Participating in a Corporate Leadership Development Program

Author: Mark Javorka BSIE '07
It seems today that most large corporations have some form of leadership development program in place for early career employees in an attempt to attract and retain high potential talent. As a Purdue engineering graduate, I obviously fell into this category and accepted a position in the Operations Leadership Development Program at a major defense contractor after my graduation in 2007. Having recently completed this two-year program, I would like to share my thoughts on this experience with fellow alumni who may be presented with a similar opportunity.

As a graduate of the country’s best engineering school (MIT is a distant second), I had to turn down many other lucrative job offers in order to accept this position. So why did I choose to enter a leadership development program? Believe it or not, I did not have a distinct career path in mind after graduation. In fact, I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. This program offered four six-month, cross-functional rotations which would allow me to determine what I enjoy and, more importantly, what I never want to do again. It also promised levels of leadership training and tuition reimbursement that were not available at other companies or even to other early career employees at the same company.

While there were several perks to being a program participant, I did experience some negative aspects of which you should be aware. First of all, while four six-month rotations provided invaluable cross-functional experience in a short amount of time, they were too short to become really knowledgeable about any one area. It seemed that as soon as I became proficient in my new role, I would have to rotate to my next assignment. Upon completion of the program, I feel like a jack of all trades and master of none. Additionally, being a temporary employee in a department sometimes meant that I was not given the most challenging assignments (think spreadsheet manipulation.) This could be quite frustrating and at times it was difficult to toe the line between aggressively seeking challenging assignments and simply complaining about my work.

Overall, however, I believe that participating in a leadership development program was a highly beneficial experience which I would recommend to any fellow Boilermaker. While there are a few drawbacks, I feel they pale in comparison to the cross-functional experience and leadership training you receive. This experience and training will undoubtedly help program participants stand out amongst their peers. However, my positive experience may have been unique. If anyone else has leadership development program experience and would like to support or refute my position, please feel free to share.