Cheryl Bourn

HR Director, Wood Products, Weyerhaeuser
Attended Advanced Human Resource Executive Program

Cheryl and a company colleague participated in the Advanced Human Resource Executive Program (AHREP). Here, she shares how the program helped shape companywide workforce strategies.

Why did you enroll in the Advanced Human Resource Executive Program?

Our decision to attend was part of a professional development initiative for Weyerhaeuser. We knew we needed to invest in our HR function, and this program has some of the leading thinkers in the industry. We also liked the approach — rather than focusing on what's trending in HR processes and tools, we took a hard look at how our workforce should be supporting overall business strategy.

What was the Michigan Ross experience like?

We were so impressed by the high caliber of people in the program, and the global and industry representation was incredible. A year later, we still stay in touch — in fact, we’ve formed a LinkedIn group, and people regularly brainstorm about challenges and new solutions. I’ve already noticed that many people who were in the program have been promoted. AHREP helped us be successful, and it’s inspiring to see others benefit from it, too.

What have you gained from the program?

Before we left for AHREP, we were asked to lead our company's strategic workforce planning. By the time we came back, we had a complete, research-based template for it. In just three months after returning to our jobs, we held educational sessions across the company to re-engineer our workforce planning. Now, every division uses the model we adapted at Michigan Ross. It’s been incredibly beneficial and well received.

Cyril Lee

General Manager, Fortis Marine Solutions
Participant, Michigan Ross Executive Program

Cyril attended the Michigan Ross Executive Program to gain essential tools as he transitioned from an operations role into a general management role. He shares some of the insights he gained from the program’s actionable plan for growth and transformation.

Why did you enroll in the Michigan Ross Executive Program?

As I shifted into general management, I knew I needed better finance skills. Professor M.P. Narayanan equipped us with in-depth knowledge in a short amount of time. I’m now confident with P&L, balance sheets, income statements, cash flow, ROI, NPV, and more.

What was the Michigan Ross experience like?

Over the duration of the program, we explored more than 20 important general management components and learned strategies to improve them all. My fellow participants’ takeaways were different, but we all agreed — this “crash course” provides invaluable knowledge to leverage for competitive advantage. Overall, this program was one of the highlights of my career. The faculty delivered program sessions with gusto, professionalism, and care for each person who attended.

What have you gained from the program?

Ross showed me how to use marketing as a means to increase company value rather than seeing it as a by-product. I now view marketing through the lens of a product continuum — not just a goods-dominated area (tangible), but one that transcends the service arena as well (intangible). I’ve also gained tools to capitalize on strengths, align business practices, and lead change management.

Hossam Awad

Country Director, Taiwan, Columbia Sportswear Co. 
Participant, Positive Leadership Program

As country director for Taiwan, Hossam works across Columbia’s development, manufacturing, and supply chain functions to commercialize and produce many of the company’s products. Hossam provides insight into his experience at Ross.

Why did you enroll in the Positive Leadership Program?

I had recently taken the role of country director for Taiwan, and I wanted to sharpen my skills for the new position. I have long been a believer in the concepts behind positive leadership, and the Michigan program really fit with my company’s leadership philosophy to create sustainable performance in others.

What was the Michigan Ross experience like?

The faculty brought both cutting-edge academic theory and practical perspective to the classroom. We went through a step-by-step process to identify goals and then translate our vision into an actionable plan to realize them. The program helped me gain a new understanding of how leaders effectively engage people and drive success. Exploring common issues and challenges with the other students was also very helpful. I learned as much from them as I did from the faculty.

What have you gained from the program?

I feel like a magician with a bag of new tricks. I’ve used the tools I gained over the past year and a half throughout the organization, and during this time, we have realized significant performance improvements. This has been due to several factors, and the tools have been a big part of it.

Yolanda Conyers

VP of Operations and Chief Diversity Officer, Lenovo
Participant, Advanced Human Resources Executive Program

As Lenovo looks to stay at the forefront of the tech industry, Yolanda uses tools from the Advanced Human Resource Executive Program (AHREP) Program to advance strategic goals. Here, she discusses her experience in the program.

Why did you enroll in the Advanced Human Resource Executive Program?

The AHREP philosophy of aligning HR strategy with customer preferences really fits with the company’s goals right now. We’re striving to become an even more customer-centric organization, and developing an HR strategy to realize a work culture focused on consumer demands fits with our needs.

What was the Michigan Ross experience like?

I worked with a team of five other HR executives from companies including Boeing, Wal-Mart, and Bayer. They brought incredible insight and perspective to our complex issues, and we worked closely with faculty to apply learning modules to the project. At the conclusion of the project, we presented the findings to the class, and I came away with an actionable plan to take back to the company.

What have you gained from the program?

The plan involved significant changes led by HR across functions to develop the capabilities and culture needed to achieve our overall strategic goals. Realizing these long-term goals will take time, but we are already seeing noticeable changes in the ways people are approaching their work. Developing this plan through the program was a unique opportunity for us. You can’t get that kind of diverse input from a consulting company.

Sabina Gasper

Senior Director, Outcomes Research, Animal Health
Participant, Emerging Leaders Program

Pfizer is one of the world’s largest makers of pharmaceutical and nutritional products. As senior director of outcomes research for animal health, Sabina links science with business to translate the value of products for customers.

Why did you enroll in the Emerging Leaders Program?

As a scientist coming into this new role, I didn’t have formalized management or leadership training. We’re currently transitioning my division from a U.S. to a global function, and as the issues of leadership become more complex, I wanted new skills to lead my team for effective results. The Emerging Leaders Program provided exactly what I needed, enabling me to learn new tools and sharpen the skills I already had.

What was the Michigan Ross experience like?

Leadership isn’t something that happens; you have to continually work at it. The program was an ideal way to do that. The mix of classroom learning, small group interaction, and individualized self-assessment and reflection provided an effective way for me to step away from work and devote focused time to improving my leadership approach.

What have you gained from the program?

I’m more confident in everything I do as a leader now. I set higher expectations of my team, and I’m clearer about how we’re going to accomplish our goals. I’m also a much more inclusive leader; I’m better able to gauge the individual and collective needs of the team and lead us appropriately. Ross tools are helping me inspire better results from everyone I work with.

Cynthia Hiskes

Global Human Resources Director, Rexam PLC
Participant, Advanced Human Resource Executive Program

Why did you enroll in the Advanced Human Resource Executive Program?

My company has grown significantly through recent acquisitions. As I lead the process of integrating the acquired companies into Rexam, I wanted to expand my skills for leading HR operations to deliver the most value and opportunity for the company.

What was the Michigan Ross experience like?

In a concentrated two weeks, I gained a comprehensive understanding of exactly what is most important for HR leaders right now, and I developed new strategies for leading global HR operations. The faculty members were outstanding. They brought incredible knowledge, insight, and credibility. The participants came from an impressive number of countries, cultures, and sectors. And the practical approach to learning was not only fun; it gave me the confidence and skills to apply course material right away in my work.

What have you gained from the program?

The program changed the way I think and how I approach my work. I’m looking at HR operations from the standpoint of customers and other key stakeholders more than I ever did before. Since leaving the program, I’ve implemented deep changes to our organizational infrastructure. The program gave me the tools and confidence to execute these changes knowing they’ll deliver the right value for the organization.