When I received the news of my selection as one of the Thirty Under 30 at Learning 2023, I was in disbelief. It was a surreal moment, marking my first significant recognition in the learning & development (L&D) field.

This honor was not just a personal milestone; it was a testament to the three years of dedication and passion I had invested in this field. As I prepared for the Learning 2023 Conference, my first industry conference, I realized the experience was setting a high bar for my professional journey.

The days leading up to the conference were filled with a mix of anticipation and introspection. Questions like "What can I do to be better at my job?" and "How do others tackle the challenges I face?" occupied my thoughts. The expectations were not just about learning new strategies or methodologies but about seeking a deeper, more meaningful engagement with my profession.

The significance of events like Learning 2023 extends beyond the immediate boost of motivation they provide. These gatherings aim to foster lasting connections and engage an entire profession in a dialogue that shapes its future.

Looking back on my time with the Thirty Under 30 cohort, I've understood that what we learned, the people we met, and the obstacles we navigated aren't just personal wins. They reflect common experiences and goals shared across the L&D profession. This experience, though personal to me, highlights what motivates us as L&D professionals: the continuous search for knowledge, the value of our community, and the understanding that we can address our challenges more effectively together.

Sharing these experiences, my aim goes beyond just talking about my own memorable journey. It's about pointing out my essential lessons from the Thirty Under 30 program that are relevant and vital for everyone in L&D. This is an invitation for all of us in this field to seize the chances for growth, working together, and bringing new ideas to life that such programs offer.

Navigating the future together: Community-driven insights

One of my biggest takeaways from the Learning 2023 Conference was the clear importance of community in today's fast-moving and technology-driven environment.

Keeping up with industry changes while working a full-time job is a significant challenge. The support of a community and the exchange of shared knowledge are incredibly valuable in this context.

When it came to navigating the complexities of Artificial Intelligence (AI), a major topic for L&D, I found an invaluable resource in TheThinkingEffect.com. This community-driven platform provides a practical way to learn about the variety of AI tools available without having to test each one ourselves.

Ultimately, this conference experience highlighted that despite ongoing technological progress, the most consistent and valuable element in our profession is the strength of community and working together.

From newcomers to leaders: The value of diverse insights

One session that really stood out for me at the conference was "Leveraging Digital Transformation to Enhance Learning Experiences," led by some of my peers in the Thirty Under 30 program. Their presentations were not only full of useful information but also showed how passionate, analytical, and creative they are. Seeing their ability to contribute meaningful ideas and lead in learning, even though they are relatively new to the field, was both motivating and reassuring.

This session taught me an important lesson for everyone in the L&D community: It's valuable to share our experiences, no matter how simple we think they are or how new we are to the field. The young leaders in the Thirty Under 30 program showed that you don't need years of experience to make insightful contributions. Their openness to sharing helped us all learn more about digital transformation in learning; it also proved that new perspectives can significantly advance our field.

We should all encourage and create opportunities for everyone, regardless of their job title or experience level, to share what they know. Everyone has unique experiences that can benefit others. By making it easy for these stories and insights to be shared, we build a learning culture that values all contributions. Encouraging everyone to share their ideas helps us all gain from a broader range of viewpoints, which is crucial for innovation and adapting to change.

Building a professional 'home base' for success

The cohort-based approach of Thirty Under 30 at Learning 2023 introduced a unique dynamic that transformed the conference experience into something more akin to a collaborative journey. Having a designated group—essentially a "home base"—to attend sessions with, exchange ideas, or simply share a meal—made navigating the bustling environment of the conference easier and significantly more rewarding. The sense of camaraderie and collective exploration among peers, who are at similar stages in their careers yet bring a variety of experiences to the table, fostered a rich environment for mutual support and shared growth.

This setup didn't just make the conference more manageable; it amplified the learning experience. It highlighted how powerful and essential having a closely-knit network can be for personal and professional development. Beyond the confines of the conference, the concept of maintaining a "home base" of peers for ongoing dialogue and support holds profound value. It suggests a model that could be replicated in our broader professional lives—establishing a continuous exchange platform to share ideas, challenges, and successes. This approach not only benefits individual growth, it also contributes to the collective advancement of the L&D field.

The Thirty Under 30 program, therefore, not only provided a template for how cohort-based learning can enhance specific events like conferences, it also offered insights into how these principles can be applied more broadly to foster ongoing professional development and collaboration.

A word to aspiring Thirty Under 30 participants

To those contemplating applying for the Thirty Under 30 program, my advice is unequivocal: Just do it. This experience has been a catalyst for my personal and professional development, igniting a drive to set ambitious goals and expanding my network with incredible like-minded individuals. Whether you're seeking knowledge, networking opportunities, or just an enriching experience, this program offers it all.

One of the most substantial benefits of being part of the Thirty Under Thirty is the early career recognition it provides. Such acknowledgment in the nascent stages of your professional journey is invaluable. It's not just an accolade; it's an entry point into a community that will support and grow with you over the long run.

For anyone on the fence about applying, remember that there’s nothing to lose. The application process itself is a rewarding exercise in reflection. It allows you to pause, look back at your achievements, and articulate your journey and aspirations. It's an opportunity to not only potentially join an esteemed group of professionals but also to gain clarity on your own career path. So, take the leap—the rewards, both tangible and intangible, are immense.

Summing it up: The power of community in L&D

As I look back on my experience at Learning 2023 and the insights gained through the Thirty Under 30 program, it's evident that when we come together, we can overcome challenges, share valuable knowledge, and contribute to the growth of our profession.

Whether you're a newcomer or a seasoned professional, your unique perspective and experiences matter. The future of L&D looks promising when we work together, sharing our ideas and fostering a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

Share your experience at Learning 2024

Applications for the 2024 Thirty Under 30 program will open later this spring. Watch our website and social media for notifications—or become a Learning Guild member (it's free!) and opt in for event announcements and emails.