Learning and growing- even after 25 years!
During my 25-year career, I have worked at only two companies, an industrial company and here at Vanguard. Both have given me incredible on-the-job experience, however, I was recently looking to expand my external perspective. When I discussed this with my leader, he shared his experience attending Wharton’s Advanced Management Program (AMP) and advocated for Vanguard’s support for me. I was ecstatic when he called with the news that I would be sponsored to attend AMP, a five-week class. While excited, I started thinking about logistics. How would I ever be away from my daughter (who is 5 and I’m a single mom) and my job for five whole weeks? With support from family to care for my daughter, my amazing Retail Strategic Support team that stepped up to take on all work, and an extremely loyal leadership team, I was able to use this experience to its fullest potential and focus completely on the program.
Being isolated at home for the last 2 years during the pandemic, it was very daunting walking into Wharton knowing I would be in a classroom setting and living with 53 other people from 34 different countries. However, this proved to be the highlight of the experience. We formed deep friendships sharing our personal and professional experiences with each other and learning more about each other’s cultures.
Over the course of the program, we focused in on three core learning areas. The first was business acumen, which we learned from multiple Wharton professors who focused on Leadership, Marketing, Finance, Operations, and many other core capabilities. We also had multiple executive suite guest lecturers, including Vanguard’s previous CEO Bill McNabb, who everyone in my class was very impressed with and is a role model for building high performing teams and businesses. The conversation reminded me that Vanguard is truly special and unique. The second program area we focused on was individual- and team-based executive coaching. This included a deep dive into the Hogan Assessment on one’s leadership style, which helped me to think about how I can be more strategic in my leadership experiences. The third and last area was experiential learning—taking the classroom work combined with the coaching work and putting it into practice. We made a film about one of our team member’s lives, designed a social enterprise business and pitched it to investors, and even went rowing on the Schuylkill River.
The rowing experience in particular stood out to me. While it was beautiful to row on a sunny and calm day, the experience also came with its stressors. We were tasked with staffing a boat with a new team of people we hadn’t worked with before and were expected to create a high-performing team in a matter of hours; learn to row; and race against other teams. We were able to succeed by:
1) Building a team with a common vision, sense of mission, and set of goals. We sought to find out what we all had in common to bind us together, and what experiences and attributes we individually brought to our group.
2) We focused on two-way communication. We identified our leader, as someone had to be at the front of the boat to set the pace, and we would all be the followers matching that pace. To move the boat forward you must be in sync with the leader. However, the leader needs to know the pace can be kept up with and communication is key, as the rest of the crew sits behind them. We had a great session on the concept of “Followership.” No one is a leader if there aren’t followers, and to be a great leader you need people to want to follow you. Sometimes, though, you need to be the follower too.
3) We celebrated success. While we didn’t get the gold medal, we had fun—and for our team, that was our goal to enjoy the day and our time together while learning.
The experiences at Wharton AMP will stay with me my entire life, and largely through the personal learnings I am putting into action, external perspectives I’m able to share with my team and business, and the new friendships that will become lifelong. Prioritizing my personal development, even after 25 years of working, was the best decision and will make me a better leader and crew member going forward.
— Christina Selby, Principal, Head of Retail Strategic Support