2021 ETL Winners: Orchestrating Success

The 2021 Emerging Training Leaders elicited extraordinary performance from their team members to ensure maximum learning and achievement of business goals.

Like talented maestros, the winners of Training magazine’s Emerging Training Leaders Awards named in fall 2021 orchestrated innovative, results-driven training programs during these continued challenging times characterized by tremendous change and uncertainty. They elicited extraordinary performance from their team members, both drawing on their individual strengths and fostering collaboration among them to ensure maximum learning and achievement of business goals. They serve as inspiring role models for their teams, provide direction for their organizations, and help their learners grow and succeed.

These dedicated leaders continue to step up and out of their comfort zone for the good of their organizations and their people. Their accomplishments are particularly impressive given that the symphony of learning design, development, and delivery in the last year most often took place remotely due to the continuing pandemic.

“This is a stellar group of winners,” says judge Bruce Jones. “A lot of talented, creative people in the L&D field found innovative ways to navigate the pandemic and, in many ways, become stronger trainers and leaders in the process. That should bode well for these individuals, for their companies, and for the L&D profession for many years to come.”

These 25 Learning and Development (L&D) professionals have been in the industry for 2 to 10 years and have inspired and engaged their organizations with their exceptional leadership skills, business acumen, and training instincts. All Emerging Training Leader candidates had to be nominated by co-workers or industry peers.

Training Editorial Advisory Board members and I judged the 65 nominations and chose the 25 winners based on the following factors:

  • Took on at least one new responsibility in the last year
  • Successfully led a large-scale training/learning and development initiative within the last year that required management/leadership of a group of people and resulted in the achievement of a corporate strategic goal (with behavior change/business impact results provided)
  • Demonstrates specific leadership qualities (such as acts as a mentor/coach; adopts new technology; collaborates; embraces and adapts to change; empowers employees; innovates; and thinks strategically)
  • Has the potential to lead the Training or L&D function at an organization in the next 1 to 10 years

On these pages, you’ll find in-depth profiles of the Top 5 Emerging Training Leaders (listed in alphabetical order), plus slightly shorter profiles of the other 20 Emerging Training Leaders. And we continued our tradition of creating a “To Watch” list, which features 5 up-and-coming professionals who are well on their way to becoming future Emerging Training Leaders.


Diane August, Chief Learning Architect, Nationwide

Douglas Bryant, VP, Training, Sonic Automotive

Tina Claure, Senior Manager, Leadership & Executive Services, Booz Allen Hamilton

Jessica Edgerton, VP, Operations/Corporate Council, Leading Real Estate Companies of the World

Daniel J. Goepp, Managing Director, Learning & Development, PwC

Vicente Gonzalez, CLO/Director, Enterprise L&D, Lockheed Martin Corporation

Jim Harwood, former VP, University of Farmers, Farmers Insurance

Glenn Hughes, Senior Director, Learning & Development, KLA Corporation

Graham Johnston, Leader, Talent Development Strategy & Innovation, Deloitte LP

Bruce I. Jones, Former Senior Cast Development and QA Director, Disney Institute

Meredith Maples, Senior Director, Keller Williams University, Keller Williams Realty, Inc.

Hanna Lewin Neal, Learning Project Specialist, Americas Learning, EY

Michael Orth, Senior Director, KPMG Business School – U.S.

Robin Renschen, Director, Learning and Development, McCarthy Building Companies, Inc.

Catherine Rickelman, Manager, IBM Learning

Debra Ross, AVP, Talent Development, BNSF Railway

Emily Steinkamp, Director, Learning & Organizational Development/ Human Resources, Capital Blue Cross

Ross Tartell,Ph.D., former Manager, Learning & Development – North America, GE Capital Real Estate

Lou Tedrick, VP, Global Learning & Development, Verizon

Amanda Worrell, Senior Manager, Training and Development, Dollar General Corporation

Lorri Freifeld, Editor/Publisher, Training magazine


SAMER ALEEMSAMER ALEEM Learning Program Manager

Booz Allen Hamilton (2 direct reports) B.A., Non-Fiction Writing and Editing, and M.Ed, Instructional Design and Development, George Mason University


FAVORITE PHRASE OR MOTTO: “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

FAMILY/PETS: Husband and 2 sons (7 and 5).

OUTSIDE INTERESTS: Traveling and interior design

ADVICE FOR THOSE ENTERING THE TRAINING FIELD: “This field is about helping people learn, grow, and make an impact. To do that best, you are continuously learning and growing your own skills and knowledge. So be curious, believe in your abilities, and never stop being a student.”

Samer Aleem is responsible for planning, implementing, and managing the strategy of onboarding training and new hire experience programs at Booz Allen Hamilton for 27,000+ global employees. This includes all orientation content, resources, trainings, and communications for employees through the course of their first year with the firm. When the COVID-19 pandemic made the firm’s in-person onboarding program obsolete, Aleem led the team in redesigning the Booz Allen Launch program for a virtual environment.

