s talk about it”. So–

Brian Washburn: Yeah and I think that we– you know, one of my first podcasts with you was around this idea of just reaching out to people and how surprisingly easy it can be to connect with somebody. You know, find somebody on LinkedIn who might have similar professional interests and things like that and that’s just a good way to kind of open up a conversation. For me, I think that why I would say this is “a must have”– and I think that the friendship that you and I have developed here is a really good example of it – is I know that you work with a lot of people who are just developing their skills. And so I will send you notes – a lot – saying, “Hey, Betty. Do you know anybody who might have some good visual design skills? Or somebody who you think is really effective at putting together e-learning?” And you’ve given me a number of names, some of whom we’ve worked with as contractors, one of whom we’ve hired. None of this would happen had we not had this, kind of, opportunity and relationship where we can just send each other notes.

Betty Dannewitz: Yes.

Brian Washburn: And I think that that is true for so many people who I know in this field. Whether it is, “Hey, would you mind taking a look at– I’m writing this book – would you mind writing an endorsement or a blurb or something like that?” It’s just one of those things that isn’t just a “nice to have”. I wouldn’t be able to do some of the things I’m doing without knowing other people.

Betty Dannewitz: Right. Agreed. And I think it’s important to remember that there are other people out there that can work with you and alongside you that don’t necessarily work at your same organization that can help you get things done. I think this is not a secret, but one of my biggest friends in the industry is Destery Hildenbrand. And we are often seen connected at the hip because we compliment each other very well. So I talk about AR, he talks about AR; he talks about VR, I say, “Oh, I have something to add”. And we share resources and share information back and forth all the time. So yeah, you gotta have somebody that you can sort of bounce ideas off to. Another one of my– I’m gonna drop some names.

Brian Washburn: Sure, yeah. Go for it.

Betty Dannewitz: Another one of my favorite people – favorite humans on the planet – is Matt Pierce from TechSmith. And, I’ve seen him actually a few times at ATD ICE— which is really fun to see him in person, even though he only lives about 50 miles from me. But we love to just riff and have ideas and think about things. And I use his product, right? But–

Brian Washburn: TechSmith is Camtasia and Snagit. Yep.

Betty Dannewitz: Yep. I use his products for his company, but also I give him ideas for his academy. And he, you know, gives me ideas for If You Ask Betty. So, it’s really important to have those relationships. And if you don’t– and here’s another thing I want to say – if you reach out to somebody and you don’t feel the zing, like i’m going to use that–

Brian Washburn: Sure. Yep. Yep.

Betty Dannewitz: You don’t feel that zing – it’s okay, you know? You are not for everyone and everyone is not for you – so it’s okay if you’re not friends with everybody. But there will be some people that you’re like, “Yeah, you’re my people”.

Brian Washburn: Yeah. Going back to your biography. Yeah. And so– and I alluded to this earlier, you know, you and I connected on LinkedIn first. Where can people find such friends, right? Especially in this day and age when travel and opportunities to meet people face to face is limited.

Where Can You Find Friends in Your Industry?

Betty Dannewitz: So LinkedIn, LinkedIn and LinkedIn is definitely the place because for the most part, people are there to make connections, network and learn from each other. Can you do it on Facebook? Sure. There are lots of Facebook groups and others, like several for instructional designers and things like that. But people that are on Facebook are also people that are on Facebook. So just beware of that – it’s a little different thing.

Brian Washburn: Sure. I think that’s a great point that your social media platforms have different purposes. 

Betty Dannewitz: Yes.

Brian Washburn: And while there are some work purposes for Facebook, really it’s kind of a social networking app.

Betty Dannewitz: Yep.

Brian Washburn: It’s truly social whereas LinkedIn has a very different kind of focus and reason for people to go to that site.

Betty Dannewitz: Agreed. L&D loves Twitter. I am not a huge fan.

Brian Washburn: It’s funny that you say that because that was probably where I would meet– if I was to ask this question 5 years ago or 4, or whatever – Twitter is probably where I made most of my early connections through tweet chats and things like that. I have definitely moved over to LinkedIn as well when it comes to meeting people.

Betty Dannewitz: If you like Twitter, it’s a great place to find like-minded people. I met Mike Simmons on Twitter and I would definitely consider him a friend. We’ve done some work together. So it’s not my favorite because quite frankly, I get lost in the tweets – in all of the different retweets and I’m like, “Ugh, this is very overwhelming. LinkedIn is much cleaner”. But yeah, Twitter is a great place, too. So if you like Twitter and you love to tweet, start there.

Brian Washburn: Sure. Alright. So we’ve talked a little bit about the importance of developing friendships and we can talk about this more and more. We could probably talk about this all day. But I know that our listeners expect this to be short-form.

Get to Know Betty Dannewitz

Brian Washburn: So to end here, and so that people get to know you and might want to reach out to you, I have a set of speed-round questions that are a little bit more speed-round, right? So it’s think fast – It’s this or that, right? Are you ready for this?

Betty Dannewitz: I’m ready.

Brian Washburn: PowerPoint or Prezi?

Betty Dannewitz: Powerpoint.

Brian Washburn: Augmented reality or virtual reality?

Betty Dannewitz: Augmented reality.

Brian Washburn: Polling software or voting dots?

Betty Dannewitz: Polling software.

Brian Washburn: LinkedIn or Twitter?

Betty Dannewitz: LinkedIn.

Brian Washburn: Facebook or Instagram?

Betty Dannewitz: Instagram.

Brian Washburn: Read books or listen to podcasts?

Betty Dannewitz: Audible.

Brian Washburn: Audible. You’re cheating.

Betty Dannewitz: Listen to books? Oh, I’m sorry – listen to podcasts.

Brian Washburn: No, it’s fine. It’s fine. Coke or Pepsi?

Betty Dannewitz: Coffee?

Brian Washburn: (Sighs) Coke or Pepsi? Neither?

Betty Dannewitz: Coke.

Brian Washburn: (Chuckles) Okay. 

Betty Dannewitz: You’re such a rule follower.

Brian Washburn: They’re my questions!

Betty Dannewitz: I know, I’m sorry.

Brian Washburn: You need to follow my rules! (Laughing) Karaoke or live bar band?

Betty Dannewitz: Karaoke.

Brian Washburn: In-person or virtual conference?

Betty Dannewitz: In-person, every time.

Brian Washburn: Right answer! 5 close training friends or 50 casual training friends?

Betty Dannewitz: 5 close training friends.

Brian Washburn: I’m with you.

Betty Dannewitz: Yeah.

Brian Washburn: Well, Betty, it’s been a lot of fun. It is always fun to talk with you. And for those who are listening, hopefully you had as much fun. You can find Train Like You Listen on Spotify, Apple, iHeart Radio, wherever you get your podcasts. If you like what you hear, go ahead and share it on one of those platforms – maybe Twitter or LinkedIn – and that’s how other people find us as well. Until next time, happy training everyone.

This week’s podcast is sponsored by Soapbox. Sign up today for a free demo below.

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