BOISE, Idaho — It’s likely that Harvard is one of the first names that comes to mind when you hear “best business school”. For three accomplished Simplot employees, an amazing educational opportunity recently awaited them at that storied Ivy League institution, thanks to Company commitment to and investment in their professional development.
The employees in Simplot’s Food Group Business Group had the honor to attend the inaugural Women of Color Leadership Program at Harvard Business School (HBS) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Sales Senior Account Executive Non-Commercial Kimberly Graham; Senior Business Partnering Analyst Andrea Valle; and Moses Lake Production Manager Laura Nunez experienced the value and impact of this specialized HBS curriculum and how it facilitates growth and leadership abilities. Admission to the program was selective, further highlighting the participating employees’ professional achievements and organizational responsibilities.
The four-day program on the HBS campus was an immersive experience using the HBS case method. The curriculum was based on the latest research on leadership, diversity, and inclusion, and emphasized practical steps women of color can take to build their leadership ability and fulfill their ambitions while helping others do the same. Participants included more than 70 women of color from around the world, including India, Indonesia, Brazil and many others.
Graham was blown away by the program on all fronts. “You just have to really soak in where you are. One, I’m at Harvard. Two, I’m sitting in a room full of well-educated women; and three, it’s just an experience that I’ve never been able to be a part of. And I was just so thankful,” she said.
The Simplot employees learned in multiple ways while at HBS: On their own, in their living groups, and in the classroom. They participated in faculty presentations, case studies, self-assessment exercises, simulations, videos, and small-group discussions. Through these they developed greater self-awareness as leaders, expanded their leadership toolkits and acquired new strategies for achieving career success and satisfaction.
Each day the program had a theme: Managing Yourself, Managing Your Team, Managing Your Network and Leadership Responsibility. The daily cases focused on women of color leading and managing in the workplace and the obstacles and challenges they faced. “We found the case approach tapped into critical thinking skills as it related to each case,” said Graham. She also pointed out that the professors were able to provide an update on each woman that was a part of the case; one of the women surprised the class by joining them to share more of her story.
Nunez also found great value in learning about and from women with whom she could relate. “I think hearing that other women that are very successful have that kind of challenge in their career is something that’s very good, and also meeting other people experiencing the same thing and they have challenging careers and they are very successful.”
Brainstorming with fellow participants was another valuable part of the program for Nunez. “Like you probably have a general idea and then you rethink because you are hearing a difference of opinion and probably you say, ‘Okay, this is a good point and I never think about it in that way,’ so it’s something that helped you as a person to see.”
Participants also participated in a Feedback and Coaching Workshop where they assembled in small groups to discuss an assigned case. Part of the assignment was to film themselves during the workshop and be judged by their peers on their performance.
“We found this workshop to be astonishing as we were able to see ourselves on camera as well as receive constructive criticism from our peers on our individual performances,” Graham pointed out. “This approach brought significant value as we do this currently in our jobs; feedback to our boss, feedback to our peers and feedback to our direct reports.”
The Simplot students expressed many thanks to the Company for investing in them, and said they felt inspired after the program and excited to share their experience with their colleagues, family and friends. They also highlighted the value of the program in providing women of color valuable resources to help navigate through challenges and assist with advancement of their leadership capabilities.
The J.R. Simplot Company is a family-owned, privately held global food and agriculture company headquartered in Boise, Idaho. Its integrated portfolio includes food processing and food brands, phosphate mining, fertilizer manufacturing, farming, ranching and cattle production, and other enterprises related to agriculture. Simplot has major operations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Australia, and China, with products and services available to customers worldwide. For more information, visit www.simplot.com.