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Keri Kelly: Making Human Capital Pay

Accountant turned her talent into talent management

Keri Floyd Kelly
Senior Manager of Talent Management, Nissan Motor Corporation

Vanderbilt Executive MBA 2013

Keri Kelly always says she works in the future. It’s her way of explaining her former job as manager of the advanced planning and strategy team for Nissan North America. “We were planning vehicles that would be on the road in five or six years,” she says.

Out of college, Keri started at Nissan as an accountant. Her work took her to California, Michigan, Canada and Mexico, but accounting never became her passion. (She calls herself a “reformed” accountant.) “I really don’t fit into the accounting box,” she says. “I did it because I thought a technical background would be a great foundation.”

So Keri volunteered to transition to product planning, “where I could think outside the box and be creative,” she says. “I presented myself as the analytical thinker with a passion for delivering the right product to consumers.”

To gain the skills to accompany that passion, Keri had set her sights on an MBA years earlier. “But it never seemed the right time,” she says. “I was always too busy. Then [in June 2011], I said, ‘I’m just going to do it. I applied that same day, was at math camp the following Saturday, took my GMAT, got accepted in August and started in September.”

While she was in the program, Keri transitioned into a talent management role for Nissan. Then, after graduation, she received an opportunity to serve on the executive team and set corporate human capital strategy for L3 ForceX — a Nashville-based aerospace software company that serves the U.S. Armed Forces.

Equipped with executive-level experience to go along with her Executive MBA, Keri rejoined Nissan, where she has served as Senior Manager for Talent Management since 2018.

Looking back, she’s pleased by her decision to return to school. “I was surrounded by phenomenal classmates, phenomenal professors, phenomenal resources,” she says. “This is an investment from which I realized value even in the first year. Now I feel that the sky is the limit—and the future is even brighter!” 

This is an investment from which I realized value even in the first year. Now I feel that the sky is the limit—and the future is even brighter!