When Galen Billington began working for the city of Tyler, he rode on the back of a trash truck doing garbage pickup.
He has since gone through the ranks in the Solid Waste Department, serving as a trash truck driver, crew leader, foreman and now as a superintendent.
“It was a hard transition for me,” Billington said. “You go from being a worker to management and dealing with people. It was just more of that transition to be a leader.”
He said City University helped him successfully make that transition.
Billington is among those who will participate in City University Graduation at 11 a.m. Sept. 3 at the Tyler Rose Garden Center, 420 Rose Park Drive.
This year, there are 103 City University graduates. In order to graduate from City University, an in-house training program for city employees, individuals must have completed six classes in a particular City University track, said Kristi Boyett, City University manager for organizational development.
Tracks are innovation, professional development, leadership development, core competency, workforce, which debuted this year, and life management, which debuted in 2012.
Ms. Boyett said life management teaches employees about things such as nutrition, personal finance and stress management.
“The whole point is to develop leaders because (former city manager) Mark (McDaniel) … spread it throughout the organization that anyone can be a leader … and it’s just our way to train our employees to be the future leaders of our organization,” she said. The tagline for City University is “Training Tomorrow’s Leaders Today.”
Here are what employees had to say about City University and what they have learned:
Billington said the good thing about City University is that it gives employees an opportunity to advance themselves in their department and the city without the city having to hire from the outside.
The program also provides individuals with what they need to do their daily job, he said, and he has learned how to deal with angry trash customers, computer skills, how to be more professional and how to be in a leadership position.
Transit Manager Heather Bolestridge started participating in City University classes in 2011.
Mrs. Bolestridge said through City University, she completed an assessment that shows what a person’s personality is based on how they answer questions.
Then based on what the individual’s personality is, the person is able to learn how to deal with other personalities in the workplace, she said.
She said she learned how her personality changed in her position, and that some of the personality traits that were low in her normal personal life were really high at work.
During the process, she also saw results from assessments that other city leaders did.
“I think that it was interesting to see how I compared to other people in the city,” Mrs. Bolestridge said.
“It let us kind of know if we had similar personalities to other leaders in the organization (city) and take it into account.”
As part of City University, she also recently took a webinar, which taught her and others about the types of questions that supervisors should ask potential employees.
“It was just how to interview effectively,” she said.
Mrs. Bolestridge said she also learned about habits of effective people, as well as how to apply those habits to everyday life, both personal and professional.
She said for her, the best habit was “Put First Things First.”
“I think that one’s important. It’s so important to prioritize correctly so you can get everything done,” she said.
She said another habit, “Begin with the End in Mind,” also is important and makes people envision the big picture and remember they have a goal to reach.
She said overall City University gave her tools to excel professionally, which helped her reach where she is today. She said her goal was to be manager of a department within her first five years working for the city, and she has been able to attain that in three years thanks to City University, as well as other training.
Elsa Garcia, who has been with the city more than 30 years, serves as water business office team leader and deals with delinquent accounts.
She said City University classes have helped a lot with dealing with customers and coworkers of a different generation.
Classes about customer service and being in a supervisor position also have been helpful, she said.
“The whole concept of City U is so good,” Ms. Garcia said, adding that it has a lot to offer new employees and those who have been with the city a long time.
“To me the citizens come first, (and) City U offers classes in customer service and phone etiquette that help serve the citizens better.”
Candace Porter-Condry, housing eligibility supervisor, with the Neighborhood Services Department, said City University classes have helped her in leadership, as well as in areas such as time management and team building.
As a whole, she said City University helps with the morale of the employees at the city and shows employees that the city is willing to invest in their continuing education.
Historic Preservation Officer/Planning Technician Amber Rojas also cited leadership skills that she has established thanks to City University.
She said classes she’s taken have offered information on behavioral styles, as well as how to fine-tune certain skills and city processes.
She said she also became certified in First Aid and CPR through the American Red Cross by taking City University classes, and now she is able to assist people at her office and in everyday life.
She said the other thing she can take home and use at work is the life management classes that City University has.
“I really appreciate all the diversity that the City U does bring in order for me to grow not only here at work but also at home because we do know that growing personally does not just happen at work,” Ms. Rojas said.
In addition to City University graduates, 16 Leadership Academy participants, 11 Lean Six Sigma Green Belts and four Lean Six Sigma Black Belts will graduate this year.