In 2011, Isaac Clark attended Thurgood Marshall Leadership Institute, where he encountered leaders from Ball Aerospace for the first time.
Clark, alongside other college students and recent graduates of historically Black colleges and universities and predominantly Black institutions, connected with a wide array of employers at the conference’s closing career fair and walked away with an internship offer in Colorado.
After completing his internship, Clark had an offer waiting for him to stay with the company full time as a manufacturing engineer. As his career progressed, an opportunity to gain leadership experience outside Ball Aerospace led him to leave the company — but not for long.
After three years away from Ball and a decade since first joining as an intern, Clark returned as an engineering manager in 2021, a role he continues to hold today.
Creating a Community Atmosphere
For Clark, the relationships he formed at Ball have been key to his growth at the company and are a core reason he returned as a boomerang employee, as well. His deep connection with various colleagues drew him back. After years of socializing and maintaining those close relationships after leaving the state, Clark was intrigued when he learned about a great opportunity from one of his former colleagues. He knew it was the right time.
“Fostering those relationships within the four walls of the office is important, but so are the bonds we have cultivated outside of this building, as well,” Clark said.
Clark isn’t the only manager at Ball Aerospace who first joined the organization as an intern. Emily McAnally first came to the company 16 years ago as a student at Colorado State University. After graduating, she took on a role outside of the area, but after two years, was ready to return to her home state and reached back out to Ball.
Since returning to the company, McAnally held roles across production planning and project management before landing in her current position as a program manager. Along the way, she has served as a mentor and thought partner for many of her colleagues at Ball.
“While I have been at Ball, I’ve never been nervous about who to approach to ask questions or learn new things, and I try to offer that same support to others,” she said. “Having a reputation of my office door being open has given me the chance to have some great interactions and build relationships over time.”
Individualized pathways to growth like Clark’s and McAnally’s are an integral part of Ball Aerospace’s culture, according to Casie Hanson, the company’s director of talent and organization development.
“We want our employees to have meaningful careers at Ball Aerospace, whatever that means to them,” Hanson said. “We’re committed to fostering career experiences that align with the individual at a variety of inflection points in their career. As employees, what we want out of our careers will change at different stages of our lives and individual goals and interests at that time.”
One resource for building community support across colleagues at different points in their careers is Ball Aerospace’s take on employee resource groups — Ball Networks.
For Clark, involvement in the African Diaspora Ball Network has helped him connect with colleagues from other teams across the company. “It’s always nice to see friendly faces outside of day-to-day working relationships,” he said. “It supports Ball’s relationship-driven culture when you know the person on the other side of the email thread and gives you a little more motivation to go above and beyond.”
- Abilities Ball Network
- African Diaspora Ball Network
- Asian Ball Network
- Cultural Awareness of the Religions of Employees Ball Network (CARE)
- Pride Ball Network
- Women’s Ball Network
- Veterans’ Ball Network
- Young Professionals Ball Network
New Horizons for Growth and Development
“A career journey is a living and dynamic process,” Hanson said. To support the diverse talent and experiences of Ball Aerospace’s employees, Hanson and her team are committed to helping their colleagues access a wide range of resources and opportunities for growth and development.
“A career journey is a living and dynamic process.”
While many companies sponsor mentorship programs, Ball takes things a step further by providing tools and training for mentors themselves to build the skills they need to best support their colleagues.
“We want to intentionally build and develop the skills related to mentoring so that it is fostered in our environment,” Hanson said.
For many at Ball, mentor relationships are leveraged to make progress toward development goals that team members set for themselves based on how and where they want to grow. That process can begin simply through onboarding and integration into their new role when joining the company, as a new hire acquires the knowledge required to navigate the daily tasks of their job. As an employee gains their job-specific knowledge, additional opportunities arise to develop applied skills.
For some, mentors may help them navigate enrollment in skill-building programs to develop communication, teamwork and leadership skills on their way to taking on additional responsibilities. For others, mentors may encourage them to find stretch opportunities to lead a special project, improve team processes or help others integrate onto the team.
As they advance, many employees find themselves drawn to the emerging leader program, which helps individual contributors develop the skills necessary to become a people leader or functional manager.
“The program is selective, and holistic in its design to support professional skill building and applying those skills through projects in a cohort-based environment,” Hanson said.
Ball Aerospace also supports colleagues in building their skills and expertise through outside programs, including an education assistance program for those seeking advanced degrees related to their work at the company. The program covers 100 percent of tuition costs in many cases, depending on the chosen school tuition rates. While working at Ball, McAnally pursued her master’s in engineering management at the University of Colorado Boulder, one class at a time.
“Completing my degree helped propel my career forward,” she said. “Going back to school after being in the workplace was so valuable. I found the applicability of all my coursework and was able to immediately bring those skills to the workplace with me as I learned.”
Hanson, too, utilized the tuition assistance program and found the experience elevated her ability to serve as an internal consultant across Ball’s business.
“My thesis project directly benefited Ball,” she said. “I researched our program teams and investigated what makes those types of technical teams effective. I built a diagnostic tool to measure effectiveness and identify what programs to put in place to help teams succeed.”
Building the tool helped Hanson connect with leaders outside her immediate sphere at Ball and build both relationships and credibility across the organization — and the diagnostic tool is still used today.
“I went from being an individual contributor to leading the team and organization development function,” she said. “That growth wasn’t just because of the degree but because I was able to build strong relationships and skills within Ball while I completed the program.”