Hasbro engagement broadens seniors' project management horizons
An innovative affiliation between Hasbro – one of the world’s largest and most successful toy makers – and Bryant University provides driven Bryant seniors the extraordinary opportunity to engage with high-achieving project managers in their real-world environment.
This affiliation includes an intensive mentor/mentee relationship between senior project managers, who oversee some of Hasbro’s most complex and sophisticated projects, and Bryant seniors enrolled in "Project Management Principles and Practice" – a groundbreaking course that engages and enlightens the seniors in ways no textbook could. Developed by Associate Professor of Computer Information Systems Kenneth Sousa, Ph.D., the 400-level course provides insight into the inner workings of Hasbro, one of Fast Company’s 50 Most Innovative Companies for 2016, which also has earned national recognitions for its ethical leadership, positive workplace environment, environmental stewardship and remarkable business growth.
The groundbreaking course engages and enlightens students in ways no textbook could.
“My mentor has already shown me that building your experience and knowledge of other departments of a company lead to success in a project management position,” one student reported. Another appreciated hearing from a Hasbro executive who identified what skills a good project manager possesses: diligence, being straightforward, curious, and empathetic.
Vimbainashe “Vim” Masiyiwa '17 says having a female mentor, a senior IT project manager at Hasbro, is beneficial. “We’ve discussed how to navigate as a woman in a male-dominated industry and how to be a woman in leadership.”
Connecting textbook theory to real-world business
By framing questions each week, to which their mentors respond, students discover how Hasbro applies specific business concepts, including project management and information technology, project integration management as well as the management of a project’s scope, time, cost, quality, human resources, and risk. Through analyzing and synthesizing these question-and-answer exchanges with their classmates, students connect theoretical concepts to reality, Sousa says.
Engaging with Bryant students in this course is an opportunity for Hasbro mentors to give back and to develop their own careers, says Hasbro's Timothy King, Vice President, Program Management Office, Information Technology. The company is more than toys and games. It also is a powerful Hollywood force, a prolific and forward-thinking producer of several movie and television properties. King says, “Our mentors are excited to work directly with these students who are so inquisitive and grateful for the experience.”
The IT Career Leadership Development Initiative
A good project manager is diligent, straightforward, curious, and empathetic.
A half-day shadowing their mentors and making two presentations to Hasbro executives contribute to these exceptional experiential learning opportunities, says Sousa, who calls this course the IT Career Leadership Development Initiative. “Hasbro has had to transition its market and product strategies. In no way could the company have achieved the success it has without a disciplined strategy,” Sousa notes.
After student teams make their initial project presentations on a work breakdown structure that’s akin to a punch list, Sousa explains that the students “have 20 minutes to gather all the feedback … to develop an action plan. We’re asking them: ‘What’s your action plan? What are your next steps?’”
Learning to lead
Alexander Bronk ’17 says this class is directly applicable to his career goals. “It’s not enough to just get the questions and answers. … I need to be able to get that answer from my mentor David Adams, Project Director, Global IT Project Management; describe it; and process it with my peers. That’s very engaging.”
Sousa notes, “People have to be able to lead themselves before they lead others… professionals have to resist a ‘shoot, aim, fire’ approach and be disciplined.” By holding students accountable, as if they were working professionals, Sousa believes they will learn to lead themselves by managing deadlines, understanding expectations, and engaging in honest self-appraisals. “If they are open-minded and receptive to mentors’ and my feedback, they are rewarded with an excellent learning experience.”
Hasbro’s King says, “We are excited … to show the students how the lessons they learn in the classroom directly apply to a career in project management. There is satisfaction in building future leaders who, in turn, will mentor others someday.”