Ask an Employer: Woodward Employee Voices Importance of Practical Experience and Right Fit

As a university, it’s easy for us to say education is valuable. But is it really? For individuals looking at career advancement, applying for jobs, or figuring out their career goals, how does education fit into the mix? How much weight do degrees carry? How do hiring managers and businesses really view the value of education?

Answering these questions is the purpose of this series, where we sit down with key leaders and hiring managers at companies across a wide variety of industries, to better understand the relationship between education and employment.

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Name: Tracy Gohari
Company: Woodward, Inc.
Title: Global Learning and Development Manager
Years on the Job: 14 years total; going on 6 years in current role
Number of Employees at the Company: Over 6,000 globally

Tracy Gohari understands the importance of lifelong learning. After all, helping others grow in their professional development is her job. Gohari is the Global Learning and Development Manager at Woodward, Inc. and has worked for the company for 14 years.

“You have to always stay abreast of your industry,” Gohari said. “The world changes and you have to stay new and fresh. You have to own your career and your own development and grab your own opportunities.”

Gohari said she has seen a shift in hiring philosophies over the years that puts a greater emphasis around finding a good fit.

Instead of hiring someone who has five years of experience and can jump right in, companies like Woodward are becoming more strategic. Bringing on people who can be developed impacts retention and is cost effective. It also gives the company a chance to build the culture, Gohari said.

 

Q. What are your goals or biggest priorities when hiring new employees?

A. Particularly for a company like Woodward that is very engineering-centric because of the products we make, we are looking for that technical background and an interest in learning.

Once we are in the interview process, it’s a combination of the background skills and your fit. You can be smart and good, but if you don’t fit you aren’t going to be happy, engaged or do good work.

 

Q. What challenges have you encountered during the hiring process?

A. When compared to different parts of the country, my impression is that it’s not difficult to hire engineers here in Fort Collins because this is a desirable place to live. In less desirable places, it can be difficult for hiring managers to get top candidates. It varies where you are what the demographics are like. We also get involved with universities like Colorado State University to create our own talent.

Q. When reviewing resumes and cover letters specific to your business, how important is education?

A. It’s important. Most jobs have a minimum threshold. Our requirements are very standardized and our position descriptions are very clear and specific. If you don’t have a bachelor’s degree, then you will not be considered, if the job requires it. It’s very explicit.

For a position in human resources, there are a lot of different degrees that would work. It doesn’t have to be an HR degree; it could be sociology, social psychology, or another related field. For a position in engineering, it will be more specific such as an electrical engineering degree because those are the special skills needed.

Q. What makes a resume rise to the top of a pile for you?

A. Keep it simple and clean. Avoid rambling in the cover letter. Look what the company is asking for and tailor your resume to that. We don’t need to know all the unrelated jobs a person has had.

First round applications are reviewed for 3 seconds. Ones that meet the minimum requirements go into a pile. The HR consultant picks out the top five. It doesn’t make sense to read hundreds of resumes. No one has time for that.

Use words that are in the posting. Those will jump out. The hiring manager looks at 10 to 15, and decides which ones to screen by phone. From there, the hiring manager decides who to bring in for an interview.

Q. What makes a resume sink to the bottom of the pile?

A. Any fancy, special paper—none of that. Another thing is if you do not follow the prescribed application process. For electronic resumes, if there are too many key words with no depth in the work history or education to back it up.

Q. How do new/young employees get ahead?

A. Come in with an open mind and understand that at Woodward we have lots of generations in the workplace. Some parts of the culture may not be your personal style and that’s OK. You have to be able to navigate through and be successful with different groups of people. Being professional is also important.

Be smart and willing to ask questions. It’s important to be willing to learn from others, but also at the same time to push back and question the status quo.

Q. Generally speaking, how do you view the role of higher education in the employment process?

A. In my experience, the academic world teaches in a style of knowing about things and in the work world, we need people to learn to do things. There should be more practical application.

Companies don’t care if I understand finance or marketing. They only care if I use those skills to impact performance. It’s about transferring that knowledge into something.

Q. How has education impacted your own career?

A. I needed the education I had to be in role I am in. Having work experience between my undergrad and master’s was good for me. I was the oldest in my class for my master’s and had kids in their 20s in my cohort. It was harder for them to grasp how to use what we were learning. For me, it was good to have space between because it was more meaningful.

Q. What tips would you give for someone considering going back to school?

A. Make sure there is a return on your investment for it. Will it really get you what you want?

Q. What do you think students should look for or consider when selecting a school and program?

A. Does it fit you? Does that school fit your culture? Will you feel at home there?

Q. How valuable is a master’s degree in this line of work?

A. In HR, having an MBA is important and helps give credibility. What we really want are strategic business partners. Senior technical people will have a master’s in something, but maybe something like an MBA or Project Management—something special.

Q.  What skill sets are vital to this business?

A. Woodward has a set of seven core values that encompass our performance expectations: respect for the individual, integrity and ethics, accountability, teamwork, customer satisfaction, initiative and results-driven.

Q. What is the best career advice you have ever received and who was it from?

A. What I’ve learned is to make sure you are doing something you like and you feel fits you. If you don’t like it and it doesn’t fit you, it will wear you down.

Q. What advice do you have for someone interested in pursuing a career in this field?

A. Use education as a tool and make sure it’s your worth your while.

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