​​​Teresa Spark
​1. Describe your current role and your responsibilities.
I’m the Director of Accounting. I oversee the Accounting and Payroll departments and am in charge of our co-op’s financing.  I work with my Accounting Supervisor to get the financials ready for the board meetings. I also oversee the plant accounting and payroll functions. We recently brought on a staff accountant to work with us on our broadband initiative. We just started that so we’re all in a big learning curve on that. Like most staff at co-ops, we wear a lot of hats.

2. In general, how has the Supervisor and Manager Development Program (SMDP) helped you in your work and in your career?​
The courses were very good at helping me grow as a manager. They helped me to broaden my knowledge and skills of different management styles.  They helped me to identify both my strengths and my weaknesses. I’m a bit old school so I had the mind set of If-you-want-it-done-right, you-do-it-yourself. And I’m learning through these courses that you can’t do that. You’ve got to learn to delegate.

3. What’s one thing about SMDP that has made a difference for you?
I can’t pull out just one thing! There were so many different things that helped me. It’s a combination of all the different courses that have enabled me to develop into a better manager. NRECA did a really good job at putting the courses together. I hope you continue to develop this training.

4. What advice would you give someone considering Supervisor and Manager Development Program (SMDP)?
One of the last courses I took was the 717.1 (Know the Rules: Legal Responsibilities and Liabilities for Supervisors) course at Cooperative University. We’ve all heard about these employment-related laws and rules that we’re all scared that we’re going to violate. But since I took that course, I have more confidence in understanding where the legal pitfalls are and have the resources (like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website) where I can go if I have questions or concerns.

5. What is something you’ve approached differently because of what you learned in SMDP?
I conduct my meetings differently now. The courses go over the importance of prioritizing your time and time management skills. That has helped a lot. The courses also covered different personality and team member styles, which helped me to adjust how I manage people with different styles.

6​. If you were telling a peer or colleague about SMDP, what would you want them to know?
I’d tell them yes, definitely take the courses. I’d also tell them to take the courses in sequential order because they build on each other. Because of my work schedule, I wasn’t able to take them in order so sometimes I was playing catch up. I found all of the courses very useful; but if someone took them in order, they’d probably get more out of them.
I’d also encourage them to get out of their comfort zone, and sit with those who are not with their co-op and not in their area. If they take the courses at the statewide, I’d encourage them to interact with the other co-ops, other job positions, other peer groups. At Cooperative University, it’s easier to do that because you’re in a class with co-ops from across the country. Either way, you’ll learn about different co-ops and how they handle things. Finally, they should make it a point to take part in activities outside of class and network with others. That networking is invaluable.