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Wayne State University

Aim Higher

Jul 12 / Christine Illichmann

SLIS Leader: Alicia Biggers-Gaddies

Alicia Biggers-Gaddies (MLIS ’96) is Knowledge Center Manager at Ford Motor Company International Headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. She has over 20 years of experience in the fields of knowledge management and competitive intelligence. Alicia also teaches Competitive Intelligence courses for SLIS. 

Learn more about her work related to data analytics in her January interview with the Special Libraries Association.

What is a typical day like for you as Knowledge Center Manager?

A typical day includes meetings with data suppliers, business skill teams and providing orientations to new or rotating employees.  The day includes responding to research requests, answering quick reference and of course, the emails!

Depending on the day, I can be pulled into project work and project management. During the 4Q and 1Q the days are focused on budgets, negotiations for services supporting our core team as well as the corporation.

How many people work on your team at the Knowledge Center? Do you have a communication style that seems to work better than others for your group? For instance, do you find that weekly meetings, or one-on-ones, or email are better for coordinating goals and communicating with one another?

There is one researcher along with subject experts from our key research suppliers and myself.  We use a blend of styles to communicate depending on the situation or task at hand.  We have touch point meetings for the macro view of how the world is working while emails help track research with quick exchanges in person.

As Knowledge Center Manager you have to work with many different units at Ford and are involved in a lot of different projects. How do you communicate to different units about the value of your work and make them aware of the services you offer?

Over the years, we have built a reputation of response and follow-up with many of our “users” rotating through different teams, they become our “advocates” of branding the role of the Knowledge Center to Ford.  Of course, we promote and market through senior management briefings, 1:1, small group and team orientations. We host a biannual “Info Expo” which provides corporate exposure to the internal information services and the suppliers they work with to provide research intelligence to the corporation.

Communicating the value of the Knowledge Center is daily from how we brand our research summaries to infographics to our SharePoint site.

You have taken on many large scale projects at Ford that have had international, company-wide impact. For instance, you created and implemented a global contract management process and you completed a global information audit which produced ~$2M in savings by removing duplicate purchases. What recommendations do you have for implementing these sorts of large scale projects – especially related to communicating process and goals to end users?

Listen to the users (your analyst and business/skill teams) and senior management then look for trends and gaps. From there, find a common ground or language to socialize the issue, challenge or project.  Seek an executive champion with realistic goals to accomplish and move the corporation forward. It is a team effort, not individual and you let go when momentum has formed allowing the company system to lead.  The most recent example is our effort to bring forth analytics as a skill team and competency to Ford which was successful with the creation of our Global Data Insights & Analytics team.

For those LIS professionals who are just starting out in their careers, what recommendations do you have for them in terms of cultivating their leadership style and capabilities? What can they do early on in their careers to prepare themselves for jobs like Knowledge Center Manager?

Know thy self.  Easier said than done. Look to understand what motivates you and what bugs you.  Be honest. Recognize others don’t work the same and that is okay as long as the work, task, and projects are completed with the value of the service preserved and enhanced.  Managing is moving people forward, not moving yourself forward. Your progression is measured by how well you honor, reward and promote others.

To enhance your career for management roles, take on responsibilities that move the value you bring to your organization.  Take on the role of managing a site or compliance for the group.  Volunteer for projects, offer to assist with budgeting, write value statements of services and listen to the company, response to the opportunities – see a need, fill a need. Do not replicate or duplicate rather compliment and supplement the efforts around you.

Are there trends that you’re seeing in knowledge management that LIS professionals should be keeping tabs on?

Like “knowledge management”, know how your role is impacted, enhance or changed with the inclusion of “analytics” or “data analytics.”  Know how you can assist with this development, the same as the information professional handles competitive intelligence, research, IT, and content management.  As our society develops, our core skills as information professionals are flexible to adapt to those developments as guides to those around us – listen, simplify and respond; do not simply “react” to these developments.

How did your Wayne State SLIS education prepare you for your current role?

Most fundamental learning I took from my WSU SLIS experience were the key skills unique to information professionals – research interview (critical, use it daily), cataloging (how information is organized to retrieve), abstracting (this is critical, I use it daily for executive summaries) and indexing (how to find anything).

Going back to participate in advisory groups, student groups and other WSU SLIS activities helped to polish my management / leadership skills.

Lastly, for students interested in Knowledge Management or for those current LIS professionals considering a move to Knowledge Management, do you have any advice for how they can best prepare for a career in KM?

The skills you acquire through the MLIS program fit the demands of knowledge management. You are acutely positioned to help organizations with human input to KM as there is more to it than a system (IT).  You understand how humans store and retrieve information.  How they might tag it (and you index it) and how the company’s vocabulary impacts any system.  Those are skills that are not taught in just any grad program.  Know it, use it and leverage your skills to solve problems and challenges.  You will see the main issue with KM is the people (input / output) not the software.