Deb Becker is a senior HR executive and a passionate diversity and disability advocate. Find out more about her experience of joining a global cohort of 21 senior business leaders on Wavelength’s immersive USA programme in 2022.
Deb Becker is a senior human resources executive and a passionate diversity and disability advocate. After almost a decade in sales for her company, she transitioned to human resources and has thrived in a succession of complex, global roles – leading first development then compensation globally. She is the head of HR for one of their key business units. Here she shares her personal experiences of Wavelength’s flagship, week-long immersive USA programme.
Innovation is what we, as a company, pride ourselves on. Our ability to think differently is what keeps us ahead, so going into the trip that’s what I was looking for. A new perspective. And I got it.”
The programme’s unique structure gives delegates genuinely immersive experiences inside a broad spectrum of extraordinary companies. Delegates witness first-hand how the best-of-the-best operate around, for example, product development, customer experience or people and culture. The focus is on interpretation of principles over execution, in order to stimulate fresh thinking that can begin to shift the dial from the very first day they return to HQ. As Deb says, “If you’re not operating from the outside in, you become very isolated in your thinking. Looking at companies that have absolutely nothing to do with what you’re doing day to day helps to make that mindset shift.”
The cohort visited Cruise; a company working on the cutting edge of driverless vehicle technology based in Silicon Valley. Deb has complex health challenges and uses a scooter to get around. “I got to go inside the car that they were developing for people with disabilities and made some suggestions for how they could adapt it for people who use a scooter instead of a wheelchair. A technology like that could really change people’s lives.” She had a similar experience at Meta, exploring the metaverse. “Commuting to work has a huge impact on my body. For me, putting on goggles and stepping into that virtual room gave me hope that the future of work might mean highly capable people who can’t work in the exact same way as able-bodied people can, will have better opportunities. It really gave me a sense of possibility for the future.”
“You go from one unique, amazing idea to the next, it’s quite mesmerising – like, how did they come up with that? I went with a colleague, and we deliberately split up during the day and came back together in the evening to debrief and digest what we’d heard.” One such mesmerising moment came when the cohort visited the Dallas home of Southwest Airlines, a standout success story in the otherwise somewhat distressed aviation sector. As the group arrived, a thousand new recruits were walking a red carpet through HQ, lined with hundreds of their new Southwest colleagues clapping and cheering. You sensed the pride people had in the company. Deb is working to apply the principle behind this moment at her company; “How can we get people even more inspired and proud of the mission we have to make a difference in peoples’ lives” The sheer number of people who turned out to applaud these new employees was amazing. I came away thinking, ‘how do people get aligned around the product, the strategy, the direction we’re going in? And how do I bring that to life virtually?”
For all the interesting content, the magic of the programme is also in the cohort itself. Deb explains, “The other people are really impressive and capable. The quality of the cohort is incredible. It is really an international group. People come from multiple industries such as banking, retail, financial services, and reside in Dubai, India, Japan, Europe, United States. In fact, from all over the world. There’s so much learning. As an example, one person was really focussed on sustainability, and I learnt a lot just hearing the questions she was asking. I was asking most of the questions about accessibility, some of the others were much more focussed on customers, and some on profitability and efficiency. Everyone has a unique perspective, but you get to see all of them.” And the insights go far deeper than any annual report could convey. “Of course, you get to see the company at its best, but the group is full of very talented, senior people who ask really tough questions so you do get to see the reality too, because we’re asking questions that they can’t prepare for.”
Deb has a fierce personal commitment to diversity and inclusion, particularly the rights of disabled people. The programme gave her confidence to start conversations that she may otherwise not have. “For me, my ambition now centers on the impact I can have for others. For disabled people, making things accessible is table stakes – that’s the bare minimum we should expect. I saw things on the programme that were really working in other companies, like how Southwest Airlines have modified their call centres to accommodate sight-impaired staff. It gives me a method to have a conversation that I maybe used to avoid or didn’t feel I had enough insights. Now because I’ve seen an idea that I know works somewhere else, I feel obligated to at least pose the question.”
Join us in 2023
Make no mistake, this is not a typical executive development programme. It’s a week packed with potent perception-changing experiences, which will open up new perspectives and challenge orthodoxes. Delegates get up close with pioneering initiatives that are scaled and fully operational in companies that are setting the standard, as well as early access to unseen innovations that will shape the future of work. Exceptional peer-to-peer learning allows for deeper examination of the strategic and operational implications of what you’ll see. You’ll leave feeling inspired and re-energised to level up the performance of both you and your team.