Soft-Skills Training Team

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Fiona Dawson, Director

Fiona Dawson is a facilitator with a passionate belief in the power of soft-skills and multi-media. She inspires individuals and teams using a broad range of curriculum and is adept at customizing programs for diversity & inclusion awareness. Fiona also directs and produces media content, including documentary film.

Within educational, non-profit and corporate sectors, Fiona provides soft-skills training from one-on-one private clients to team building events with 1,000+ participants. She delivers keynote speeches, emcees events, and facilitates presentations workshops. With a background in Corporate Social Responsibility, Fiona specializes in customizing The Leader’s Institute curriculum for Diversity & Inclusion engagement.

Realizing the power of storytelling, in October 2012 Fiona started the TransMilitary media project in the hopes of influencing the end of the ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military. In 2015 she was commissioned by The New York Times to direct the short opinion documentary “Transgender, at War and in Love,” with co-producers Gabe Silverman and Jamie Coughlin of SideXSide Studios. This “op doc” became one of the The Times' most viewed, Fiona was awarded by The White House as an "LGBT Artist Champion of Change” and June 30, 2016 the ban on transgender service members was ended. Further, the film won The White House News Photographers Association's Best Documentary, was nominated for a GLAAD Award and was a 2016 Emmy® nominee for "Outstanding Short Documentary." Following the current administration's new directive to reinstate the ban, the full story has taken an unpredictable shape. Her feature length documentary TransMilitary, directed and produced in collaboration with SideXSide Studios, premiered at South by Southwest (SXSW) 2018 and won the Best Feature Documentary Audience Award. Following a string of festival awards, TransMilitary made its TV debut on Logo on November 15th, 2018 and will be available to stream on a variety of platforms in 2019.

Having been raised in the United Kingdom, Fiona lived and worked in Bangladesh and Portugal before immigrating to America in 2000. She moved to New York in 2011 and today is based in Brooklyn.


Ellen E. Patnaude, Senior Instructor

Ellen E. Patnaude has been coaching, training, and developing people to achieve higher levels of success in a professional capacity since 1997. Her gift of insight allows her to often see what those with whom she is working are not able to see on their own—blind spots getting in the way of their success. Ellen has a Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in Biology and French. Her formal education is overshadowed by the education she has received from life—growing up in urban Detroit, MI; living abroad in Paris, France; working in rural Nicaragua, where she became fluent in Spanish; and building organizations in some of our nation’s depressed urban centers. She spent many years working as a community organizer with the Gamaliel Foundation network, training and coaching ‘regular’ people to transform their communities in extraordinary ways. She was one of the top, most requested trainers at the local, regional, statewide, and National levels. Ellen has worked with people from all walks of life, from peasant farmers with no formal education living in extreme poverty in a third-world nation, to business owners running multi-million dollar companies, to entrepreneurs in the early stages of business building. Ellen brings spark, authenticity, and genuine passion for her clients’ success to every conversation.

Her love of horses developed early in life through camp experiences, but has truly flourished in recent years with more exposure and experience. As a pretty direct communicator herself, Ellen loves the way horses give feedback immediately and clearly to the humans around them. Becoming certified in Equine Guided Learning has brought an expanded set of tools to Ellen’s toolbox, and she is excited to bring teams a whole new experience.


Chris McNeany, Senior Instructor

Chris McNeany has been a presentation skills and leadership development instructor for the past ten years. He thrives on being able to see his clients achieve their potential by maximizing an individual’s strength and finding strategies to overcome weaknesses. He also teaches team building events with a focus on philanthropy to better connect companies with their communities and allow participants to have fun in the process.

Chris is also an experienced improviser, having studied at The Groundlings in Los Angeles.