Lessons in Overcoming Obstacles at Training 2019

At the Training 2019 Conference & Expo in Orlando last week, one of the main themes was overcoming obstacles. The majority of attendees were trainers, a group of people that knows a thing or two about obstacles. The most common training obstacles I heard about were convincing learners that training is worth their time and convincing decision makers that training is worth their money. 

These are common pain points with trainers. This year's conference provided a space for trainers to collaborate and share ideas on how they overcome these challenges. Two of the keynote speakers, Shiza Shahid and Danielle Feinberg, used their life experiences to illustrate how they overcame obstacles and found success. Even though they are not in the training industry, their inspiring stories encourage using creativity and persevering in the face of adversity. 

Shiza Shahid - Co-Founder of the Malala Fund

Shiza Shahid was born in Pakistan, a culture known today as being oppressive towards women and education. As the daughter of two supportive and empowering parents, Shiza was able to pursue higher education. She attended Stanford after applying to every college that showed up in a "top 10 colleges in the United States" Google search. 

After graduating and working as an analyst for McKinsey & Co, Shiza was inspired by the secret blog of a young girl in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. She told the story of her struggle to receive an education due to the oppression of the Taliban. This blog inspired Shiza to form a summer camp in Islamabad for the children living in the Taliban-controlled Swat Valley. At this camp, they could continue their education. The young girl who wrote the secret blog and participated in the summer camp was Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. 

The entire audience was on pins and needles as Shiza told her story. We all knew that only several years later, Malala would be shot in the head by the Taliban for continuing her education. But the story didn't end there, it was only getting started! 

The aftermath of the shooting was a turning point. Shiza visited Malala at a hospital in England to help in any way she could, unsure if Malala would even survive. As Malala began to recover, her request to Shiza was not to help her but to help others. Malala wanted help for the millions of girls around the world who face the same adversities towards education. Her request inspired Shiza and the Yousafzai family to form The Malala Fund. This fund gives money to entrepreneurs to develop programs that give young women across the globe access to education. 

Shiza's story teaches a powerful lesson about standing up to what you believe is right in the face of adversity. Perseverance and bravery were two of they key components of her success. Because of her work, Shiza has been named one of TIME's "30 Under 30 People Changing the World" and Forbes' "30 Under 30 - Social Entrepreneurs." 

Danielle Feinberg - Pixar Lighting Director

You may rarely consider the lighting as you watch an animated film. But Danielle Feinberg, the Lighting Director at Pixar, makes you see the difference. After listening to her speak, I will never watch an animated movie the same way again! Without Danielle's creative genius, Pixar films would look completely different. 

Danielle illustrated to the audience how lighting changes everything with vibrant examples from movies like WALL-E, Brave, Coco, and Monster's Inc. A seemingly cold image comes to life as she adds in layers of depth and dimension through light. All of the creative effects are done through computer software. Danielle's challenges stem from technology, time crunches, and executing the vision of the film's director. She is always trying to find a balance between making a great final product and sticking to strict deadlines. 

As technology evolves, Danielle must evolve, too. Pixar is known for innovation and beautiful animation, so part of her challenge is pushing the technology they have to unexplored limits. She also has to seize the opportunity to use cutting-edge tech as it becomes available. 

While Danielle's extremely tech-driven and artistic job may not seem to have a lot in common with trainers, her approach to solving problems is universally relatable. Time crunches, pressure from managers, and finding new ways to think out of the box are not unique to her job! Trainers, like Danielle, must learn to inspire and engage, especially when working with a deadline. If given unlimited time, I'm sure there are a million tweaks that Danielle could make to any scene in a film. But, like trainers, she has to reach a point where she had to let it go and deliver a final product. 

If I took anything away from these two very different, accomplished women, it's that the secret to success is pushing through your obstacles. If you're passionate and believe in your work, you will yield success. I hope that their stories inspired all the amazing, passionate trainers in the audience as much as it inspired me. 

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