Aleem transformed the multiday, 26-hour program into an 11-hour multifaceted, virtual program in less than 3 months. The redesigned program includes self-paced training, virtual instruction, a technology workshop, and persona-based self-directed learning plans to meet the needs of 7,000+ new hires and the people leaders who support them.

Surveys indicate that 88.89% of new employees’ sentiment was positive and demonstrated that they understand and feel connected to the organization’s culture. The program’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) increased 6 points. Day 1 readiness, measured by the number of Workday tasks and I-9 verifications completed, improved by 4% year-over-year. And new hire attrition decreased by 7.2% in the first quarter of fiscal year 2021.

As a result of her efforts and proven ability to drive firmwide impact, Aleem was promoted in January 2021 and became the career manager for 1 direct report and 2 contractors. She also took on expanded responsibility as Booz Allen’s Essentials Learning Program lead and spearheaded efforts to develop an instructional design (ISD) framework by establishing and implementing ISD process norms and best practices in learning and development (L&D).

Under Aleem’s guidance, 2 employees assumed additional responsibilities crucial to the Essentials Learning organization. One became a communications lead, sharing information on behalf of the Essentials Learning team across service lines and to all firm employees. The other took over the management and logistics of a Virtual Resource guide, to be used by all employees at any stage of their career.

“Samer has established herself as a strong leader who brings innovative ideas, tools, and technology to build and deliver training solutions that improve employee performance,” says nominator Tina Ayres, Global New Hire Experience Program manager, Booz Allen Hamilton. “She has advanced rapidly in her career through displays of her proven impact in functional proficiency, individual contribution, and risk management.”

JACOB BELAKONISJACOB BELAKONIS Training Manager – Branch Operations

AAA Northeast (3 direct reports) B.S., University of Rhode Island; MBA, Endicott College


FAVORITE PHRASE OR MOTTO: “The great aim of education is not knowledge, but action.” —Herbert Spencer

FAMILY/PETS: Wife, Vanessa; new baby, Angelina; cat, Nala OUTSIDE INTERESTS: Sports. “I enjoy watching and going to sporting events to support our Boston sports teams.”

ADVICE FOR THOSE ENTERING THE TRAINING FIELD: “Take advantage of any and all learning opportunities. Developing and embracing a growth mindset is a critical way to differentiate yourself and build credibility as a Learning professional. It’s also important to consistently evaluate your performance. What are you doing well? What can you improve? What will you do differently next time? If you continuously ask yourself those questions, you will continue to grow.”

Hired as AAA Northeast’s Sales trainer in 2016, Jacob Belakonis was promoted in January 2020 to the newly budgeted role of Training manager for the Branch Operations business line, which spans 6 states in the Northeast—Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey—and employs 500 exempt and non-exempt colleagues. This promotion expanded his scope to include direct management responsibility for 3 employees. This new role was created not only to support all role-specific and supervisory/ management development training for the business line, but also to support the investment and partnership between the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV)/Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York.

Leveraging his competence in sales acumen, Belakonis augmented the RMV/DMV job skill training to include sales conversation starters to enable Branch colleagues to pivot the RMV/DMV transaction to an opportunity to sell a AAA Membership. Increasing AAA membership and retaining existing members is an organization-wide goal.

Additionally, Belakonis and his new team developed and deployed an instructor-led Branch Operations New Hire Training Program (previously there was only informal on-the-job training and checklists) and a coaching program for all Branch Operations people managers. The coaching workshops are live, instructor-led (supported by a virtual classroom producer) and delivered via Microsoft Teams.

The most common key performance goal discussed during individual coaching conversations is Visa applications. Following the deployment of the coaching training program (January through February 2021), Visa applications went from 44% to goal in January and 53% to goal in February to 168% to goal in March and 158% to goal in April.

As a result of the design and delivery of a new service and sales program Belakonis spearheaded, Delivering Five Diamond Experiences, membership upgrades from basic to plus/premier were 141% to goal in 4th quarter 2020 and 124% to goal in 1st quarter 2021.

“Jacob’s passion for enabling measured improvement through learning and development interventions is inimitable,” says nominator Keri Borba, managing director, Talent Development, AAA Northeast. “And he contributes to his team’s success through regular goal setting, feedback, coaching, and recognition.”


SCL Health (11 direct reports; managed 58 indirect reports) B.A., Political Science, University of Colorado – Denver


FAVORITE PHRASE OR MOTTO: “Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.” —Laurie Buchanan

FAMILY/PETS: “I have been married to my husband, Jeff, for 6+ years. We have a beautiful, hilarious, independent, brilliant daughter, Sophia (5). We also have a giant Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, Otis (6), and a very old cat, Kitty.”

OUTSIDE INTERESTS: Snowboarding, camping, being in the mountains, traveling, volunteering, and coaching

ADVICE FOR THOSE ENTERING THE TRAINING FIELD: “Stay curious, analyze the full scope of a problem before developing or suggesting a solution, strengthen your resiliency, and engage in continuous learning and personal development.”

