Bethany Weeby is senior vice president, Provider Experience for Care Credit at Synchrony.
She holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Industrial and Operations Engineering, from the University of Michigan. She has been a member of the IOE Advisory Board since 2011 and is the incoming Board Chair.
Why did you choose industrial and operations engineering as your major?
Like many college students, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I chose the Engineering school because my school counselor said since I was good at math and science I should apply to the engineering school, so I followed her advice.
I was interested in civil engineering because I like structure and design, but when I looked at the curricula I realized it really wasn’t the type of course work that I wanted. Industrial engineering appealed to me more because it was people and process-centric. It must have been somewhat intuitive — over the years this is where I tend to lean.
Did that expectation or intuition pay-off for you?
It did, I’ve never looked back. There was no other department within the college of engineering that would have been a better fit. In the roles I have had in my career, starting in manufacturing, I’ve always been able to parley the knowledge and the skills I learned from my IOE degree. Not always technically, as far as being classically trained as an engineer, but more so with respect to problem solving skills, process mindset, critical thinking, optimization, and efficiency and applying those principles to any sort of business problem or process. These skills have universal application.
What advice would you give to IOE undergraduate students?
While you’re in school, while you’re at Michigan, take the time to get involved. Get involved in things related to your major — or not. If you can get involved in things other than what you’re studying that’s even better. Take on roles that give you experience in creating a strategy, driving results, leading or influencing others, or other opportunities to develop leadership skills. College is a great test bed for students to try new things, take chances, be open-minded. People sometimes get very narrowly focused on what they think they want. If you can allow yourself to think broadly and be open to a variety of ideas, perspectives and disciplines, it will open doors you may never have thought were there.
In hindsight, would you put yourself in the category of someone who had that open-mindedness?
Yes, but probably by default. Because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do — what discipline I wanted to study at U-M or what I wanted to do after IOE — I had to be open minded. Even when I took a position on GE’s management program, it was because it allowed me to explore four different roles before settling into a more permanent position.
Throughout my career, I stayed open to new experiences, taking roles that challenged and developed me in new ways. I also took advice from mentors and other leaders who saw characteristics in me that I didn’t see in myself. It has been a winding journey but I’ve progressed along the way and learned a lot. I would never have been able to draw a straight line to where I am today.
You mentioned the value of getting involved, is that something you think you made the most of during your time at U-M?
I did, although I could have done more — there are so many opportunities to get involved on campus. I was part of SWE (Society of Women Engineers), and what was then the Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE), now the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE). I was also a member of Alpha Pi Mu.
Living on central campus while at Michigan, I didn’t limit myself to what was going on in engineering. I held a couple of jobs while I was in school — I worked in the cafeteria at one of the dorms and I delivered mail on north campus. Each of these experiences taught me different skills, exposed me to different things, and sometimes put me outside my comfort zone. This is really important because being uncomfortable is when you learn the most.
Can you speak a bit about the diversity and inclusion at Synchrony and your involvement?
Synchrony has a very strong culture around diversity and inclusion, and it has been recognized as one of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to work for. When we spun off from GE, we continued our diversity networks but made them our own. At Synchrony we’ve invested even more in the notion that a diverse workplace is important for people, for the culture, and for driving business results. When the networks were first formed early in my career, I didn’t appreciate the need for them. I hadn’t experienced – or didn’t notice – bias in the workplace. Through my involvement over the years I’ve seen the value of the networks and the importance of creating a diverse and inclusive culture where everyone can thrive. I wouldn’t be in my role at Synchrony today if I hadn’t gotten involved in the early diversity efforts at GE.
Today, I’m an executive sponsor for our Veteran’s Network in the Costa Mesa site where I sit. In addition to the Veteran’s Network, Synchrony has a variety of other networks that help cultivate an environment of inclusiveness and develop leaders around the company: the African-American Network, Asian Professional Engagement Network, Hispanic Network, LGBT Network, People with Disabilities Network, Women’s Network, and most recently the Native American Network.
Each of the Synchrony networks uses an abbreviation (i.e. Women’s Network is WN). About a year ago, Synchrony added a “+” after each acronym to reflect that anyone who wants to participate is welcome. I love that change. It’s a visible invitation for employees to participate in any or all of the networks.
Are you finding that it’s an effective change?
The networks have always encouraged employees to get involved with any network they have interest in, but sometimes just having that visible moniker helps highlight the fact that it’s open to everyone. I do think that matters. It’s a way to more visibly demonstrate that inclusiveness is a part of our culture.
As the incoming chair for the U-M IOE Advisory board, why has service and leadership on the board been something that you’ve been motivated to do?
IOE has given me a strong set of skills to succeed and giving back to the department is rewarding. I am on the business side of where an engineer can take their career, so it’s an opportunity to offer insight into how the department can provide students with skills that are transferable beyond a specific discipline. I’m grateful to be part of a group of individuals who can bring that perspective.
I’m really excited about the future of the department. Brian Denton has a very contemporized view of IOE and sees the potential for Michigan’s program to be the best in the field. He also sees the important connection to the business world, just as Mark Daskin did. While some students will stay to work towards a graduate degree or do research, many IOE students will find themselves moving into the business world. There is value in having an advisory board that is comprised of people from education, research and business to help guide the evolution of the department.
What has been the most rewarding part of being an alumna who is so engaged with the department?
Engaging with the department after having been away for many years has given me a greater appreciation for how IOE has helped shape my career. Being a small part of what they are doing for today’s students is probably the most rewarding part. It’s so energizing to interact with undergraduate and graduate students on trips to Ann Arbor. I always leave recharged and optimistic about what’s next for IOE.