Helping people reach their goals and exploring their best selves is a personal passion for Karen, lead for VMware’s T3 innovation program. I connected with her recently to learn about her work and how she ‘seeds’ new growth and learning opportunities for her colleagues at VMware. Join me on this conversation to see how her pursuit of what makes her happy in her career has enabled her to empower others.
Name: Karen Ellis
Role: Take 3 Program Manager
Office Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Years at VMware: 2.5
What is a typical workday like for you?
A typical workday at the Cambridge, Massachusetts office at VMware varies, but is always great. I interact with a lot of people, engineers mostly at this site, but I talk to people from all over the company. Sometimes I’m helping employees navigate their Take 3 adventure, other times discussing opportunities they may want to explore. I’m involved with global mobility program development, so we’re looking at all of our employee’s experience here and how we can support their development and growth in the company, which is really exciting. We have a really upbeat and friendly office atmosphere and we overlook the Charles River, with great views into Boston. It’s hard to beat!
The last time we spoke, the T3 program was just taking off. How is it going now and what new things can employees expect?
The Take 3 Program (T3) is an opportunity for VMware employees, with five or more years of service, to take a three month rejuvenation period and select an assignment outside of their regular day job. T3 is an opportunity for professional, technical, and leadership development that not only benefits personal and professional growth, but also enhances the contributions employees are able to make to the company.
In the two and a half years since T3 launched, so many great developments have taken place. We have a new user interface for our online portal that is easier to use, we have a lot more opportunities for employees to choose from, thanks largely to the amazing adoption of T3 in R&D, and we are looking forward to moving into the rest of the company in the coming quarter. The success we have seen in our engineering community, and the impact it’s made around the company, has helped us push this idea into a employee wide activity. In the next few months we’ll see the beginning of more cross function Take 3 activities and a lot of collaboration and skill sharing taking place around VMware, and that will be really exciting to see.
Where did your passion for learning come from? How does this passion energize your current role?
Before joining VMware, I was in the non-profit world. I started at America’s Promise and AmeriCorps, and after that, for a decade, I was a program developer at The Intel Computer Clubhouse Network, a global non-profit who’s main goal is to empower underserved youth to learn, create, grow and develop through the use of technology. My drive has always come from helping people reach their goals and explore their best selves through whatever means that may be. In creating programs and experiences for a targeted audience, you get to think about how that service impacts people and their needs, and you are a part of the overall health and well being of people. Here I get to do the very same thing. Within VMware, my job is to think about what’s next for our people, what drives them and where they want to go, and that experience is really important.
How have you seen the guiding principles of the T3 Program weave into your own growth & development?
I very much believe in growth and development: both personal and professional. If you’re not learning something or experiencing new things, you’ll get bored and be unhappy, and who wants to spend their days like that! Working at VMware has afforded me many opportunities to branch out, get involved in new things and be engaged in many different areas of the business, all things that have helped me grow tremendously during my tenure here.
One way that I’ve been able to develop is with my new relationship with the Global Talent Development team. Using my knowledge from the T3 program to help think about and launch new programs to support our people has been really fun and challenging, definitely a great experience in terms of career growth.
Can you share a person, place, news source, or item that inspires you to try out new things and collaborate with others?
This photo is of my fellow Cambridge colleagues and me working in the gardens at The Food Project in Dorchester, Massachusetts. People who dedicate their lives to causes that matter to them constantly inspire me. I try to volunteer often and give my time and resources to organizations that matter to me and do powerful work. VMware’s Service Learning Program is great as it encourages employees to give back throughout the year.
Share a fun or inspiring T3 project that you have helped drive.
There are so many great T3 stories that I think are fun and inspiring. I have been lucky enough to be a part of every one of our participant’s journeys, and it’s been such a great thing to be able to see, from the initial idea to the end of the project. The projects that I think resonate with me the most are the ones where someone really goes outside of their comfort zone to try something completely new. I think that it takes a certain fortitude to do a complete turn for three months and do a totally new job.
We’ve had a few participants in R&D go out into the field and work with customers for three months, and a few that have incubated new projects that then turned into larger areas that the business explored far longer than the three months. I think both of those areas are so interesting because it pushed people to be open to whatever may come at them and adapt to new and sometimes unfamiliar situations. What I’ve taken away from this program is that our employees have some amazing ideas to explore and talents to share. T3 is a great program because it fosters the spirit of innovation that is core to VMware. It is a cool and different way that our smart people at VMware can stretch and grow themselves.
What advice would you give to individuals looking to grow in their career? How does VMware provide opportunities for growth for its people?
The advice I would give anyone looking to grow his or her career is to talk to anyone that you think is interesting. You never know what can come from one conversation, even sharing the simplest of ideas can help you formulate a new plan and could open up a world of possibilities you didn’t know existed. What’s impressive to me about VMware is that they are really dedicated to helping employees develop in all areas, and they show that in so many ways, like through Take 3 for growth, or the technical education courses they offer to encourage continued learning, or Service Learning through the VMware Foundation to support community involvement and help employees give back to causes and projects that mean something to them. Those are just some of the opportunities that are available for employees to personally and professionally grow here at VMware and there are so many more. It’s really a great place to work and I’m proud to tell people I’m a VMware’r!!
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