A Year of Living and Learning on The Edge

December 28, 2021 | What's Hot | 4 min read

This time of year is special, whether you’re celebrating the holiday season, enjoying some well-deserved time off with loved ones, or reflecting on the past year and looking ahead to the new one.

Despite continued challenges (let’s face it, 2021 was “no walk in the park”), I’m grateful for the people I had the privilege to get to know, to work with, and to learn from. And, a lot of those people were my guests on The Edge, the Skillsoft podcast I’ve hosted for the past two years.

The Edge with Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek

Since we began in the early months of the pandemic, The Edge has evolved into a meaningful vehicle for sharing stories, approaching issues from a new perspective, and exploring topics that, although sometimes difficult to discuss, are mission-critical to speak to.

I’m excited to revisit and share some of my favorite ones from this year with you.

We started Season 2 with a thought-leader in the field of learning and development: Ben Sieke, Director of Talent Development and Learning for Delta Dental. In a spirited conversation, Ben and I discussed how organizations can strive to build a true learning culture, as he shared how his organization developed a customized learning program for its customer service reps, reinvigorating them to go above and beyond in their roles.

I'm reminded of that African proverb, right? If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others. It’s critical in order to achieve some of the large-scale changes we want to have in the organization, as we continue to mature our culture of learning, and it takes a village to do that.”

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We continued to build on the conversations we began last year around diversity, equity, and inclusion. This year, I was lucky enough to speak with two individuals from Skillsoft’s New DEI Courses, TaChelle Lawson, and Stephanie Wade, who shared their stories and helped make our new courses so personal and powerful. As TaChelle explained,

It's not about being dismissive and [thinking] we're going to just do this work ourselves, by hiring more people of color. It is about developing a strategy and understanding what those experiences are, what equity truly means and how it's defined within your organization, what you do need to do in order to create an inclusive environment and culture.

Steph agreed and underscored how important it is to do the work in advance.

If you're a manager, do not wait until you hire your first African-American or your first wheelchair-bound, differently abled person, or your first transgender person to start having these discussions. That's way too late. If you wait until that person comes in, you put them in an incredibly difficult position.

This year’s Edge episode in honor of National Mentoring Day was particularly special for me. Not only did I have the opportunity to speak with my new colleague, Beth Egan, Masterclass Speaker, Executive Coach, and Head of Global Coach Talent Acquisition for Pluma, but I was lucky enough to welcome my own long-time mentor, Caroline Taylor, former CMO for IBM’s Global Markets.

These two truly incredible, powerhouse leaders, shared their perspectives on the power of coaching and mentorship in developing tomorrow’s leaders today. As Caroline explained, a mentor relationship can be professional and powerfully personal:

If you, as the mentor, are willing to be open and maybe share personal or more challenging things that you probably wouldn't share on a stage in front of a hundred people, to share your own vulnerability, I think that really helps to build trust.

We heard similar thoughts from other Edge guests. Like the co-founders of DECK — Diversity, Efficiency, Culture, Kindness — Leadership, Mike Metcalf and Shaun Peet. With 10 years of experience working with NASCAR pit crews, Mike and Shaun know what it means to operate on the edge (no pun intended) of what’s humanly possible. But, they stressed that success is driven by human connection.

It boils down to inspiring human brilliance. If you can do that, if you can get a hundred percent out of the people that work with you, you have a far greater chance of leading your category than if you have a bigger team full of apathy.

In our most recent episode of The Edge, I spoke with a woman who’s been called, “The British Oprah,” Jaz Ampaw-Farr. Jaz is an international TEDx Speaker, thought leader, and “Resilience Ninja.” I can honestly say that I’ve never had more fun during a podcast interview, full stop.

What an amazing and engaging discussion we had on the need for a “human-first” revolution, being our authentic selves, overcoming imposter syndrome, and being vulnerable.

What if we stood and said, “You know what, this is who I am. This is what I can do. This is what I want to learn. This is where the gaps are. This is what I'm working on.” And what if that was just okay?

This is only a small sampling of the incredible guests and stories we told in Season 2 of The Edge. I invite you to listen for yourself. You can find The Edge on the major podcast platforms or simply visit Skillsoft.com/podcast.

Learning starts with listening, and through the course of 36 episodes and 36 different conversations, I’ve learned so much.

I hope you will too.