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Leap of faith: meet three RIM professionals who have boldly made the leap into executive leadership positions.

Twenty years ago, V. Chapman-Smith was a library research assistant, wondering where her career would take her. She wanted to advance in the records and information profession to an executive role within a company. Was she afraid? Without a doubt. But that didn't stop her from taking the necessary steps to become chief archivist for the State of New York, a position she proudly holds today.

"A RIM professional has to want to move into executive management. Not everyone will be comfortable there," says Chapman-Smith, who is also executive director of a multimillion-dollar trust for the New York State Education Department.

Many records and information management (RIM) practitioners are realizing what it takes to advance from entry-level jobs to powerful roles within their organizations. Education and "who you know" are key to advancement but are only part of the picture (see sidebar, page 44). The three RIM professionals featured here know that all too well.

V. Chapman-Smith: "Take Advantage of Leadership Opportunities"

"I had the good fortune early on to work for a company that was building its records management program," recalls the professional archivist. "The company was not just looking for technical skills but wanted to build leadership capability within the ranks of its RIM program."

Early in her career, Chapman-Smith, a doctoral graduate of Philadelphia's Temple University, was fortunate enough to work for a company that expected the RIM function to support its strategic efforts. As corporate records officer and assistant vice president for a major Philadelphia bank throughout the 1980s and early '90s, she served on senior-level teams and worked with other corporate officers in planning and executing broad initiatives. These included consulting for corporate divisions through out the United States on records systems and archives management. She also participated in a corporate disaster recovery team and was principal author of the corporation's disaster recovery manual. Opportunities for professional development were plentiful. "The company's training program for leadership development was open to me and my team, and we took full advantage of it," she says.

This training led to her next big move -- the City of Philadelphia's Department of Records. As the department's chief executive, Chapman-Smith helped increase productivity by implementing $4 million in technology upgrades and more than $1.5 million in capital improvements for records and archival management. She also found time to serve on the city's risk management and information technology steering committees.

After four years working for the city, Chapman-Smith moved to the state level. In her present position she leads statewide records management and archival services and provides support to New York agencies, local governments, and not-for-profit historical repositories. She also directs the Archives Partnership Trust, a $10 million endowment to promote public awareness of New York's archival resources.

Chapman-Smith sees her leadership experiences as being far from RIM exclusive. "I have been able to participate in far-reaching activities that are not RIM specific, such as not-for-profit boards, advisory groups, and program/policy assessment teams." Along the way, mentoring has served her well. "I have been fortunate to have some good executive-level mentors, who not only were an excellent resource but also were good role models for me."

Her professional philosophy? "Be flexible to new opportunities and new learning," Chapman Smith says. "My job is more about building for the future, anticipating where we need to be in the next three to five years, and building alliances and garnering resources to make it happen."

Michael T. Czerpak: "Pay Close Attention to Your Customers"

The word "retirement" means more to Czerpak than daily rounds of golf and tinkering in the yard. The retirement of a senoir manager within his company meant a promotion for Czerpak. And that promotion led to a series of other promotions.

Today he is director of administration for Reed Smith LLP, a legal firm comprised of 650 attorneys worldwide. "Being at the right place at the right time" was instrumental in Czerpak's finding that open door into executive leadership. And that is just one of many lessons he has learned since graduating in 1977 from Temple University with a degree in health records administration.

"Organizational ability is key," says the registered health information administrator. "I've used my records management training and records system experience numerous times outside the information management arena -- with good results."

Case in point: When Czerpak worked on relocation management projects involving furniture and equipment inventories, he relied upon his RIM organizational skills. These abilities also proved useful when Czerpak helped develop compensation programs for his organization.

While many of today's companies consider their bottom line to be profit margins and technological innovation, Czerpak values the role of stakeholders. "Customer service is what it's all about," he says. "We need to continually ask ourselves, `What business are we in?'"

Czerpak's customers consist of not only the clients using Reed Smith's services but also the attorneys and paralegals he works with every day. As director of administration, his goal is to provide effective and efficient office operations in a variety of job environments. This could mean equipment procurement one day and document management the next. Other days it is personnel deployment or financial management services. Because of his multifaceted work, Czerpak must adapt well to changing circumstances and faces. And he must get to know his customers and their responsibilities. "I need to work with individuals in these various areas to ensure that we are making sound decisions that are consistent with the firm's philosophy," he says.

Compare Czerpak's work with that of an education setting, and it would be deemed "interdisciplinary." "Senior managers take a broad view of the organization," Czerpak says. "RIM professionals should look beyond their own areas of responsibility to learn more about the culture of the organization and the current issues of concern."

How can records managers get to know their companies? "By paying attention to issues of concern in other departments that may or may not impact their area," he says. "Being in tune this way can affect the decisions that you make within your area of responsibility."

One of Czerpak's favorite books is Flight of the Buffalo (see page 45). In it, companies are shown how to adapt to change if they are to survive in a shifting business world. For Czerpak, this essentially means honoring the changing needs of customers. "You may know that a particular system, procedure, or policy is best," he says, "but if your customers don't utilize it or if it adversely affects a client, is it really the best? Probably not."

Czerpak extends his professional energies beyond Reed Smith. He is an active records management consultant to various healthcare institutions in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region. He has also served on the City of Philadelphia's Records Management Advisory Board.

With each of these opportunities, Czerpak has learned that who you work with is just as important as who you work for. "Good hiring decisions make your job easier and more stimulating. Bad hiring can have long-lasting effects, especially if ineffective performance is ignored."

He concludes, "Your success as a leader is very much dependent on those who work with you."

