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John Robella

John Robella

Vanderbilt MBA 2010

Finance Manager, Specialty Plastics Business at Eastman Chemical Company

An Army of One

Robella Discovers a Different Kind of Leadership

John Robella, a nationally ranked collegiate gymnast during his days at West Point, knows a thing or two about nimble moves. One of his most adroit ones came after five years in the Army and two combat tours in Iraq: earning an MBA.

"I felt the MBA degree would help me achieve my career goals," John says. "It would provide the technical skills to overlay the leadership experience I gained from the military."

John says he chose Vanderbilt for many reasons, including the great reputation of its finance professors, the front-loaded curriculum that gave him an advantage in pursuing summer internships, and the small class size, which allowed for better interaction with professors.

Not having a traditional college experience himself, however, John didn't know what to expect. He was "pleasantly surprised by the hardworking nature of Owen students without the overbearing competitiveness that friends at other top-tier schools have mentioned." And he found Owen not only "a great place to learn, but also a great place to build your network by developing new friendships."

While John learned leadership in the Army, Owen refined his perspective—and helped him make another nimble jump from a directive military command structure to the more fluid world of business. "Owen," he says, "put me in a position to think outside the box—to develop and test different leadership styles, and create consensus and buy-in for my ideas."