How the Organizational Psychology Program Helped These Alumni Pivot Careers to Get Their Dream Jobs

December 18, 2017

Kelvin Wong, MAOP ’11 (left) and Sarah Menard, MAOP ’14 (right)

Kelvin Wong, MAOP ’11, was always interested in talent management and organizational psychology, but found it difficult to jump into those fields without demonstrated experience. After working a few years in finance, he decided it was time to pivot back to his original interest while leveraging his prior experience. Coming to William James College for the Master of Arts in Organizational Psychology (MAOP), he utilized his knowledge and field education experience to create a talent management and organizational development role at his employer during the program, Brown Brothers and Harriman.

Now a human resource business partner at Akamai Technologies in Cambridge, Wong says, “Theory helps drive practice, but experience drives your value proposition. The MAOP program provided me the opportunity to learn the theory, gain real experience in the field, and stay full-time employed to accelerate my entry into the field.”

Sarah Menard, MAOP ’14, also came to William James to change her career path. Working at Forrester Research to help manage the implications of technology change, she realized that she was more interested in how the organization managed the people-side of change.

Looking at graduate school as a platform to change fields, she saw that the MAOP at William James was the “perfect combination” of business and psychology. Menard is now a business transformation specialist at Kronos in Lowell, MA, where she provides consultation, programs, tools and resources to support teams and leaders to instill a customer-first, collaborative and innovative organizational culture.

Chair of the Organizational and Leadership Psychology DepartmentDr. Kathryn Stanley says that Wong and Menard are good examples of the types of students who come to the MAOP program to enter this field. With students from around the world and a range of experiences, they share an interest in organizational psychology, which is “the art of planned versus unplanned change and how to make human systems healthier and higher functioning,” she explains, noting that 50 students will graduate from the MAOP program this January.

Stanley adds, “With opportunities for hands-on learning in internships, this program hones skill sets for lifelong careers. It is experiential and blended learning at its best. As alumni grow in this field, they will become thought leaders and master practitioners.”

Making a Career Transition

When Wong sought to transition from finance to organizational psychology, he came to the College to differentiate himself from others in the field. Continuing to work at Brown Brothers Harriman, he saw the work-friendly MAOP program as a way to build on his prior professional experiences and segue into human resources.

His internship at William James field site Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in organizational development provided an opportunity to add even more value to his degree. He helped conduct the annual employee engagement survey and gained experience in how management training programs are developed. Wong’s internship exposed him to change communication work, the measurement of employee behavior, and the art and science of administering a survey for a 5,000+ organization. When Wong sought to transition from finance to organizational psychology, he came to the College to differentiate himself from others in the field.

“The MAOP was critical in getting the knowledge and real-life experience needed to achieve my career goals. It facilitated my entry into the field of organizational development and human capital consulting.”
Kelvin Wong, MAOP ’11

As he approached graduation and started looking for a position in this field, he networked and actively discussed his organizational development ideas. Wong explains, “One of my mentors shared my ideas with the head of global talent management at Brown Brothers Harriman, who asked if I would join that group given my blended background in finance and organizational psychology. My degree was a platform that enabled me to transition out of my finance role and have an opportunity to pursue my passions.” As an organizational development consultant in the Talent and Development Group, Wong led a talent analytics function in the group.

Subsequently, he moved to Deloitte as an organization transformation and talent consultant. “Becoming a consultant is a popular career path for people in this field. It’s hard to break into a big brand name like Deloitte, and I’m proud that I was able to do that because of my degree.”

Now an HR business partner at Akamai, Wong’s current role focuses on the delivery of HR programs, driving organizational development needs, aligning business objectives with employees and managers and serving as an internal human capital consultant for the business. “The MAOP was critical in getting the knowledge and real-life experience needed to achieve my career goals. It facilitated my entry into the field of organizational development and human capital consulting,” says Wong.

Following Passion

Menard’s path to organizational psychology also began in the MAOP program, where she started as a part-time student so she could continue working at Forrester. However, after the first term, she knew this was her passion and became a full-time student.

“This program gave me a big toolbox so that I am armed to go into the job to manage different scenarios. It trained me to be a practitioner and set me up for my dream career.”
Sarah Menard, MAOP ’14

An intern at William James field site The Brink’s Company, she spent several months working for the Global Talent Management organization. A major project was the development of a competency model for the sales organization, identifying specific behaviors—and levels of those behaviors—sought in various sales positions. “The behaviors included things like customer focus and building relationships. The goal was to create a baseline level of expectations for employees in the organization that was clear for managers, HR, and individuals,” she explains. As a follow-up to that project, she created a process for assessing the workforce using those behaviors with interview guides and scoring mechanisms.

That fieldwork taught Menard the critical skill of evaluating employee behaviors, which she says can be harder to define and evaluate than technical skills. “When something is not working right with an employee, it’s important to have a defined set of behaviors as a guide so that it can be addressed,” she says.

The internship also helped refine her career goals. “I enjoyed working within a company as an internal consultant, where you can continue relationships and see results. In addition, I realized that I am very interested in traditional organizational development.”

Now a business transformation specialist at Kronos, Menard uses her William James education every day to build the organizational development function at her company. For example, she refers to a book from her consulting skills class as her “Bible” in this field. She explains, “Even as an internal consultant, it’s about defining how to manage the relationship with an individual or team, how to define the work, the desired outcomes, and framing the relationship in terms of roles. I look at that book and my notes for that class all the time for tips on managing different types of clients.”

She adds, “There is no way I would be successful in this area without my degree. This program gave me a big toolbox so that I am armed to go into the job to manage different scenarios. It trained me to be a practitioner and set me up for my dream career.”