General Electric is big on mentorship. The digital industrial company has even won numerous awards for its efforts to provide learning and development to its employees.
Based on the belief that people are the most powerful catalyst for growth and innovation, GE invests more than $1 billion annually in employee development. Much of this happens formally at Crotonville, GE’s global leadership institute in Ossining, New York, which is the epicenter of GE’s culture. The corporate university, the first of its kind in the United States when it was established in 1956, offers training to up to 12,000 GE employees every year. But it’s not only those who come to the institute that benefit from the training. Crotonville has thousands of courses that are delivered online and offline by trained instructors and facilitators in the 180 countries within which the company operates.
Nnenna Anthonia Olorunfemi, Lead Contract Performance Manager at GE Power at the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas plant, is one of the many women who has benefited from the company’s leadership programmes. A zoology major, Olorunfemi really wanted to pursue a career in management sciences, and seized the opportunity when a job became available at GE.
“I have also had ‘on-the-job’ training, working under a senior corporate performance manager who was both a coach and a mentor. I also attended conferences and learned from colleagues,” said Olorunfemi. She was also selected to participate in the company’s year-long RISE programme – a corporate run leadership development programme targeting high-performing, high potential senior leaders.
Her advice? “Be curious, ask questions and listen to feedback as this attribute will help you navigate the complex and unpredictable business environment that we now face.’’
The company also encourages its employees to extend what they’ve learnt to others. It’s something GE Distributed Power Commercial Sales Leader Oluwatoyin “Toyin” Abegunde takes seriously, particularly when it comes to women pursuing a career in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). “I believe that if we want to see more women in STEM, female leaders must encourage and mentor aspiring scientists, all the way from school and into senior leadership roles.” She currently mentors several young women and professionals who are considering STEM careers, sharing her experiences and how she navigated various challenges. “This inspires them and gives them a sense of confidence that they too can also aim high and achieve success.”
That mindset is shared by Obianuju “Uju” Anene, who joined GE as a graduate intern in 2015 and is currently on the company’s Operations Management Leadership programme (OMLP) in Lagos, Nigeria. The two-year program provides participants the opportunity to build leadership and functional skills through rotational assignments and training.
Anene volunteers with Afro-Tech Girls, a local NGO whose mission is to encourage, educate and empower African girls, who are at secondary and university levels, to pursue STEM careers. “We help them achieve whatever goals they set for themselves through mentorship, teamwork, as well as creativity and innovation. You can never underestimate the value of empowering and educating a woman because, in turn, she will do the same for generations.”