Being denied access to classrooms in 2020 has forced a lot of change in learning and development approaches used by organisations.  Many formal learning programs previously delivered face-to-face in classrooms have been redesigned for the online environment.  I supported Sport Australia to redesign their Women Leaders In Sport (WLIS) program for online delivery.  140 women completed the program in the new format, and I’m currently conducting program evaluation.

The program has been running for 18 years, during which time over 24,000 women have completed it.  2020 was the first major redesign of the program.  It was done quickly – out of necessity.  I recommended a survey of past participants to understand what impact the program has had on their career.  As an extension of this I suggested a proof of concept to create ‘career journey maps’ for women leaders in sport.  I’m starting work on the career journey maps today.  I’d like to share why I intend to create these maps.  I invite anyone who has created something similar for any profession to contact with me to discuss how you did this and what you learned along the way.

What is a Journey Map?

A journey map is a visual depiction of the experience a person goes through in order to achieve a goal.

The approach is part of a design thinking process to help empathise with someone’s experience to achieve a goal.  It can also be used to support future state design.  “It is typically applied to user experience (UX) design, service design, employee experience and sales pipelines to identify friction and pain points in an experience and to mitigate them accordingly.” (Source:

“In its most basic form, journey mapping starts by compiling a series of user actions into a timeline. Next, the timeline is fleshed out with user thoughts and emotions in order to create a narrative. This narrative is condensed and polished, ultimately leading to a visualization.” A simple generic format for a journey map is shown below. (Source: Journey Mapping 101, Neilsen Norman Group)

Journey maps are a flexible tool.  There are no firm rules about what goes into a journey map or the format it should take.  It can cover any duration appropriate to your purpose for the map. The content can be very rich given the combination of actions/events, thoughts, feelings, pain points and opportunities at key phases of the journey.  A lot can be communicated in just one page/image.  Two examples that illustrate this are shown below.

Example Journey Map: Completing a Tax Return


This is a detailed journey map describing the experience of placing a tax return for the first time.  You can view the full size journey map on the site of the designer, Mel Edwards using this link (Note – this example was sourced from Model Thinkers via my subscription membership – I’m finding this site a very useful resource to improve my thinking about all sorts of topics.)

The ’emotion’ line quickly communicates the highs and lows of the journey.  The traffic light coloured symbols are a useful key to indicate points of pain (what doesn’t work), points of delight (what works well) and opportunities to improve or enhance the experience.

Example Journey Map: Bus Driver Learning Journey


This is a map of the learning journey of a new bus driver in Sydney in their first twelve months on the job.  It was created by Tanya Lau, who described why and how she developed this journey map in two excellent blog posts which you can view on her website.  If you are interested you can also listen to an interview that I did with Tanya about the creation of this journey map on my Learning Uncut podcast (Episode 19) in February 2019.

This format is simpler than the tax return example.  Less detail is provided about the issues and opportunities, so swim lanes could be used to describe these rather than the traffic light coding.  The business impacts/data swim lane is interesting as it communicates implications of the experience of people in the role on the organisation.

The different formats reflect, in part, the purpose for which each journey map has been created.  The content and format of the map should be fit for purpose.

Why I want to Create Career Journey Maps

Through my involvement with the WLIS program I have become aware of the under-representation of women in leadership positions in the Australian sport sector.  This 2019 International Women’s Day article by then CEO of Sport Australia, Kate Palmer, reports that “women comprise 24 per cent of CEOs across the 63 national sporting organisations funded by Sport Australia and the AIS.* The number across the high performance coaching system is 15 per cent.”  Palmer argued that although gender equity has improved, progress is not fast enough.

* AIS – Australian Institute of Sport

Given that we will be surveying a large number of past WLIS participants to support program evaluation and explore interest in an alumni, I saw an opportunity to ask about the careers of the participants since completing the program.  This could provide insight into their experience and factors which have helped or hindered them from achieving their aspirations to be leaders in the sport sector.  It struck me that a journey map could be a useful way to both explore and depict the insights gained from the research into the careers of these women.

Examples of Career Journey Maps

I can’t be the first person to have the idea of creating career journey maps.  However, the term ‘career journey maps’ is imprecise as an internet search term.  Examples in search results include images of individual careers (like a visual resume), professional development pathways and career planning tools.  I did find two illustrative examples developed as part of a project that used design thinking to explore how museums and libraries could support veterans and military families.  One example is shown below.  See this post on the FSG Social Change website for context about the project they were developed for and how they were created and used.


While these maps are too simple to meet my goal I still feel that the journey map approach will be useful on my project. There are elements of the examples given above that I could adapt readily to support my objectives.  A map could include key decision points in careers and factors that either support or impede progression on the leadership path.  Although it’s more of a stretch, I may be able to replace the ‘business impact’ swim lane with one about the impact on the sport sector (if I have data/evidence to support this).

What Next?

My next step will be to develop a research plan – which will include secondary research, survey and individual interviews in this sequence.  Depending on what I uncover during secondary research I may be able to create a first draft of some career journey maps (noting I expect that more than one map will be required to represent a range of different experiences).  I could then continue testing and building these as research progresses.

Do you have research or experience to share?

If you are aware of existing research that could support my goal or have done similar research in any profession I would really appreciate it if you are able to share any resources, examples and tips.  Please contact me via comments below or email me –

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