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Life & Work with Ellen Nusbaum

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ellen Nusbaum.

Ellen, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I began my writing career as a reporter and editor after graduating with a journalism degree from the University of Arizona, Tucson in 1983. Eschewing long nightshifts for a social life, I parlayed my writing skills into the exciting 8-to-5 world of corporate documentation. Bored senseless, I transformed myself first into a software expert, then a PC trainer contracted by ASU, then as a course developer, and then a project manager for the leading publisher of computer training guides at the time. I was eventually promoted to director of development publishing, where I learned I had a natural affinity for leading diverse teams. My company paid for me to attend the Arizona Government Training Service’s Supervisor’s Academy, from which I achieved certification and was able to hone my leadership instincts into actual skills (improve morale, lower turnover, and reduce grievances and litigation, communicate powerfully and help create an environment that fosters employee engagement and loyalty and in turn, client satisfaction).

I made a brief foray into technology sales and marketing before working up the nerve to venture out on my own as a part-time freelance training development writer, spend more quality time with my then 10-year-old daughter and really ponder what I wanted my next step to be because frankly, I was burned out. Basically, I had worked every week of my life since I was 15 years old and didn’t realize how much I really needed a break and a reset. During this time, the colleague and friend network I had built over the years in training and publishing was a giving tree that I could not stop if I’d wanted to do so. Freelance work poured in, and I continually would tap folks in my network to see if they wanted to share the freelance load with me. When they did, I’d simply give their info to my client and encourage them to add those folks to a project with my endorsement. One of my friends with whom I’d share opportunities continually chided me for doing so. “Why are you doing this for free,” she’d admonish. “You need to set up a business and stop giving this away.” I resisted for four years. But then I started to stagnate, and it was clear I was ready to really challenge myself. The only thing standing in my way was me. And then, as if by magic, my same friend who had been encouraging me to formalize my freelance network introduced me to a development director for the leading U.S. textbook company.

After my first freelance project concluded, that director said to me: “If you know more people who do the kind of work you do and are as pleasant to work with as you are, I will set you up as a vendor.” So now I was at the Rubicon and had to decide if I wanted to continue as a solo operation or go to the next level. My biggest hesitation is that I didn’t want to create a joyless corporate monster. As a solo freelancer, I was able to do what I wanted when I wanted and stay true to my values and work-life balance goals. It seemed to me that once I formalized structure, I would be back to the grind of feeding the machine and not my soul. I couldn’t see how to create the framework and preserve the bliss. On a plane to the Riviera Maya for Spring break, I was fretting over the decision when my daughter, then 14, turned to me and challenged: “You can always build it the way you want to. You can make it the way you want it to be. But if you don’t do this, Mom, what kind of example are you setting for me.” That literally knocked the wind out of me. I knew then and there that I needed to create something that would uniquely address the work the way I liked to do it and bring as many of the folks in my network along as possible.

At the end of 2005, I formed Springboard Content & Publishing as an LLC. Now, 16 years later, Springboard is an established network of many dozens of freelance expert learning and instructional designers, quality control specialists, LMS techs, project managers, writers, subject matter experts, desktop publishers, editors, and media developers that delivers highest quality products and services to a diverse clientele in higher education and corporate training. The Springboard team boasts learning design experts with such pedigrees as PhDs, Master’s degrees, law degrees, CPAs, certified teachers & trainers, university faculty, and other specialized certifications. Our team has developed hundreds of academic, corporate, vocational, technical, business, marketing, financial, and soft skills products and curricula. Our clients are global. And we do it our way, staying within our niche, emphasizing work-life balance and promoting entrepreneurship and remote work expertise in everything we do. Most importantly, we are all of us independent contractors providing seamless solutions under the Springboard banner to companies that need short-term or long-term high-quality learning and training design services. Our model creates an irresistible value proposition for both our clients, their clients and our tightly knit team. Through the years, technology and learning paradigms have evolved and we with them, staying on the cutting edge of the tools and instructional design methodologies required to meet the needs of our rapidly changing world.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
The Springboard road has been blessed even through periods of national economic struggle. When times are prosperous, people invest in training and learning because they have the budgets to do so. During economic downturns, people find ways to fund skills retraining. Both of those realities have seemed to trickle down to Springboard in terms of the amount of workflow we have enjoyed. However, those changes have also impacted what we develop and how we develop. Change is constant, and that is a model and value that we actively welcome and in fact thrive on individually and as an organization. Our greatest struggle has always been dealing with the positive stress of being able to staff projects fast enough during particularly prosperous workflow cycles.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
One of my passions that has benefited me personally and professionally is handwriting analysis, also known generally as graphology. I am not a forensic graphologist, to be clear – that is a formal discipline and science. I discovered what I consider the art of handwriting analysis by accident and then realized that I could leverage that skill as a publishing executive managing a division of more than 50 managers, editors, and technology professionals. Astonished by its accuracy and advantages afforded, I became an avid student of handwriting analysis because it offers insights into the subconscious issues that drive and inhibit professional and personal dreams and goals. You can use these clues to create positive change in your life by pursuing paths consistent with your natural likes, dislikes, talents, skills, and abilities.

