Lessons in Leadership

From corporate training to individual programs, the Rutgers School of Business–Camden helps those in business

Veronica Hawkins, NFI Industries’ vice president for talent strategies and solutions, at left, and Bob Knowles, president of NFI’s dedicated transportation division, at right, collaborate with Karen McCaffrey, assistant director for Executive Education at the Rutgers School of Business–Camden.

By Jeanne Leong

Kristie Tyler credits a Rutgers School of Business–Camden Executive Education leadership program for helping to advance her career on an upward trajectory.

Tyler, now vice president of sales at Camden-based NFI Industries, a supply-chain solutions provider which has more than 11,000 employees in North America, was the company’s senior director of sales in 2016 when she and 15 other employees participated in the Accelerated Leadership Development Program, which was designed by NFI and the School of Business–Camden. The noncredit professional development program taught by Rutgers–Camden facilitators included several in-class sessions in Camden along with weekly webinars that allowed participants to join from other locations.

The opportunity gave Tyler a new perspective. “Going through the program makes you look at things differently,” Tyler said. “I’m leading an integrated team of sales folks, so I work to bring additional revenue into the organization, but I’m also tasked with making sure others are successful. Attending the program gave me this visibility to how successful people in the organization spend their time.”

Tyler’s positive experience with the program is just one example of how industry leaders benefit from specialized business training developed by Rutgers–Camden. The school offers a variety of online and classroom training solutions to companies and individuals around the globe. “Our flexible Executive Education programs strive to educate and enable both individuals and corporate teams to succeed and become leaders in business,” said Sungsoo Kim, interim dean of the School of Business–Camden. “We are committed to sharing the quality education we provide not just to students, but to the business world as well.”

Karen McCaffrey, assistant director for Executive Education at the Rutgers– Camden business school, worked with NFI to develop the company’s custom training. “The Accelerated Leadership Development Program challenges participants to refine, rethink, and challenge common practices, both individual and organizational, in order to change the status quo and help NFI achieve their company mission and goals,” McCaffrey said.

NFI, whose services include warehousing and transporting products, transportation management, and real estate services, partnered with the Rutgers–Camden business school’s Executive Education division in 2011 to develop the leadership program. It has been conducted for NFI employees several times since. During the six-month program, students take leadership seminars and participate in a business plan competition to find a solution for a current challenge that the company is facing. Each of the groups presented their plans to NFI’s senior executive team.

Tyler’s team in 2016 won the competition by designing an initiative to keep employees safe in the workplace. The group conducted research by going out into the field to observe employees operating equipment, reviewed safety reports, and spoke with workers. The group’s winning project led NFI to create a new position—vice president of behavior-based safety—to help ensure a safe work environment for everyone from employees operating fork lifts to truck drivers on the road. “We have 50 million square feet of warehouse space,” Tyler said. “If you think about the number of employees we have out in a warehouse location, as well as the drivers we have on the road, safety is really vital for us.”

Because NFI is vast and has numerous locations throughout the United States and Canada, many of its employees have never interacted or met face-to-face. Working together through this program enabled participants to forge bonds with their colleagues that reaped benefits for everyone involved. “The group going through the program saw how much more successful we could be working closer together, and to be a sounding board for each other at times,” said Bob Knowles, NFI’s president of the transportation division, who completed the program in 2011. He said the collaboration has helped him and his peers work through some challenges to help the company continue to succeed and grow.

Veronica Hawkins, NFI’s vice president for talent strategies and solutions, said while employees in the Rutgers–Camden program are learning new skills that could lead to professional advancement, the company also sees great returns. “Anything we can do to give our leaders that professional boost in their business acumen, in their executive presence, in communications, and in their collaborations, benefits the employees and the company,” Hawkins said.

Taking Business Lessons Learned Around the Globe

While NFI employees learned together in a customized corporate training program, Lan Nguyen, a system process improvement engineer at Lankenau Medical Center in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, enrolled in one of the school’s Executive Education programs for individuals. She completed Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Training in which she learned how to streamline business processes while minimizing process variation and errors. She continued with Black Belt Certification, where she put to into practice what she learned, under the guidance of Executive Education, and improved a critical hospital process.

Lan Nguyen, center, with Sungsoo Kim, interim business dean at Rutgers–Camden, left, and Beverly Ballard, assistant director of graduate programs for the business school.

Nguyen, who trains medical staff—including doctors and nurses—to improve the efficiency, quality, and performance in the hospital’s clinical operations, said the training helped her to excel in her career. “Rutgers gave me a strong foundation to do my job well and to apply what I’ve learned in my current projects,” she said. “I’ve also shared what I’ve learned with my colleagues.” Nguyen, who completed the program in 2017, also has been sharing her knowledge learned from Rutgers–Camden in Vietnam, where she was born. She has traveled to Vietnam to conduct training programs for doctors and nurses to improve operations at hospitals in the cities of Can Tho and Ho Chi Minh City. “To go back to Vietnam to help people has been very rewarding,” she said.

For more information about the Rutgers School of Business–Camden’s Executive Education offerings, visit execed.rutgers.edu.

Posted in: 2019 Fall, Features

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