So, What Do You Do?

In Boulder, the question “So, what do you do?” usually refers to your outdoor activity of choice: hiking, biking, skiing, climbing, paragliding, running, and so on. After we get past the important stuff, we ask about what pays the bills. When I answer this question, I often get the “I’m nodding my head but have no idea what you’re talking about” reaction. I experienced this over and over at a recent Boulder Chamber of Commerce After Hours networking event held at BDA.

Here’s how the evening went for me…

I'm an Instructional Designer

It’s ok. I’m used to it. I fell into a profession that no one seems to know exists. So here goes. Here’s how an Instructional Designer pays the bills.

Maybe you’re a new employee who needs to go through that incredibly exciting experience (or unique form of torture) called New Hire Orientation. Maybe you’re working in a highly regulated manufacturing or scientific environment and you need to get certified on the new equipment or procedure. Maybe you’re a manager and you want to learn how to give better coaching and feedback to your employees. Or maybe, like many of us in the digital world, you just want to take a workshop on how to use the latest and greatest software to help you create your digital art.

In each of these scenarios, someone decides if what you are learning should be delivered in the classroom, on the web, in a webinar, through a manual, or in some other format. At least we hope that someone is thinking about that. That person is an Instructional Designer.

You’re busy, and you probably have very little patience for learning things that are not immediately relevant. That’s fine. My job is to think about how to make your training relevant and applicable, so that it’s worth your time and money (or your company’s time and money).  Imagine sorting through thousands of stock art photos to find just the right one for your concept. As an Instructional Designer, I do the same kind of analysis, coming up with ideas about how best to structure the flow of content to make it interesting, relevant, applicable, actionable, motivating, and memorable.

You like to learn by reading 15 bullet points on each Powerpoint slide in 12-point font. You don’t? Oh, well then maybe you retain information better when you see it and hear it. I know, you like to jump right in and figure things out without being told what to do. Or wait, you like to partner with someone to talk things through. Partner? Give me a break. You like to see how something is done first, then try it on your own and ask for help only when you’re stuck. My, oh my, what is a facilitator supposed to do with 25 people like you in a workshop with all of your unique learning preferences? Or the thousands of you who are going to take the web-based module I design?

I will design training to address your adult-learning needs, or die trying. Well, maybe not die, but try, anyway.

Okay, now you’re a bigwig, important, executive muckety-muck.

You want to be sure the money you’re spending on all this “training” is worth it. Did people really learn what they were supposed to? Do they apply what they learned on the job? Is it saving the company any money, or making the company any money? Or at the very least, not costing the company too much money?

The answer is, of course: Of course! Oh, you want proof? Good thing an Instructional Designer has a methodology for that, too. I help companies put assessment plans in place to answer these questions. And hopefully, all the money you have saved or made (or at least not lost) will be spent hiring me to design more learning stuff for you.

(By the way, the answer to the first question is: I hike. But not often enough.)


Written by Lisa Van Damme, Performance Impact
Cartoon by Tim Meehan Creative,
Copy Editing by Vanessa Martinez, Content Strategist

(all fellow coworkers at the Boulder Digital Arts coworking space)


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