Connie Amandeo Montana: "Make Every Experience a Learning One"

After high school, Montana took the saying "follow your dreams" to heart. While those around her were enrolling in college or starting in the workforce, she fulfilled her dream of racing horses. This experience, which spanned 10 years, taught Montana the value of hard work and discipline -- principles that helped her get where she is today as an assistant vice president at a large credit card bank.

"A wise horseman once told me, `Connie, you will pass the same people on the way up that you pass on the way down.' I took his sound statement to heart and recommend it to anyone," she says.

Montana's career path has been unique. While RIM professionals desiring advancement tend to pursue a college degree and possibly even a master's, she has relied exclusively on the education of life. "I wouldn't recommend that approach for everyone," says Montana, who has since enrolled in college where she is pursuing an accounting degree with a minor in history "just for fun."

What Montana has benefited from is on-the-job training. As an assistant vice president at MBNA America Bank N.A., a large independent credit card issuer with managed loans of more than $97 billion, she helps direct the activities of the Delaware Excellence in Education Grants Program within the bank's charitable foundation that awards college scholarships to students and grants to teachers in local communities. "I am fortunate that MBNA offers ongoing internal education," she says. "I have taken full advantage of this, and it has been of immeasurable benefit to my professional development.

"I've gone from training and driving Standardbred race horses to being a corporate records manager to being a grants administrator at MBNA. I'm not sure that anyone but me could see the connection from one to the other, but each career has provided me with skills that have served me well throughout," she says. Montana bridges the gap between her horse racing experiences during the 1980s and her current leadership position by counting the lessons she learned from these opportunities:

* Stay focused: A positive attitude and the fine art of paying attention will take you far in your profession.

* What goes around comes around: Treating people as you wish to be treated is critical.

* Embrace fear: Don't be afraid to be afraid. You can overcome it.

* Force yourself to be bold: Develop your skills any way that you can, talk to people whether you feel like it or not, seize every opportunity to try something different.

* Make every day count: Moving up is not a science. It is a matter of hard work, people skills, attitude, common sense, discipline, drive, and talent.

How can others make the leap that Montana did? "By making every experience a learning one," she says. "The fact that you are squirming in your chair while listening to other people means that you might be learning something."

Editor's Note: V. Chapman-Smith has since accepted a position with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Philadelphia.

At the Core

This article

* Profiles the work experiences of three information professionals

* Discusses skills required for making the leap into leadership positions

Five Essentials for Making the Leap

Know the company: Understanding the organization's bottom line (and finding opportunities to complement it) maximizes a RIM professional's value to executive leaders. Get to know various departments and what their objectives are, and serve on internal committees. Put a face on records and information management by staying active within the company.

Mentors: All companies have them, ranging from a long-time RIM professional to a CIO to a senior vice president. Mentors should be accessible, open, and in-tune with the organization's bottom line. Take advantage of their knowledge by asking relevant questions, shadowing them during a particular business day, and accompanying them to networking meetings where executive leaders will be available.

Continuing education: Certain executive positions may require an advanced degree. Research these positions to find out their specific educational requirements. Compare the amount of education needed with your level of interest, amount of available time, and financial resources. (Note: Some companies will negotiate an education reimbursement package on a case-by-case basis, which could ultimately be to your advantage.) Even if there is no company reimbursement, a commitment to continuing education could eventually pay off with that desired raise or promotion.

Value customer service: No organization can survive without its customers. Find opportunities to better serve these important people, whether it be serving on the company's consumer relations committee or simply taking the time to listen (and consider) a customer's idea. Remember: Anyone can be a customer, so make every contact count.

Keep up with business trends: Find out what your company's CEO is reading, and pick up a copy. Subscribe to a reputable Internet business news service, and get the latest on industry trends while drinking that morning cup of coffee. Attend at least one innovative business seminar a year.

What They're Reading

While records and information management books have played a role in their success (Managing Electronic Records, 2nd Edition, by William Saffady, Ph.D., and Legal Requirements for Business Records, edited by Donald S. Skupsky, J.D., CRM, are cited by Montana), these three RIM professionals have found inspiration from various professional development books. The common thread of each book: how to deal with change.

Chapman-Smith -- Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life, by Spencer Johnson and Kenneth H. Blanchard (Putnam Pub Group): This is a parable of four "beings" (two mice and two mouse-size humans) who live in a maze and value cheese in different ways. The cheese represents jobs, career paths, and the industries in which people work. The moral of the story: Be alert to changes in the "cheese," and be prepared to run off in search of new cheese sources if the cheese runs out.

Czerpak -- Flight of the Buffalo: Soaring to Excellence, Learning to Let Employees Lead, by James A. Belasco and Ralph C. Stayer (Warner Books): "The nature of business must change if a company expects to survive in a white-knuckle world of modern business." This is the message of Belasco and Stayer's book, which explains how to empower workers and maintain their loyalty, become more flexible and focused, and stay one step ahead of the competition by outmaneuvering them.

Montana -- Born to Win, by Lewis Timberlake (Tyndale House): How to gain self-respect in the midst of change is the essence of this book. The reader is asked to consider the cost, take the necessary steps, and begin climbing toward the top of self-esteem and peace with God and others.

Shanna Groves is Associate Editor for ARMA International. She can be reached at
COPYRIGHT 2002 Association of Records Managers & Administrators (ARMA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Groves, Shanna
Publication:Information Management Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2002
Previous Article:Strategic information management: understanding a new reality.
Next Article:Information education in the 21st century: to stay competitive in today's business environment, information professionals will need to broaden their...

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