About Marcy Lendaro: Marcy Lendaro is the Employee Engagement Manager for Technology Teams at KAR Auction Services in Carmel, Indiana. In this role, she manages the onboarding program for hew hires, collaborating closely with leadership to retain and develop the company’s tech talent. Prior to joining KAR, Ms. Lendaro worked as a Learning and Development Specialist at global technology startup Toptal, and as a Training and Development Specialist at Stonegate Mortgage Corporation in Indianapolis.
Ms. Lendaro attended Purdue University for her undergraduate studies, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Corporate Communication with minors in Spanish and Organizational Leadership. In 2013, she completed her master’s degree through Purdue’s Masters of Communication program, specializing in Organizational Communication.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Marcy Lendaro] I graduated from Purdue West Lafayette in 2011 with my BA in Corporate Communication with minors in Spanish and OLS, and it was Patrice Buzzanell’s COM 491 class in the spring of 2011 on Communication and Leadership that first made me consider seeking a graduate degree in Communication. Her class was led like a graduate-level course, with discussions and developing our own research questions we could explore. This piqued my interest and over the semester, conversations with Patrice made it seem like pursuing an advanced degree might be an option for me — even though I hadn’t seriously considered it prior to that class.
After graduating with my MA in 2013, I started working at a national mortgage company, Stonegate Mortgage Corporation, headquartered in Indianapolis, in the HR department. During my three years there, I was able to build out many of the training and development functions, including revamping the new employee orientation (which was essential as we grew from 500 employees to over 1,400 in those three years), and creating and launching a leadership development program for over 150 leaders nationwide.
My next role was with a fully remote, global technology startup called Toptal, and I was fortunate to work on similar projects there — I revamped the onboarding program “Toptal Boot Camp” (as we grew from 250 core team members to over 500 in 18 months), as well as had the opportunity to manage other training functions such as customer service training and the compliance training. We also launched a new HRIS (Human Resources Information System), a 401k plan, Leadership Training Series, and built out best practices for the People Operations team, which impacted the entire organization. Right before I left, we brought on and launched a learning management system, so that was a tremendous learning opportunity for me as well.
My current role, since December 2017, is the Employee Engagement Manager for our technology teams at KAR Auction Services, headquartered in Carmel, Indiana. This job is quite honestly the best parts of all my previous jobs mixed into one role. I work with a phenomenal team, and got to build and currently manage the two year Onboarding program for around 100 new hires in all areas of our Technology departments. Our onboarding program is designed to attract, retain, and develop top technology talent through intensive classes their first month and then a year of monthly workshops, quarterly socials, and other engagement activities. I also get to collaborate closely with our leadership team to drive culture, engagement, and develop our technology talent. It really is a dream job!
[MastersinCommunications.com] Why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree in communication, and why did you ultimately choose the Masters of Communication program at Purdue University?
[Marcy Lendaro] Again, it was Patrice Buzzanell’s COM 491 class in the spring of 2011 on Communication and Leadership that first made me consider seeking a graduate degree in Communication. Her class was led like a graduate-level course, with in-depth discussions and papers and research questions we could explore. I was already pretty familiar with the faculty, so that made the transition to the graduation program very smooth.
Early on, I considered pursuing my PhD in communication, but eventually decided to go the route of taking my comprehensive exams and entering the workforce after my master’s. I was eager to enter the workforce after attending Purdue for six years at that point! I was a Resident Assistant (RA) in the residence halls for two years (my senior year of undergrad and first year of grad school) and then was promoted to the Staff Resident (SR) position, managing a team of RAs, during my final year of my master’s.
These roles allowed me to really apply what I was learning in my management and communication classes in real life scenarios, every single day. I was responsible for a floor of 60 (mostly first year) students each year that I was an RA. This included not only getting to know each student and holding monthly socials and education programs, but also acting as a leader (on an awesome team!) for the entire building. When I was a Staff Resident, I was tasked with interviewing, selecting, and then training and coaching a staff of 12 Resident Assistants with a peer SR. We met with our staff each week in a staff meeting and we also held monthly training and development sessions to grow our team.
I knew the invaluable skills I was gaining through my roles in the Residence hall and through Purdue’s Communication program would serve me well as I entered Human Resources, specifically the Training and Development realm. (And they definitely did!)
