It was a moment of vulnerability from a Tobias Fellow peer that stands out most to Jennifer Kerr as she reflects on her time as a Tobias Fellow in 2017.
“Early in the program, a Tobias Fellow shared his personal story about experiencing a failure in high school and how significant that was for him,” said Kerr, who is the president of Cook Research Incorporated in West Lafayette, Indiana.
“It was his honesty, his vulnerability and his emotion that made me realize I was in a room with people who had the same insecurities. We were asking the same questions, and it didn’t matter what our backgrounds, gender or titles were. We started letting our guards down, and in that moment the Tobias Fellows experience started to take on a totally different dimension.”
Sharing knowledge with peers in other industries and learning from their experiences is a core component of the Tobias Fellows Program. Each year, 15 to 20 high-talent, experienced leaders from across the nation are admitted to the exclusive cohort, hosted by the Indiana University Tobias Leadership Center. They meet 10 times a year for unique and experiential leadership training and for assessment and coaching to enhance leadership skills and to explore different leadership styles.
“What I took away from the experience can only come from this particular kind of opportunity: The opportunity to allow yourself to be vulnerable with other people who are in a leadership position but not in your own organization,” said Kerr.
Kerr has been involved in clinical research and regulatory affairs for more than 20 years. She started as a clinical research monitor in 1995, and her responsibilities increased over the years, culminating in her current role as president. Kerr represents Cook in national and international organizations and committees related to device development, clinical research and regulatory approvals.
She applied for the Tobias Fellows Program after encouragement from her boss, Pete Yonkman, president of Cook Group and Cook Medical, who was a 2006 participant in the inaugural class.
“Each experience was memorable and compounded onto the next,” said Kerr. “I met some amazing and inspiring people. We were given opportunities to see organizations in our state that had or have an impact on people outside of Indiana — or outside the country. It makes you realize that we share more commonalities than differences.”
Kerr has since recommended a colleague to participate in the program and says, someday, she’d love for the Tobias Leadership Center to offer an advanced program for former fellows.
“To circle back around after using and living the leadership principles would be a great experience. I would also love a program around women in leadership, to learn from women who came before us and are in front of us today.”
“I gained perspective and experience from the Tobias Fellows Program that I would not have been able to gain on my own,” said Kerr. “I took away something meaningful from each leadership experience. It’s not just one specific thing; it’s the combination of things. I can use these lessons each day and build on them throughout my career.”
The Tobias Fellows Program is recruiting. For more information, head to the website here.