People on the Move: From Classmates to Colleagues

People on the Move: From Classmates to Colleagues

In this special edition of MSLOC’s People on the Move, we highlight the story of Beth Seraydarian and Kevin Schneiders.

Beth came to the MSLOC program interested in transitioning from external human capital consulting to a role focused on internal talent and organizational development. Recently she joined EDSI, a training and consulting firm focused on helping people and companies in transition. Just one year after starting graduate school, she became a Talent Development Specialist at EDSI.

The CEO of EDSI? Beth’s MSLOC classmate Kevin.

It’s no surprise that many MSLOC students, alumni and faculty team up outside the confines of the classroom. The curriculum encourages students to engage with one another to collaboratively solve organizational challenges presented in class. Students showcase their creativity, leadership and problem-solving skills while learning with their peers. And they begin to understand the working styles and capabilities of their classmates.

In this interview, Kevin and Beth discuss their journey from being teammates on an MSLOC Foundations team - a course that uses problem-based learning to foster collaboration among students - to becoming colleagues, all the while living in two cities 500 miles apart.  

Kevin, why did you want to bring Beth on as a team member to EDSI?  What do you look for in a new hire?

Kevin: Beth was on my first MSLOC team in Foundations.  I could tell very quickly that she would be a great fit for our culture at EDSI. She is extremely bright and has a great sense of optimism and enthusiasm for possible solutions.  When we hire, we focus 80% of our attention on the values of our organization.  We want to do everything we can to ensure that someone is a great fit for our culture and will be able to identify with our EDSI “daily ways.”

Beth, can you please describe your new role and why you chose to join EDSI?

Beth: For the past four years I worked in human capital consulting in Washington DC. While I liked the responsibilities of my job, I wanted to transition to an internal role at a company that was making a difference. EDSI's goal is to help people and companies in transition, and EDSI’s values are ‘show up, smile, and support.’ From the first story Kevin told our Foundations team about EDSI’s culture, mission, and values, I was hooked. I thought to myself “now that’s a company that I would love to join.”

Since starting at EDSI, I have learned as much as I possibly can about how EDSI employees achieve their goals. I have spent time working as a member of the community partner outreach team in order to better understand what my clients (EDSI employees) really need from a development and coaching perspective. Now that I have an immense appreciation for what a typical EDSI employee does on a daily basis, I am working with HR/Talent Management to develop a Career Sculpting program for EDSI's 450+ employees throughout the country, from EDSI’s home office in Michigan to our division offices in the Midwest and on the East Coast.

How have your team environments fostered collaboration and teaming?

Kevin: Beth is fantastic to work with because she has a great ability to communicate her ideas and shows tremendous support for your thinking. Even though she might disagree, I always feel like the process is collaborative with Beth.

Beth: We enjoyed discussing our professors, debating which classes to take, sharing strategies on how to approach assignments, how to balance family and school time, and everything else related to MSLOC. The open dialogue that began on our Foundations team has definitely carried through to today.

Kevin and Beth both participate in MSLOC’s Alternative Schedule option, which combines distance learning with on-campus classroom meetings delivered in full-day sessions over three consecutive days. Students participating in alternative schedule classes collaborate with team members over the 10-week quarter by using technology such as The Hive, MSLOC’s online learning community powered by Jive Software, and video conferencing. Beth was able to continue being a student in the program when she recently moved from Washington D.C. to New York City because of the flexibility of the MSLOC program. You can live anywhere in the United States and be a student.

Despite being on virtual teams together, how did you come to learn about each other’s working styles and capabilities?

Kevin: The frequency of our team video chats always makes me feel connected to my teammates. The team charters [creating written team charters is standard practice in MSLOC classes] provide an excellent opportunity to share your strengths with your teammates. I think it’s tremendous that we take the time to describe [in the team charters] what we do well, how we like to work and our preferred methods of communication.

Beth: Having virtual meetings also gave us all a window into each other’s lives that we might not have gotten sitting together in a classroom. For example, sometimes Kevin’s daughters would make a quick appearance on screen to say hi before our meetings started. Our team was in contact almost every day for 10 weeks, and we could see each other’s strengths and weaknesses related to brainstorming, researching, analyzing data, writing, and communicating via email, phone, Adobe Connect, The Hive online learning community, Google Hangouts…the list goes on.

Has the MSLOC program in any way influenced the way you work together at EDSI?  How have you applied or integrated the skills you’ve learned at MSLOC into both of your roles?

Kevin: It’s great that Beth and I speak the same MSLOC language. Whenever we have a chance to work together, we are nearly always referencing a story about MSLOC or applying a concept that we learned. Two of my MSLOC teams have worked on EDSI challenges and several of our managers have completed Immunity Maps, a tool taught in the Advancing Learning and Performance Solutions class. Also, I began holding Virtual Town Hall meetings after taking the Creating and Sharing Knowledge class. I was able to interact, via video, with more than 450 representatives in 45 days.  Those are just a few of the applications - I keep a running list on a note in my phone. I can say, without any hesitation, that I am a better leader today because of MSLOC.

Beth: I have been much more patient at EDSI and have tried to soak everything in and ask questions rather than making assumptions, jumping to conclusions, or coming up with solutions to problems that I might not know much about. I have dedicated more time to building strong relationships with coworkers in New York City and other EDSI offices so that I can see things from their perspectives.

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