In the last year, Kim Dupont led several initiatives within SCL Health’s Enterprise Learning & Personal Development (EL&PD) department, which specifically focuses on Revenue Systems and Services (RSS)— the team develops, maintains, and regularly delivers 170 instructor-led and self-paced courses and nearly 1,400 job aids and resources.

In anticipation of COVID-19 impacts, Dupont proactively established and led a rapid-response team early in the pandemic to research virtual classroom delivery platforms, software solutions, and established standards, and to curate expert virtual facilitation resources and training to upskill instructors and instructional designers. That allowed the EL&PD team to migrate to 100% online training within 48 hours of in-person training cancellation and implementation of remote work for non-hospital associates.

In 2020 and 2021, Dupont was the designated Training lead for the SCL Health-wide implementation of a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, Oracle Cloud. Upon the implementation that affected 16,500 associates, only 2 minor training requests were received upon golive.

Dupont also assumed responsibility for leading the implementation of the newly purchased Oracle Learn learning management system (LMS). Dupont and her project team also transformed an 8-hour instructor-led course on Provider Referrals into an online curriculum incorporating guided practice and feedback, videos, job aids, and system simulations. For 80% of the associates who work referrals in a wide variety of departments across SCL Health, the modifications equated to a savings of 6 hours of training, or a 75% training cost reduction from the original course.

Four of Dupont’s direct reports have been promoted to be senior instructors, 1 of whom was subsequently promoted to be an instructional designer. Over the last several years, 6 members of Dupont’s team have been promoted to supervisory roles in operations and EL&PD.

“Kim has the business acumen and strategic vision that is crucial in an emerging leader,” says nominator Bette Kidane, director, EL&PD – RSS, SCL Health. “Most importantly, Kim has a heartfelt commitment to serving the learning needs of associates across SCL Health so they may provide the best possible care to the patients and communities we serve.”


AJMAL HUSSAIN Manager, People Development, Service Culture Transformation & Quality Assurance

Dialog Axiata PLC (7 direct reports; managed 19) MBA, University of Bedfordshire; Advanced Diploma, Teaching, Training & Assessing Learning, City & Guilds


FAVORITE PHRASE OR MOTTO: “Don’t let the fear of losing be greater than the excitement of winning.” —Robert Kiyosaki

FAMILY/PETS: “I live with my wife and 2 children and love spending time with my parents, brother, and sister.”

OUTSIDE INTERESTS: Traveling and content creation

ADVICE FOR THOSE ENTERING THE TRAINING FIELD: “With global attention spans getting shorter, the ability to create and deliver engaging content that consumes only a few minutes of learner time has become crucial. This means, like in any industry, the 2 key areas of focus for L&D professionals are innovation and engagement—keep these in mind when laying your foundation, and chances are, you will be successful!”

In addition to leading Sri Lanka-based Dialog Axiata PLC’s Customer Service Training Academy (CSTA) and serving as the organizationwide Service Culture Transformation lead, Ajmal Hussain took on the responsibility to lead and mentor the Quality Assurance team in the last year. He also served as program lead for an exclusive mentoring program called Turbo Charge, where he collaborated with individuals and teams to build a power pool of mentors and a knowledge powerhouse through which upcoming leaders could be trained on skills such as strategic decision-making, reading financial statements, and communication.

As the Service Culture Transformation lead for both customer-facing divisions and back-office functions, Hussain continues to develop the strategy for promoting the “Service from the Heart” (SFH) culture across Dialog Axiata. Hussain also directs and executes the annual People Development & Quality Assurance strategy for the Customer Experience ecosystem. In 2020, he aggressively championed to move 60%+ of all trainings to digital content and delivery (including microlearning, podcasts, 2-minute reads, and weekly live sessions) at the onset of the pandemic to keep 1,800+ staffers up to date on 56 new products and services launched and ensure learners continued to adhere to the organization’s values.

All of these initiatives helped boost Dialog Axiata’s customer Net Promoter Score (NPS) 22 points while increasing employee engagement by 6% across the organization and hitting an employee retention rate of 95%+ in May 2021. In addition, 100% of front-line teams achieved their sales targets during the months Dialog Axiata was open for operation during the pandemic.

“Ajmal’s passion and ability to manage the team and drive its members to innovate, achieve, and be consistent produces business results for the organization and delivers on the Dialog promise to our customers by cultivating and nurturing the organization,” says nominator Rekha Weerasooriya, senior general manager, Customer Experience and People Development, Dialog Axiata PLC. “He has the necessary strategic vision, strong organization-wide relationship network, deep business acumen, ability to deliver innovative solutions to fill modern learning gaps, and uncompromising attitude to be an integral contributor in the achievement of the organization’s goals.”


JENNIFER PAINTER Associate Chief Learning Officer/VP, Nursing Professional Development & Education

ChristianaCare (oversaw 64 full-time employees) B.S. and M.S., Nursing, University of DE; Doctor of Nursing Practice, Wilmington University

9 YEARS IN TRAINING CHILDHOOD AMBITION: “I either wanted to be a kindergarten teacher or a nurse—and now I get to be both a nurse and teacher as a nurse educator.”


