Meet Mary Ellen: Innovator on Demand™ & Instructional Designer

Emily Meade
Posted: December 14, 2018

One of our favorite things about our team is the family atmosphere that is cultivated with long-time Innovators. Mary Ellen is one of our outstanding instructional designers and is now also contracting as an Innovator on Demand™. Within her role, she carries experience and passion, which is reflected in her work. We are excited to introduce her and share what her morning routine looks like, what she enjoys about her job, and her hot cup of choice (coffee or tea? Read below!)

Related: Meet Carmela: Innovator™ on Demand & Instructional Designer

How long have you been an Innovator?
I’ve been an Innovator since 2012.

Where are you from?
I was born and raised in a suburb of Philadelphia and moved to the Cape May, New Jersey area in 2010.

What does your typical morning routine look like?
My typical morning varies with the weather! If it’s a nice day, I get up early and take a long walk on the beach, then have breakfast, tidy the house a little, and get to work on whatever project I have on deck. If it’s not so nice out, I do a workout DVD, read a little while sipping a cup of coffee, and then it’s time to fire up the computer and get going!

What roles can you fill as an Innovator on Demand™?
I’ve worked in the training and design field since 1985 (!!!) and I’ve done it all—professional development training, technical training, instructional design, business writing and editing, technical writing, web-based training storyboarding, and now I’m dipping my toes into microlearning—designing relatively small learning units and short-term learning activities.

What do you enjoy about your role?
I enjoy so many things about being an instructional designer. I love that I become a “pocket expert” on a wide variety of topics—for example, I’m familiar with how plasma is extracted, how a clutch works, and how to create a sales call plan—all because of training programs I’ve designed. I like working with subject matter experts, filling in the details that they take for granted but new learners desperately need. I love the creative process of distilling loads of content down to the few nuggets of vital information that really matter. I love the writing aspect—the challenge of finding just the right words to get the point across clearly and succinctly. I love writing sound assessments that challenge but don’t trick the learner. Honestly, I could go on and on about what I enjoy about my role (which is a good thing, as I’ve been at it for over 30 years).

Most days, you can find me doing… 
Most days, you can find me doing a variety of projects. I may be writing a blog post for a client, creating a storyboard for web-based training, designing a facilitator guide and participant materials, or collaborating on activities to engage learners. I also take time out to do some creative writing—I’m a children’s writer.

What three items are always at your desk?
The three items that are always on my desk are my computer (of course), a pad of paper and a pencil for notes (I am old school that way), and a mug of coffee.

When you aren’t busy working, what do you enjoy doing?
I enjoy gardening—it’s the best wager a person can place! I also enjoy photography, reading, baking, writing children’s fiction, doing year-round beach cleanups and horseshoe crab rescue in the spring (yes, it’s a thing:, crocheting blankets for Project Linus (, and hanging out with friends.

Coffee or tea?
Coffee. Coffeecoffeecoffee. If loving coffee is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.

Coffee. Coffeecoffeecoffee. If loving coffee is wrong, I don’t wanna be right. Click To Tweet

Where do you get inspiration that motivates you in your work?
The work is my inspiration. I know my work helps other people do their work better, and I know my contribution takes a burden from another person’s plate. In terms of motivation to work, that’s all I need. Well, and also the paycheck.

What’s one of your favorite inspirational quotes?
“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger—something better, pushing right back.” – Albert Camus (FYI, most people know the first part of the quote, but not the second part.)

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