A commonly repeated refrain suggests that the best way to climb the corporate ladder and see pay bumps is to find a new job every few years. The grass isn’t always greener. But after staying with one organization for some time, it’s natural to wonder what’s out there and how to do business differently.
That was the dilemma facing Shannon Hatmaker after nearly a decade of success with Under Armour. She worked her way up from sales coordinator to director of business analytics and reporting for the Americas and helped the company weather the disruptions brought by COVID-19. But after so long with one company, she couldn’t help be curious about what else was out there.
“I love Under Armour and I want to stay there and continue working my way up,” said Hatmaker. “But I had this desire to learn more about things happening outside of Under Armour.”
For many, that question would lead to polishing up the resume and prepping for interviews. But colleagues and supervisors at Under Armour suggested Hatmaker apply to the World Trade Center Institute’s Emerging and Developing Global Executives (EDGE) program. It is a 10-month professional development program designed to empower leaders hoping to join the C-Suite. Nearly 70 percent of EDGE participants, called Bowe fellows, have received promotions after finishing the program.
From the first time Hatmaker’s cohort of 24 fellows met in September of 2021, it was clear that she was surrounded by other like-minded leaders.
“This wasn’t something that people sign up for and come and go as they please,” she said a few weeks after completing the program. “It wasn’t a development opportunity that you’re required to do. Everyone was there because they really wanted to be there.”
The 2021-2022 EDGE cohort brought together professionals from a wide variety of professions, such as government defense contractors, jewelry manufacturers, public health nonprofits and investment management firms. Despite the varying fields of expertise, it quickly became clear how similar the challenges were for leaders at all of these businesses.
“It’s crazy to think that a horse farm and Under Armour face similar challenges,” she said, referring to session two of the program, where the fellows went to and learned about Winbak Farm in Maryland. “Being able to see different aspects and different types of businesses was a great starting point for the program. Business is business. Supply chain is supply chain.”
The monthly EDGE sessions took the fellows into the heart of some of Maryland’s biggest companies, showcasing challenges and innovations from all over the Mid-Atlantic. Hatmaker found visiting Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport to be especially eye-opening, challenging her perception of the airport as a public service. But one session in particular, held at Under Armour and geared around the global supply chain, was one of the most enlightening for Hatmaker, even though it was at her own company. As someone steeped in the supply chain every day, she came prepared to learn.
“I asked a lot of questions at that session,” she said. “Ultimately, it helped validate that we weren’t alone in these challenges that we are facing. Sometimes when you’re working in your silo and in your day to day, you ask ‘Why aren’t we smarter?’ Hearing the speakers from Stanley Black & Decker and McCormick reiterated that we’re all in this together.”
That feeling of unity echoed beyond the formal EDGE sessions. Hatmaker hopes to remain in contact with the other members of her cohort and continue to bounce big ideas off of them.
“Talking to the other Fellows throughout the program about our businesses, our teams, our leadership styles and our daily challenges was invaluable and inspires me to stay in touch with those people after the program.”
For Hatmaker that doesn’t just mean staying in touch with her cohort. It also means maintaining the spirit of the program. She was introduced to EDGE through peers who had taken part in the program and had found the connections and insights invaluable. She wants to pay it forward and help connect other future leaders.
“I think back to the concept of ‘when you do well, you can do good.’ It’s really inspired me to be more of a mentor to others. I’ve felt so lucky to have the mentorship of WTCI and peers within my cohort. Now, how do I bring the next group of leaders up with me and coach and teach what I’ve learned?”
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