FAMILY/PETS: Daughter, Emily (13), and son, Eliah (11), and husband, John. “Also, I am a surrogate mom due January 2022 for friends of the family.”

OUTSIDE INTERESTS: “I love the beach and ocean, mountains, camping, outdoor concerts—anything to get fresh air!”

ADVICE FOR THOSE ENTERING THE TRAINING FIELD: “Patience— practice patience. You’ll need to be patient with yourself on this journey, as well as those you are educating. Meet people where they are—go that extra step, give that little extra of yourself. Eventually, it will all pay off— even if only you know it!”

Jennifer Painter was promoted to vice president of Nursing Professional Development (NPD) at ChristianaCare in March 2020 and became the associate chief learning officer with additional direct reports and responsibilities just 4 months later. She leads the strategic efforts of Nursing Professional Development, Strategic Learning & Development, and IT Clinical Education for the entire organization. She oversees 60+ individuals who support 3 acute care hospitals, a free-standing Emergency Department, 90+ ambulatory office practices, and a large HomeHealth constituent.

At the onset of the pandemic, Painter led the NPD team to prepare 1,700 caregivers for safety, alter their workflows and protocols, and address questions and concerns through proactive rounding. The NPD team traveled to the point of care to talk with front-line caregivers and provide just-in-time training on personal protective equipment (PPE) use, share information on new protocols, and provide targeted education based on the needs of each caregiver in the moment. The team developed demonstration videos, job aids, and FAQs for 24/7 just-intime and refresher training. The team rounded 7 days a week, covering all shifts in March, April, and May 2020. As a result, transmissions of COVID-19 from patient to caregiver remained at a low level.

Painter also assumed responsibility for the Nursing Scholarship program, establishing guardrails for the program to include an application process with specific selection criteria, interviews, electronic documentation tracking, and automated billing to nursing school partners. The program transitioned from open access to all nurses to using this new process with specific limited scholarship and an expanded list of school partners, saving millions of dollars.

When Painter took on the ACLO role, she rearranged her direct reporting structure within NPD and asked 4 of her NPD managers to take on more direct reports and responsibilities. As a result, she promoted 2 of the 4 to directors.

“Jennifer is collaborative, a highly skilled communicator, an excellent influencer of teams, and has a futuristic outlook,” says nominator Neil Jasani, MD, chief people officer, ChristianaCare. “She has established fantastic working relationships with leaders around the organization, and despite the ever-changing health system landscape, she provides a productive and effective work environment for the people she leads.”



ASHLEY APTT VP, Learning and Development

3Q Digital (managed 6) B.S., Business Administration, North Carolina State University


In 2021, Ashley Aptt took over management of the entire Learning and Development team—5 members plus 2 others coming on board—at 3Q Digital and increased the team’s productivity by 18%. She spearheaded the project to revamp and revise most of 3Q’s training programs and content and update delivery to more short-form, graphic modes. After she revamped 3Q’s internal management training program, voluntary employee attrition rates decreased by 47% year-over-year, and there was an 11% improvement in survey responses agreeing with the statement: “My supervisor provides an appropriate level of guidance and direction.” Aptt also led the charge to choose and implement a new learning management system (LMS)—saving 52% on the cost of the system—and create an industry certification program for the company. “Ashley is a true leader and innovator within our company,” says nominator Joseph Kerschbaum, VP of Growth Labs at 3Q Digital. “She energizes her team and keeps them motivated to deliver great programs and experiences and make an impact on the organization.”


JUNE BRICKWOOD Training Manager

Prime Therapeutics (managed 30+) Bachelor’s, Education, State University at Brockport


June Brickwood shifted from leading a small delivery and design team for 1 part of Operations at Prime Therapeutics to now leading all 8 instructional designers for the Training department. In her new role, Brickwood led the effort to revolutionize the typical training model for Prime Therapeutics (lectured-based PowerPoints). She created new standards for training and incorporated new technologies to drive better results. New hire quality scores increased 5% as a result of Brickwood’s revamped Commercial Clinical New Hire Training for 500+ learners. Brickwood also developed new job descriptions for her team to create career paths in Instructional Design, leading to 3 of her direct reports being promoted in 2020. Overall productivity for her team increased by almost 20%. “June came from a Quality and Audit background, and her focus on results and her desire to serve people make her a natural fit for Training and Development,” notes nominator John Soma, director, Learning and Knowledge Solutions, Prime Therapeutics. “Her impact here at Prime Therapeutics has been significant.”


BOB CLARK Senior Manager, L&D Training Team

AutoNation (9 direct reports) B. S., United States Air Force Academy


Promoted to senior manager of AutoNation’s L&D Training Team, Bob Clark manages 9 trainers who support 22,000+ associates in 315 dealerships in 16 states. The team he leads is responsible for developing content and facilitating sales and service-related workshops (30+), implementing business process changes, and supporting new store openings and acquisitions. Clark spearheaded the training to increase sales in the Equity Mining (EM) business channel, the first major initiative to convert instructor-led training to virtual training. The overhauled training for 1,264 learners increased customer conversion by 35% vs. the prior year and boosted EM business channel sales by 12%. Clark and his team also played an integral role in the success of the company’s We’ll Buy Your Car initiative. According to nominator Jim Hastings, director, Learning & Development, AutoNation, the workshops facilitated by Clark’s team directly contributed to the company’s record 2020 performance: 9 record months of sales with an overall increase in purchases of 67% versus 2019. “Bob is a skilled training professional and excellent people manager,” Hastings says. “He is always looking for ways to grow and develop his team.”


