Turnaround Program Gives Practical Advice on Career Advancement

By Camille Mojica Rey

By Camille Mojica Rey After five years of answering the phones at UCSF's Ambulatory Care Center's Call Center, Connie Barbante believed her career was stagnant. "I knew I was capable of being more than what I was," Barbante said. That's when she heard about the Turnaround Program, sponsored by the UCSF Center for Gender Equity. "The idea of one-on-one mentoring was very appealing," she recalled. "I knew that this was something that could really work for me." In fact, the one-year mentorship program, which held its graduation on June 28, exceeded Barbante's expectations. She is now a new patient coordinator in the UCSF Interstitial Lung Disease Center of Excellence. Barbante credits her mentor, longtime UCSF employee Karen Newhouse of the Office of Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity and Diversity, with giving her the confidence to apply for the job. Newhouse is a special assistant for campuswide diversity. The two met on a monthly basis to discuss Barbante's career goals and create a plan for achieving them, including performing role-playing exercises. Barbante also attended monthly skill-building workshops with Turnaround's seven other mentees. The relationships with the other participants also served to build Barbante's confidence, she said. "It's a wonderful thing when your co-workers are rooting for you," she explained. Barbante also said the things she learned from Newhouse have affected her personal life. "I now practice mentoring my 17-year-old son."
Connie Barbante and Karen Newhouse

Connie Barbante smiles upon her graduation from the Turnaround Program while Karen Newhouse, her mentor, looks at her certificate.

The Turnaround Program was created to give entry-level administrative assistants the necessary tools and training to climb the proverbial job ladder, said Mijiza Sanchez, the program's director. "It's very hard to move up at UCSF. Contacts are essential. Our program helps people navigate the system and puts them in touch with people they wouldn't otherwise have a chance to interact with," Sanchez said. The program was modeled after the highly successful Academic Business Officers Group (ABOG) Mentorship Program at UCSF, Sanchez said. In the UCSF Strategic Plan, released in June 2007, one of the seven major strategies calls for promoting a supportive work environment in part by ensuring that professional development and career advancement opportunities are transparent and available to all. Among the recommendations to achieve this goal is to offer mentoring, internships, job rotation and leadership development at UCSF. The entire strategic plan is posted here. Although landing promotions is not a specific goal of the Turnaround Program, many of its participants do advance their careers. Like Barbante, participant Charlie DeVries changed jobs during the program. DeVries is now a course coordinator for Foundations of Patient Care, a core curriculum course for medical students that is based in the Department of Family and Community Medicine. DeVries' success was no surprise to her mentor, Lisa Gerick, human resources director for the Department of Psychiatry and the Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital and Clinics. "Charlie had some pretty specific ideas of what she wanted to do," Gerick recalled. "I wasn't responsible for her getting the new job. I'm sure she would have landed one on her own, but I was able to help her and be supportive in that process." In addition to the gratification of helping DeVries reach her goals, Gerick said being a mentor offered her an opportunity to give back. "In my 18 years at UCSF, there were plenty of people who mentored me along the way and gave me opportunities to move up," she said. Working with people who are still learning about the campus also helps Gerick to be a better supervisor, she said. "You realize what information is helpful to orient people to the campus."
mentors and menteees at the recent graduation ceremony

Mijiza Sanchez, director of the Turnaround Program, far right, stands with mentors and menteees at the recent graduation ceremony in the Lange Reading Room. (See larger)

For Barbante, learning how to energize her UCSF career was not always easy, but it was well worth the effort, she said. "I work with a wonderful group of professionals and I feel so blessed." The next application process for the Turnaround Program begins in September 2007. The mentorship cycle will begin in January 2008 and run until December 2008. Informational sessions on the program will be conducted beginning in August. For more information on the Turnaround Program, visit the Center for Gender Equity website here. Photos/Christine Jegan