Professional Skills Courses at F&ES
To follow up on my post last week about one-time Technical Skills Modules, I thought I’d go ahead and tell you a little bit more about the opportunity to learn professional skills here at F&ES through one-credit courses offered each semester that aim to teach us about skills we might need in our future careers. These courses, known as Professional Skills Courses, or PSCs, here on campus, usually meet once a week during the evening, and are often taught by professionals in the field, rather than professors at the university.
This semester I’m taking a PSC taught by Kris Morico, a Global Leader of several Corporate Environmental Programs at General Electric Co., with a background in environmental engineering. The course, titled “Foundations of Environmental Leadership and Management,” is an introduction to business management fundamentals, especially applied to the environmental field.
The course is set up to teach us the basics about leadership in private companies, and how internal organization of companies affect their functioning as a whole. It’s the sort of course one might be expected to take at a school of business or management, as so far we’ve learned how to interview and be interviewed, the expectations of professionals in the field, and how to address internal problems within a company. To some, the idea of needing certain interpersonal skills or particular types of work ethic seems self-explanatory, but it’s become increasingly clear to me, as a student whose background is in research and academia, and who has never worked high up in a large private organization, how incredibly important these types of skills are.
The only requirement is a single group project, for which we research a company and examine its responsibility to its customers, employees, and world. My group and I are looking into the Estee Lauder Company, how it defines corporate social responsibility, and how it acts based on that definition. We are taught to examine the company’s actions to determine how well it is organized, how substantial its corporate responsibility reports are, how transparent the company actually is, and how media perception and its corporate responsibility persona plays into its overall image.
The idea is that these classes are not meant to be exceedingly stressful or require a bunch of work. Instead, these courses are offered as one-credit Pass/Fail, and are meant to give us an introduction to life working as a professional in the field. They give us the opportunity to ask questions and learn from successful professionals in the field about their experiences with different companies and how they’ve forged their paths. In my limited experience so far, the teachers have been kind, helpful, motivational, and encouraging for those of us who express interest in the class.
The skills I’ve learned so far have taught me how to examine companies with a skeptical eye and to understand the real motivation behind a company’s idea of corporate responsibility. With this knowledge, the idea is that once I’m considering a career with a company, I’ll be able to see and understand how the company functions and how I, with the skills I’ve learned at F&ES, might be able to carve out a niche for myself at the company.