Innovative Leadership Program: A Project-Based Learning Approach to Professional Development
By Shweta Mishra, Senior Director, HR Business Partner, APJ, Rackspace Technology, and Sandeep Bhargava, Managing Director, APJ, Rackspace Technology
In November of 2021, we set out to change how Rackspace Technology® equipped our internal rising stars to lead and innovate strategically with a modern business approach. We started asking ourselves: how can we tap the full potential of those employees, aka Rackers, who not only seek to grow professionally but who are wholly committed to building Fanatical Experience™ through every decision they make across our business?
We knew that this was going to be something special that had the potential to elevate our business globally as we began to define the program’s goal, which ultimately was to give those accepted into the program an opportunity to learn how to implement innovative leadership techniques. The program aims to empower Rackers to lead and innovate in the ever-evolving technology world.
We wanted to provide a way for those Rackers to build relationships, knowledge, and experiences that would open doors to future opportunities both within Rackspace Technology and beyond. And while this is the first iteration, and what we’d like to call the pilot program, launched only in the Asia, Pacific, and Japan (APJ) region, we can’t help but recognize the future potential for a global rollout.
The Innovative Leadership Program (ILP)
The first step was partnering with our global talent development team, Rackspace University (RU), to help us map out the program's structure. They were instrumental in taking this passion project from ideation to execution.
Thanks to the support of RaChelle Streetman, our Head of Rackspace University and Director of Global Talent Development, the program quickly developed into a thoroughly engaging experience from top to bottom. In her words, “We were all committed to making this a memorable experience by leveraging subject matter experts, global speakers, and fun team activities.”
Launched in Feb. 2022, the program is a structured, nomination-based, six-month program focused on 6-hour interactive sessions monthly that tackled topics like The Power of Mindset, Science of Innovation, Situational Leadership, and various others. With a project-based learning approach, participants went through business problems and delivered a step-by-step solution-based technique as part of their graduation project.
The program included a line-up of external global, diverse speakers that volunteered their time regardless of their time zone to dial in and share their knowledge. From a former United Nations speaker, and prestigious higher learning professionals, to industry leaders, the program couldn’t have been a success without them.
Each speaker was hand selected by Natalie Moreno, Global Training Enablement within RU and the Program Manager for ILP. Natalie added, “We’re so incredibly fortunate that these amazing thought leaders dedicated their time, around-the-clock and at no charge, to deliver such amazing content for our Rackers.”
We’d also love to give a special shout-out to the speakers/instructors who helped make this program a success: Edward Nevado, Sergio Palacios, Seongbae Lim, and Mayra Rivera. And especially Nicholas Ramos, who was instrumental in organizing the program courses, told us, “Innovation takes creativity to that next level that turns an idea into a solution. I’m honored to have been a part of Rackspace University’s pilot program."
Innovation at Work
Ultimately, our end goal for the program was for each Racker to identify an issue within Rackspace Technology or their day-to-day professional role and develop an innovative solution. They then paired up as teams to put together a project proposal they would later present to leadership for feedback.
And the resulting innovative ideas were sincerely impressive. We saw everything from how our Gurgaon, India office could create a sustainable rainwater reservoir system powered by application technology to a multilingual chatbot capable of connecting customers directly to support Rackers in real-time worldwide.
The winning group created an innovative solution to simplify scheduling meetings for Rackers across multiple organizations and time zones. The automated scheduling application would schedule according to the optimal time for each region of the participants.
In total, 23 Rackers across the APJ region from Australia, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore were nominated and participated in the program - with 25% of the cohort being women. Additionally, each participant logged over 30 hours of learning and development throughout the program.
Plus, we received great feedback from those who participated. A 100% of those who responded on how likely they are to recommend the program to a colleague answered with “high.”
“The sessions were so enlightening and enriching and have definitely widened my horizon,” said Nitika Sharma, a Human Resources Generalist in India at Rackspace Technology. “Nicholas and Natalie were awesome, and my overall experience was five stars.”
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