Growing from a technical expert to the leader of a large team takes training and development. We interviewed Dawn Simon to hear about her experience in EDP.
Tell us a bit about who you are and where you are in your career journey.
My professional background is in aerospace engineering. For over a decade, I was a flight test engineer on experimental aircraft before leading a flight test engineering team and then managing an aircraft interiors engineering department. Shortly after taking this course, I capitalized on my transferrable skillset to shift career paths into the space industry. I am finding a leader is always learning!
Outside of work, my life revolves around family and travel. My husband and I love to hike and take our dog on adventures with us. I’ve traveled to all 7 continents and continue to visit new places.
Why did you choose the Executive Development Program?
Around the time I signed up for EDP, I had just gone through a whirlwind year of going from a Team Lead to an Engineering Manager of a large team. I had been fortunate to experience informal leadership roles throughout my career, but was surviving on learning through observation or self-study. I was specifically looking for a course like this to enhance my leadership context across industries, on a variety of subjects outside of my engineering training.
Describe your experience in the program overall.
I had a positive experience. The professors were excellent, the program was well organized, and the experience felt rewarding overall.
What were your impressions of your fellow students in the program?
The surprising part of this class was that I learned just as much from the formal training as I did from my classmates!
There was a wide range of professions represented in our class. Everyone was highly motivated and successful in his or her own domain. The variety of experiences provided for brilliant conversations both in and out of class.
Describe the classroom environment and the workload outside of class.
Especially after your first off-site retreat, it is an incredibly friendly and comfortable environment. The professors are interactive and interested in what professional examples we brought to their topics. The weekly participant presentations (where participants talk about their work) only enhanced our understanding of one another as the weeks went by too!
I would try to do the assigned reading over the lunch hour during the week, though I’d admit some weeks it just didn’t happen. Heads-up, the classes are much more valuable when you do the reading ahead of time and are able to participate more!
Which courses were the most relevant to you?
The organizational leadership section was the most relevant. I was able to bring concepts about people, structure, and culture back to my job and evaluate areas I could improve.
What is something that you learned in EDP that you have been able to apply in your job?
I learned a lot of new concepts and methods in this course. One specific concept that I found valuable was how to give better feedback to personnel. Another aspect I took away was learning about cultural change that sticks and how the stakeholders and processes affect people, structure and culture.
Is there a particular faculty member who stands out in your mind as being really exceptional?
Professor Bigley. His enthusiasm was contagious. He injected his concepts on organizational leadership with real-world discussions and practical applications.
How has your EDP experience enabled you to see your industry/company/career differently?
I realized that for as diverse as our class was, we shared many common workplace experiences. I was interested in taking my childhood dream of being an astronaut and combining it with my professional experience to transition industries. This course gave me the context and empowerment to see how leadership skills could be applied across industries.
Oh, and being a good leader takes ongoing work! J
What was your favorite experience during the program?
The off-site retreats were highlights of the program. The material was engaging and immediately relevant to bring back to my team. Having free time at the Residential to engage with classmates and form personal connections facilitated and enhanced the class discussions throughout the course.
Is there anything else you would like to share with prospective students about this program?
This is a unique program where you are not focused on the next test, the best grade, etc. You are here to learn and to incorporate new ideas and methods as soon as practical into your job. I appreciated being able to directly translate what I was learning into the real world.
Executive Development Program Highlights:
- Program duration: Nine months, one evening per week + two off-site retreats
- Program dates: September – May
- Early applications due: May 1
- Final application deadline: August 1