Welcome to the latest edition of ‘In Conversation With’, our regular interview series in which we bring you profiles on senior leaders, and groundbreakers, taking you on a deep dive sharing their knowledge, career insights and where they hope to see themselves and the Group in the future.
In this edition, we caught up with Jenny Muhlwa, Head of Learning & Development for Sumo Group, to talk about her role.
CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF?
I’ve been at Sumo for three years and in learning and development for over 15 working in a variety of learning and development roles as well as running my own business for four years which supported women to feel confident in their abilities and build their unique strengths.
I have two daughters who love to dance as much as I do and getting pretty good at beating me on Just Dance!
WHAT EXACTLY DOES THE HEAD OF LEARNING & DEVELOPMENT INVOLVE?
As the Head of Learning and Development, my role is to design and implement strategies to enhance the personal growth of all our employees at Sumo to support them reach their full potential. This involves creating and managing employee development programs, learning conferences, career development frameworks, digital learning, and customised training solutions to address any skill gaps.
My team and I work closely with senior leaders to determine training needs and collaborate with trainers, speakers, and subject matter experts to create engaging and effective learning materials that contribute to making Sumo a great place to learn and grow.
WHY IS THE ROLE SO IMPORTANT?
There is always new tech to learn, new management skills to master, new trends to discover. Once the learning stops, we stop innovating and so this role is important to create a culture of continuous learning that continues to spark curiosity, desire to improve, experimentation, knowledge sharing and growth.
Two of our values at Sumo are determination and accountability which, for us, mean to learn from failures and to continue to grow, be adventurous, creative and open-minded. This is at the heart of learning and development.
HOW DID YOU BECOME INTERESTED IN THE WORLD OF LEARNING & DEVELOPMENT?
I was working in HR and had started to deliver some management training. I soon realised how much I enjoyed it; creating programmes that were able to facilitate mindset shifts and growth was incredibly rewarding, and I wanted to do more of it.
The organisation at the time also took part in Best Companies and when the scores came back there was a low score in personal growth with a lot of feedback on the desire for more training and development. I wrote a business case for a learning and development manager in the division I was working in, wrote the job description, sent it to the HR Director and asked for a meeting to pitch the role (and subsequently why I thought I would be a great fit!).
I got the role and have not looked back since.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES/REWARDS OF WORKING IN LEARNING & DEVELOPMENT?
There are so many rewards to working in learning and development. I enjoy designing and managing learning initiatives that push the boundaries of what has been done before to create memorable learning experiences that facilitate growth. I enjoy coaching people and helping to create different perspectives, I enjoy the mental challenge of facilitating training and being flexible in the approach for the audience to create what they need at that moment.
Ultimately the reward is in seeing people develop and step out of their comfort zone into the learning zone and the personal growth that comes from that. The biggest challenge is there is always so much to do, so many opportunities to support and not enough time!
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENT IN THIS ROLE?
The biggest achievement has been delivering Sumo Developer Conference (SDC), our learning and development conference which we launched last year bringing together over 700 people from across the business into one place to learn from each other. It was an incredibly successful conference and so much learning and collaboration took place over the two days.
Added to this was winning the Learning Excellence award last year for our learning platform, Dojo and how it supports learning for all our people across Sumo.
WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE NEXT FEW YEARS?
I want to build on what we have created in Sumo to reach the games industry at large. We see a trend for those moving into management roles in the industry not always feeling well-equipped for their first management role.
At Sumo, we addressed this by creating a career development programme for those looking to take their first step into a management role with workshops to teach the skills required for managing teams before they got their first management role. This has received great feedback and results at Sumo and now we want to bring this to more game devs in the industry through a virtual training programme which we plan to launch at the end of this year.
IF YOU COULD GIVE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE TO SOMEONE STARTING IN GAMES, OR SPECIFICALLY IN A LEARNING & DEVELOPMENT ROLE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
If you're starting out in learning and development, my advice would be to start by gaining a solid understanding of adult learning principles and instructional design. This foundation will help you create effective training programs that meet the needs of your learners. Additionally, stay up to date with the latest trends and technologies in the field, and continuously seek out opportunities for professional development and networking.
It's also important to be a good listener and communicator, as well as to have a collaborative mindset since you'll be working with a diverse range of stakeholders throughout the development process. Finally, be open to feedback and willing to learn from mistakes, as this will help you continuously improve your skills and abilities as a learning and development professional.
As you gain experience, you'll be able to refine your skills and find your niche within the field. Remember, learning and development is a continuous process, so be open to feedback and always strive to improve.