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That's An Awesome Career Transition!

The multi-talented Cheryl Cooper joins me to talk about her transition from a career in chemical engineering to learning and development. She shares the many lessons she learned over the course of her transition and offers advice to others who may be interested in a career as an instructional designer or eLearning developer.

We also chat about how generous and awesome the L&D/ID community is on LinkedIn and the value of helping out those who may be coming up after you by sharing knowledge and resources as you go.

You can connect with Cheryl on LinkedIn or check out her portfolio at


The following transcript was auto-generated and may contain typos or spelling errors.

Leslie Early 0:04

I am super excited to have my special guest, Cheryl Cooper here with me. Hello, Cheryl, thanks for joining me.

Cheryl Cooper 0:11

Oh, hello, thankyou so much for the invite. It's a pleasure.

Leslie Early 0:15

And thank you. And we met each other through Alexander solaces elearning launch course on Camtasia. And you know, for it's basically, for fellow instructional designers learning to use Camtasia. That was awesome.

Cheryl Cooper 0:30

That was an awesome class. Yes,

Leslie Early 0:32

yeah. And so through him, I kind of got to know you a little better. And see some of your instructional design work and see some of your other writing services that you're doing. And it's super cool what you're doing. So I'm super excited to have you here.

Cheryl Cooper 0:47

Oh, thank you. Thank you so much. It's such an honor. And and same for you. I love all of your awesome videos that you're putting out since the class is like, I am amazed.

Leslie Early 0:57

Thank you work. Yeah, I mean, I just I tried to stay stay fresh and Camtasia. You know? Yes, I understand. Use it or listen. Exactly. So here, we're here today to talk about your career transition. So we do hear stories about people, you know, going from education into ID and that seems like a more obvious transition, but you have a little bit of a different story.

Cheryl Cooper 1:22

Oh, yes, I actually, my undergrad was in chemical engineering. Wow. So when I got started, in when I came to corporate, it was more, you know, in technical roles. So I didn't transition into instructional ID until a few years ago. So I had been in the corporate world for about 15 years. And one thing that I noticed from the beginning, when I think back now, it seems like it was just such a natural thing for me to do. Because my first job out of college, it was actually in a lab, I worked in a chemical coatings lab. And for some reason, and I have no idea why but you know, the first thing I noticed was, you know, hey, they're bringing in all of these people, and we're training them on how to do things, but everybody has their own different way. And we had a lot of mistakes for that. So the first thing I did was on my own, just develop a training manual, out of nowhere, and, and I developed it and presented it to our management and they actually adopted it and used it to train new people coming in. And that's one thing that I noticed, if I look back now, in all of my roles, what I gravitated toward was, you know, developing training or training others training new people coming in. So it's not that I was thinking, hey, I want to be a trainer. It was just something that I did naturally. So when our company decided to create a training department to focus on internal training, I thought that was my opportunity. So the first thing I did was start to learn about training on my own. So I would do my own research. I read books, I just anything that I can get my hands on as far as trying to learn about training and development. You know, I did, I networked with the training director at the time. And, you know, I didn't at the time, we didn't have a position available. But I still use that time to talk to her about training and tell her what I've learned and things like that. And she was really impressed with what I did. So she decided to when we did have an opening for an instructional designer, even though I had no experience. She brought me in.

Leslie Early 4:06

That's super cool. So, um, so you were just kind of like, Oh, I'm going to help people. I mean, I think a lot of us are have that impulse to just be like, I'm just being helpful, you know?

Cheryl Cooper 4:17

Yeah. And like I said it yeah, it wasn't anything that you know, hey, I want this to be my job because this was, you know, one of my first jobs initially out of out of college. So I, as a matter of fact, at that time, I didn't even know what an instructional designer was. It was just something that you know, I loved, you know, to do so. Yeah. Yeah.

Leslie Early 4:40

So, so do you. I mean, I don't know how long ago was this transition for you?

Cheryl Cooper 4:46

Oh, this was back in Well, when I started studying was probably 2016. And I didn't actually make the transition until 2018 officially, you know, in Corporate. Now I do have, you know, my business, professional Best Writing and media services. So I did start working on instructional design, with what I interpreted to be instructional design, you know, through my company through side projects, you know, at that time, but officially on the job, it was 2018.

Leslie Early 5:22

Yeah, cuz I was gonna ask, depending on how long ago it was, but, you know, what, what was your first impulse? Like, when you started this research, you know about how to get better at these skills that you were kind of building? Where did you go first? Or, you know, how did you start that process?

