Passion for continuous improvement leads Jana Meyers to Adult Learning and Leadership program
Jana Meyers has a talent for identifying potential in every individual and a passion for growing leaders and growing as a leader herself. This desire to continually improve and help others improve helps explain why she enrolled in the Adult Learning and Leadership master’s degree program at Kansas State University in Olathe, even though she already had one master’s degree and significant training and leadership experience.
At American Century Investments, Jana had been promoted from Manager of Business Support to Director of Training, Development, and Support in just over three years. As a Director, her diverse responsibilities included managing the team who did call center training for 125 employees, providing enterprise-wide training support, and working with consultants and retail sales department personnel. She was well positioned for a long and successful career in the financial planning industry.
However, with a bachelor’s degree in Business and an MBA with a concentration in finance, Jana recognized she lacked “formal” training in adult learning and began to wonder if getting some additional knowledge about how adults learn might help her be even better at her job and gain credibility with colleagues.
“In the beginning, I saw the K-State Olathe program as a way to gain credibility in my field with my peers, as well as an opportunity to become a stronger leader. However, I wasn’t quite certain I wanted to pursue another master’s degree,” Jana recalled. "The first night of class, I knew I had made the right decision to come back to school and was in the right place. I got an enormous amount of value from the KSU program. It took my understanding of corporate learning programs to a whole new level.”
New career opportunities and a promotion
This new understanding led to additional career opportunities in corporate training and leadership. In late 2016, after 16 years at American Century Investments and about halfway through the master’s program, Jana made the tough decision to leave her leadership role in financial services and step back into an individual contributor role in a new company.
“I had a passion for putting what I was learning in my graduate classes to work in a large organization, so I accepted a position as a Learning and Development Project Manager at H&R Block,” she explained.
As she had hoped, the new position provided numerous opportunities to apply what she was learning in classes.
“Shortly after taking the Program Planning class at KSU, I was asked to run a national program for promising tax professionals in their first year with the company. I could not have done that project nearly as well without that course and my other classes,” Jana shared. Her contributions were acknowledged with a promotion to Senior Training Developer for Field Leadership Development.
Success developing and running the national project and later helping roll out a new Learning Management System soon catapulted Jana out of an individual contributor role and back into a leadership role. In just over 18 months — and within 6 months of completing her master’s degree— she was promoted to Manager for Field Leadership Development.
In this new role, Jana and her team support H&R Block field leaders across the United States and Puerto Rico.
“We train all new District General Managers in their first year of the role and support Regional Directors and Office Managers,” she explained. “In all, we touch over 400 leaders per year.”
Skills, knowledge and opportunities that contribute to career success
Jana believes knowledge gained in the Adult Learning and Leadership program contributed to her career success.
“I have had the good fortune to rise quickly in different roles, and I believe the K-State program has helped me with that. The Leadership Dynamics certificate is a great complement to the program. Knowing more about team, interpersonal and intrapersonal dynamics helps me be a better leader and helps us tailor our leadership training to the needs of our field and corporate leaders. I find I use leadership skills from the program daily,” she continued.
Although Jana’s initial motivation for pursuing a second master’s degree was to gain credibility with her peers, she gained more than just knowledge and credibility from the experience.
“I felt like I was part of a community at K-State Olathe,” Jana shared. “In fact, it was really the first college experience I’ve had where the instructors not only knew my name, but knew me personally. The instructors and curriculum are top notch and the staff is incredibly supportive.”
Jana also appreciated the opportunity to meet and network with a wide variety of professionals during the program.
“The unique thing about the Adult Learning and Leadership program is that my classmates were from all walks of life, which was a big advantage. It was great to have perspectives from multiple disciplines like military, healthcare, government agencies, other postsecondary institutions, corporations, nonprofits and others. I feel lucky to have had such a great experience overall.”