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Larry K. Hampton, PhD

Larry K. Hampton, PhD

Team Lead, Quality Operations, Pfizer Global Services

Education:

Master of Science in Organizational Dynamics, University of Pennsylvania ’21
Doctor of Philosophy in Science Education, University of Georgia ‘17
Master of Science in Chemistry, Clark Atlanta University ‘90
Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, Xavier University ‘85

Larry Hampton had taken five or six Organizational Dynamics courses at Penn when he took a hiatus in 1999 to focus on a cross-country move, a new job, and his family. By the time he returned in 2018 to complete the Master of Science in Organizational Dynamics, he had a PhD in science education and a management role at a major pharmaceutical company, combining his lifelong interests in chemistry and leadership.

So why come back to finish the master’s degree? “It’s always been on my bucket list,” laughs Larry. It helped that his previously completed courses still counted toward his degree, so he wouldn’t be starting over. It also helped that the Organizational Dynamics program team was supportive in helping him realize his academic goals. More importantly, however, is that Larry recognized a cultural shift in corporate attitudes toward leadership. “The degree is something that I started when I was very early in my career. What I intended to do with this degree 20 years ago is not what I'm going to do with it now,” reflects Larry. “Back then we didn't really talk about teams. We talked about how you as an individual can conquer the world. Now, we're talking about how you have to work together in a group of people. How do you inspire your colleagues? How do you develop stronger working teams?”

When he first returned to the program, Larry enrolled in an eclectic selection of courses that were available on weekends, when he could commute from Michigan to Philadelphia. Still, he was able to put course concepts to work immediately; for example, a course titled Leading Emergence: Creating Adaptive Space in Response to Complex Challenges introduced him to the vocabulary and discourse around the concept of adaptive space. “Adaptive space is about how we disrupt something, change it, turn it on its head. This mindset allowed me to approach my department’s auditing program in a way that completely disrupted it,” Larry explains.

As a manager and team lead for Pfizer's quality operations, Larry observed the tremendous amount of time and space their auditing paperwork required, so he advocated for a pivot to digital processes. “We had some lessons to learn, but we worked out the problems with doing a digital audit—and that was at a time when we really did not have to,” he recalls. Transitioning to digital auditing turned out to be a prescient move: when it became necessary to shift to remote and digital work during the pandemic, Larry’s team was ready. “That’s the essence of what the program is,” he says. “We’re not looking at esoteric problems. We have real-world issues that we merge all these different talents to try to resolve.”

The pandemic also meant that Organizational Dynamics courses shifted to remote learning. No longer restricted to weekend schedules, Larry could finish his final terms with courses relevant to his academic interests in action research and agile leadership. Although he missed the spontaneity of interacting with classmates on campus, he appreciated the convenience of remote collaboration on projects with peers, who logged on from all over the world. “From a career perspective, interacting with the professors as well as others will benefit you outside of the class content,” he says. “You build relationships. You have this space where you can bounce ideas. It’s a space that allows you to solve some really challenging career and personal challenges.”

Now that Larry has crossed the Organizational Dynamics degree off his bucket list, he looks forward to deepening and improving his leadership role at Pfizer. “I’ve done pretty well for myself in my career,” he says. “Now, it's about what pleases me and makes me happy in my career path.” This year, in addition to his quality operations role Larry was selected to implement and run a trial program to help company operators and technicians position themselves to advance into supervisory or leadership roles—and, in the process, to work toward the organization’s diversity initiative. It’s a departure from Larry’s primary role in audits and inspections, and he attributes his additional responsibilities to the breadth of his professional and educational experience. “I’m confident that part of the reason I was selected was because of my background at Penn and my work as an adjunct faculty member at various universities throughout my career.”

“There are countless other leadership programs and degrees out there,” adds Larry. “But I’ve valued the outstanding faculty, the student interactions, and what I’ve gotten here far more, and that is the primary reason that I came back.”

 

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Derek Newberry is a lecturer at Penn and a leadership development consultant in the areas of interpersonal communication, collaboration and corporate culture.