Incidentally, handwriting analysis has been a job screening standard of the recruiting industry throughout Europe for decades. Some people contend that their penmanship reflects how they were taught to write in school. However, scientists have concluded that handwriting variations are nearly as infinite as fingerprints. You need only compare your handwriting to anyone else’s to see that you will never find penmanship that matches another’s precisely. Nevertheless, you may find similarities in terms of such aspects as size of letters, margins, letter formations, and word spacing. And it is in those qualifications and quantifications that personality traits reveal themselves unconsciously. Just as body language (such as a gesture or facial tick) or tone of voice can convey a person’s personality, so does one’s handwriting but with greater precision. I have written and self-published several books in the areas of personal growth, career development, and applicant and employee screening using handwriting analysis. I also was a private handwriting consultant, engaged by employees, managers, and major profit and not-for-profit corporations to conduct handwriting analysis. Additionally, I was engaged to facilitate virtual handwriting seminars and have appeared on local TV news segments and profiled in newspaper articles to discuss the benefits of handwriting analysis, particularly in hiring, career goal-setting and personal actuation.

Over the last several years, I have wound down my handwriting analysis consulting, but I continue to employ it myself as part of my own personal and managerial toolset. I think this handwriting analysis skillsets me apart from others because it helps me see every person in terms of all of his or her potential. If I understand one’s natural skills and abilities and likes and dislikes, then I can ensure that I create for them the environments (teams, project types, type of work, timelines etc) in which they can succeed and thrive. My network, including my internal team and close colleagues, often say I’m a team whisperer. I think really what I have done is used handwriting analysis to understand how to orchestrate and build teams as well as to understand that people fail when they are deprived of frameworks that nourish their intrinsic nature. Therefore, I take the time to learn about what inspires and feeds each person’s soul and do what I can to cater to that. Another professional aspect I’m proud of is the virtual asynchronous career mentoring for girls and women I created with my colleague Carrie Doyle. Emp-RSS is a free knowledge repository where successful women share their business and work-life balance insights to inspire and empower women to find their voice and achieve their unrestrained potential. We offer our network of knowledge free 24 x 7 from the Springboard website as a searchable FAQ. Carrie approached me about her passion for mentoring and challenged me to help her do more to provide tools that would help girls and women succeed in and nurture their personal and professional aspirations. The result is Emp-RSS.

So, before we go, how can our readers or others connect or collaborate with you? How can they support you?
People know me as a straight shooter. More than anything, I appreciate candor. I really don’t take anything in business personally and have a pretty thick skin professionally. When collaborating, whether internally or externally, I prefer that someone risks offending me rather than keeping something from me. To be successful, I think individuals including me need to evolve, grow and change to meet an ever-changing world. That requires that everything we do and how we do it be dynamic except for our core values. I appreciate feedback more than praise because I want my team and my clients to know that I care about meeting their needs. I save the praise for the individuals in my network that are doing the heavy lifting.

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Image Credits
Elaine Kessler

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