This is an interview with Debra Hildebrand, Founder and CEO of LurnAgile.
Where were you at 22, and how did you get to where you are today?
At 22 I was traveling the world. I took time off of college to find myself; lol that sounds so strange right now. I went to Costa Rica, Chile, and Nepal. I remember I wrote something in high school about what I was going to do with my life- part of that was exploring the world, so I can check that off my list. After I graduated from college, finally, I went to work for an Internet Startup in Seattle during the 90’s internet boom.
The CIO was a consultant under contract who was a partner for a management consulting firm. After a year of working for the startup, and the inevitable demise of that company, I went to work for his firm and spent 15 years learning everything I could about consulting and providing value for my clients. I then started my own consulting firm, and I began teaching Project Management at various universities. Both of those experiences led to LurnAgile, which is my Scaled Agile training and coaching firm.
Thanks for sharing! When did you really decide to “take ownership” of your career? What inspired you to pursue your passion?
It was about 10 years ago that I started my own consulting company. The inspiration came from being a graduate student at Columbia University. I was inspired not only by the caliber of learning I was receiving but also by my fellow classmates. I think we all inspired each other because a great deal of us left our jobs and became entrepreneurs by the 2nd year of our MBA.
All good career stories include some aspect of “risk.” Was there a moment in your career where you felt that you were risking something, but looking back on it now, that move made all the difference?
Well, I don’t know where to start on this because I feel like everything I do, every day, even now has an aspect of risk. I think the scariest thing I have done so far is to hire people. Once you have others depending on you to succeed, then it becomes all that more important to do so. So, the risk is not just for me, but for them as well.
Where do you find significance in your work? What gives you the most satisfaction?
I love to jump into the classroom and talk to the students. This is really the best part of my day, being able to spend 10 minutes hearing about how the training has really changed their perspective on how they view their work, and how they have a plan to change things in their organization. That makes all of this worth it.
How do you measure success in your role? How do you know you’re succeeding?
I know I am succeeding if the students are happy with our product. If they are not, then we have big problems. We are customer focused, and the students are the customer.
If you could offer your 22-year old self one piece of advice, what would you say?
I would say that you should find a way to excel at whatever you are doing now, or what you have the opportunity to do. If you excel at what you do, then people take notice.