Laura McMillan began her career in a different industry. Still, she said, even as a stockbroker she was using some of the same skills she now applies at Instructional Technologies Inc. (ITI).
“In the brokerage industry, I was often tapped to help train colleagues, and I assumed several duties training brokers as well as clients in the emerging world of online banking and trading,” McMillan related. “It was there that I found my passion for teaching others and developing training programs.
“When I decided to return to Wisconsin 17 years ago, there were no major banks or brokerage firms in the area, so I considered other industries and knew from stock analysis that transportation was a good, stable one,” McMillan said. “After a friend mentioned that Schneider National was looking for a driver training curriculum manager and encouraged me to apply, I made the switch from the ‘move money’ business to the ‘move freight’ business.”
One of the first things McMillan did when she joined Schneider was to earn a CDL. She also spent time with drivers on the road to understand their roles and what they needed from a training perspective.
Through the years at Schneider, McMillan brought in technology-enabled learning tools like virtual simulation and online, web-based training. “Adopting these helped improve our results exponentially — both for safety and driver productivity,” she said. “We reduced training time and costs and experienced tremendous ROI year over year.”
After a stint at a simulation company, an experience McMillan called “a great opportunity to learn from client carriers of all sizes and help them implement exciting and effective new ways to train drivers,” she joined ITI. Today, she leads professional services efforts for the provider of online safety training. “The best part of my job is the regular contact I have with our clients, who continue to inspire me with their focus on fleet safety improvement,” she stated.
Clearly, driver capacity is an issue the whole industry is facing, McMillan noted. “From a training perspective, we work with our clients and partners to create as ‘driver friendly’ training as possible,” she said. “That means the content of online learning needs to be a great experience for drivers, so we continue to innovate, creating training that plays on any device that is convenient to the driver. We also listen to drivers who are the main end users of our product for ideas on improving the online experience.”
McMillan also said it’s important to get involved in the industry through state and national associations and serves on the Board of Governors for NPTC and on the curriculum team for NAFA. She has spoken at many ATA, CVTA (Commercial Vehicle Training Association) and TCA events and was selected by the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration to advise on the development of an entry-level driver-training curriculum.
“I tell anyone looking into a career to consider trucking because there is room for talented individuals,” McMillan stated. “But you cannot grow your career or experience success without a desire to learn. I especially recommend that women seek out mentors—not just for their career but also for the family, health and wellness, financial, and spiritual areas of their lives.”
Having gone from one male-dominated business to another, McMillan has logged about 30 years working with the guys. “The workplace has felt competitive in that regard, although over time I have seen a shift to more team behavior,” she said.