A Well-Nurtured Career

Supervisory training helped Corning's Jill Baker become a better boss.

As a 25-year IT professional, Corning Inc.'s Jill Baker has attended numerous training programs. But perhaps the most profound leadership instruction she has received was from a two-day supervisory effectiveness course she took at the manufacturer's Corning, N.Y., campus in 2005.

"I don't think we listen enough to employees," says Baker, who has been manager of global finance and procurement applications at the specialty glass and ceramics maker for the past four years. "It's one of the things I walked away with and try to apply every day."

And apparently, she has. Later that same year, Baker received an award for effectively nurturing the growth and development of her fellow IT workers. "It's only given to one or two people a year, and [Baker] was too modest to bring it up," says Elizabeth Ebeling, a senior communications specialist at Corning.

"I had no idea I was going to get this [award]," says Baker. "It was a total surprise and quite an honor."

Jill Baker

Jill Baker, Manager of Global Finance and Procurement Applications. Perhaps it's not so surprising after all. Training alone doesn't make someone a good manager. Supervisors need a variety of traits to become effective leaders, including an ability to listen carefully and inspire others to achieve their goals.

Still, the quality of training that Baker has received has helped shape her into the IT leader she is today. In addition to PeopleSoft-related training she has received at Corning, Baker was coached by a more senior IT manager in the company's environmental technologies division about three years ago.

The mentoring program allows managers to seek advice about how to handle real-world situations, including the proper communication approach and tone to use with IT staffers in specific situations. "Understanding Corning's culture was truly a big influence," Baker says.

Best Places for

Career Development
1. Comerica Bank
2. Paychex Inc.
3. Apollo Group Inc.
4. Corning Inc.
5. The Schwan Food Co.
6. Commonwealth Financial Network
7. National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
8. The Reader's Digest Association Inc.
9. University of Maryland
10. General Mills Inc.
To determine this top 10 list, we considered the following factors: Mentoring programs and tuition reimbursements for college classes and techncal certifications.

With the help of Corning's tuition reimbursement program, Baker was recently able to earn a bachelor's degree in business administration with a specialty in MIS from Elmira College in Elmira, N.Y. After obtaining her associate's degree in 1981, Baker got married and started a family, but she has been taking college classes periodically for the past 25 years. "I never totally stopped going to school," says Baker, whose son also just received his bachelor's degree. "It's been tough."

Baker's work has taken her to China, Japan, Germany and the U.K. To prepare for those trips, she has taken courses that offer travel tips, including do's and don'ts in certain countries.

"[The challenges of] traveling and dealing with other countries can't be overstated," says Baker. "It takes practice, and your skills grow over time. It's something I've had to stretch myself to do, but it's probably been the biggest area of development for me since I've been here."

Baker has also taken a slew of project management classes during her seven-year tenure at Corning. The company hosts project management courses offered by Arlington, Va.-based ESI International Inc. "Some of the skills you learn are about managing people to a plan, removing obstacles and issues, and dealing with communications," says Baker, who earned a master's certification in project management from ESI. "I found that this training has been a great influence for the environment that I'm in now."

Baker's education will continue this fall when she takes a weeklong Corning-sponsored course called Dimensions of Leadership. The course, which is given by Corning and external instructors to roughly 15 managers at a time, mixes role-playing and lectures.

Says Baker, "I want to continue to grow as a manager and in my effectiveness as a manager."

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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