Smith has been vice president of enterprise learning at Ingersoll Rand University (IRU) for the past six years. Prior to that, her jobs included being a high school teacher and working as a learning professional at a start-up airline. Smith is a chief architect of IRU where the focus is on developing sales, manufacturing, and overall leadership.
Some of her additional accomplishments at IRU include managing high-potential leadership and general management education, which has resulted in a decrease in attrition for these target groups; developing an action-learning approach to the marketing curriculum that resulted in a multimillion-dollar revenue increase; implementing a leader engagement model that involves leaders in learning governance, curriculum advisory, program design, visiting executive fireside chats, and visiting instructors in 100 percent of the education solutions; and creating an external learning partner strategy that led to increased quality, global consistency, speed to market, and an annual six-figure cost reduction.
Q| What was your first job, and what lesson did you take away from it?
My first job was in a fast food environment when I was 16. I learned about attention to detail, the responsibility that's required to be employed, and how to continually find new ways to improve the work.
I also had a job in college during summers taking kids on teen tours. Basically, [we went] all over the United States. One summer, I camped out 56 nights straight. My big takeaways were certainly being able to rough it, but also seeing the vast differences in culture within the United States. I went to every state, which helped give me a greater appreciation of diversity, which then helped me to be able to interact better in the workplace.
Q| How did you first become interested in corporate education?
I was in a library, and I stumbled across a Training and Development Journal. I was absolutely astonished that there was such a thing as the profession of corporate education. I was a teacher at the time. I started going to ASTD meetings thinking, "Boy, this sounds like a nice career approach!"
From there, I went to work for a start-up airline. They recognized my teaching background, so they pulled me into their corporate education function, and I helped build it.
Q| Do you have any memorable experiences from your time thus far at Ingersoll Rand University?
I've been here six years, and I think the most memorable experiences that you can see are the ones where you have a direct line of sight to a positive impact on the business. There are a whole host of those. Most recently, we did something to support cash flow within the company and the company overexceeded the cash flow goal. I would also say the experiences where the level of leadership engagement in learning is apparent in every aspect, from designing through delivery and governance. All of those engagement points are memorable pieces for me.
Q| What is one change you'd like to see in the field of executive development?
I think the most effective solution is one that is holistic. There is certainly an education component, but there is also a feedback component. But what I really think has been internally missing is the ongoing coaching - both internal (peer coaching) as well as external (outside coaching). My desired change is that we look at the whole coaching portion of executive development as not just a "nice to have."
Q| What indispensible advice would you offer to new CLOs?
Think of yourself as a business professional first, and secondly, as one with a human resource development specialty. See the world through that frame.
Q| What is the importance of proving the ROI or market value on learning within an organization?
I've worked in organizations where there was much more pressure on that. In my current organization, the leaders are so engaged that they're already really close to the value, so there's less scrutiny on that overall. But I think being able to show that direct line of sight and contribute to that business impact helps people better understand the learning function within an organization. The outcome is part of a strategic goal, and not just an 11th hour afterthought. In my current organization, they wouldn't think of starting a critical strategic initiative without learning professionals at the table. We gain some of that through being able to show a line-of-sight impact.
I also think it's important to benchmark. Part of the ROI and market value pieces has a component of benchmarking against others so that you're creating some sonar or some reference points for your own organization.
I really think one of the things that we've been striving to do at Ingersoll Rand within the past six years was to get past the direct line-of-sight goal and create an engagement model that really minimizes that proving component. Yes, we absolutely do need to demonstrate value and make connections, but it's not proving as much as it is showing alignment with business results.
Q| Are you working on any new projects?
I just completed a Toastmaster's International Communications Certificate program. To keep myself current, every two years, I like to get another certification for myself because I love to learn. I did Toastmaster's because I wanted to brush up on my public speaking.
Q| How do you enjoy spending your free time?
I'm an artist at heart so I enjoy oil painting and pottery to be individually creative. I volunteer around homeless issues in Charlotte - there's lots of need and lots of opportunity. I also like to exercise to manage stress.