In a world where technology plays a vital role in virtually any business you can think of, hoping to advance to a management or executive position with either technical or business skills—but not both—is like entering a tennis doubles tournament by yourself.

Odds are you’re not going to win.

Lehigh University’s College of Business understands that the best way to change those odds is to break boundaries between disciplines. And Lehigh Business is doing that by staking its claim at the intersection of business and technology, as I wrote in a December 2018 ilLUminate post.

That commitment to break boundaries is enthusiastically shared by Alison Peirce, our new executive director of the Vistex Institute for Executive Learning and Research. The Institute, made possible by a generous gift from Sanjay Shah ’89 MBA, alumnus, entrepreneur, and founder and CEO of Vistex, Inc., is dedicated to taking our executive education programs to the next level by incorporating research throughout our specialized business and leadership development programming while grounding our offerings in real-world experience.

Under Alison’s leadership, the Vistex Institute is developing programs to equip professionals who have strong technical skills with the business knowledge and skills they need to be highly effective managers and executives.

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The Road from ‘E to E’

One of the exciting and innovative ideas Alison has brought to the Institute is what she calls “E to E”—short for “engineer to executive.” This initiative will help engineers acquire the specific skills employers are looking for in managers and executives, which differ from the technical skills that are often highly prized in engineering professionals.

Leadership, strategic thinking, teamwork, communications, interpersonal skills, and the ability to see the big picture, as opposed to just the technical side of an issue—these are among the skills employers value in their managers and executives.

And those are among the traits Lehigh’s business school has long instilled in our students—whether in our nationally top-ranked undergraduate and part-time MBA programs, our innovative one-year MBA, our array of graduate degree programs, or our joint/dual MBA programs.

Indeed, interdisciplinary programs that break boundaries between business and technology have long been a hallmark of Lehigh University and Lehigh Business. These include our Integrated Business and Engineering Honors Program, our program in Computer Science and Business, our FinTech minor, and our Master in Financial Engineering program.

And for many years, Lehigh Business has helped engineers advance professionally through our MBA program.

As my colleague Oliver Yao, associate dean for graduate programs, says: "Engineers love Lehigh’s MBA program. Their quantitative knowledge and analytical skills complement very well the structural decision-making in business they learn across various topics throughout the program. The program also supplements their knowledge with managerial skill sets, such as communication, leadership and strategic thinking, that are essential for unstructured decision-making."

As the Vistex Institute for Executive Learning and Research expands its efforts to break boundaries, we will better meet the needs of those seeking to acquire or improve their business and management skills, as well as those who employ them. And all of us at Lehigh Business are excited to work with our colleagues across the campus to develop innovative programs that meet at the intersection of business and technology.

Georgette C. Phillips

Georgette Chapman Phillips

Georgette Chapman Phillips, J.D., is the Kevin L. and Lisa A. Clayton Dean of the College of Business; and Professor in Finance and Africana Studies.