Short-term Talent Making Long-term Impact at OUSD


 Brigitte Marshall, Chief Talent Officer, OUSD (Part 2)

In part two of this two-part Q and A series, EP talks with Brigitte Marshall, Chief Talent Officer for the Oakland Unified School District about how short-term talent can contribute to long-term impact, the value of OUSD’s 10-year partnership with EP, and the impact EP leaders are having in Oakland. (Read part one to learn about why talent matters in Oakland, new human capital initiatives that her team is spearheading, and the importance of data in the district’s human capital strategy.)

EP and OUSD have partnered for 10 years, and together brought nearly 60 EP leaders to support Oakland’s work. More than a dozen EP Alumni currently work as full-time staff members for the Oakland district.

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Oakland Unified School District and Education Pioneers have partnered for a decade to bring more top talent to Oakland schools. What is the value of an EP partnership for OUSD?

The partnership has been of enormous value. I very much appreciate having a talent pool of identified candidates of a trusted caliber as a starting point.  From there, deciding who might be a good match for our work has been greatly simplified.  It’s been extremely helpful that the candidates in Education Pioneers’ pool have met a rigorous bar, and knowing that high quality is a given, I’m just looking for cultural fit and the right disposition. 

With regard to data and analytics specifically – skill sets that we critically need in education and the public sector – I can assume that EP candidates’ data and analysis skills are strong, and that’s been particularly beneficial.

Why do you trust EP talent?

Because of the caliber of the individuals I’ve had the pleasure of working with so far. We have had every generation of EP individuals at some level in our organization – summer Fellows, 10 month Fellows, year-round Fellows. A significant number have fallen in love with our organization as we have with them, and their Fellowships have turned into permanent positions in the District. The caliber and demonstrated quality of our EP Fellows’ work is absolutely unquestioned.

How have you leveraged short-term EP talent creatively or strategically to advance important work in Oakland?

Over the years, I’ve been able to identify projects that would really benefit from a high-level skill set over a specific period of time. Working on the human capital data management system is a case in point. From my perspective, there was a clear and obvious need for it, but the rest of the organization wasn’t necessarily there.  I needed someone with a high level of analytical skill to do the groundwork and research in order to be positioned to identify the resources and leverage to move the work forward.

Short-term talent for a time-limited project is also an easier sell.  It’s not as daunting of a commitment when projects are crafted as short-term ventures. Then, when the data is collected and presented and the case is supported robustly, we are in a better position to make the case that it should be a long-term investment.

How can short-term talent contribute to long-term impact?

When you have folks with a skill set that is hard to find in the organization ordinarily, it positions you to move strategic work forward – that will have an impact in the long-term – that wouldn’t otherwise be available. In public sector organizations, it’s difficult to move nimbly. With classifications, tenure, and permanency, it can feel like a clunky ship to turn. I’ve appreciated the opportunity to bring in people with skill sets targeted to a specific outcome, and to have what we needed to move a big body of work.

Given the high skill level of Education Pioneers Fellows, folks in our district have also benefited enormously from spontaneous training that the Fellows have offered because they’re collegial and collaborative people. For example, our Fellows recently provided training on the Google platform to their colleagues in our HR department. It’s a skill set the Fellows have, and because our department recently moved to using the Google platform, we’re able to take better advantage of the technology. By generously sharing their knowledge through training, the Fellows directly contributed to our long-term impact.

What specific impact have EP Fellows had in Oakland?

Two specific examples within our own department are Roxanne Phen [EP Analyst Fellow, 2012-2013] and Lisa Ahn [EP Graduate School Fellow, 2012].

Roxanne Phen is now our Manager of Human Capital Strategic Initiatives. She led our investment in and implementation of Workday, which was a huge decision for our organization. Roxanne managed the relationships with Workday, the implementation, the relationships with our partners, and now has Analyst Fellows working under her. She’s had an enormous impact. The work she’s doing will catapult us from doing things in a paper-based way to the fully-fledged, 21st century way by collecting and analyzing a very broad range of data about our workforce.

Lisa Ahn is now our Manager of Special Projects.  She’s a highly skilled facilitator who is supporting our HR organizational change work. She designs and facilitates the strategic planning committee meetings so that they have maximum effectiveness. We know that major change initiatives often fail due to poor communication. Lisa ensures that we are engaging in effective communications as we go through all major change initiatives so that we can maximize their outcome.



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