In 2005, Anthony Harmetz stood atop a cliff of career change. His successful rise over the previous decade from technical writer to National Director of Training at Bally Total Fitness was coming to an end, thanks to the fitness center giant’s slowly failing business and looming bankruptcy filing. Realizing all his training contacts were in other parts of the country, he joined our local ATD chapter, hoping to become part of a training community as he prepared for a job search.
Anthony recalls attending a few meetings, but wasn’t satisfied with how quickly or deeply his relationships were developing. He needed to build bridges fast. He decided to volunteer.
Rich Wong, who was President-Elect of ATD-OC at the time, suggested Anthony contribute to an upcoming Total Trainer program. The last cohort had just graduated and there was a small team who had committed to immediately taking the lessons learned in that course into the next offering. Game for the challenge, Anthony went to the first project management meeting. He fondly recalls what followed as a “trial by fire.”
“The decision to launch the next session was sudden, so little was in place. The course was starting in two weeks, no participants were enrolled, various presenters weren’t returning, we had all sorts of enhancements to include—and none of the project team members (especially me!) understood what was necessary to make the program work,” Anthony recounts. He quickly found himself in the familiar role of project manager and got to work. Twelve weeks later, the program was a success, and Anthony “suddenly had close relationships with all the people on the project team, many of the facilitators, and a number of the program participants.”
For his efforts, Anthony was also awarded “ATD-OC Rookie of the Year,” a recognition that was all the more meaningful as his job at Bally officially ended a few weeks after receiving the award, and his job search began in earnest. His ATD-OC relationships couldn’t have come at a better time.
He remembers attending a chapter event for the Career Counseling Special Interest Group and talking with the career coach, Tom Porter, sharing how dispirited he was after each interview, especially the ones that had gone well. He’d like the people, the job, and the company, but feel a pit in his stomach as he contemplated working there. “Tom told me, ‘What you’re feeling’s natural. You’re like someone who’s just gotten a divorce—and you’re not ready to get married again.’ That clicked for me,” Anthony recalls. “So I asked, ‘What should I do?’ His answer: ‘You date.’”
Thus, began a series of short-term consulting projects, during which Anthony discovered he enjoyed the consulting business. He soon decided to commit to consulting full-time.
But he didn’t stop volunteering with ATD-OC. In 2007, he oversaw the Continuing Education department; the following year, he served as the chapter’s CFO; and the year after that, he was selected as President-Elect.
The benefits of volunteering have been substantial. “Not only have I developed the community I was looking for, but I’ve also found sub-contractors who’ll help me on my consulting gigs, people I can call on to learn best practices, opportunities to try out new skills in a supportive environment (believe me, no one is ever going to make me CFO of a for-profit organization), and an avenue for working on passion projects,” he says. Additionally, over the years, his consulting clients have come through his network—a combination of people he knows from Bally, from school...and from ATD-OC.
Anthony loved Bally and his time there, but part of his excitement about ATD-OC was migrating from an environment where people didn’t always understand training and weren’t always great at managing people (sound familiar to anyone?) to a Shangri-la of like-minded people who understood the importance of talent development. He calls ATD-OC a “friendly oasis.”
Based on what Anthony has accomplished as a volunteer, the feeling is mutual. In reading an early draft of this interview, a current board member commented, “I imagine if we were to include every dang thing he’s done, this article would be much too long.” Anthony’s contributions to the Total Trainer program alone—which he has managed off and on during his tenure, growing it from a single program to a two-program curriculum, and now exploring the option of adding a third component—speak of his enduring commitment, all while operating a successful consulting business.
A beloved member of the chapter, Anthony is recognized not only for various achievements over the years, but also for helping the organization live up to its slogan: “Come for the content. Stay for the community.” Anthony wholeheartedly believes in that slogan. And he’s grateful to have done both.
Favorite Learning Resource
Anthony discovered The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning a few years ago and raves about the book’s emphasis on transfer of learning. “It takes lots of accepted lore about training and weaves it together into an effective process,” he says. “It’s dense in content and impact but easy to read.”
Anthony Harmetz is a workforce training professional with over 20 years of experience designing, delivering and implementing solutions to address the learning needs of various organizations. An accomplished facilitator, instructional designer, and leader, Anthony spent 13 years establishing and leading the learning function for Bally Total Fitness as Bally’s National Training Director. Since leaving Bally in 2006, he has been providing training and development services on a consulting basis. Currently he’s helping clients with: elearning and other instructional design projects, training strategy and implementation, and facilitation and coaching relating to train-the-trainer and personality styles models such as DiSC.
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