Read about our PRSSA Blogger Andrew Cornell’s experience shadowing at GE told by the PRSSA Blog Team.
By: Andrew Cornell
Throughout my first semester and a half at Ithaca College, gaining real-world experience has been emphasized by professors, advisers and even peers. We all want to do everything in our power to gain “in the field” experience. We want to be able to make connections with and gain insight from professionals who work in industries and professions that we aspire to be in one day. Even the simplest of opportunities can teach us so much. Shadowing a corporate communications job at General Electric over spring break was that opportunity for me.
I was grateful to have the opportunity to shadow and observe what a day in the life is like for a Global Employee & Culture Communications Leader at General Electric. It just so happened that the day I was observing, the global GE communications teams from all facets of the Power and Water industry were conducting a team meeting. Fourteen communications professionals from as close as New York to as far as Switzerland were in attendance. As I sat on the side of the meeting room, every individual that came through the door introduced himself or herself and asked who I was and what I do. I even got some “What business do you work in?” That alone proved one thing to me: communication is key. If I had not learned the skills and techniques of how to effectively talk about myself and brand myself as a professional, I don’t think I would have been so convincing as a GE employee. But in all seriousness, the ability to pitch yourself as a professional was key to connecting and interacting that day.
Thomas Edison founded General Electric in 1892. Many people might think it still just makes light bulbs like it did back then. But in reality, GE is a Fortune 500 company that has expanded into markets such as engines, turbines, nuclear, and renewable energy. With a fast changing marketplace and constant competition, GE implemented a new facet of its Power industry: Digital. One employee who I had the opportunity to speak extensively with was fresh out of college and working in San Ramon, California for GE Digital. He made one comment that I think really encompassed what I took in as the company’s objectives for the future, “GE has been around for over 100 years, we need to figure out what we need to do to adapt so that we can be around for the next 100.”
The connections that I was able to make between what I am learning in the classroom and what is actually occurring in the real world were incredible. Organizational structure, cultural integration, and employee empowerment were the main focus of the meeting. I sat in the room knowing what they meant by a “more horizontal company” and “empowering individuality in employees.” I remember sitting there amazed when they talked for an hour about how to manage diversity and cultural integration with their newly acquired asset, Alstom, and how just the previous week I was reading textbook chapters on how to effectively manage diversity in the same ways they set out to do. I truly learned and came to appreciate how applicable the information I learn everyday in class is to a real world profession such as corporate communications.
When I walked through the doors that morning I expected to be surrounded by corporate jargon. Sure, there were some business specific terms that I didn’t completely understand, but I was able to grasp everything the team talked about and relate it back to my experiences inside the classroom. It hit me how much the Roy H. Park School of Communications prepares its students for the real world. The opportunity to shadow a GE corporate communications job for a day allowed me to learn so much, gain a great experience, and even add a few LinkedIn connections along the way.