Celebrating ESFM’s first graduating class from global learning program

August 07, 2023
ESFM leaders pose with associates graduating from the GULL program.

There were tears, smiles, laughter and hugs, nods of gratitude and subtle bows of quiet confidence. Through the range of emotions expressed at ESFM’s inaugural Global University for Lifelong Learning (GULL) graduation last month, one sentiment stood above all: pride. Pride in the company, pride for teams, regions and jobs well done. Pride at the success of one’s peers or protégés. And especially pride in oneself.

“Hallelujah — now I feel grateful; I feel more secure in who I am,” Maria Ramirez, a laboratory service technician, said. “I’m not scared to go for my goals anymore.”

Ramirez, who has worked at an ESFM client site in Groton, Conn., for 17 years, was apprehensive to join the program at first. But her manager, Unit Manager Audra Hyek, believed in Ramirez and encouraged her to participate.

“She saw the potential in me and that makes me proud of myself,” Ramirez said.

In all, 29 ESFM delegates from coast-to-coast graduated from the GULL program. The 16-week, self-guided program prepares high-potential hourly associates for salaried roles. Managers nominate associates to participate as a delegate and each delegate has a dedicated mentor to aid in the delegate’s learning and development.

“This program offers all graduates an opportunity to really move outside of their comfort zone,” said Hyek, who nominated Ramirez. “Since starting the GULL program, I watched [Maria] understand what leadership at the next level is.”

During their program coursework, delegates work to develop their operational and interpersonal skills while learning business acumen and completing a capstone project.

“The program was everything and much more than I thought it would be,” said Steve Moskaluk, inventory/stockroom lead at a client facility in Connecticut. “It taught me so much about myself and has given me the skills needed to hopefully achieve my goal of being a manager someday.”

Associates were granted time to complete their education during work hours and had weekly check-ins with their mentors. Completing the program required consistency and a determination to press on when challenges arose.

But each graduate had their motivation to succeed, from personal ambitions to providing for others.

“My kids deserve the honors as much as I do,” said Renee Segura, administrative assistant at a Los Angeles client site. “Allowing me to complete the GULL program opens the door for me to further provide for them.”

For Jefferson Cruz Diaz, a janitorial supervisor in Redwood City, Calif., GULL represented something bigger — acceptance in the “Land of Opportunity.” Diaz came to the U.S. from Nicaragua in 2019 in search of a fresh start.

“I am excited for what I can become in the near future,” he said. “I am in the best company ever, living my best life. I am really sure that this is just the beginning. As an immigrant, as a part of the LGBTQ community, this is the American dream.”

ESFM celebrated its first graduating class with a ceremony and reception at its Wayne, Pa., headquarters. Those who were not able to make the trip participated virtually. Each graduate shared their capstone project — which ranged from innovations to improve operations at their facilities to strategies for employee engagement — in front of an audience that included several ESFM senior leaders.

“It was an absolute pleasure to be a part of these GULL journeys,” Human Resources Manager Elise Weiss said. Weiss manages the GULL program for ESFM. “What a powerful message it was for their managers to identify the potential in them. Each of the graduates showed great progress and impressed our leaders with their projects. I cannot wait to see their further development within this amazing company; the sky is the limit!”

Graduates were encouraged with stories of people who persevered in their careers and rose the ranks of leadership, including ESFM President David Hogland, who began his career as a welder’s apprentice, and Senior Vice President Oliver Sach, who started his facilities management career in a mailroom.

ESFM emphasized its commitment to a culture where associates are valued and given the tools and opportunities to grow within the organization. ESFM Human Resources Director Keisha Mackey announced that the program will be offered in Spanish starting in fall 2023, allowing more people to take advantage of the opportunity.

“I am very grateful for all of you today. I encourage you to continue this journey,” Mackey said in her closing remarks to the graduates. “People are only going to remember you by what you do. What say you are going to do and putting that into action — that is what makes someone successful.”