Don't get her wrong -- Lisa Hanson loves the benefits provided by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, a service organization for more than 900 rural electric cooperatives and public power districts. But when Hanson, a senior technical training adviser, stops to consider why she left the corporate world seven years ago to join the nonprofit organization, she says it came down to NRECA's investment in its people.
The Arlington, Va.-based association sends all new employees on a fully paid trip to a member cooperative, which Hanson finds particularly helpful for IT staffers. "Meeting folks that actually work at a co-op, seeing the live power lines and the safety [procedures] that the linemen go through, it allows you to understand what you're working for," she says.
Other professional development opportunities for NRECA IT employees include custom on-site classes and workshops, a Center for Creative Leadership, and "Innovation Days" -- a program that encourages employees to find creative ways of applying technology to benefit the business.
Hanson has twice taken part in a mentoring program through which she has paired off with senior managers to take on projects outside her regular responsibilities. "Some IT organizations say, 'You're good at this; keep doing it,'" she says. "This IT group, they allow you to explore."