Annie (Haynes) WarmbrodtOctober 13, 2020
Annie (Haynes) Warmbrodt is a seasoned traveler, adventure seeker, and car enthusiast. She loves live music, frequenting local coffee shops, and exploring new places with her family. She lives in Glendale, MO with her husband, Don, and their three children. When she’s not on an adventure, she is an operations learning and development leader for Equifax. Her life motto is, “Never stop learning!”
What year did you graduate and what was your concentration?
What extra-/co-curricular activities did you do?
Did you go to grad school? If so, where? Was it immediately after you left Truman or did you wait? Why?
I went to the University of Missouri – Columbia for graduate school. I received a Master of Education with an emphasis on Educational Technology and a focus on Learning Systems Design and Development (LSDD). I began my graduate program 13 months after graduating from Truman. I had a colleague who had completed the program at Mizzou and she said it was bittersweet to be graduating because she enjoyed the program so much. Most people don’t speak so fondly of their graduate school experience, so I researched the program, I realized that it aligned with my love for learning and growth, so I applied. I was accepted and completed the program in 14 months.
What was your first job after graduation?
I was an academic support coordinator (academic advisor) at the School of Health Management (SHM), a graduate school at A.T. Still University.
What work do you do/What are you doing now?
I am a Director of Operations Learning and Development at Equifax. My team consists of instructional designers and facilitators who skill, upskill, and reskill new hires and existing employees to prepare them for their role in our organization.
Onboarding, career and talent development is a great field to be in right now. When I was at Truman, I was concerned with having a career that was “recession proof.” This year, it shifted to having a career that is “pandemic proof.” One outcome of the pandemic is that people are leaving jobs and moving to different roles – ones where they have little or no experience. These professionals need to learn new skills, and teams like mine teach them the skills they need to be successful.
How has your Liberal Arts/COMM education helped you?
My Liberal Arts/COMM education prepared me by providing a strong foundation of practical skills to join the workforce. By taking a variety of courses outside of my major, I learned how to think about topics and subjects that I would not have otherwise been exposed to. The gift of this form of education is that it keeps you curious and it creates an open mind that allows you to keep growing and learning. I believe my liberal arts education was the genesis of my growth mindset. My Communication courses taught me to be agile, inquisitive, and open to change. These skills are a great combination for innovation and are vital in a corporate environment in any year, but especially this year.
The Communication faculty at Truman created a curriculum that introduced theory and then required students to apply that theory to different forms of media. This proved to be an extremely important method for me to learn and retain information. My graduate program followed a similar structure which fostered my success in the program. This strategy has proven to be effective in many realms; I continue to model it for the learners in our corporate learning programs.
Which class did you dislike at the time you took it, but now you’re grateful you took it?
I did not know what to expect when I took Media Writing. Initially, I did not enjoy the exercises in this class because I was an English major who was skilled at writing very long descriptive papers. My ego was bruised when I had to write a long article draft and then edit it down to a fraction of the original length. While these exercises were challenging at the time, they proved extremely beneficial. The importance of brevity in writing in corporate settings cannot be overstated.
In Media Writing, I also learned about the inverted pyramid in journalism. I continue to use a version of the inverted pyramid when developing new courses today. I strive to address the “What’s In It For Me (WIIFM)?” question in the learner’s mind when introducing a new topic or skill. Answering this question at the onset helps establish a learner’s motivation and level of engagement for a course.
What was your greatest accomplishment at Truman?
My greatest accomplishment at Truman was presenting at the 2010 Student Research Conference (SRC). Unlike the English capstone presentations which are a graduation requirement, the SRC presentations provide students with an opportunity to pursue an independent research project for their own interest.
Candidly, my research project proved much more fulfilling for me than other required research projects. My presentation was “A Feminist and Narrative Analysis of the Film Little Miss Sunshine.” My research combined not only my two majors, English and Communication, but also my love of film and female protagonists in film. Dr. Elizabeth Clark was my faculty mentor. Having a faculty member dedicate time to assist initially with the research and then the development of the presentation was a vote of confidence that remained with me long after the conference had concluded. As an undergraduate, I was not a confident public speaker, but this presentation was the beginning of me developing greater confidence, through preparation, as a public speaker.
Why is Truman a good place for a student to study?
Truman provides students relevant opportunities to apply the practical skills they are learning. Truman’s faculty is dually committed to both Truman and to liberal arts education. They are engaged not only in their students’ learning, but also their overall success. The faculty-student relationship at Truman is unique in that faculty members develop mentor relationships with their students that often extend beyond graduation.
The small class and program sizes at Truman gave me the opportunity to produce professional pieces of journalism using different forms of media. I was able to identify my strengths, work on my weaknesses, and develop a working portfolio to share with potential employers after graduation.
