Our Stories

Going for the Highest Caliber

Vanderbilt opens new doors for aerospace industry manager

Phillip Henson
Senior Product Manager, Abaco Systems

Vanderbilt Executive MBA 2019

An engineer by training, Phillip Henson has spent his entire career across various organizations up and down the aerospace/defense supply chain. However, soon after leaving the Missile Defense Agency to work for a government contractor, he began to acquire an increased interest in business development and customer-facing roles.

As he transitioned into product management with Abaco Systems, his new responsibilities forced him to focus, for the first time, more on the business dimensions of his job than the technical side. “I quickly realized,” he says, “there is a brand new set of problems that need to be addressed when focusing on profitability rather than functionality.”

Once he decided to pursue an MBA, he asked his mentors for advice. “They told me that their classmates in their MBA programs were what amplified the learning,” Phillip says, “so I wanted a program where my classmates would be of the highest possible caliber. That narrowed my options.” Gradually, he realized, “Vanderbilt became the obvious choice.”

Early in his second year, Phillip received a promotion that involved a transfer from Huntsville, Alabama, to Austin, Texas. While that made the commute more challenging, the lessons from the program were invaluable. “During that time, we were getting into the applicative classes and were bringing together the fundamentals we had learned over the previous year to make comprehensive recommendations and conclusions,” he says. “This applied directly to my new work role, and I was able to take my real-world experience into the classroom and to utilize my classroom lessons in the workplace.”

He describes the program now as “one of the most challenging and most valuable experiences of my life. Doors have already opened for me because of my Vanderbilt MBA, and I anticipate more opening in the future.”

“This program has enabled me to get my recent promotion and provided me with the confidence to perform in this new role. That alone has been worth the cost, beyond the financial rewards.”

Doors have already opened for me because of my Vanderbilt MBA, and I anticipate more opening in the future.