Magazine article Talent Development

Finding Your Career Sweet Spot: Donna McNamara Describes an Ideal Consulting Career as the Intersection of Client Needs, Professional Expertise, and Enjoyment

Magazine article Talent Development

Finding Your Career Sweet Spot: Donna McNamara Describes an Ideal Consulting Career as the Intersection of Client Needs, Professional Expertise, and Enjoyment

Article excerpt

Q How did you break into the learning and development profession?

A I began my career as an inner city school teacher and counselor, but after several years I was looking for something different (and unconventional). I moved into a leadership position as the director of a maximum-security corrections unit where, as an organization leader, I was exposed to management and team development programs, found them tremendously useful, and decided to migrate to the learning and development field. Earning a doctorate in education and human resources, and gaining consulting experience while in graduate school, helped to establish my credibility in the profession.

Q Did you have a coach or mentor to help you along the way? If so, what advice has stuck with you?

A I am fortunate to have worked with outstanding people who have been interested in my success and generous in providing helpful advice. Some of the lessons that stand out:

* Start with a clear understanding of the business, including strategies, market diversity, performance challenges, and desired results.

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* Spend a significant amount of time in the trenches listening to people's issues and views, establishing relationships, understanding operational and cultural perspectives, and helping to celebrate successes as well as solve problems.

* When visiting field operations from headquarters, provide what unit leaders perceive as concrete assistance, which will help them to improve business results.

Q To whom do you look for guidance and support now?

A My husband (who has excellent background in the field) and long-term, respected colleagues whom I feel comfortable approaching either one-on-one or through a small professional learning group are my greatest sources of professional guidance and support. For staying abreast of best practices and new insights, I look to ASTD, Harvard Business Review, and the relatively new Conference Board Human Capital Exchange.

Q What new insights into the profession have you gained since becoming a consultant?

A I've gained an increased understanding of and appreciation for the expanded range of possibilities for providing effective executive coaching on a remote or virtual basis. While I believe it is important to first establish trust by working face-to-face, I have found that after an initial one- or two-day client engagement, working virtually is a viable option. …

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