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904 From Instructional Designer to L&D Leader: The Upskilling Journey

8:00 AM - 9:00 AM ET
Wednesday, November 9

Tracks: Leadership

Many instructional designers desire to take the next step in their career, but it seems unclear how to get there. Sure, there are a ton of resources out there on the newest technologies and instructional design trends, but not nearly enough guidance on the upskilling journey from a technical expert to L&D leader. The unique needs of learning leaders have drastically changed in recent years. Perhaps the Great Resignation shifted your job responsibilities, you are experiencing imposter syndrome as you consider or are in a position of leadership, or you aren’t even sure what the promotional opportunities are within L&D in your organization. You need a strategy to upskill and craft your leadership brand.

In this session, we will first define the role of an instructional designer compared to an L&D leader and discuss skills that are transferable between the two roles. Then, we will look at how to be strategic in upskilling to become an L&D leader by identifying what gaps and blind spots you may have, identifying what you should and should not do as a learning leader, and how to change your mindset to grow in those areas of opportunity. Lastly, through multiple opportunities in the session to assess and reflect on your own performance, you will craft an action plan to help you apply what you learned.

In this session, you will learn:

  • How to craft and communicate your personal brand to position yourself as an L&D leader
  • How to identify transferable skills you currently have and reframe them in a leadership context
  • How to pinpoint your leadership blind spots and develop a plan to upskill
  • How to gain confidence in your L&D leader upskilling journey

Calen Fitzsimmons

eLearning Training Designer


Calen Fitzsimmons is an experienced content developer skilled in learning experiences and people-to-people relations. Strong in leadership, professional communication, training, multimedia, and learning content creation, Calen has a bachelor’s degree focused in digital film with an emphasis in production from Grand Canyon University, and a master’s in management and leadership from Western Governors University. Calen works at EPRI as an eLearning training designer implementing new and emerging technologies such as VR, AR, and a new learning system to establish a program containing 95 courses, initially for new chemistry technicians, and ultimately for other job roles for the nuclear industry.

Sharon Lo

Senior Training Manager


Sharon Lo is the senior training manager at Fairfield, where she drives the L&D strategy for Fairfield’s corporate and construction business. With a background in instructional design and learning technology, she started her career as an eLearning specialist and pivoted into L&D management within the hospitality, construction, and real estate industries. Sharon’s passion is to create immersive and scalable learning experiences that impact strategic objectives by integrating instructional design, visual design, UI/UX, and technology. Sharon was selected as a member of the 2021 Thirty Under 30 by The Learning Guild.

Mary Sarkissian

Instructional Designer


Mary Sarkissian is an instructional designer at Meta with over a decade of professional experience varying in K-12, higher education, and corporate settings. Mary has supported organizations in varying sizes in educating and developing target audiences through tailored instructor-led training (ILT), computer-based training (CBT), and leadership development programs. An enthusiast for education, Mary has recently earned her master of science in instructional design and has passed the Associate Professional of Talent Development (APTD) Certification.