Jean Marrapodi is one of those people you just love to be around.

I first met Jean at a conference in Orlando many years ago and was absolutely impressed with how smart, energetic, and charismatic she is.  Since then, she basically fits what I think is an L&D archetype: the Instructional Designer that excels at what she does because she loves people AND her profession.

Jean regularly attends industry events and is very active on social media.  I highly suggest reaching out and getting to know her!

Here is a short interview with Jean that we’re happy to share with you.

Thank you Jean!


1. How and when did you get started in L&D
Like many, I sort of fell into it. I am trained as a teacher with a degree in Special Education and lots of Masters credits in elementary education. When I moved to New England in the 90s, the teaching market was glutted and couldn’t find a job, so I took a job as the Training Marketing Manager at CompUSA. I had the opportunity to sub in the classroom from time to time and fell in love with training. The rest is a series of dot connecting and networking.

2. What’s your typical day like?
At Illumina, I’m responsible for the social media presence as well as my learning architecture/ID role, so I begin my day reading newsletters, blogs, and Twitter for the first hour. Then I tackle what’s at hand, designing curriculum, elearning or what not, which may also entail learning the system I’m going to be writing. Some days, I’ll be writing a blog post, which takes a whole lot more time than we think. The design or writing is interrupted by the occasional webinar or customer/team meeting. I absolutely LOVE being able to do so much learning as part of my job.

I live in hope that we see the next shift targeting performance rather than information. There are murmurs of this but we’ve not arrived there yet.

3. Can you remark on two major shifts you’ve seen in L&D since you’ve started?
I’ve been in training for 20 years, so I’ve seen the shift from instructor led to online, whether it’s elearning or synchronous virtual events. There’s still lots of classroom training out there though. I think the other critical shift has been the elimination of scrap learning: narrowing the focus to be more targeted, so learners aren’t “wasting time” on training. Microlearning is an outcropping of this. I live in hope that we see the next shift targeting performance rather than information. There are murmurs of this but we’ve not arrived there yet.

4. Any advice for someone just getting into L&D?
Don’t get so mired in your job that you forget that a key component of what you do is learning, so you need to be a deliberate learner. Build a personal learning network (PLN) through Twitter, conference attendance, and association meetings. Attend the free webinars that are readily available, and read the newsletters that come from the eLearning Guild, elearning Heroes, and the links from people you follow on Twitter. When you’re learning a new language, it occurs best through immersion, so immerse yourself in what is being said in our industry. After that, the secret to designing great learning lies in a single key: defining the problem as a single sentence, and the goal of whatever you’re designing as a sentence that responds to that. In the end, learners will know _______ and be able to _________. Make that the mantra of your design process and keep pointing back to it. It helps reign in scope creep and keeps everyone focused on the goal.

5. How do you stay current in your professional development?
I make a point to attend conferences, local association meetings, and webinars as often as I can. You could call me a conference junkie. I also monitor Twitter, and read the newsletters and blogs from the industry.

6. Have you had any particular individual influences in your professional career? (people, places or things)

David Wilkins introduced me to social media, and my world expanded exponentially. Jane Bozarth taught me the value of Communities of Practice. I admire her tenacity and being part of the CoP of continuous learners in our profession. Bob Mosher and Conrad Gottfredson and their moments of learning need. Tina Teodorescu introduced me to performance consulting, Will Thalheimer revolutionized my view of evaluation, and finally, Jason Kramer, who taught me the value of tinkering and continues to model learning as a key component of his job.

Adaptive learning lets us teach to the holes rather than the existing cheese.

7. Anything you’re excited about seeing in the future? Maybe something people should watch out for?

Adaptive learning. Customizing for the individual learner makes the experience relevant at the point of need. Adult learners are like Swiss cheese. Adaptive learning lets us teach to the holes rather than the existing cheese.

8. Favorite productivity tip

Fight for the cloud. Using tools like TeamViewer, Smartsheet, Dropbox and Review My eLearning allow information to be readily shared and simplify version control. There are still orgs that resist it for security reasons, and it makes projects ridiculously difficult.

If you slice an apple horizontally, it reveals the seeds in the shape of a star. I believe that the seeds of greatness are in everyone and look for that star in them.

9. You’re one of the friendliest people on the planet. Why?

Honestly, it’s because my core is centered in Jesus and that gives me a fountain of joy. Beyond that, I like people and believe everyone has value and something to offer. I look for the best in everyone. Even my company, Applestar Productions, embraces that. If you slice an apple horizontally, it reveals the seeds in the shape of a star. I believe that the seeds of greatness are in everyone and look for that star in them.

10. Is there anyone you’re friends with on social media, but have never met in person? (and would like to)

I had to really think about this one to think about people I know but have never met. Meeting Tricia Ransom @TriciaRansom at TLDC was such a hoot. We’ve been friends forever on social media, and knew we knew each other but weren’t sure how. The moment of “That’s YOU!!!” was a real tickler when we realized the connection. I’d love to meet Jane Hart @C4LPT, Gina Schreck @Ginaschreck , Alex Couros @courosa, and Jackie Gerstein @jackiegerstein.

11. Your top 5 follows on social media?

Jane Bozarth, JD Dillon, Shannon Tipton, Clark Quinn, David Kelly

Don’t forget to follow Jean on twitter: https://twitter.com/jmarrapodi