CRYSTAL DUKES CLARK Director, Education and Training

RealSource Properties (1 direct report and managed 10 mentors through the Elevate! Mentoring Program)


In addition to assisting several departments with the rollout of new initiatives, Crystal Dukes Clark tackled the design and rollout of RealSource Properties’ new intranet, theRAP (RealSource Associate Portal), which connects all associates throughout 10 states with access to the latest company news and updates and training and development resources. Clark also took on the challenge of curating a Diversity and Inclusion training plan for both corporate and on-site teams (the first time such training was offered). As director of Education and Training, Clark designs and curates all training, including onboarding, upskilling, and compliance training, and provides support for 100 associates. Among current participants in the Elevate! Mentor Program Clark spearheads, 40%+ have been promoted to positions of management or corporate leadership. “Crystal is committed to providing all of our associates with the tools they need to be successful in their career with our company, and is passionate about passing along all she has learned to others,” says nominator Kim Humphrey, VP of Operations, RealSource Properties. “As our company grows, Crystal steps in to help push the needle for improved training, employee engagement, and Inclusion efforts.”


KRYSTEN D’AMATO Manager, Learning + Development: Products

Indeed (9 direct reports) Bachelor’s, Communication and English, Hofstra University


Krysten D’Amato is new to training leadership within the last 2 years and manages 1 of the most critical training teams within Sales and Customer Service (CS) Enablement at Indeed. She and her team (9 people across the Americas, EMEA, and APAC) are responsible for all go-tomarket product training globally. Over the last year, D’Amato and her team were responsible for launching a new product, The Indeed Hiring Platform (IHP), to 10 markets—this product was 2021’s core priority for the entire business. Spanning 5,000+ Sales and CS associates, the training series utilized virtual instructor-led sessions, activities, coaching resources, pitch tools, and other job aids. As a result of the training, 10x more interviews were automated through the platform than in January 2021 when it first launched. Noting that 4 of her team members were promoted within the last year, nominator Jaimie Krause, Learning & Development senior manager, Indeed, says, “Krysten prioritizes her team’s development through in-the-moment feedback, both positive and constructive, as well as psychological safety, which makes her a great people leader. She has the trust and respect of senior business leaders and her peers.”



PPD (led projects managing 5 instructional designers) Bachelor’s, Psychology, Sofia University, “St. Kliment Ohridski,” Bulgaria; Master’s, European Program in Work, Organizational, and Personnel Psychology, University of Bologna, Italy, and University of Barcelona, Spain


In 2020, Vesela Miroslavova Daskalova was assigned as the project manager for PPD’s Digital University, the first time she was assigned to lead an enterprise-level training initiative. Digital University is a change initiative supporting a new model of clinical research through adoption of digital technological capabilities. Within 5 months of the university’s launch, proposals for eConsent jumped 150% and offerings for adoption of connected devices increased 50%. Thanks to the successful adoption of digital tools, PPD enrolled more than 80,000 patients in COVID-19 trials. Daskalova also developed a Learning community portal for PPD’s Learning Leaders community and took on mentoring responsibilities for 2 of her Enterprise Learning colleagues in the last year. “Vesela has the innate talent of leading people and projects to success,” says nominator Rita Bragadesto, principal Learning specialist, PPD. “She keeps people front and center in her considerations, whether that be the team she is managing, subject matters experts and stakeholders she is liaising with, or the learners themselves.”


YVAN-W. FRANÇOIS Senior Director, Global Medical Devices Quality & Compliance (Q&C) Training

Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices (7 direct reports) B.S., Chemical Engineering, University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez; M.S., Chemical Engineering, and Master’s, Technology Management, Villanova University


Yvan-W. François is the leader of Medical Devices training across the world for Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices, managing 175 reports who handle 300,000+ active user accounts in the learning management system (LMS). François took responsibility to reimagine training within the organization. The results include the creation of the Center of Excellence Team, responsible for looking at new training methodologies and tools, innovations and strategy, systems and processes, and capability building while defining best-in-class results. François also spearheaded the creation of a leadership development program and a 5:1 LMS consolidation. To optimize curricula for the Medical Devices organization, François created a playbook and roadmap. 59 campus locations within J&J will be implementing the playbook after a pilot resulted in a 45% reduction in training items and a 55% reduction in the number of training hours. Noting that 20 members of his team were promoted, nominator Missy Oliver, Training coordinator, MD Global Training (Quality), says, “Yvan empowers others, provides opportunity, and embraces change. His effectiveness, transparency, and inspiration are contagious.”


