Boomerang Spotlight — Cathleen Heimberg

Cathleen was born and raised in Estonia. For the last 5 years, she has lived in Ghent, Belgium, together with her husband Mathieu, and furry friend Mr. Sniffles.

She describes herself as an impatient soul, always searching for something new and striving to become a better version of herself. It should come as no surprise that she likes learning and enjoys developing herself.

At Showpad, she empowers others to be at their best.

Looking at your background, you have a unique combination of technical knowledge and expertise in learning and development. Did this happen by chance or was it always your goal?

It has been a path of self-discovery. While obtaining a technical degree at university, I became part of an international student NGO. A few years in, I committed myself to developing the talents of its volunteers all over Europe: first as a soft-skills trainer and later by leading the training department. After moving to Belgium, I found my way to Showpad and became a technical support engineer. Then I jumped again to the learning and development world, working as a learning designer in the digital studio of Vlerick Business School. And now I am back in Showpad, bringing together my technical knowledge and experience in learning and development.

It sounds like you have tried to figure out many times what to do in life. If you went back to these moments where you had to choose, which advice would you give yourself?

In those moments I was obsessed with making the right decision. Looking back, I would tell myself to not overthink matters. First of all, sometimes you just need to start exploring: only by trial and error can you figure out what you do and don’t like, especially when you are at the start of your career. Second, I would repeat the advice that my mom gave me when I was at my first big crossroad. If you find an opportunity that does not leave you with lasting commitments and potentially offers a lot in return, then it is always worth exploring it. I would also tell my younger self to be more honest with myself. Both times in the run-up to switching jobs, it took me a while to admit that change was needed; there were always so many good things to hold onto! Yet, I was not fully happy. Once I acknowledged the need for change, it felt like the universe started to cooperate with me. Opportunities started popping up with almost no effort on my side.

What attracted you about Showpad in the first place?

I immediately felt welcomed and appreciated. Being an expat and not knowing either of the local languages limited my opportunities. On top of that, I quickly found out that more established companies ignored my student organisation and start-up experience and took it as a fun side activity while studying. It made me feel like my experiences were not worth anything. Showpad was different. While not having any technical support experience (I didn’t even know what a Service Level Agreement was) my manager and team saw how I could contribute with my experience and trusted me to learn the job on the go. Other companies also said that I was “too humble”, but in Showpad that’s part of the core values. I could be my authentic self.

What surprised you the most when returning to Showpad after being away for 2.5 years?

It felt like coming home. Even though the company is now more mature and there are more processes in place, Showpadders (also known as good-natured ass kickers) still share the same level of excitement. The culture is as strong as it was when the company was half the size. There is always something fun to look forward to and there are great initiatives to be involved in. Also, it was interesting to see how I personally had changed in that time. I am now more appreciative of many things, from the established onboarding process to the strong focus on company values. I also acknowledge that I needed that time and experience that I got while I was away. It makes me better at what I do now.

So what is it that you do now at Showpad?

In short, I empower our technical teams to be at their best. I facilitate their onboarding and ensure opportunities for continuous learning. I cooperate with the company wide learning and development team, while working closely with the product and engineering operations team. The latter is my official home in the company.

What inspires you in your daily work?

My foremost inspiration definitely comes from Showpadders themselves. It is a joy to work with everyone and I love the creativity and humour people bring to work. I enjoy cooperating on projects and doing initiatives together with the teams. Experimentation is fun and I like to learn from it. For example, I recently launched a communication initiative for the technical support team. It is fair to say that the first month did not quite go as planned. I took in the feedback, adjusted the course and now we are trying a slightly different approach. Curious to see the results! Also, it always brings a smile to my face to see excited new joiners, motivated Showpadders, and managers who do their absolute best to develop their team members.

What are the biggest challenges?

There are a lot of exciting ideas in my parking lot. It is a challenge to choose which ones to focus on because in an ideal world I would like to do it all. Given that there is only one of me, I am also trying to find the balance between doing projects myself and empowering others to take the lead. While it is tempting to initiate a lot of ideas myself, it is not sustainable.

What excites you about the future?

At Showpad, there is always something to look forward to. Seeing the growth and how many people we have added to the team and still plan to add, I am excited about what we can achieve together. With remote and hybrid work here to stay, I want to ensure that there are equal opportunities to learn, bring learning more into the flow of work and integrate more opportunities for networking.

How do you stay on top of the latest developments?

I leverage my network a lot. While working at Vlerick Business School I had the opportunity to work together with many inspiring staff and faculty members. In addition, being part of the “30 under 30” of the 2020 Learning Technologies conference in London gave me the opportunity to mingle with an inspiring group of young professionals and meet some key speakers off stage. And then there are many others who I have met via events or past encounters. I follow all of them on LinkedIn. This provides a constant source of inspiration. On top of that, I also get inspiration from webinars, blogs, podcasts, and books. I like to read a lot. “How People Learn” by Nick Shackleton-Jones was a game-changer for me: this book helped me understand what role I want to play in learning and development.

What would you do if you were not working in learning and development?

I’ve always loved animals, so I would fulfil my childhood dream and run a shelter for homeless animals.

Finally, if you had 10 seconds to speak to the entire world, what would you say?

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” This quote by Maya Angelou has helped me set things into perspective in the past year. You should not be too harsh on yourself because you are always doing your best.

Thank you so much, Cathleen, and welcome back at Showpad! 🎉

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