Avonlie Wylson, MSOD '15
Beyond A Job: The Power Of Connecting People And Business
About Josh Epperson
For the past decade, Josh has worked at Navalent helping leaders and organization overcome their business challenges. He works with a variety of organizations and leaders ranging from community-based NGOs to privately owned business to multi-billion dollar public corporations.
Josh: Avonlie, tell me a little bit about what you’re up to right now.
Avonlie: I am currently an Organization Development consultant. I was a senior manager at Adobe until January 2015. During the latter part of my time there I was part of the Customer Advocacy Team. I was focused on driving improvements to the customer experience for the digital marketing side of our business. Previously I led teams of post-sales account managers for our digital marketing subscription business. I joined Adobe through a series of acquisitions and assisted in the integration process following one of them. I also led the migration of our customers from the acquired company’s web analytics platform to the industry-leading platform of the acquiring company.
Josh: Tell me about your experience in the MSOD program.
Avonlie: I chose the MSOD program because I wanted to focus on how organizations could become more successful by leveraging their people. I wanted to understand how I could help to unleash the potential of individuals and teams to the mutual benefit of the business and the people. I went in thinking that the MSOD program was going to help me make a career transition, but it was so much more than that.
I saw firsthand how teams can quickly become high performing.
Josh: What else was the program about for you?
Avonlie: It’s not just about learning academically; it’s about personal learning and self-development. I love organization development and the books and articles that were assigned. Writing a thesis exposed me to action research which released my natural curiosity. Being based in San Diego, the combination of online and in-person learning was very important to me. I was able to participate from where I lived as well as learn from and interact with people from all over the world. The practical application side was also great. It was hugely beneficial for me when we started learning to consult with organizations in our practicums. I wouldn’t be as confident in doing OD work had we not practiced what we were learning.
Josh: Can you recall any ‘defining’ moments during your experience?
Avonlie: I can think of one defining moment in Lyon, France. We had a great experience as a consulting team. We made a point at the beginning of our project to set up norms for ourselves. We took the time to talk about how we would operate and how we would support each other and what we wanted to get out of the work. We put a great deal of focus on how we would ‘team’. I saw firsthand how teams can quickly become high performing. I will make a point of remembering that in every other consulting project I undertake and in all of the work I do.
Another defining moment occurred during our practicum in China where I learned about the importance of understanding an organization’s value streams as the entry point to a consulting engagement. Taking a systems view to uncover the root cause of why the client engaged you in the first place will lead you to the work that will most help to achieve the client’s desired results.
For me, it’s important to have alignment between purpose, strategy and values in order to feel engaged in what I do. That’s what I wanted to learn about and that’s what I got from the program. Now it’s a leverage point for me.
Josh: Why is that something organizations and leaders should care about
Avonlie: I think it comes back to engagement. Organizations want to engage their employees. Engagement improves productivity. But you have to remember that entities are made up of people, and treat them as such. We did a bunch of assessments in the program and looked at what we, as individuals, each bring to the table and that’s the level of detail organizations need to get to. People are unique. To unlock individual potential, I believe it is important to understand personal goals and values and get to know team members personally.
Josh: In what ways do you currently find yourself leveraging your MSOD experience?
I am fundamentally changed as a result of the program..
Avonlie: Currently, I am making an impact in my consulting engagements and in my personal life. I use my learning every day with family, friends and with clients. I am forever changed by the MSOD experience and I bring that to everything I do. I haven’t seen anything as transformative as this program and it’s amazing it happened in a university setting. People will be talking about their business or challenges and frustrations they’re facing and I’ll listen and work to be helpful for them with something that I know or have learned.
My MSOD degree is all in service of helping organizations and their people to be more effective in what they do. That’s one of the things that I am good at – I am a strategic thinker and because of my background, experiences, and learning ability, I am able to add value in many different ways. I am very curious and will continue to leverage that in my life and work
Josh: Speaking of your future, how do you want to carry your MSOD experience forward?
Avonlie: The program helped me connect people and business. I want to leverage my background in subscription software and help businesses with change initiatives. I researched transformational change for my thesis within the context of change leaders dealing effectively with ambiguity for themselves and others. I hope to apply the insights that I uncovered in future roles and in my consulting engagements.
Josh: Anything else you want to add to the conversation before we close?
Avonlie: I am fundamentally changed as a result of the program. Before the program I was not as comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity as I wanted to be. But now I am comfortable in both navigating change for myself and in guiding my clients to do the same. I am very grateful for that. I feel so much more comfortable charting my course.
In the MSOD program, beyond the academic studies, you make a commitment to your own personal learning and development with a Strategic Learning Contract (SLC). I wanted to become an integrated person comfortable with ambiguity and my SLC helped me get there. I know this will continue to unfold for me.