Promoting the Value of Learning in the Workplace

May 31, 2018

by Lini S. Kabada

Before entering corporate leadership, David DeFilippo, GRD’13, drove a UPS truck. The nine-month stint in 1992 was the starting point to management for the former Spanish teacher, a way of learning on the front lines to really understand the business.

David DeFilippo, GRD’13 (Photo by Zachary Leighton)

That commitment to learning offered the theme for his subsequent career. UPS placed him in a management rotation that included participation in a corporate training project. DeFilippo provided instruction and evaluated curricula, translating his teaching skills to a new setting.

“That project led me to what I’ve done for the last twenty years,” he says. At companies including Comcast, Capital One Financial, and BNY Mellon, DeFilippo has overseen corporate functions dedicated to learning and talent development, including employee training, leadership development, and executive coaching. He determines how to hire the best people, how to engage them and manage their performance, and how to build better future leaders.

The first in his family to attend college, DeFilippo has always valued education. “Teachers and coaches in my younger years played a really important role in pushing me to believe I could be better than I was,” he says. “If I had not had the right coaches and teachers, I could have taken a different path.”

That personal experience keeps DeFilippo passionate about his work. Valuing education also  brought him to Penn GSE. While chief learning officer for the asset management business at BNY Mellon, he earned an Ed.D. in the executive-format PennCLO (Chief Learning Officer) program at GSE.

“Teachers and coaches in my younger years played a really important role in pushing me to believe I could be better than I was.”

“I think the real value and elegance of the PennCLO program is that it really wants working practitioners who can bring thingsfrom their day jobs into the classroom and bring the classroom into their day jobs,” he says.

Studying research methodologies in the program, for example, helped him construct stronger company surveys and focus groups at BNY Mellon. “That better data led to better solutions,” says DeFilippo, who authors a bimonthly column in Chief Learning Officer Magazine.

At Suffolk, a national construction management firm headquartered in Boston, he continues to put proven academic theory and data front and center. As he develops talent and coaches leaders, he favors empirical research over fads that have not been examined objectively.

DeFilippo has always found satisfaction in the tangible results that come from addressing business needs. Take sales and product training, which prepare employees to interact with customers. “It isn’t nice-to-have learning and education,” he says, “it’s need-to-have for the growth of the company.”

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of The Penn GSE Magazine.