Carrie Wagner: Climbing the Corporate Ladder

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CASE STUDY. This case traces Carrie Wagner’s career in a single, large international package delivery company over a 30-year period during which she rose through the ranks from a student’s summer job to senior executive positions.

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Carrie Wagner: Climbing the Corporate Ladder: Abstract

This case traces Carrie Wagner’s career in a single, large international package delivery company over a 30-year period during which she rose through the ranks from a student’s summer job to senior executive positions.

Part (A) – Early Career, from Student to Manager (4 p.) – Carrie joins a large multi-national as a summer student when she is 19 years old. Upon graduation, she takes a full-time job in the budget department. After six months in this position she is promoted to manager at the age of 22. Carrie knows nothing about finance and Jim, her Executive Director, is an invaluable ally.

Part (B) – Towards Senior Management (4 p.) – This section details Carrie’s career from the age of 30 to 45, where she climbed several management levels up to the position of Executive Director.

Part (C) – Cutting the Cord? (5 p.) – At 46, Carrie is seen as a potential VP, and reluctantly accepts a job as head of Human Resources, reporting to the President and his first VPs. The case describes the challenges of this new position for Carrie and how she finds it difficult to work in an advisory role that is disconnected from operations.

After five years in this position, she becomes aware of an opportunity outside the company that piques her interest. This opportunity, combined with several other considerations, including professional as well personal factors, lead Carrie to wonder whether she should not give up on a possible VP position and “cut the cord” with the company where she has worked for 30 years.

Teaching objectives

  • Reflect on ways one becomes a manager, develops as a manager and builds a career as a manager
  • Identify the multiple skills used by a manager and the need for particular skills for certain types of positions
  • Understand how one can build a management career within a single large company
  • Develop a better understanding of how large companies operate

Multi-part case

  • Part A
  • Part B (only available with a Teaching license purchase/Enseignement par professeurs)
  • Part C (only available with a Teaching license purchase/Enseignement par professeurs)

Concepts and theories related to the case

  • Transitioning to management (Hill, 2003; Knippen and Green, 1999; Watkins, 2003)
  • Career transitions (Higgins, 2001; Ibarra, 2004 and 2005)
  • The development of management skills (Katz, 1974; Bartlett and Ghoshal, 1997; Mintzberg, 1990)

Additional information

Also available in French.

Teaching notes are available for teachers only. Contact the HEC Montréal Case Centre for more information.

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