The Leadership Connection
To raise awareness of the extensive professional development opportunities available to its global membership, ASTM International is kicking off a new leadership program in 2013. The Leadership Connection initiative underscores how ASTM members can leverage their participation in the standardization process to build leadership skills that will enhance their careers.
The focal point for the campaign is a newly launched section of the ASTM International website that will serve as the gateway to leadership development resources and support programs. Highlighting these offerings is the new ASTM Technical Committee Mentoring Program, which pairs a new member with a seasoned one for personalized instruction about ASTM International's standards development process. The goal of the mentoring program is to more quickly involve new members in committee work. Members can request a mentor using an online form and also sign up for free training workshops through the ASTM virtual classroom.
Other resources available online include reference articles outlining strategies for succeeding as a standards professional, best practice guidance for technical committee officers on orienting new members, and information geared toward helping employers to better understand the value and impact of standards on business growth and corporate performance.
By providing tools that strengthen engagement in the standards process, the Leadership Connection aims to empower professionals to gain the most from their ASTM International membership through skill development and personal growth.
"Professionals come to ASTM to work side by side with colleagues from around the world developing the standards that influence global industries, move markets and improve the overall quality of life," says Katharine Morgan, vice president of technical committee operations at ASTM International. "The hidden gem of ASTM membership that is often overlooked is the rich environment it offers for professional development. Participation in the ASTM process affords members with a wealth of opportunities to gain hands-on leadership experience, navigate difficult situations and sharpen the skills that will position them for career growth."
Morgan says that members who invest their time in ASTM standardization activities can achieve a powerful return that will benefit their professional growth. She emphasizes that engagement is the formula for success.
"The ASTM environment is one where leadership and new ideas are encouraged. There are many different access points to step forward and lead. Members who are committed to engage will find a clear and progressive path of leadership development. What you put in to your ASTM membership is truly what you will get out," Morgan says.
Catherine H. Pilarz, senior director of product safety for Mattel/Fisher-Price, East Aurora, N.Y., and a past chairman of the ASTM International board, echoes a similar sentiment, "At ASTM, it's easy to find roles of added responsibility. For those who seek an opportunity for leadership, they will find a forum where the doors are always open for those wanting to do more."
ASTM International's technical committees offer a ripe environment for up-and-coming leaders who look for new challenges and have the desire to build their skills. By pursuing a committee leadership position - whether on a task force, subcommittee or full committee - rising ASTM members can set the strategic direction for critical standards activities.
"Young professionals can take advantage of their ASTM membership to gain a leadership role right away, becoming in a sense, masters of their own destiny," says Thomas A. Schwartz, senior principal, president and chairman of the board at Simpson Gumpertz &\; Heger Inc., Waltham, Mass., and vice chairman of the ASTM board. "It is a unique culture that you don't find typically in the traditional corporate environment."
To succeed in their new roles, new ASTM committee officers, through the very nature and nuances of the standards process, must develop critical skills in negotiating and problem solving. By helping to bring diverse groups of independent-thinking technical experts together to achieve common goals, young leaders gain invaluable experience as consensus builders and return to their companies as improved team players. From their efforts, Schwartz sees them also gaining an equally important reward: recognition from their peers.
"Assuming a leadership role in ASTM technical committees not only builds skills and confidence, it can be a springboard for recognition and credibility among industry colleagues," says Schwartz, an ASTM International member since 1982. "In today's demanding and fast-changing technical fields, being recognized among your peers for your expertise and command of major industry issues is a great asset. Strong, active engagement in the ASTM process is one pathway to obtaining this powerful currency."
In today's fast-paced, rapidly changing business climate, communications abilities have risen to the top of the list of the soft skills that companies seek in their future managers. Whether it is handling employee interactions, making presentations to global customers or managing intricate supply chain relationships, the ability to communicate clearly and persuasively is paramount to effective leadership.
At ASTM International, young professionals with aspirations of climbing the management ladder have an abundance of opportunities to acquire the communications skills that will expand their opportunities and help build their resumes.
Through committee meetings, symposia participation and related activities, ASTM members participate in a free and open exchange of ideas that cultivate fundamentally important public speaking, presentation and listening skills. In addition, by participating in the work to write and revise technical standards, members can improve their writing capabilities, crafting complex documents used throughout entire disciplines.
Investing time and expertise in ASTM membership also thrusts professionals into the center of the major debates impacting their industries. ASTM International technical committee participation facilitates direct interaction with the influential players representing industry stakeholder groups from around the world.
Sitting side by side with other agents of industry change, ASTM members become de facto ambassadors for their companies. Through the current knowledge and market intelligence they gain via these working exchanges, members can become contributors to corporate strategy development and decision making.
"If you want to make a difference not only in your company, but throughout your own industry, there is no better place than ASTM," says Pilarz. "ASTM membership makes you inherently more valuable to your organization by placing you at ground zero of important initiatives impacting your field. The ability to represent your company as industry debate unfolds and strategic courses of action are decided upon is an opportunity for growth and development you really can't find anywhere else."
For new ASTM International members and those currently active on technical committees, the Leadership Connection program aims to help you make the most of all that ASTM membership has to offer with information and resources available to members through this initiative.
Doug Clauson is a freelance writer based in Wynnewood, Pa.