“Where do I want to go from here?”
In 2016, Tammy Noxon was beginning to think more seriously about her future. At the time she managed credit and collections at Trumpf, an international manufacturer of industrial machinery.
Her children were recently grown, and she finally had time to pursue other passions. She had spent most of her career working in the manufacturing industry, but was beginning to think about what she wanted to do next in her career and beyond.
Tammy had just been invited to participate in the inaugural cohort of a unique leadership development program called The Leadership Lab for Women in Manufacturing.
This program, offered by Weatherhead Executive Education, has since evolved from its original format to include all women in traditionally male-dominated technical fields, and is now known as the Leadership Institute for Women in STEM and Manufacturing.
Reflecting on her time in the program, Tammy says she made connections with classmates that endure to this day. Something special happened when this group of women from across the country coalesced.
“It really made me feel like I wasn't alone in manufacturing anymore, that there were other women who are facing the same problems, the same struggles that I face,” Tammy recalled. “We really clicked.”
Programs like the Leadership Institute for Women in STEM and Manufacturing, which create connection and a safe space for discussion among women, are more vital than ever before. Despite recent strides toward equality, the reality remains that women are more often the caregivers in families, and these responsibilities often conflict with the demands of employment.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, women have left their jobs at twice the rate of men, and still lag behind as the labor force rebounds. One of the contributing factors to this disparity is that women may not have access to the supports necessary to balance family life alongside a job.
Many women in male-dominated fields feel isolated and lack relatable mentors.
“Most of us are mothers or wives or sisters… and there are other things that influence us as well, and it's those things that pull on you. As women, I think we feel a lot more of that than men because we are usually the caregivers in our family. [The program] was a safe space to admit that.”
After attending the program, Tammy felt her confidence grow. She sought out learning opportunities, took more risks, and pursued new interests both professionally and in her personal life.
In 2017, her boss asked her to take on additional responsibilities at work, which expanded her role as a leader. Tammy incorporated several new people into her existing team, and soon realized that she needed help to facilitate a smooth transition for herself and her team members.
One of the ideas Tammy took away from the program was that even the best leaders cannot do everything themselves. Not only is asking for help okay, it is often necessary to achieve the best outcomes.
Tammy decided to hire a coach to work with her new team for the first six months after they came together. Was it worth it?
“Absolutely!” she says. “It was just so nice to see them gel and really start to work with each other as a team, instead of individuals… I was very proud of them. The team runs itself now.”
After her team was successfully united, Tammy met with the same coach one-on-one. These meetings helped with her own transition as a leader and reaffirmed her self-confidence.
“I know what I'm talking about. I'm really good at what I do. My gut feelings are usually spot-on, and I need to make sure I listen to those.”
Tammy tackled another challenge recently at work when she pivoted from a role in finance to a completely different field - supply chain management. In the middle of the pandemic, no less.
Tammy laughed, admitting, “I mean, that’s just crazy. I’m still not sure why I did it.” She loves to learn new things, but she also credits Weatherhead’s leadership program with giving her the confidence to take the risks necessary to grow within the company.
The most successful organizations recognize the need to develop the whole person. They understand how overall well-being, engagement and productivity are inviolably linked.
Weatherhead Executive Education understands this connection as well, and its programs provide more than just professional development; just ask Tammy.
She used to avoid taking risks, afraid that this behavior might lead to failure. Now she says, “Failure is not an end. It is a beginning of the next step – so you go on to do it better.”