Well, it took almost a year, but I finally met some of my fellow Learning Ninjas. On Monday, August 16th, I flew down to the concrete jungle of Houston and spent a few days working alongside Sarah Mercier and Brian Dusablon. It was a stellar trip.
For context, I started working at Learning Ninjas on October 12th, 2020. Since we’re a 100% remote company (and we’re in a global pandemic), we haven’t had an opportunity to gather in person. So essentially, I had never shaken hands with people who I talk to almost every day and help me pay my bills. It’s one of those things that would typically be strange but is considered a norm of 2020. Just like wearing your pajamas to a Zoom meeting.
Anyway, I landed at George Bush Intercontinental Airport, made my way to the pickup area, and was greeted by Sarah and Brian in their luxury vehicle: the adventure van. This is very silly statement, but I was nervous. I had this irrational fear that I wouldn’t present myself well in person even though I talk to these people almost every day. Usually through a video call! I suppose it had something to do with wanting to impress my boss and the “founder.” I use quotations because Brian doesn’t like that title and believes Learning Ninjas was a group effort. I admire this perspective.
My initial anxiety waned quickly because we drove from the airport to a brewery and had a wonderful lunch with Art Werkenthin, the President of RISC Inc. (shout out to Art!). We chatted about the experience of attending conferences. Art offered useful insights for how he prepares for presentations and shared a tale of a bizarre anti-xAPI flyer he encountered. Thankfully, the good conversation and a cold beer helped me calm my nerves and cool down in the Texas heat. From that point on, it was smooth sailing. We visited a new coworking space, met for some strategy meetings, discussed business development, and had some good eats.
I’ll need to give another shout out to Debbie Richards for taking us for a delicious lunch! Debbie is the Chief Technology Officer for Creative Interactive Ideas and has traveled the world educating others about learning technologies. She has a great deal of expertise in immersive learning, and I enjoyed discussing how she has used augmented and virtual reality for training efforts. Thanks to Debbie, I’m currently on the prowl to find the best hole-in-the-wall dumpling spot of Chicago.
I am so grateful for this opportunity, and not just the trip. I’m fortunate to work with a phenomenal team of intelligent, good-humored, generous people. In my strategic meetings with Brian and Sarah, I asked what they want for the future of Learning Ninjas. I spoke with each of them separately, yet they had similar responses. They want Learning Ninjas to have a positive impact on the learning community. They want to make good learning experiences for good people and organizations. They want to mentor and coach instructional designers and developers to make accessible, inclusive content. And I get to be a part of it. How amazing is that?
Before this trip, I worked at Learning Ninjas. The metamorphosis is now complete. After this trip, I am a Learning Ninja. I want to be a part of growing this company. I want to develop new skillsets and meet other amazing professionals like Art and Debbie. I want to speak about the importance of accessibility and inclusive design and maybe present at a conference someday. And perhaps soon, I’ll have the opportunity to be a sensei to another Ninja.
To Brian and Sarah–thank you again for the meals, chauffeuring, and overall hospitality this weekend. One of these days, I hope to do the same for you in Chicago. The whole family is welcome!