It’s Who You Know

Now in its eighth year, Netwalk continues to connect team members and executives

July 21, 2015
Ready to Walk -- Netwalk brought out (from left) Chief Financial Officer Tracey Doi, Netwalk organizer Kim Venzon, TFS Vice President of Product and Marketing Karen Ideno, TFS CEO Mike Groff and Export Planning and Social Projects Administrator Stacia Kato.  
As Karen Ideno navigated her way through the South Campus plaza in the moments before Netwalk on July 9, she found herself stopping over and over again to catch up with old friends.

"Netwalk is a truly special experience," said the vice president of product and marketing for Toyota Financial Services. "It's like a reunion where you reconnect with old friends and meet new ones."
That makes sense for Ideno. She’s worked in various roles with Toyota and TFS for the last 26 years. And she’s participated in all eight Netwalks to date, starting with the first one in 2008.
It’s now a tradition that nurtures connections through the years.
But then again, connecting is the point of Netwalk, the annual event open to Toyota’s Business Partnering Groups. Ideno has capitalized on the social  nature of the event to not only solidify her existing relationships, but also to create new ones with team members who can learn from her experience.
The idea behind Netwalk is simple. Essentially, it’s an organized walk around Toyota’s Torrance campus. Executives are grouped with a handful of team members who may be looking for a mentor, want to strengthen their company knowledge or deepen their relationships outside of their departments. As they walk, they talk. And there the relationships are formed.
This year’s event included about 140 total participants, including 60 executives from around the company. In addition to Ideno, TFS President and CEO Mike Groff, Group Vice President of Marketing Jack Hollis and Lexus Group Vice President Jeff Bracken participated.
Walking Around -- Ideno (left) and Sales and Product Anaylst Brianna Elvidge strolled around Netwalk.

Out of Her Shell
“It’s been a great ride because I’ve been able to meet a lot of different executives that became informal mentors,” said Beth Comenat, national PMO program manager, who has attended all but one Netwalk and assisted in organizing this year’s event. 
And her Netwalk experience has helped Comenat develop professionally.
In her second Netwalk, Comenat was matched with Jim Mooney, now a corporate manager in Product Communications. They kept in contact afterward, and when a position in technology focued in the marketing area opened, Comenat pounced.
“He helped me explore Marketing,” Comenat said. “Because I was talking to Jim a lot about it at that time, I raised my hand and said I’m interested in this job. Little stories like that are what this event is all about. That opportunity evolved because of my involvement in Netwalk.”
Originally, Comenat, a team member since 2004, participated in Netwalk as a way to push her boundaries.
“I thought it would be a great way to get out of my shell,” she said. “I’m normally an introvert. But at Netwalk I really enjoyed talking to people, so the next year I said I’m not just going to do the walk, but also volunteer and help with it.”
Learning Experiences
Ideno can attest, Netwalk is just as beneficial for executives as it is for team members.
“It helps my growth and development too because it allows me to see things through a different lens,” she said. “You can give back. You learn a lot. You learn from others. You’re able to use some of your perspective and knowledge that you want to share. There are some great mutual benefits for executives.”
But above all, Netwalk helps grow new leaders.

“I’ve worked with, alongside and for some great leaders,” Ideno said. “At Netwalk, there’s a renewed focus in giving people an opportunity to learn about that.”
By Dan Nied 

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