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Spotlight on training managers

This month, we had the chance to catch up with four training managers from Washington state agencies. We asked them to tell us about their joys, challenges, current projects, and professional development. They also share tips for anyone thinking about a career in training and development.

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What do you enjoy most about your work as a training professional?

Jason Aldana, Department of Corrections: I enjoy the new employees and the enthusiasm they have for their new careers.

Jessica Mobbs, Department of Social and Health Services: I find great joy in pushing others to stretch out of their comfort zones so they can grow, overcome problems, and succeed. Usually there’s a moment when the learning clicks in, and you can see the excitement (or relief) in a learner’s face when that happens.

Manny Udarbe, Department of Financial Institutions: I enjoy connecting employees with resources they need to succeed in their everyday tasks, and helping them attend training which will hopefully also enrich their personal lives outside of work.

Audrey Pitchford, Department of Ecology: The best part about this work is the people. At Ecology, I work with the best team I have ever encountered in my professional career. We trust each other to be vulnerable and say when we don’t know something, and we all learn together in safety. As a training professional, it is so important to communicate both in words and deeds that it is okay to be a learner.

What aspects of your work are the most challenging?

Jason: Budgetary restraints and ability to get folks into training is a challenge.

Jessica: One of the most challenging aspects of my work is ensuring that leaders understand the value of employee growth and development. So many of us in state government are working in positions that demand more from us than we can accomplish in a regular 40-hour workweek. It’s my responsibility to make sure that managers and leaders know that an investment in their employees will pay off in the end. Employees who have the opportunity to learn and grow will feel more satisfied in their work which leads to higher productivity and a greater sense of wellbeing overall.

Audrey: Right now, we are in a time of great transition. Our training team size has doubled in the past six weeks. We have welcomed two new staff to fill new positions as diversity, equity, inclusion and respect (DEIR) facilitators. Like many agencies, we continue to adjust to impacts from changes in recent years, such as the move from in-person classes to virtual learning, the transition to the new LMS, and changing expectations from our customers who have greater interest in consultation and technology solutions.

What work or projects are you currently excited about?

Jason: I am excited for the work we will be starting to re-write/update our correctional academies for new employees. Correctional academies provide foundational knowledge for corrections staff before they start their careers. Depending on a person’s job duties, they may be assigned to one or more of the academies we offer.

Jessica: I am launching a brand new administration-wide mentorship program this summer. The Economic Services Administration (ESA) in DSHS has never had a formalized program open and available to all staff throughout the divisions. This program is an exciting opportunity to develop and nurture our emerging leaders. It also gives staff a professional developmental opportunity while supporting our succession planning efforts.

Manny: The transformation of our WA State Learning Center is phenomenal, from the beginning to present. All agency participants have contributed huge amount of effort, time, and ideas that will enable the enterprise to use the Learning Center according to their business needs. It is my goal to utilize the Learning Center’s vast capability to better serve the employees at Department of Financial Institutions (DFI).

Audrey: I’m excited about our challenges! It is always energizing to do something we’ve never done before, because this is where the learning happens.

What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in this career field?

Jason: “Noli Desinere Discere” — don’t stop learning.

Jessica: For me, this work requires a mission-driven purpose. Sometimes it’s very difficult and you may feel like you’re not having the impact you’d like, or maybe what you’ve designed just isn’t landing with the learners in the way you had hoped. In those moments, you have to remember why you chose this work. Keep your focus outside of yourself. I do this work to elevate others and watch them succeed. A positive attitude and a lot of tenacity will help you through it when things get hard.

Manny: Are you a people person? Do you enjoy interacting with other employees? If you are able to motivate a person to take not-so-enjoyable training, this may be a path for you.

Audrey: Start where you’re at, with what you have. There are many degree programs available, if formal schooling is a fit for you. There are many other ways of learning as well — training classes, certificate programs and online courses, such as LinkedIn Learning. To gain experience, start by working one-on-one with others. When we look for opportunities to deepen our learning and develop our gifts, we often find an abundance of ways to learn, grow, and move in the direction of our heart’s desire.

Jason Aldana, Jessica Mobbs, Manny Udarbe, and Audrey Pitchford.
Left to right: Jason Aldana, Jessica Mobbs, Manny Udarbe, and Audrey Pitchford

Jason Aldana is the training and development administrator for the Department of Corrections. He has a corrections career that spans over 25 years and 2 different states (Washington and Wisconsin). Jason has worked on and chaired statewide committees related to security threat groups, facility and incarcerated individual search polices, transgendered individuals, restrictive housing, and a variety of other project management assignments. He is currently working on a degree in Elementary Education at Grays Harbor College.

Jessica Mobbs is the senior organizational development manager for the Economic Services Administration at the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). She has worked for the state for over 15 years. She has a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Chapman University and her Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certification. Jessica is passionate about organizational development and is dedicated to employee growth and development.

Manny Udarbe is a generalist HR consultant with the Department of Financial Institutions (DFI). He is a 20-year U.S. Army Veteran. His active duty assignments included U.S., Europe, Southwest Asia, and East Asia. Manny first entered state employment with the Washington State Patrol (WSP) in 2013 as an OA3.

Audrey Pitchford is the training team supervisor and LMS administrator for the Department of Ecology. She has taught children and adults for nearly two decades in the public and private sectors on topics ranging from insurance to languages to dance. Audrey has also worked at the Department of Labor and Industries, the Insurance Commissioner’s Office, South Puget Sound Community College, and the Department of Enterprise Services.



We deliver high quality, cost effective support services to state government. DES features expertise in statewide contracting, training, printing & mail operations, human resources and financial systems, facilities management, and care of the state capitol grounds and buildings.

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