Anita Hurst: An Emerging Training Leader

“Five Questions” is a series about MISO employees – the women and men who empower our success every day. Meet Anita Hurst, a technical training consultant in Carmel, Indiana.

“A little embarrassing but flattering.” That is how Anita Hurst describes finding out her colleague had nominated her for a Top 20 Emerging Training Leaders to Watch award as part of the Training Magazine Top 100 annual awards. Attached to her nomination were eight pages of her accomplishments from the short amount of time she had been with MISO. We invite you to learn more about her career path.

What led you to work in learning & development/training?

I stumbled into it in college by way of my sorority. I wanted a leadership position and I thought it would be cool to be the new member educator. It was very rewarding to customize and execute a four-month-long development program that helped new members integrate sorority life into their collegiate experience. That same year, an educational leadership consultant from our international headquarters came to visit us. She was smart, kind, poised yet personable. She challenged us to be better, polished our rough edges and taught us about so many things. Not only did I end up working hard to get the coveted job that she had, but after my year-long contract expired, I was promoted into a full-time director role where I managed the team of leadership consultants and several other full-time staff members at our headquarters. My love of teaching others everything from risk management to recruiting to leadership development is all because of my sorority and it has been my passion ever since.

How has your career grown or changed since you joined MISO?

My least favorite question to be asked is “Where do you see yourself in five or 10 years” because I’m not into planning out my career. Yes, I have big dreams and big ideas, but they usually require a magic wand. I’m motivated by helping others, so I tend to go where the need is. Luckily, that’s the path my career has taken at MISO.

I started at MISO as a talent development partner focused on training execution. After nine months, I was offered the opportunity to shift into a new focus to work under a new leader, redesigning what learning and development would look like for MISO. This was a dream project for any learning and development professional. I was working with a senior director in HR and what I provided in learning and development experience, he provided in strategic vision and executive relationships.

I grew so much in this role. I learned about strategy and how to successfully communicate with our executives. I built relationships with people at every level; I received tough feedback that I grew through; I challenged people and processes every step of the way and did a lot of new things.

After four-and-a-half years in HR, I was approached by some leaders in operations asking about my interest in making a career shift to technical training. This would be the second time at MISO I had to make a choice – take the comfortable route or go where I am being asked to go. For the second time, I shifted and transferred to operations as the technical training consultant. I spent a year and a half learning about operations and what they, and the rest of the organization, need from technical training. I grew our Human Performance Initiative and now have the new opportunity to continue to develop and grow the impact of the entire department by serving as the new manager of technical development.

What has been your favorite project to work on?

One day, human resources leadership cracked the door by asking my opinion on training after I had been at MISO for six months and I was brave enough to be honest in my response. Three months later, they offered me the opportunity to redesign training. This is the holy grail of projects in learning and development. All along the way, my leadership trusted me. They listened, they enabled and they prioritized. The collaboration and trust that I received from everybody in MISO at every level were overwhelming. They were forthcoming with me about what needed to change, they shared their ideas with me and then trusted me to do things differently. In two years, we created and executed a new structure, a new marketing strategy, we updated our learning portal, had all new custom content that so many people had graciously piloted with us, had launched a New Management Bootcamp Experience and documented all new processes to ensure these could be continued long-term. Thank you to everybody who was a part of that.

While I was creating change, change also was happening that I didn’t like and felt like chaos. That was a test of my adaptability. It’s easier to accept change when I’m leading it, but other things I did not influence were happening that impacted my “comfort zone”. There was self-coaching I had to do, but also some help I needed from my peers and leaders to get me through the change curve.

The most significant challenge but also the greatest gift from this project was addressing tough feedback from my peers. They found a blind spot that my leadership and I couldn’t see. I was fortunate enough to have the continued support of my leaders and was coached to see myself through new eyes. Because of that honest feedback and the coaching I received, I grew personally and professionally in my relationships, with boundaries and self-care, and with perfectionism. That project changed MISO and it changed me – for the better. I am so thankful.

What advice would you give to others interested in the field?

You need to love all kinds of people, be adaptable and be organized to be successful in learning and development. If you aren’t all these things, don’t consider this field. Learning and development/training is all about people. Understanding people, talking with people, listening to people, helping people, anything you can imagine involving people – it happens. The craziest, most heartwarming, most unexpected and sometimes strangest things involving humans happen in this field, so you have to love and appreciate every kind of person to do this work.

Adaptability and organizational skills are also a must. Keeping track of all the people, their needs, the content, the trends, the resources you have, and business constraints all require a strong ability to be and stay organized and be adaptable.

What do you hope to do in the future? 

My personal driver is helping people, so my goal has been the same since I stepped foot in the door of MISO – do whatever I can to improve the employee experience. Our employees put in the time, effort and expertise every day to make the business work, so we as an organization need to put in the effort to cultivate and develop them. That helps with retention and helps us prepare for the future. What and how we do that will evolve as the business, our industry and the world evolve.

From a strategic perspective, I hope to continue to build MISO towards embracing a learning culture where human and learning development is a top priority. In my new role as the Technical Development Manager, I hope to create a highly skilled team that successfully partners with the business to develop all our technical employees at MISO. Through learning and development best practices, we would address onboarding and cross-training, increasing our MISO business acumen so we understand each other’s work, and training on our tools, processes, skills, and concepts that help us drive success today and in the future.