Emerging as a Leader Through New Skills and Professional Growth

Leader Blog

Jennifer Niswonger is a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) student at Walden University who currently works as an Administrative Director of Operations for a large healthcare system.  She shares her journey from starting out as an intern and advancing through multiple management and leadership roles.  Along the way, she gained valuable research and writing skills that helped her communicate her ideas to leaders.  She shares her story with us:

Career progression:  

I started working in business as an administrative intern and this experience exposed me to healthcare.  From there, I took on whatever job came my way. I have been a privacy officer, compliance officer, performance excellence director, and project manager.  I ran clinical operations and hospital operations and served as a performance excellence director.  I have performed a wide variety of roles, and it seems like every 14 months, I am doing something new. Currently, I am managing high-level system projects such as defining core systems and products in healthcare and restructuring programs.  I also manage a performance improvement/performance excellence team.

Using doctoral skills in the workplace:

My academic program gave me the skills to conduct in-depth research and validate sources using the wealth of knowledge and information available through library databases. Understanding the research helps me change the conversation with leaders within my organization; there are facts and relevance behind the research, and I can cite studies and authors to defend my point.

Also, my writing is not as passive anymore; I switched to a more active voice which has changed the conversation to more ownership.  Using an active voice has helped improve my communication style in the business world as I learned to write with intent, clarity, and simplicity.

Career advice for Walden students and alumni:

  • As you consider your career, don’t be afraid to switch roles often to learn new skills.  No task is too small, especially if it contributes to your professional growth.
  • Find mentors or supervisors who encourage your success.  Throughout my career, I was lucky to have two CEOS who encouraged my growth and helped me expand my skill set.  Seek out people who believe in you and in your abilities and apply yourself in everything you do.
  • Pay it forward and help others through mentoring and coaching; this will help you become a true leader.

Jennifer Niswonger photo

Written by Jennifer Niswonger

Editor’s Note: This article was adapted from a story published in the Doctoral Career Pathways Guide in September of 2019.