Cheryl Cooper 5:40

Oh, well, the first thing I did was, I just started reading books, like ISD. from the ground up, I read the accidental instructional design course. elearning by design, designed for how people learn. So just anything like that, you know, just several different books. I also, of course, did other research I got on LinkedIn works with a lot of people are connected with a lot of people in l&d. And I would say, that's where a lot of my learning came from. And it drove me to do you know, additional, you know, research on in other areas. So one of the things that there's a lot of information about, you know, like different trends and everything. And at first I was so overwhelmed. Yeah, then I pulled back and I said, in order for me to create an effective training that will help people to be better, better in their jobs to change behavior is going to be for me to understand, you know, how people learn. So I started studying, like, the basic foundations of learning. And that's, that's pretty much what I'm doing now or focusing on now.

Leslie Early 7:02

Yeah, it can be overwhelming. I still feel overwhelmed. Like, I agree. LinkedIn is a great place. The instructional design community on LinkedIn is pretty amazing. So I guess, yeah, so if there are other people, you know, out there right now, who maybe are not in an instructional design, or learning and development or training yet, but maybe have that impulse, and they want to help or they want to make that transition? Do you have any advice on where to start? Or or how to get that going in this?

Cheryl Cooper 7:34

Yes. You know, as far as especially networking with in the job if you have a training department, and that's something that you want to transition into. Like I said, one of the things that I did was networking, but in also that I immersed myself in l&d. And as far as like, on my job at the cubicle, I had postings of, you know, everything from like, the nine events blooms addys. Sam, it was all on my walls. I think that's one of the things that, you know, impressed the Director of Training, so just immerse yourself, you know, in l&d topics, tutorials, I did a lot of tutorials, took classes, of course, you know, we were in classes before I did classes on my own. I did classes on like, LinkedIn learning. I also, of course, we did you know, elearning launch. YouTube is a great place to learn different applications. I learned things like Premiere Pro Illustrator.

Leslie Early 8:46

Yeah. And the Actually, I am starting to get into the Adobe Creative stuff, Creative Suite stuff now. And I was surprised because the last time I used Photoshop or Illustrator, it was like, a really long time ago, like, year 2000. So since then, it has really evolved and changed. So I was really surprised. I actually just got in there this week. And they have actual tutorials in the app, like you go in there. And they're automatically telling you how to get through the basics. So I think if people are feeling intimidated by those up, YouTube is great. And like, these different reasons are great, but also the app itself, when you get in there. Yeah, they're gonna teach you some of the basics.

Cheryl Cooper 9:27

So yes, and that's the great thing, even if you don't have you know, money to invest in, you know, a lot of paid training. There are a lot of great tutorials, like you said within the app on YouTube, like everywhere, so it's really, you know, no excuse for us to go in and learn things on our own. If we don't have you know, the fun for funds to pay for, you know, formal training. And another thing that I would encourage people to do, of course, you do your own professional division. But to not be afraid to ask your company to invest in your professional development as well, especially if it's something that's going to help you be a better, you know, Instructional Designer. And that was one thing that I did, I would always, you know, in my mind, I said, well, you always ask, you know, all they can say is no. And if they say no, then I'll just do it myself. That's great. And through that I was able to, you know, my company helped me to get a certification. Through at D, I got an elearning development, Instructional Designer certificates. Also captivate, they pay for me to get my certification or to be the captivate specialist.

Leslie Early 10:47

And that was through the official Adobe Captivate.

Cheryl Cooper 10:50

Yeah, so they, they sent me out to Vegas and everything.

Leslie Early 10:54

Oh, you got to go. So I was gonna try to do that this year. I was gonna try and do it this year, and then COVID came, and then everything got canceled,right? Yes, I got a refund.

Cheryl Cooper 11:05

But that's good. Yeah, I did that in 2018. And I built one well as a series of trainings at the job for that. And then after that, we switched over to storyline and I haven't used captivate since.

Leslie Early 11:23

Yeah. Yeah. It's like an either or kind of thing. Yeah, there's, there's some beef between captivate and storyline.

Cheryl Cooper 11:34

You know, when I said, you know, you can ask the company to invest in your training? Well, even if they say no, like, one of the things I did was pay for my own way to go to dev learn this year. Oh, even though I'm paying for myself, you know, I asked my boss, hey, you know, can I attend these sessions online? You know, without having to take the time off, you know, on my own, like, use my vacation time. And so we picked out, you know, certain tracks that I could attend to that would, you know, especially be helpful for me on the job. So I get to take that time off without, you know, having to use my own personal time. So yeah, so things like that is always Never be afraid to ask, you know, your company, you know, to help you out, you know, in your professional world.

Leslie Early 12:25

Yeah, that's a good and that's a good compromise. You know, maybe you don't have to pay for this, but don't penalize me by taking taking away my PTO or my vacation. Yeah, exactly.

Cheryl Cooper 12:36

Yeah. Yeah.

