Our Stories

Gaining a Holistic Perspective

Course teaches manager how to manage upward and laterally

Alex Abels
Manager of Applied Research, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce

Vanderbilt Executive Education 2023

In hindsight, Alex Abels says he wishes he had attended Vanderbilt for his undergraduate studies, as some of his family did. After moving to Nashville, however, he found a way to leverage the school to add to his knowledge— through Owen’s Executive Education course in Navigating Organizations: A Manager’s Roadmap.

The course stood out to him both as relevant to his career and different from other training he had seen. “Managerial training often emphasizes managing subordinates,” Alex explains. “This program addressed crucial aspects of managing upward and laterally—skills that are essential for career growth.”

He was also drawn by the opportunity to learn from professors who teach in the Vanderbilt MBA program. “Vanderbilt is highly regarded,” he says. “Through the program, I was able to have interactions and conversations with professors I would not have had otherwise as someone who didn’t earn a Vanderbilt degree.”

For Alex, one key takeaway from the short course was the importance of a holistic perspective. “It’s tempting to hyperfocus on personal goals and individual accomplishments,” he says. “This program served as a reminder that my career is intrinsically tied to the overall success of the organization. Individuals thrive when contributing to team and organizational achievements.” With that in mind, Alex is applying what he learned to “consistently create spaces that enhance the effectiveness of brainstorming through a culture where everyone feels secure in sharing their thoughts.”

Based on a case study presented in the course, involving an employee who negotiated the opportunity to meet monthly with the CEO, Alex began scheduling one-on-one meetings with his organization’s C-suite.

“Jumping into this program exposed me to ideas I had never come across and experiences I’d never had,” Alex says. “It exposes you to so much in just 2-3 days. I feel like I now have information and knowledge on how to plug and play no matter where I go in any organization, and how to create a better environment for everyone in that organization.”

I was able to have interactions and conversations with professors I would not have had otherwise.