MEGAN HUMPHRIES Learning and Development Manager

Holiday Retirement (2 direct reports) B.S., Hospitality Management, and Graduate Certificate, Instructional Design, University of Central Florida


Within the last year, Megan Humphries transitioned from specialist to manager in Holiday Retirement’s Learning and Development department. In addition to supervising 2 associates, Humphries manages project tasks and timelines and the relationships between L&D and stakeholders within 20 departments. She oversaw the creation and implementation of a new training program for 240+ community office managers. Some 49% of office managers who completed the in-person training component of the program have shown an overall improvement in open accounts receivables. The structure and design of this training program has since been used as the foundation and template to create incremental learning programs for Holiday’s community housekeeping positions and facilities technician positions, totaling 1,100+ positions. Humphries also manages the delivery of Holiday’s annual Leadership Academy and voluntary Employee Learning Week. “Megan’s best skill is partnering with associates across the organization,” says nominator Meg Pletcher, senior director of People Development at Holiday Retirement. “She has learned to lead with a servant’s heart but also knows when to step back and let her team stand on their own.”



United Wholesale Mortgage (UWM) (4 direct reports and 2 teams)


Michael Karabacz now leads United Wholesale Mortgage’s (UWM) Sales Training Team. He is directly responsible for the teams that design and deliver training to 936 account executives and thousands of broker clients nationwide. In 2020 and 2021, Karabacz led UWM’s Initial, Ongoing, and Continuous Improvement (CI) Training Programs for account executives, as well as Success Track Training programs for external clients. The daily Account Executive CI Training Program—which Karabacz transitioned from an instructor-led format to virtual—teaches account executives how to train their clients/brokers to better use UWM products and systems to grow their business. In 2021, account executives received 38,449+ hours of CI Training and averaged 1.77 hours of CI Training each week. As a result, instead of closing 400,000 home loans in 2020, UWM closed 588,959 home loans for its clients (exceeding the previous year’s production goal by 77% during the pandemic). “Mike challenges people to improve and infects them with a desire to learn more,” says nominator Jessica Rosillo VP, Sales Training leader, UWM. “Mike is a training superhero who elevates the performance of everyone around him and drives business results through passion, genuine care, and service.”


CECILIA LUU Senior Director, Global Education & Enablement

Pure Storage (5 direct reports and managed 15 others) B.A., Political Science, Women Studies Gender and Health Minor, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor


Cecilia Luu leads Pure PEAK (Performance, Education, and Knowledge), part of the Customer Experience (CX) organization at Pure Storage that focuses on training, knowledge, certification, and communities. Rising from an individual contributor into management and then promoted further to director, Luu created PEAK from the ground up and built it into a full-service organization with a staff of 20. Over the last year, customer training consumption increased by 381%, while Luu grew the revenue for training and enablement from nothing to a pipeline of $240k+ of training services booked. Luu also launched Pure Storage’s first global training center just as the COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses and offices to close worldwide. She rapidly adapted to a 100% remote delivery program within weeks. “Cecilia’s ability to communicate strategy, vision, and outcomes has become a template that the organization has adopted,” notes nominator Pam Roe, executive program manager, Pure Storage. “Her informed and diplomatic approach acts as a compass for career pathing within her team and the organization—in fact, she promoted 3 people into management roles in the last year.”


KAT MCBRIDE Instructional Design Supervisor

Keller Williams Realty International (KWRI) (4 direct reports) B.A. and M.A., English Literature, Baylor University


Kat McBride assumed several new responsibilities over the last year that are critical to the mission of Keller Williams University (KWU) and the success of Keller Williams Realty International (KWRI) overall. In 2020, she became KWU’s lead on Mega Camp and Family Reunion, the organization’s largest educational events for franchisees. With her team, she transformed Family Reunion from an in-person conference to a digital event that took place despite one of the worst winter storms and power outages in Texas history and generated a profit of nearly $3 million. McBride also stepped up to lead the effort to reinvent KW’s faculty program, the cornerstone of KWU training in its franchise offices, and helped design training and migrate content to KWRI’s first learning management system (LMS). “Kat is a proven leader,” says nominator Robert Bell, Instructional Design manager – Core Curriculum, KWRI. “Whether she is running an event in the midst of a natural disaster or leading novice professionals to develop and earn recognition as instructional designers, Kat exudes the fortitude, empathy, and raw intelligence needed to build and lead successful teams.”


DEVON METZGER MCDONALD Talent Development Program Specialist

Transworld Systems Incorporated (TSI) (led 35+ through business enterprise training initiatives) B.A., English, SUNY at Buffalo


In the last year, Devon Metzger McDonald took on a lead role to design and curate Transworld Systems Incorporated’s (TSI) Talent and Skills Institute Leadership Capabilities Academy content. This leadership development program for 650 supervisors and managers is delivered through asynchronous courses, facilitated virtual workshops, ondemand videos, and learner-generated content within the Academy’s social networking platform, which McDonald created in partnership with TSI’s manager of Training Technology. The program resulted in a cost savings of 50%+ compared to external leadership development course vendors. The program has helped maintain a leader attrition rate of less than 10%. McDonald also collaborates with business leaders to create new training programs and improve existing programs such as Business-to-Business Sales and 6 operational business unit functions with 3,000+ employees. “Devon is proactive in training program project oversight to design and develop new innovations to improve businessto- business sales and client processes,” says nominator Lori Sauers, VP, Compliance & Talent Development, Training, TSI. “She is committed to calling out the successes of her peers and encourages positive working relationships and an exceptional team culture.”



