Dick JeanneretMeet Dick Jeanneret

PhD’69, I-O Psychology
Former president of Valtera Corporation

What inspired you to pursue your PhD in I-O Psychology?

Having completed an undergraduate major in psychology at UVA, I continued my education in psychology at the University of Florida thinking I would become a clinician. However my military draft board had other thoughts, and I was called to active duty by the US Army. Fortunately my major professor (Wilse Webb) at Florida was aware of a US Navy program for psychology Master degree holders to enter as an officer and complete the same flight training program as physicians. For 3 + years I served on active duty as an aviation psychologist. After completion of flight training, I was assigned to the headquarters of the anti-submarine airborne forces protecting the Atlantic Ocean.  During this time I worked on a variety of applied projects (sometimes with external applied psychologists serving as consultants) that addressed issues in selection, crew performance, technical/skill training, crew turnover (and the consequences thereto), and communications. These exposures channeled my interests toward applied psychology and more specifically I-O.  Although it was possible to extend my education while in the Navy, the wait was too long in my judgment, and I began to research what were considered top I-O PhD programs. Purdue was clearly one of the very best, but I also considered Ohio State, Maryland, University of Illinois, Pennsylvania State, and Bowling Green.

What drew you to Purdue specifically for your graduate studies?

While I cannot recall which graduate programs expressed an interest in my attendance, I do recall receiving a very positive letter from Professor McCormick (Mac) at Purdue. Since I had to make a cross-country trip for the Navy, I decided to stop on the way and visit with Dr. McCormick and learn more about the I-O program and the possibility for financial support. I was married, and we had a three month-old baby, so support was essential.  Coincidentally, McCormick had just received a grant from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to develop a behaviorally oriented job analysis procedure and he needed a ½ time graduate assistant to conduct the project. The offer was made and I accepted on the spot. I began both my studies and RA assignment on June 1, 1967.

What was Purdue like when you were a graduate student? 

The I-O grad student class I joined was very large (perhaps 20 or more) and diverse: military personnel on assignment; new students fresh from undergrad programs; older students returning to graduate school to complete their formal educations; etc.  Purdue Association of Graduate Students in Industrial Psychology (PAGSIP) was very active, and since I had an office with file cabinets, I was the keeper of all the old records, course materials and comprehensive exam study guides. PAGSIP also organized parties and other social gatherings. The students were serious about their studies, often studied together and gave assistance willingly, and also liked to party and attend athletic events as a group. There was a good mix between academic and applied orientations, but all students appreciated the value of research. The I-O faculty was very student oriented.

What are some of your fondest memories from your time at Purdue?

  • Successfully finishing course work, passing comps and submitting a dissertation in two years. (I had to register for the summer session of 1969 because I did not satisfy the Indiana resident requirement.)
  • Working side by side with Mac.
  • Completing my oral exam and being greeted as “Doctor” by my committee members.
  • Learning the value of research and developing the Position Analysis Questionnaire (PAQ) as part of my dissertation.

How did your research interests grow, develop, and shift during your time in graduate school? 

I was focused from the outset on job analysis, the development of the PAQ, and the discovery of behavioral job dimensions. While a singular research focus might not be the most broadening, it is one of the best ways to hone in on a dissertation topic

Was there someone who had a particularly large impact on you (e.g., a mentor) during your time at Purdue? If so, how did they influence you?

Dr. McCormick who was my major professor. He guided all of my work with the PAQ, and otherwise was a close friend. After my graduation we formed a business (PAQ Services) along with another I-O, Bob Mecham. While PAQ Services has been sold, it served as a research center to continue refinements to PAQ-based applications (e.g. job evaluation) and to maintain the ever growing data base of job analytic information. 

How would you say your personal background and life experiences impacted your research and career?

I always worked as a youngster and throughout my school years. Before I was 25 years old, I held more than 30 wage earning jobs…….blue collar- white collar; union;   indoor-outdoor; hourly paid---salary---incentive-based……lots of experience that helped me formulate the questions in the PAQ. It also pointed me in the direction of consulting or applied research since I had a strong sense of the “real work world” at an early age.

What would you say has been your secret to a successful career? 

  • Dedication to the profession.
  • Respect for the ideas of others, but willing to stand up for my beliefs.
  • Doing the very best possible work through Jeanneret & Associates. 

Looking back, is there anything that you would have done differently in your career?

Not really.

What were some of your favorite projects throughout your career?

With a few exceptions, I enjoyed all of the projects I worked on or supervised. Areas of particular interest included: assessment, adverse impact/discrimination, selection/validation, performance management, work analysis, job evaluation/compensation, and organizational design. I served as an expert witness in more than 200 cases and testified in federal court in about 50 discrimination cases. While many in our profession do not find expert work their “cup of tea”, I enjoyed the intellectual challenges and the application of I-O principles and practices to the world of employment law.

Based on your experience, what advice do you have for managing one’s career?

Counsel with others for whom you have respect; look for ways to improve; have a set of goals, but do not set them in stone. 

Throughout your career, I am sure you have witnessed many changes within the field of I-O Psychology. Are there any changes that you think have been particularly beneficial and/or detrimental?

The growth of the “O” side over the last 50 + years since I entered the profession has been a good thing.  We have not been very effective in making I-O a household term.  This, of course, is a bad thing.

What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges to our field today?

Communicating our knowledge to the overall base of information about human behavior and support the implementation thereto.

What do you see the role of I-O psychologists being moving forward in today’s society? 

This is the toughest question of all, and I am not sure I have a defensible (or believable) answer. I am sure we have a lot to offer for many ways of life, not just the work environment, but we have been as inner-focused as a profession, that we do not find others asking for our knowledge or advice. 

What types of experiences would you recommend that students pursue during graduate school?

Probably the most useful is to gain experiences that are relevant to the academic and research areas on the one hand, and the directly applied or consulting experiences on the other hand. I had the benefit of working in the US Navy for over three years and being exposed to the applied and consulting world, so I had already settled on a general career direction.  Also, I taught psychology classes at Old Dominion for three semesters while in the Navy, and concluded I was not especially interested in an academic career.

What advice would you give to graduate students struggling between staying in academia and going applied? What are some important things to consider?

Try to obtain some exposure to both areas before making a decision.

Ask others, who know your strengths and weaknesses, their views of your fit. 

What advice do you have for graduate students just starting out in the field?

Include the development of your communication skills (oral and written) early on in your education and early job life.  Professors are not necessarily good role models, and publishing an article in JAP is not what I have in mind.  Learn how to communicate our science and results to those who are not generally trained to understand or accept their importance.

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