Jenny Baumann is a Senior Buyer for Travel and Roadside Assistance Services at General Motors. Prior to starting this new role in May of 2022, she had worked at Delta Air Lines for 37 years in various roles across the organization. Baumann earned her MBA previously, but wanted to sharpen her skills to continue growing without a multi-year program commitment. She found Darden Executive Education & Lifelong Learning (EELL) and has taken several programs, earning a Certificate in Leadership & Management and a Certificate in Design Thinking along the way. She recently shared more about her experiences and the difference lifelong learning has made in her career.

What led you to pursue professional development?

I had been with Delta Air Lines for 35 years right before COVID hit. At this point in a person’s career, you’re typically thinking about retirement aspirations. However, I wanted to continue growing and learning, and moving along in my career – not necessarily moving up, but just growing. So, even before COVID, I was starting to think about what my next chapter would look like, as I had been in my position for seven years, and the overall sales organization for 14 years. When COVID hit, a lot of travel activity shut down for me, so I thought it would be a good time to refresh my skills since I was at home. I earned my MBA in the 90s, but I felt that much of what I learned then isn’t as relevant today. In the uncertainty of what my next career step would be, I decided to refresh my skills and pursue programs at Darden.

Why did you choose Darden EELL for your professional development?

I did some research online and I learned about Darden EELL. I liked what I saw – the variety of programs, options for in-person or asynchronous learning, relevancy of the topics being taught – and so I went for it. Since enrolling, I’ve taken Collaboration and Influence, three courses required to earn a Certificate in Design Thinking, Leading Mindfully, Managing for Results, and Financial Management for Non-Financial Executives, which was through the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA).

What are some memorable insights or impact from the programs you’ve taken?

Collaboration and Influence taught me negotiation skills, which were incredibly valuable to my job and continues to be valuable today. The Certificate in Design Thinking gave me a new set of skills for problem-solving and serving customers better. Leading Mindfully is a program that I apply not only to my work life, but also my personal life. When stress is building, the program taught me how to be able to control those moments. If a conversation is getting intense or you just really need to ground yourself, it’s a skill that everyone needs to have, especially in today’s climate with heightened anxiety around the pandemic and stress with inflation. I wonder why I didn’t learn about mindful leadership a long time ago.

What does the Certificate in Leadership & Management mean to you and your career?

Being a more tenured employee and having gone to school so long ago, knowing that I’m able to get back into the academic environment and learn without having to make a long-term investment or commitment, it’s an opportunity for me to get a valuable education and sharpen my skills at a relatively quick pace. That was what I wanted – something to add to my resume that I’ve accomplished that will show that I am investing in myself. And it gave me fresh skills and confidence to pursue a new path in my career.

What has been the most meaningful aspect of your experience with Darden EELL?

There are so many great learning formats. If you’re really busy, you can fit asynchronous learning into whenever you have that free time. The scheduled virtual classes usually work even if you do have limited availability. If you want the in-person experience, you can go to Grounds and have that face-to-face experience. You can mix these different formats together to create the experience that you want, and that’s exactly what I did.

Do you still stay in touch with the people from your cohorts?

I do have a number of people that I have stayed in touch with. My experience at Darden has helped me build a network of some incredible relationships, so that’s also a valuable benefit.

What would you say to someone who is considering professional development, but feels like they don’t have the time for it?

Start with asynchronous learning. It’s not a huge time commitment, and it can be done in just a few hours each week. Collaboration and Influence was like that for me. Just start with that smaller commitment, and you may find that you can find the time for it because you’re going to love it so much. You may then move into other programs that are more scheduled. Talk with your employer and let them know that you’re wanting to pursue some professional development and see if they’ll allow for you to carve out a couple hours each week in your work schedule or help you find some flexibility.

Anything else you’d like to share about your Darden experience?

I would like to call attention to the faculty who lead these programs, they are top notch. The faculty were some of the best in their field. I feel like I will definitely come back and take more programs with them in the future. Also, it’s a very rewarding feeling to have the certificates. It makes me feel proud that I took the time to invest in myself, and I put my all into it.