Julie Cardwell is the Training and Quality Manager for Pacific Gas & Electric. Julie spent 15 years at AT&T Wireless supporting training and development prior to joining PG&E 5 years ago. Her team supports 4 Contact Centers and 75 Customer Service Offices located throughout PG&E’s geographic territory.
Julie’s primary focuses currently include supporting the launch of Salesforce, a refresher training initiative and integrating self-service into the customer experience leveraging the Bridge Practice platform. We recently sat down with Julie to ask her five questions:
Q: What was your first job?
JC: I worked for the Foothill Finder; it’s a little company in El Dorado County that used to circulate. It’s similar to the Pennysaver—a little tiny newspaper that’s all advertisements and things for sale. Along with the newspaper, we used to insert other advertisements into the paper, bundle them up, and get them ready to be sent off to all the local businesses. I got paid by the piece—we called it “stuffing papers.” I made so much money! I was really fast. We’d start at the crack of dawn and work all day. I was probably 14 or 15, and it was all year round—we usually worked on the weekends.
Q: What do you look for in a potential manager?
JC: First of all, definitely someone with integrity. There isn’t a faster way to break down a relationship than for someone to be untrustworthy or unethical. You’d lose your credibility so fast, and we all know that once you’ve done that, it’s really hard to get it back. In our current state, I definitely think someone who can be innovative and creative. That comes from of course being in the learning profession. It really is our responsibility to figure out how we can help people learn. But also, from an efficiency perspective, I think we get into ruts very quickly, and we start doing things the same, day-in and day-out, and that doesn’t lead to being creative. So you’ve got to be able to push yourself and push your team to keep exploring and trying new things and wanting to learn ourselves.
Bridge Practice is the perfect example of a new tool for a lot of companies out there. It’s a different way for folks to learn and you’ve got to be willing to check those things out and try new things. So definitely innovative and creative. You also have to be a really great communicator. If you can’t communicate your vision and what you expect of your team, you’re obviously going to have a really hard time. So I’d say integrity, innovation, creativity, and communication.
Q: Who was your best manager and what made them so great?
JC: Interestingly enough, at the time I didn’t think my manager was a great manager. She was brutally honest and never held back. She had very high expectations of all her direct reports to the point it was off-putting to many. I learned a lot of great things from her that I apply daily, such as having direct conversations and being willing to give and receive all feedback. But I also learned things I wouldn’t necessarily model in today’s workplace. I grew very close to her over the years, though, because I really learned a lot about her both personally and professionally. She was a person of great character and integrity and she was loyal to the core. To this day I still stay in contact with her. She’s one of my biggest supporters and I would still consider her my closest and best mentor.
One of my bosses here at PG&E has wonderful leadership traits. He is an incredibly good listener. You can tell he is genuinely listening to you. He’s not passing judgment, thinking about how he’s going to respond, or trying to fix things for you. He’s just a really good reflective listener. Also, if I were to go to him and ask him for help with something, like I’ve got a serious roadblock and ask him to push for me—he’d be the first one in line to do it.
I’ve been really fortunate that I’ve had a lot of really great managers during my career.
Q: What are three skills that are important for the future of work?
JC: Knowing how quickly things are changing in the job market in general—first and foremost, you have to be flexible. You have to be willing to try different things and be adaptive to change. Again, you also have to be a good communicator. If you’re in a situation where you’re uncomfortable with a change or something that’s being inflicted upon you at work —let’s face it, we all get asked to do things we don’t necessarily want to do—you need to be able to communicate how you’re feeling about those things.
I used to always say to my direct reports, “My crystal ball is broken and I don’t know what you’re thinking, so you need to be able to communicate.” I think we all make so many assumptions about how people are feeling about things without ever having a conversation with them.
So I would say adaptability, flexibility, and communication.
Q: What is one thing you wish you learned before you started your career?
JC: After college, I worked at a grocery store and made good money as a cashier, but wanted something more in corporate America. So I started out at AT&T as a customer care representative—I got in at the right time: the call center where I was working had 80 employees and grew to 800 employees over a year. After about a year I moved into their training department. I was very excited since I didn’t even know that I was good at training; it was something I had never done before. I ended up being asked to apply for a supervisor position in the call center.
I got the job, but I was so terrible at it because I didn’t know how to manage people, how to motivate them, or incentivize them. However, I did that job for about a year, and on my one-year anniversary I realized I had to get out of there. I went back into training, but on our leadership development team. So I was now training all of our retail managers, customer care supervisors, and managers on how to be an effective leader. But I didn’t even know how to be an effective leader. I was terrible at it!
So I wish that I truly had some of those leadership skills and had a chance to learn how to be a good leader before I started leading people. It was trial and error; to learn what they didn’t like. While I’m so thankful for all those experiences—they shaped me as the leader I am today—I had to learn it the hard way. Interestingly enough, that’s my biggest piece of advice for anyone thinking of becoming a supervisor. Ask yourself: what’s your background? What experiences have you had? What help do you know you need heading into that position? It’s really hard to manage people, and if you aren’t comfortable with your own skills, it’s going to make that job challenging. That’s my biggest lesson learned. If you’re going into it blind and you’ve never done it before, you should find a really good mentor and start learning quickly because it can make for a challenging job fit.
To hear more from Julie Cardwell about developing great managers, sign up for our upcoming webinar, “Combating Agent Apathy & Turnover Through Coaching, Career Planning & Agent Feedback.”