How Leadership Development Programs Can Help New Grads—Especially Women—Get On The Management Track

How Leadership Development Programs Can Help New Grads—Especially Women—Get On The Management Track was originally published on WayUp.


When you’re thinking about your career, it’s easy to picture the beginning and the end. Yet reaching the management level is harder than just putting in your time at a company.

Ideal candidates for senior leadership roles have a wide understanding of the business, find mentors early on in their career, and gain visibility with senior management. Not coincidentally, a study featured in the Harvard Business Review, found that a lack of executive sponsorship, mentorship, and the feeling of isolation are some of the biggest factors contributing to STEM industry dropout by women.

So, how do you find a job that actually lets you do all of that—and tackles the even-more-difficult odds facing women in the tech industry? One way is through a Leadership Development Program.

That’s the route taken by Alexa. Currently a Market Development Manager, she entered Thermo Fisher Scientific through their Information Technology Leadership Development Program (LDP). We recently spoke with her to better understand her professional journey.

Alexa’s Time At Thermo Fisher: From eBusiness To IT

Alexa secured her spot in Thermo Fisher’s IT Leadership Development Program after completing a summer internship in their eBusiness function, a division that deals with Thermo Fisher’s online marketplace and digital marketing strategy.

“I thought it was really cool because I could use more of my analytical skills but marry that with marketing,” Alexa explains. “I came into Thermo Fisher just really liking the function I was in. And, of course, our ‘healthier, cleaner, safer’ mission statement is really important as well. That helped seal the deal for me.”

So, when she was invited back to join their rotational IT LDP, she eagerly accepted. The program lasts two years and takes LDP members through a total of four, six-month rotations. For Alexa, that meant working as a project manager, a business analyst, and an integration specialist in various departments.

How A Marketer Exceled In An IT Leadership Development Program

Alexa knew modern marketing required a deep familiarity with technology. That’s why the program always seemed like a natural fit for her. “Even though I was in the IT program, from the beginning, I said, ‘I’d really like to leverage my tech skills in marketing,’” Alexa says.

And so she did. Alexa’s roles both during and after the program involved the use of technology in marketing plans and strategies.

“Now, I’m a Market Development Manager for our Corporate Digital Technologies, or CDT—a fancy way of saying e-business,” she explains. “But essentially it’s a corporate function and we help lead the go-to-market strategy for our digital solutions, whether that be connected instruments, our cloud-enabled applications, collaboration tools, or things like that.”

Her familiarity with technology helped her not only understand the products they sell, but also the technologies they use in their marketing strategies.

Preparing To Take On A Management Role After Just 2 Years

Remember how building a wide understanding of the business, getting a mentor, and gaining visibility with senior management are key tenets of becoming a candidate for senior roles? They’re also the kinds of core experiences that Thermo Fisher’s Leadership Development Programs provide.

“I think LDPs in general, no matter which one you go to, do a really good job of promoting you throughout the company,” Alexa says. “I feel like I really had visibility right away and I also had opportunities to network with leaders in our company.”

This tackles one of the major issues facing women looking to enter management, especially in the technology space: the feeling of isolation. Through the wide variety of networking and learning events provided by the company’s employee resource groups, like the Women’s ERG or the Millennial’s ERG (a group which Alexa actually ran), she was introduced to female leaders and colleagues across disciplines and departments.

These networking events also created opportunities to find mentors. In addition to Thermo Fisher’s formal mentorship program, Alexa found that senior leaders—even c-level executives—were more than willing to help out future leaders in the LDP.

“When you introduce yourself as an LDP, it’s like, ‘Oh, okay, you’re a high potential person.’ People like to foster you and mentor you,” she explains.

This blend of experience, mentorship, and exposure is particularly helpful for women trying to break into leadership roles in STEM fields, because they address some of the major factors that hold high-performing women back.

Getting On The ‘Fast Path To Leadership,’ One Rotation At A Time

Alexa fast-tracked her growth during her time in the IT Leadership Development Program.

“It’s a great way to improve not only the technical skills, depending on what function you go into, but those soft skills: dealing with ambiguity, being able to adapt, acting as a consultant,” she explains.

At the end of the day, you need to become “a problem-solver and someone that people look to to make an impact right away,” Alexa stresses.

“The LDP is really, really essential if you want to have a fast path to leadership and being able to make a difference in the company,” Alexa says.

Now, Alexa doesn’t have to wonder whether her career will develop. She just has to decide where to take it.

Want your own shot at accelerating your career? Learn more about Leadership Development Programs at Thermo Fisher on WayUp!

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