Professionals tend to struggle with confidence despite possessing great abilities. I have found the number one antidote for these struggles is demonstrating your skills in a relevant and meaningful way to yourself and others. Truman dutifully prepared me to do this through the completion of the Communication major coursework and the curation/development of my personal portfolio. Your portfolio will be a tool used to communicate your personal brand to potential employers. Having a well-curated professional portfolio and a brief “elevator pitch” prepared about your strengths and abilities are two assets that will spark confidence and set you apart from other candidates vying for the same jobs.
What would you say a COMM student should absolutely do while at Truman?
Challenge yourself to take advantage of the array of media platforms provided to you and step out of your comfort zone to create using different media. Inevitably, you will interview for a role and be asked if you have used a software or system previously. The answer may be “no,” but if you can demonstrate your ability to adapt and learn new programs, a potential employer may choose you over another candidate.
It is imperative to adopt a growth mindset for yourself. One way to do this is to frame feedback you receive from an editor at the paper, a producer on a program, or your professor as an opportunity to learn and grow. If you assume good intent when receiving feedback and incorporate the feedback you receive, you will grow as both a student and professional.
Take time while you are at Truman, and in Kirksville, to meet people. Not only the faculty and other students, but also visitors to campus and residents of the town. One of the most important skills right now is storytelling and the ability to create significance through sharing relatable stories. The only way to become a better storyteller is to listen to other people tell their own stories. By pursuing opportunities, you can meet others who resemble the people you will go on to interview and profile after graduation. These people have powerful stories to share about impact, as well as lessons to teach about humanity. You can learn so much about what is happening in the world if you venture off campus and speak to members of the community.
What advice would you give someone who wants to go into the same line of work as you?
I have always enjoyed learning, but I never saw myself as a teacher. By remaining curious, I found a career path that seems tailor-made for me. I teach adult learners, curate learning experiences, measure the effectiveness of learning programs, and innovate new learning solutions. I use my communication degree every day. I enjoy helping others realize their potential, leverage their ambition, and achieve their professional goals.
If you are interested in this field, you do need to start applying to graduate schools as a first step. Learning does not always have to be formal. Look for open roles in companies or institutions you respect and see where your skills align with the job requirements.
As a hiring manager, I will share that it is okay if you do not have experience with every requirement. Be vulnerable and apply anyway. Leaders often tell me that they hire for attitude and train for skill. Once you have a role in corporate learning and development, you can identify which skill development programs make sense for your desired career path. The answer may be a graduate program, but it could also be a less formal certificate program from an industry association.
What do you miss most about campus/Kirksville?
I miss the palpable energy on campus-it was electrifying. I lived in Dobson Hall and I miss those dorm days and the camaraderie they fostered. My freshman year, my friends and I would visit the observatory at the University Farm and watch meteor showers. Having unique experiences like this with friends is what I miss most about Truman and Kirksville. The student experience at Truman is best summarized by the adage,“the days are long, but the years are short.”
What tag line would you create for the COMM department at Truman?
I have two versions of a potential tagline. They are: “Excellence Powered by Integrity” and “Excellence Powered by Curiosity and Integrity.” The first is a response to the reputational attack on the media for the last 4 years. The second incorporates one of my core values which I believe many communication majors possess – unbridled curiosity
If you could come back to Truman and teach a class for a semester, what would be its title and what would it be about?
Stats and Stories: Data in Communication – Data forms strategy. This course would be focused on utilizing data for decision-making. The book for this course would be Nancy Duarte’s Data Story: Explain Data and Inspire Action Through Story. Nancy writes of Data Story, “You’ll learn how to transform numbers into persuasive narrative to drive action.”
What did we not ask that you think is important for people to know?
The advice I have for students is to abandon your fear of failure. I have learned far more from my failures than I have my successes. A quote by Suzy Kassem sums up the problem with fear: “Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will.” Being afraid to fail paralyzes many young people and can be a self-fulfilling prophecy that impedes your future success. In school and in your career, strive for progress over perfection. Perfection is a myth and unobtainable, but progress is always obtainable. Do yourself a great service by adjusting your mindset and your expectations.
Dr. Self, Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication, shared a story when I was at Truman from his former professor, Dr. Chandler Monroe. Dr. Monroe engaged in an argument with a colleague about whose discipline was the most important. Dr. Monroe posited, “Try teaching your discipline without mine.”
Nothing in business or in life can be accomplished without clear communication. Remember this as you begin to examine your future in the workforce. There isn’t a finite list of jobs you can pursue with your communication degree. You belong in any business within any industry because all businesses need communication majors to help them achieve their strategic goals.
If you would like to learn more of Annie’s story, you can follow her on LinkedIn.