Tuck Voices: Women in Leadership – Part 2
Amy Wuerch moved up the ranks of The Boeing Company’s internal security group with a keen focus on results and the details of investigations conducted by her subordinates. Soon after completing the Tuck Executive Program (TEP) in 2011, she was promoted to build and lead a 40-person internal investigations group for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Based in a 42-acre building – the world’s largest building by volume – located on a 1,025-acre site in Everett, Washington, Wuerch’s team conducted thousands of investigations last year. Matters ranged from time fraud to on-the-job life safety accidents at the commercial airplanes division, which currently employs more than 83,000 people. “We see the underbelly of The Boeing Company,” she says.
Q: How did you become the leader of internal investigations for Boeing’s commercial airplanes division?
Wuerch: I first become a subject matter expert and later focused on developing leadership skills. I was a probation and parole officer with the Washington Department of Corrections and was assigned to an FBI Fugitive Task Force where I honed my investigative skills. When Boeing hired me into its internal investigations group I was the only woman and the youngest member in an office largely staffed with retired law enforcement officers. I was promoted to develop the program and run the team that conducted all the background domestic and international investigations of potential Boeing employees and did that for seven years. Right after I came to TEP, I was selected to build an investigations department for the $49 billion commercial airplanes division.
Q: Why did Boeing nominate you for a senior executive education program?
Wuerch: The vice president who pushed me into an executive development program really believed that I had what it takes to go to the next level. But he also saw that I had to get out of a tactical day-to-day mindset and get some further understanding around business strategy and elevate my thinking.
Q: What trade-offs do you see for women as they become senior managers?
Wuerch: There is no shortage of guilt when I leave my young children to go to work and give myself wholeheartedly to the company given the demands at home. As a woman, you wonder: ‘Am I making the right decision?’ There’s this part of TEP where leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith speaks directly just to the women about this challenge and it evokes this very emotional response. He recognizes that there are demands on your total person in these types of jobs that are much different than for our male counterparts. Marshall gets it. And it was very empowering to have a nationally renown leadership coach acknowledge the difference that many women leaders experience.
Q: Why did you choose TEP over other executive programs?
Wuerch: At just three weeks, TEP was the only program that I could actually commit to and leave my family and work demands responsibly and yet obtain a full, immersive leadership development experience. There are other programs where you do evenings and weekends for months or are traveling multiple times over an extended period. They were either too much time or broken up so that you weren’t immersed in the experience. At TEP, I was able to reflect on where I was as a leader and where I wanted to go and I laid out a really clear plan. Instead of just taking an ad hoc approach to my career, I’m now very mindful and strategic about it.
Q: How has your leadership style changed?
Wuerch: TEP has this 360-degree leadership assessment that helps you understand your own style and where your challenges are. I tend to be results-driven, headstrong and hard charging in some ways: ‘Be bright, be brief and be gone.’ Now that I lead leaders, I’ve had to modify my style and recognize that I don’t need to have all the answers myself. In this role, I exercise restraint to allow my managers to be more creative and innovative – that sometimes means allowing them the freedom to fail. That allows them to find the most efficient way to get results. What gets lost on a lot of middle managers is that you need to have a strategic mindset – being really clear on where you are leading the team – and that light bulb went off for me when I attended TEP.
Name: Amy Wuerch
Title: Senior Leader, Internal Investigations, The Boeing Company. Began at Boeing in 1998.
Career History: Microsoft Co., Washington State Department of Corrections
Education: J.D., Seattle University School of Law; B.A., Seattle Pacific University
Hometown: Snohomish, Washington
Read Part 1 of the Tuck Voices: Women in Leadership Series
featuring State Street's Tracy Atkinson
Read Part 3 of the Tuck Voices: Women in Leadership Series
featuring Hershey's Kim Schaller
Read Part 4 of the Tuck Voices: Women in Leadership Series
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