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From Musician to MBA: One Student’s Journey to B-School

Apr 2, 2019
How Vanderbilt MBA student Lane Abernathy is leveraging his experience to change careers and lead change

By Web Communications

This blog post was written by Lane Abernathy (MBA’20).

Lane Abernathy

Walking out to home plate at Camden Yards, ready to sing the national anthem for 38,000 people at a Yankees/Orioles game, I never would have imagined that one day I’d get an MBA. But, as I look back, my journey from musician and songwriter to entrepreneur to MBA student at Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management seems inevitable.

In the music industry, there is no road map to success, no internship posted on LinkedIn for Senior Associate Rock Star with the goal of transitioning to a full-time hire after graduation. So, I did what any strategically minded, ambitious young-blood with a healthy appetite for calculated risk would do: I wrote a business plan, raised capital, and founded a music publishing company. I never meant to be an entrepreneur, but it happened.

The goal was to build enough momentum to attract business partners so I could eventually focus entirely on creating music, not run a company. But soon, I realized the excitement and challenge of developing a business and leading teams inspired me just as much as my passion for music. I had discovered a way to combine my innate creativity and curiosity with a life-long passion for solving complex problems using critical thinking and data analytics.

Eventually, as the opportunity cost of my time grew, business school became the logical decision. However, as I applied to Vanderbilt and then began classes, I wondered if my unusual background would help me or hold me back. In short order, I discovered the answer. Unequivocally, the diverse experiences that led me to Owen not only translate well into what I’m learning, but also allow me to approach complex problems from unique and powerful perspectives — a competitive advantage, no doubt.

As I get deeper into the MBA program, my perspective continues to changed. The frustration and disappointment of leaving behind the goal I worked so hard for have become maturity and wisdom. The ambiguity that marked my time in the music industry, adaptability and insight. The determination that carried me through the lowest lows faced by every entrepreneur is now resilience and confidence. And, my curiosity and joy for working with numbers equate to a remarkably short learning curve.

I often say that getting an MBA is one of the hardest, best things I’ve ever done. Every day, I am challenged to cultivate my strengths, question my assumptions, and expand my horizon more than ever before. Rarely is it easy, but it is a privilege I am grateful for every day. And, at the end of those long days surrounded by the diverse and inspiring people who make Owen so special, I can’t help but smile a tired, happy smile as I walk home knowing I am where I need to be.

There is no way to say where life will lead me after I graduate. The seemingly limitless possibility is intoxicating. However, I know one thing: Come May 2020, whether I’m bringing to market a new medical device, high-tech software, or (perhaps again one day) a song, I’ll have the tools and ability to lead change and drive success in ways I never could have imagined before.

Want to learn more about getting an MBA at Vanderbilt Business? Visit the program page or request more information.

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