Visualize, Inc. (trained 1,200+) B.S., Computer Science, Northwood University, Michigan


As vice president of Visualize, Inc., a sales consulting business and leading provider of the ValueSelling Framework sales methodology, Jason McKarge manages the largest client accounts, training 1,200+ individuals across Sales, Marketing, Enablement, Customer Success, and Operations divisions throughout North America and Europe. He is also responsible for revenue growth at Visualize, which won the 2021 Gold Stevie Award for Sales Consulting Practice of the Year. After training and coaching from McKarge and his colleagues at Visualize, an enterprise, cloud-based storage company realized a 48% increase in year-overyear revenue growth. McKarge was also instrumental in developing the newest ValueSelling program: Executing the C-Suite Conversation, a program that led to a 66% increase in securing C-suite meetings in strategic accounts. Says nominator Julie Thomas, president and CEO, ValueSelling Associates, “Jason is a committed sales leader and trainer who works to empower organizations and sales professionals to be their very best. In his own words, ‘There’s nothing more energizing than constantly learning something—about human interactions and what drives people—and then having a positive impact on people’s careers.’”


DAWN M. OTT Senior Learning & Development Manager

Herc Rentals (5 direct reports; managed a team of 13 during a training initiative) Associate’s, Business Management, University of Cincinnati


In April 2021, Dawn M. Ott began managing a team of 5 Learning and Development (L&D) professionals who support a field staff of 4,500 employees in 280 branches. Subsequently, the team took on many responsibilities, including program management, content revisions and delivery, and conversion of instructor-led offerings to virtual due to COVID-19. Ott also led the implementation of a Branch Manager Development program for 249 learners and developed a leader skills series. 2 of Ott’s team members were promoted to senior Learning and Development business partners in the short time she managed them. She onboarded new team members with operational experience and brought them to full productivity on 70% of Herc Rental’s course offerings in 4 months. “Dawn leads her team exceptionally well. She operates in a collaborative manner and is always open to the ideas of others,” says nominator Eve Drinis, director, Learning & Development, Herc Rentals. “A lifelong learner with a vast internal network, Dawn has dedicated herself to learning all she can about learning and development, from tactics to tools and theory. She has become a formidable L&D professional.”


KATIE PARTAIN Education Manager

Navient (5 direct reports) Bachelor’s, Business Management, and Master’s, Management and Leadership, Western Governors University


Katie Partain was promoted to Education manager at Navient in 2020, and embraced the new responsibilities of leading the Instructional Design team, including: coaching and developing 5 designers; supporting 17 lines of business; maintaining and enhancing Navient’s knowledge repository; and leading a new initiative for self-paced, videobased new hire training. Created for a contract for Navient’s healthcare line of business, the latter initiative was for 3,300 individuals in a new Vaccination Call Center. The training resulted in 4.5 million+ dials, leading to approximately 65,000 new registrations completed and 94,000 scheduled appointments. As a result of Partain’s leadership, her department has increased output of training materials by 18%+ and completed 1,716+ projects. Note nominators Bobby Stephens and Cheryl Dillon, Education managers at Navient: “Our group president praised Katie as ‘someone who is vital to the organization and really makes things happen.’ All of her assistance and creativity has been a large part of our success in an unpredictable time. Katie’s natural intuition sets her apart as a strong leader who can envision a bright future and build that vision within the team.”


RALPH REMY Director, Client Digital Experience

National MI (1 direct report; managed/led approximately 65 team members during training initiatives) B.A., Finance, Florida International University


Immediately after joining National MI in 2020, Ralph Remy took on chief responsibility for the training of the company’s sales team and its mortgage lender customers. Remy spearheaded Engaging the C-Suite Training to help the sales team connect virtually with executive leadership at clients. As a result of the live Webinar and video-based training, in 9 months, the sales team added 75 new clients and the volume of new insurance written increased 100%. Remy also now manages the company’s National MI University training program, and administers an eLearning platform for 2,000 users. After evaluating vendors and leveraging virtual opportunities, Remy reduced National MI’s training expense by 40% in 2020. In the last year, Remy also was charged with leading the Client Digital Experience team. “Ralph brings experience, a positive energy, and a collaborative personality. He confronts challenges, while building a network of trusted colleagues who enjoy working with him,” says nominator Christina Bartning, senior vice president, Marketing, Communications and Digital Strategy, National MI. “He is always challenging himself and others to think differently and to seize opportunities to grow as our company evolves.”


