Top 10 Hall of Fame Outstanding Training Initiatives (May/June 2015)

Each year, Training magazine requires all Training Top 10 Hall of Famers to submit an Outstanding Training Initiative that is shared with our readers in a print issue. Here are the details of IBM's Technical Women's Pipeline Project.

IBM: Technical Women’s Pipeline Project

Providing training, executive sponsorship, mentoring, and support to 100 women per year, IBM’s Technical Women’s Pipeline Project aims to:

  • Increase the total global number of women pursuing senior technical careers and official designation as IBM Distinguished Engineers, particularly in growth markets (e.g., India, China, and Brazil).
  • Increase the total global number of women pursuing senior and/or executive technical careers that ultimately could lead to senior technical roles.

Program Details
Each participant is assigned a Distinguished Engineer (DE) coach and executive sponsor. This matching is based upon direct management input, geographical location proximity, and skills needed by the participant. Prior to the two-day, face-to-face workshop, the participant’s manager, coach, and executive sponsor are invited to a 90-minute briefing session to help prepare them to support their TWP candidate. Topics include: Program Importance, Workshop Overview and Role Review, Coaching and Mentoring Tips, and Next Steps.

Coaches and executive sponsors are expected to attend the full two-day program and play key roles. In typical classroom scenarios, executives launch or close programs with executive messages, but they rarely participate in an entire program. That is not the case for TWP. Workshop topics cover IBM values and practices, overcoming barriers, improving digital presence, embracing innovation opportunities, creating individual roadmaps for ongoing self-development, and opportunities to network further.

After the workshop, DE coaches and executive sponsors meet with their designated candidates regularly (e.g., monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly), including checkpoints with the candidate’s manager. Community calls are held separately with the women, their managers, and coaches/executive sponsors throughout the year. Such calls provide the opportunity for participants to give a status update and share their experiences, discuss barriers, and brainstorm ideas on how to overcome obstacles. Attendance for participants, managers, and coaches/executive sponsors is more than 55 percent for each set of calls.

A Program manager is in place to change coaches/ executive sponsors for the participants as needed. This individual also provides coaching for all parties, and tools and reference materials to support career growth and leadership development. Each TWP implementation has two full-time HR support personnel and 300 leadership subject matter expert contributors.

TWP coaches and executive sponsors report overall program satisfaction ranging from 87 to 90 percent, which is high for an executive audience. Nine women in the program have become Distinguished Engineers, and the number of those women who are now senior technical leaders and being considered for Distinguished Engineer/IBM Fellow has increased by 37 percent. The upward career progression for these women has been two times faster than those not in the program.

Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.