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Inside the Leadership Pipeline

Monday, January 8, 2007
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Carolyn Abraham works hard and dreams big. At the age of 26, she has already managed campus recruiting, equal opportunity and other human resource functions. Now the manager of Lockheed Martin Corp.'s early-career leadership-development programs, she is looking ahead.

"My career aspiration is to become vice president of HR for Lockheed Martin," a $37.2 billion aerospace and defense products manufacturer based in Bethesda, Md., she says.

Abraham and others like her are alumni of corporate leadership-development programs, training grounds for early-career employees who've been identified as having the right leadership stuff.

"The people who've gone through the LDP feel like it's really made a difference in their careers . . . . Some have said it's life-changing for them," says Marilyn Figlar, Lockheed's vice president of leadership and organizational development.

Lockheed has six career-specific LDPs to help fill its leadership pipeline. With 40 participants, the HR program is one of the smallest. Figlar says, "Alumni are typically the ones we tap on the shoulder for promotions and key assignments."

Abraham, who double majored in HR and management science and statistics at the University of Maryland, was one of 13 recruits into Lockheed's two-year HR LDP in April 2003. Like others of its kind, the program includes a few job rotations, technical training and mentoring.

Abraham's rotations -- as a lead college recruiter, HR generalist and diversity manager for two business units -- gave her valuable job experience. "The assignments are team lead roles you wouldn't normally get at the entry level," she says. During one rotation, she managed the implementation of and training for a new HRIS.

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The LDP also gave Abraham a chance to network. "Working with leaders in business units gave me visibility," she says. "If you manage a team as an entry-level employee, that gets taken note of."

Like seasoned executives above her, Abraham gets "stretched" with new roles. She took on her current job last August and says, "I have been learning and growing a lot in this position."

While companies such as Lockheed and Johnson & Johnson have long-standing LDPs for HR, Wells Fargo & Co. started its program in 2005. With two participants plus summer interns so far, the one-year program for MBAs is small so far. Jean Bourne, executive vice president and HR manager, says it's meant to move talented people into roles in corporate or line HR.

"They begin building relationships and understand how the business works," she says.

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