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Spotlight: August 2020: Eric Waters

Each month, SEWI-ATD turns the spotlight on an active member who has been visible in the chapter by attending events and participating in other ATD functions. We are proud to acknowledge the important work of our members, provide additional career exposure within the Talent Development community, and help you to get to know a colleague just a little bit better! If you are interested in nominating another member for the spotlight, contact Meica Hatters at meicahatters@gmail.com

Eric Waters

Title: Academic Researcher, Professor, Coach

Company: Marquette University, Diederich College of Communication

This month, we are pleased to feature

Eric Waters

What prompted you to join SEWI-ATD?

As an academic researcher, I've always wanted to do research and discover knowledge that tangibly helps organizations. And as an instructor, I feel like my role in the classroom is to help others learn and expand relevant skill sets. I really felt that there is a need for what I bring as both a researcher and an instructor in the corporate world. And since people still reach out to me for assistance with respect to training or coaching or just to get a cup of coffee and kind of see what I think, I‘ve seen this as another opportunity and joining ATD seemed to be a logical step in learning how to do more of this meaningful, empowering, training and coaching work outside of an academic setting.

When did you realize that you wanted to be in talent development?

It was accidentally.

Technically, when I think back on my career, my first role that could be considered talent development was as a Quality Assurance Coach for DaimlerChrysler. I was working on the Mercedes-Benz Credit portfolio in Client Services. This role called for me to monitor phone conversations between clients and the client resolution specialists and make sure that they went through all the steps to listen and solve the problem.

And I would also, in addition to listening to and scoring the conversations, provide specialized feedback or training to focus on trends that emerged from the calls I was monitoring. So that was my first taste of it back in 2004. Though, at the same time, I was finishing my MBA, and I had other career goals that were not necessarily development related.

So, we fast forward, we'll say about eight or 10 years. I'm working on my PhD at the University of Texas in Austin and I found myself in a coaching role again. This time, I was working with MBA students at UT’s McCombs School of Business. And I was also working with some local small business owners. I would say that that's probably about the time, we'll say 2013 to 2014, when I knew it was something that I could probably do, along with the teaching and research responsibilities of being a professor.

I’m going into my fifth year as a Professor of Communication Studies in the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University. This means that I create and deliver 15-week courses in organizational, managerial, corporate, and financial communication. I have spent this summer rebuilding a course in managerial communication, creating a graduate level online course in organizational communication, and reconstructing an undergrad course in organizational communication that is usually in the classroom, but will be shifting into a hybrid delivery format. Hopefully I will finish up with all that by the first day of school, we shall see. In addition to that, I have partnered with a colleague to develop a leadership development curriculum in our college. We had our first cohort of seven students last year and we're trying to perhaps even double that for the upcoming fall.

When I'm not doing that sort of thing, I do some research. My research interests are focused on communication and entrepreneurship as well as the impact of communication technology innovations in the workplace. A colleague and I recently finished a case study where we were looking at SpaceX, and the way that they respond to crises. They had an anomaly a couple years ago that resulted in an explosion of a spacecraft, and we were interested in the way that they used social media to give daily reports on this particular anomaly, and how they used what we call, investigative disclosure to achieve technical transparency, which was going a bit further and more specific than your average organization's crisis response.


So, when I'm not doing research or teaching, I travel. I had a trip to Australia planned for spring, but that got wiped out by the coronavirus. I'm also a film buff. Action. Art films. Sci-fi, horror. Also, I’m a fan of live music. Jazz, soul, blues, classical, hip hop. Usually in the summers in Milwaukee I would frequent various food and art festivals.

Tell me, so if you weren't in talent development if you weren't teaching. What would you be doing?

Well, my career started in the automotive industry. Five years with Chrysler and another five years with Hyundai. Shortly after I joined Hyundai, a coworker once shared with me that once you get into the car business, you can't get out. So, I suspect that I would possibly still be in the auto industry.

What piece of advice would you offer to people coming into talent development?

I think two things. First, networks are important. So, join a professional organization.

Meet people. Learn what they do. Learn what they know. The second thing is a be intellectually curious, do not stop learning. Try to consume all the articles and webinars and podcasts and conferences that time allows, just trying to gather as much knowledge as you can because no one knows everything. I've been very fortunate to be in settings with some people who are brilliant, but they will be the first to tell you that they don't stop learning. The people who say they know everything are the ones you stay away from.

Favorite Blog or Podcast?

So, there are a couple things that I try to keep up on. There's a podcast called the Harvard Business Review Ideacast. And I have recently started getting into the insights articles that are published by Deloitte and McKinsey and Company. I know there's a lot of stuff on future of work, diversity and inclusion. The writing is very timely, it's very accessible. It gives you stuff that you can take and change right now. Alongside of that, the academic publications that I really like are Management Communication Quarterly or Academy of Management, or the print version of Harvard Business Review.

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