TARA RHODES Director, Leadership Development

Leaders @ Scale (L@S) (2 direct reports; 3 external contractors) Bachelor’s, International Business, Carleton University


At the start of 2021, Tara Rhodes took on significant curriculum development, team, client, and operational responsibilities at Leaders@Scale (L@S). She also added the responsibility of conducting business development for the company and co-designing leadership development programs that address the competency and business outcomes desired by prospective clients. Rhodes drove a new initiative to redesign the content, delivery, and engagement impact of L@S’ core curriculum to incorporate remote management skills. This resulted in a new revenue stream and product launch that incorporated new technology platforms and features and increased overall sales and the company’s client base by 15%. On average, 10-15% of participants are promoted within 6 months of completing an L@S program. “Tara lives and breathes learning and development,” says nominator Michal Berman, CEO, Leaders@Scale. “She embodies the kind of individual who leads an L&D function based on her strategic thinking, client success, participant engagement, and coaching/mentorship skills. Tara has an intrinsic motivation to make the working world a more enjoyable place with leadership that empowers people to be their authentic best selves at work.”


CHARITY SANTIAGO Director, Training

World Travel Holdings (managed 5) B.S., Education, Florida Southern College; M.S., Education, Learning Design & Technology, Purdue University


Charity Santiago leads the Training team for World Travel Holdings’ B2B Division, which provides home-based business opportunities in the leisure travel industry. She oversaw the pivot to virtual new franchise onboarding; creation of the Travel Safety Training Program; content development and facilitation of 50+ workshops for the Virtual National Conference; and development of a College-Style Tiered Learning Plan with new tracks covering products, sales, marketing, technology, and business administration for the company’s Learning Center (an ondemand depository of 1,000+ training modules) for 2,000+ learners. The curriculum gave travel advisors increased confidence and expertise in running their business, leading to an 18% decrease in call volume to the Support Services team when comparing the second quarter of 2020 to the same period in 2021. “Charity is the consummate team leader and truly leads by example,” says nominator Drew Daly, SVP and general manager, World Travel Holdings. “She continues to enhance and improve the level of our division’s training each year; in fact, her leadership and expertise has greatly influenced the Training team in the other division of our parent company.”


TAYLOR STENNECHE Sales and Integration Trainer

Medical Solutions (managed 198) Bachelor’s, Business Administration, Wayne State College; Master’s, Education, College of Saint Mary


After C&A Industries was acquired by Medical Solutions a year ago, Taylor Stenneche not only maintained her role as team lead for New Hire Sales Training for the 5 medical divisions, but took on the new hire training programs for 3 commercial divisions—a 60% increase in overall workload. Stenneche helped lead the creation of the 3-week Split Desk Integration Training, a culmination of efforts and partnership between the Training team, brand managers, and subject matter experts that reskilled sales employees to perform a new set of job duties: recruiters to be career consultants and account managers to be client account managers. 4 of 5 medical divisions were transitioned to the split-desk model by April 1, 2021; as a result, those divisions have experienced an average gross margin increase of approximately 72%. “Agility, curiosity, and an intentional approach to learn and understand what’s next is vital to those wanting to lead training efforts as we move into the future,” notes Medical Solutions Director of Learning & Development Katie Kuhl. “Taylor consistently embodies all these characteristics in her role and projects.”


VINCE TRIPI Manager, Revenue Cycle Instructional Design

Advocate Aurora Health (7 direct reports) M.S., Administrative Leadership, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


In fall 2020, Vince Tripi was named manager of the newly formed Revenue Cycle Instructional Design team that creates and supports the curriculum for 10,000+ individuals at Advocate Aurora Health. Amidst a major Electronic Medical Record implementation, Tripi also oversaw the synchronization of Illinois and Wisconsin Revenue Cycle Training Curricula to ensure that all Revenue Cycle team members are equally prepared for the technology and process aspects of their roles. 2 of Tripi’s direct reports were promoted to the senior instructional designer level in 2020, and there has been 0% turnover within his team since he took over. “There are some leaders who are very smart and some leaders who are very thoughtful, but it is rare to find a leader who has both qualities. Vince is that rare leader,” says nominator Susan Stein, executive director, Revenue Cycle Informatics, Advocate Aurora Health. “His ‘walk-your-talk’ approach to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) has helped move Advocate Aurora Health’s goals in this space forward, particularly his development of a customer service course seen through the lens of Equity and Inclusion.”




Huntington Learning Center (4 direct reports) B.A., Music, Elizabethtown College



MANDIE CRAVER Senior HR Manager, Corporate Learning

State Compensation Insurance Fund (4 direct and 5 indirect reports) Bachelor’s, Communications, Sonoma State University



ASHLEY DAVIES Director, Training & Education

Coast Professional, Inc. (3 direct reports)



SCOTT SCHREITER Learning & Development Supervisor (Tech/Project Management)

Medical Solutions (managed 4 direct reports during a training initiative) B.A., Communication Studies, University of Nebraska



MORGAN YEARGAN Client Solutions Partner, North America

WDHB, Inc. (managed up to 25 people for a training initiative) B.S., Business Administration, Johnson & Wales University, Charlotte Campus


Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.