Jackie Sanders has always approached life creatively. The graphic designer turned Senior Vice President at The CementWorks found the MBA program at the Weatherhead School of Management a congenial environment for her. “The exercises that our professors outlined challenged us to think creatively when solving problems,” she remembers. “With this guidance, assignments that may have seemed quite basic at the onset netted extraordinary outcomes.”
For instance, in a strategy course, Sanders and team applied a “Mission Possible” theme to a presentation on the future of Ford’s Visteon. “I remember us all wearing rain coats and presenting our strategic recommendation to several Visteon executives and our class in an extremely theatrical manner,” she laughs. “This approach carried over to our other classes as well. I even remember standing on a table and quoting Shakespeare in an economics presentation.”
Although she currently lives in New York City, Sanders is a Northeast Ohio native who grew up in both Shaker Heights and Moreland Hills. After graduating from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in art history and graphic design, Sanders returned to Cleveland to work as a graphic designer at Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue and then as an art director at Stern Advertising. In 1999, she chose to pursue her MBA at Weatherhead because of its strong academic reputation.
Sanders graduated in 2001 with a specialization in marketing and policy studies. She went on to a career in the medical device and health care industry first at Ethicon, a division of Johnson & Johnson, and then at Cline Davis & Mann, a firm that handles more billion-dollar health care brands than any other agency.
For the past five years, Sanders has worked at The CementWorks, an independent health care communications firm headquartered in New York City. The company has been touted for its unique approach to horizontal internal growth, making it a standout player in an industry dominated by publicly-owned operations. “Literally, the firm started out in our founders’ apartment with three people and a dog,” Sanders remarks. “I joined at the beginning of the company’s first growth spurt where we grew from about twenty employees to a staff of more than 150 in about three years.”
The CementWorks credits its tremendous progress since 2000 to a flat business structure. The mindset behind this structure is to facilitate employee movement throughout the company and ensure that all clients have exposure to senior level management. Sanders’ role as the senior vice president and group account director has helped her develop into an experienced strategist and brand launch leader of both U.S. and global products.
“There has been a lot of change within the health care industry in the past few years,” Sanders points out. “Everyone worked in their own world and rarely interacted with the other work streams. The consumer group dealt with everything consumer. The professional group managed all physician programming. Managed care communications were dealt with in a third silo.” Integration, Sanders explains, is key in today’s business environment. “We are becoming much smarter in the ways we deliver information to our different stakeholders. We are breaking down traditional walls to be more efficient in how we communicate and, most importantly, to be more effective and results-oriented,” she comments.
Sanders is optimistic about what the future holds for companies like hers. “We live in a world where communication barriers are falling. Conversations are fluid and technology is enabling this metamorphosis. Our company has torn down the silos typical in a communications firm to enable us to capitalize on this fluidity,” she explains. Particularly in the health care industry, she says, communication is key: relating to both patient and physician involves not only a personal awareness of the different spheres in which they revolve, but also a willingness to share and spread communications technology in both realms.
Sanders, who was recently invited to join Weatherhead’s Alumni Advisory Council, reflects with satisfaction on her long-standing relationship with the school: “I feel a definite attachment to Weatherhead. I am appreciative of what the school gave me as a student, and this connection has continued to remain strong, especially with Dean Reddy.” She continues, “While I was pursing my MBA, Weatherhead experienced some tough times. Today the school is on a great trajectory. I feel both a sense of responsibility and pride to have been a part of her history and a participant in her future.”
Sanders cites Dean Reddy’s leadership as a factor in Weatherhead’s positive direction, specifically with the exploration and implementation of Manage by Designing and Sustainable Enterprise as themes in the school’s core curriculum. With her background in art and design, Sanders feels strongly that design in management is a core communication principle. “These themes are highly interesting and relevant in today’s business culture,” she notes. “Our society is at a crossroads where we need to develop leaders with fire in their bellies—leaders who are willing to bring these principles to the forefront and to guide others in how to adapt them to practical situations. Weatherhead students who can bring these insights and knowledge into the business community will have a competitive advantage.”
The Alumni Advisory Council is divided into different task forces, and Sanders is a member of a segment that focuses on recruitment. “We want to provide a better connection between alumni and top prospective students,” she says. “Our goal is to have them regard Weatherhead as their best choice in pursuing a management education. This is an optimal outcome of what the Council is formed to do.”
Sanders is pleased with the increased involvement of alumni at Weatherhead and Case Western Reserve University as a whole. “Reminding alumni that they are still part of the school is a crucial factor,” she says. “Weatherhead has made it a point of doing this in recent years, and I am proud to be part of this success.”