[MastersinCommunications.com] How is Purdue’s Masters of Communication program structured, and what concepts did the program emphasize? What skills and strategies did you learn in your classes, and how did you apply them to course assignments?
[Marcy Lendaro] During my senior year at Purdue, I was looking for a program that would allow me to blend real-world business application with grounded communication theory. I had taken a few classes through Krannert during my undergrad and when I presented the idea of blending my committee with faculty from both the Brian Lamb School of Communication (BLSC) and the Krannert Business School, and once I was accepted to the Brian Lamb School of Communication Master’s program, Patrice was fully on board.
During the next two years I wrote countless papers, gave numerous presentations, worked on dozens of case studies with both Krannert MBA students and my communication program peers, but I was also able to work on real-life projects that took me off campus and into the community.
The After Visit Summary (AVS) project through Melanie Morgan’s Communication Consulting class was a fantastic opportunity. Meeting with leaders at IU Health to understand how we could help them study the patient reactions and usage of the new tool they were launching, the AVS (After Visit Summary). This project allowed me to learn how to work on a project team and bring about results and present those results to leaders, so they can make informed decisions. I also enjoyed working with the Krannert MBA students through my MBA classes, as they had a very different perspective when it came to analyzing their case studies, but we were able to learn from each other very effectively.
One element I really enjoyed about the Purdue communication master’s program was the fact that I was able to take classes with (and learn from) current BLSC PhD students — mixing master’s students and PhD students led to a much richer learning environment for me, and I hope for everyone. I also enjoyed working on projects with my peers who had been in the workforce (or were currently working and pursing their degree). Coming right from my undergrad to master’s, these experiences broadened my perspective greatly.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please describe your experience preparing for and taking your comprehensive capstone examination? What were the components of the exam, and were they tailored to your individual course of study? What advice do you have for students in terms of preparing for their comprehensive exams?
[Marcy Lendaro] Preparing for my comprehensive exams was an extremely daunting task, but I was fortunate to have an incredible group of committee members who spent a great deal of time meeting with me to dissect and cover the most relevant areas of my coursework and develop deep questions that I could answer in my eight hours of exams.
To prepare for the exams, I really took a holistic look at each of the classes I had taken, and each of the papers I had written for them and I looked for the themes that emerged as they related to the exam questions my committee had prepared for me. My committee had crafted their questions so that I could take what I had learned in my coursework and apply it to the business world — two hours were spent on a case study where I was asked to develop recommendations for based on theory and concepts I had learned. There were questions about how to bridge the gap between research world and corporate world when it came to solving business challenges. Once I had completed the exams, answering each of their questions in a couple of timed windows, in a solitary room, I met with each of my committee members to gain their feedback and answer any follow up questions they might have.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from Purdue’s graduate communication program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Marcy Lendaro] I found Melanie Morgan’s Communication Consulting class one of the most helpful in my preparation for my roles today, because it gave us an opportunity to be in front of local business leaders, do work in the community, and share our findings to bring about real change. The skills of putting together a project proposal, meeting with leaders to gain buy-in, answering questions they had for us, actually conducting the studies, both online and in the healthcare facility was an invaluable experience.
Purdue definitely prepared me for the latest developments in communication technology in that it created in me an eternal student. I am thankful to continue to grow in my communication skills and develop myself.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting the Masters of Communication program at Purdue University? More broadly, what advice would you give students who are either considering or starting a master’s in communication program, whether it be at Purdue or another university?
[Marcy Lendaro] I think that a Purdue master’s degree has opened doors for me in addition to teaching me how to think critically and deliver excellent work. My advice for students taking comprehensive exams to complete their master’s program is to trust your committee members — they are experts in their field and really do want you to succeed.
My belief is that comprehensive exams are designed to bring together the entirety of your two (or more) years of coursework in a final exhibition and opportunity to share what you have learned over the course of two years. It is both an intimidating and humbling task to review and reflect on my entire two years of study and distill it down to just eight hours of writing to prove that I had learned what I came to learn, and I was worthy of the master’s degree.
Thank you, Ms. Lendaro, for your excellent insights on Purdue University’s Masters of Communication program!