By Mackenzie Burckbuchler
After graduating from Brandeis University with a degree in Islamic and Middle Eastern studies, Naomi Sedek began her career at The Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee. As she pursued her passion of development for the Jewish community, she worked her way up in the organization. Although Sedek found the work rewarding, she wanted to further develop herself professionally. “I really felt like there were some skills I wanted to add to my toolbox. I was trying to decide if I wanted to stay in the nonprofit world or go to the for-profit world, and I felt like business school would give me a good opportunity to explore both options,” said Sedek.
Sedek felt that Vanderbilt was the perfect place to pursue an Executive MBA. The schedule of Saturday classes and the 2 residencies appealed to her because they aligned well with her work schedule. Along with Vanderbilt’s reputation, the sense of togetherness that the program promoted was intriguing – “I liked that we were all on the same track and on the same page,” she said. “I thought that was valuable.” Sedek entered the program as a Forté Fellow in 2017.
Throughout her time at Vanderbilt, Sedek frequently utilized resources available through the Career Management Center (CMC), learning how to promote herself on LinkedIn and other platforms. Sedek also credits her Executive Coaching experience with helping her talk through her career progression and figure out how to navigate her professional and personal growth. Additionally, much of her coursework, such as her Negotiations course, made a profound impact and taught her how to advocate for herself as a businesswoman.
Her Vanderbilt experience helped Sedek realize that her passion for the nonprofit space was unwavering. “Through my experience working with the team at Vanderbilt, I solidified my need to work in an environment where I could pursue my passion. I really did want to stay in the nonprofit sector but also be able to apply business principles and marketing strategies and see how some of those analytics could benefit us in the nonprofit world.”
After graduation in May 2019, Sedek continued working for The Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee but separately pursued opportunities to lead a Jewish Federation. After applying and interviewing at a few organizations, Sedek ultimately landed a job in July 2020 as President and CEO of the Tidewater Jewish Foundation in Virginia Beach. Her transition into the role came as businesses grappled with the struggles presented by COVID-19. Sedek noted that the skills she acquired during the EMBA program helped her navigate that transition and lead effectively. Specifically, her experience at New Harmony taught her invaluable leadership skills that she applied in that new role.
As she reflects on her new role, Sedek is filled with gratitude and optimism: the work itself is intrinsically motivating, and she has learned a great deal. “I have come to a community that is very generous and philanthropic and being able to hear people’s life stories and help them secure their legacies through different investment vehicles and endowment options is very rewarding”
Sedek could not be more pleased with her experience in the EMBA program. She successfully added multiple skills to her toolbox, showed her daughters and son that you can go back to school at any point in your career, and advanced professionally. “Every day I am grateful for the experience I had at Vanderbilt, because it gave me the confidence in my own ability to actually change the trajectory of my career. I can say with confidence that the experience of getting my MBA has certainly assisted me in my new community, and I am comfortable and secure in the value I bring to the work I do.”
Click through the timeline below to see Naomi Sedek’s Path to the Promotion as CEO of Tidewater Jewish Foundation.