Leslie Early 12:38

Actually, it's, I just saw this, I forget which conference I was looking at. But there was something I was looking at, I'm always looking at different conferences, but one of them on their, like landing page where you register, they even had a letter to your employer that you can download. Yeah. So that you can, like formally ask, you know, for them to either send you or I didn't look at the letter, but I just saw it there. And I was like, Oh, that's such that's clever marketing, because you're like giving people a way to finance this if they hadn't already thought of that.

Cheryl Cooper 13:13

Oh, that's a great idea.

Leslie Early 13:15

Yeah, smart, super smart.

Cheryl Cooper 13:17

You know, especially when for us who are new to the industry. And this is one of the things that I've learned along the way, we're looking to those who are ahead of us, and we're learning from them. So I think it's important for us as we're learning to also, you know, share with those who are coming up behind us, no matter where we are, in our journey, there's always a person, one or two steps behind you. So I think is always important to you know, share what you learn. And that's what I try to do, like on my LinkedIn post, what I'm posting today are things that, you know, I'm researching things that I'm learning about or things that you know, I'm just getting a refresher on, because I know, there's probably somebody else behind me who had no idea. So, you know, I just I think it's important to, you know, get from others, but also share.

Leslie Early 14:12

Yeah, and then it's like a virtuous circle. Forward. Yeah. And the more we share, you know, it adds value to the community as a whole. So, and that's also why I'm so happy you're here, because, you know, this in my own little way, this is sort of my way of sharing with people.

Cheryl Cooper 14:32


Leslie Early 14:35

And also, like you said, you know, we used to be in that position. You know, I could remember a couple years ago being like, oh, where do I go? What do I do?

Cheryl Cooper 14:45

Yeah, it's a good thing. You know, coming up, you know, when I first started, you know, studying, I did, I did it alone. And it would have been so great. You know, what had I known to jump on LinkedIn, you know, To connect with others, and, you know, I wouldn't have been, you know, as hard as I made it out to be, it could have been a little easier. You know, had I, you know, just started networking with people and learning and sharing. So, yeah, I'm at a point to do that now share as much as I can.

Leslie Early 15:18

Yeah, and, and I know we're trying trying to wrap up here. But that makes me think, actually, one of the best things I have done is join LinkedIn first that led me to design by humanity, which was a huge network of instructional designers and others. And then also, those classes for eLearning launch. I mean, I know Pete, some people hesitate to, you know, invest money in something like that. But to me to have that cohort and meet people face to face, like I met you and met some other people. So it's like, to me, that's, you can't really put a price tag on that.

Cheryl Cooper 15:55

This and we are in a cohort. Now some of us the enterprise ID, and it's an eight week long cohort. So you have more, more time to work together more time to build connections more time to bond, and that this has been just like the best experience ever, you know, imagine how our Camtasia experience was what maximize that times for?

Leslie Early 16:22


Cheryl Cooper 16:23

It's, it's really a great experience learning with with each other, we're doing projects together, projects individually, coming back to check our understanding. I mean, this is one of the greatest experiences ever.

Leslie Early 16:37

Yeah. And I know, it sounds like I just am always plugging elearning launch and whatnot. But, but I think that, you know, that's just one example. But if people can find another group or another community to get super involved in in trying to do this project, project, building together with a team, that's like, the best way in my mind to network with people.

Cheryl Cooper 16:59

I think this is, like I said, this is like the the best experience ever just, you know, getting together with others, especially when you're growing, you know, together, it's one thing to be on LinkedIn, and you're looking to others who have, you know, just tons of years of experience, and you're learning from them. And that's great. But when you can get into your own community of, you know, people where you're learning and sharing together, and you're bringing in information and everybody's you know, saving it and, you know, discussing it talking about it. I mean, that's just the greatest thing. And yes, elearning launch it likes it's a it's a community, you know, and you just learn from each other. You learn from Alex, and of course, you know, he's just the greatest person ever.

Leslie Early 17:45

Yeah, he's hilarious.

Cheryl Cooper 17:46

He's a great guy. Yeah. So yeah, I highly recommend any experience like that.

Leslie Early 17:51

Right. All right. So I think we, we got some good pointers, we got a book list. We got some, you know, networking advice. Is there anywhere that listeners can connect with you? Or, you know, do you have a portfolio that people can look at? Or?

Cheryl Cooper 18:08

Yes, I will love for people to connect with me on LinkedIn. And I do have a portfolio that I'm just starting to, to build, but it's at Cheryl l So you know, so check, check it out and give me some pointers. Give me some feedback. I would love that.

Leslie Early 18:26

Awesome. Okay. Well, thank you so much again, and I hope you have a good rest of your day. Cheryl.

Cheryl Cooper 18:32

Oh, thank you, Leslie.

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