What initially drew you to the field of I/O psychology?
I graduated high school intending to be a clinician. But as an undergrad, I did some volunteer work that led to, let’s say, some second thoughts. A friend told me about I/O psychology, so I looked into that, and that path led me to where I am today. The real appeal is in learning what people do with their work, the primary thing that consumes their waking hours. It’s been really interesting to learn more about that and to develop solutions to help make work a more positive experience—both for employees and organizations. Along the way I discovered executive coaching, which I do from time to time to scratch that itch that initially let me to pursue the more one-on-one, interactive work that I would have been doing as a clinician. (Not to equate executive coaching with clinical work in any way, of course!)
What is the most rewarding project you’ve worked on in your career?
There are many. One with the biggest impact was working on revamping how the U.S. Army selects leaders to be recruiters. The army had been dealing with many challenges, including increasing suicide rates among senior enlisted soldiers who were struggling with being removed from their roles in order to recruit 18–21-year-olds. It seems obvious in hindsight, but the context in which they were working and the nature of the task could not be more different than what they had experienced before becoming recruiters. So, we dug in, did some job analysis work on army recruiting, identified required best practices, and ultimately developed ways of identifying individual noncommissioned officers who were more apt to succeed in that environment.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I was born in Germany, came to the U.S. when I was 5, and grew up in the suburbs of Chicago (in a John-Hughes-movie-like environment). I moved to Tampa and initially hated it, but I discovered sailing. Other than four years in Gainesville, I have never left. I love to travel, both for work and recreation, but Tampa is home and the base for everything else.
What are you most excited about as you embark on this new position with InVista?
I’m excited to join a very capable team in a really positive, supportive environment in an organization that appears to really value quality work and innovative approaches to developing new products and services, of course. But a big draw is the opportunity to build something from the ground up. That is, to apply my experience and lessons learned over a career where I’ve seen a lot of different challenges to build a set of tools and services that can have a genuine impact on people’s lives and benefit the organizations they are a part of.
If you could give people one tip on a way to improve their workplace that they could put into practice right now, what would it be?
Be as open with your communication as possible. Make sure everyone on the team has access to the information they need. Be sure leadership is willing to listen to feedback. Create an environment where the sharing of thoughts and ideas occurs organically and without ulterior motives or agendas. If you don’t have that level of comfort and fluidity in your interactions, you’re adding layers of difficulty to what’s likely already a challenging proverbial mountain to climb.
Anything else you would like to add?
I’m really happy to be here. I appreciate everyone being so welcoming during my first month! It’s been a great start and I look forward to getting to know everyone better and becoming part of the team.