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Make Your Move: Bob Zender

July 15, 2022

At Ascend, we strive to provide opportunities for employees to stretch their skills and advance their careers by moving among business segments and brands, driving personal and team growth while creating a culture where people love what they do, take ownership and are empowered to pursue new career opportunities within the company so we “hire our own talent.”

In the “Make Your Move” Q&A series, we’ll share the stories and experiences of employees who have “made their move” to new teams to help inspire and empower you as you consider pursuing new opportunities at Ascend.

In February 2022, Bob Zender moved from his former role as marketing director at Ascend brand ATI Nursing Education into a new role as senior director, healthcare integrations, where he leads cross-functional teams including operations, accounting and finance, sales and client success to successfully integrate acquisitions into Ascend healthcare brands. He also manages planning and communication during the exploratory/diligence phase to ensure the acquired company and its team members have an excellent experience from the get-go as they join the Ascend community.

Ascend Communications (AC): How would you describe your former team at ATI?

Bob Zender (BZ): The ATI marketing team is a team of high performers with an ownership mindset. They are great at understanding the big picture, focusing on high-value tasks and taking the initiative.

AC: What successes are you most proud of with your former team? 

BZ: There are so many. We play a big role planning and executing several very important events like the National Nurse Educator Summit and Nurse Educator Essentials, but also internal events like our annual National Business Meeting. The adrenaline and payoff of a well-executed event is hard to beat, and everyone needs to be pulling in the same direction for them to go well. The marketing team crushes those events. Other recent examples include our work tackling the NextGen NCLEX issue (a major change to nurse’s entry-level licensing exam) which has involved every discipline within the team, from product marketing’s partnership with the product team, to content creation, sales enablement and training — everything.

“I was extraordinarily fortunate to have a supportive manager who wanted to see me grow — that was a crucial step.”

AC: Can you tell us about your path from ATI to your new role? 

BZ: ATI needed someone to lead the integration team for the Swift River [Virtual Clinicals] acquisition. It was presented as a short-term stretch assignment. An integration manager is a cross-functional leader, but I was lucky enough to start with what I already knew by prepping the communications for the acquisition itself, so that’s how I approached it.

It was during the final weeks before the Swift River announcement that a second acquisition started to accelerate. I again found myself working on the communications part of the project. There had already been so many moments during the Swift River acquisition where I had told myself, “If I ever do this again, I would do this or that differently,” and here was that opportunity. I was extraordinarily fortunate to have a supportive manager who wanted to see me grow, too. That was a crucial step.

AC: What attracted you to the new opportunity?

BZ: After ten years at ATI, I understood how several departments worked — marketing, obviously, and product, a little bit of client success, and a decent understanding of sales, but my exposure to business operations, accounting & finance, and tech & ops was superficial. If I wanted to continue to grow as a manager, I had a lot to learn about those functions and still do. Taking on the role of integration manager was the opportunity to learn by doing. I really enjoy the people part of an integration — getting to know a new organization, their skills, strengths and aspirations, and helping them find their way within Ascend healthcare and its brands.

“My new role has greatly expanded not just my network within Ascend but also deepened my working relationships.”

AC: How would you describe the dynamic of your new team?

BZ: I don’t have a formal team in my new role, just many, many dotted line relationships. My new role has greatly expanded not just my network within Ascend but also deepened my working relationships.

AC: What goals have you set in your new role?

BZ: I want to develop a playbook for how to run integrations, beginning with the diligence process through the day one announcement, all the way to the official “close” of the integration project. I’m trying to gather “lessons learned” every week that will make the next integration faster, smoother and more efficient. I also want to push these lessons “up” in the process so we can start developing the integration plan earlier — during the diligence process itself. And I hope that at least a few people representing their department on the integration team start to think “I’d like the chance to do one of these myself someday.”

“If a new opportunity scares you, pursue it. Your opportunity also means opportunity for other people.”

AC: Do you have any words of encouragement to others at Ascend who are considering “making their move?”

BZ: If a new opportunity scares you, pursue it — it also means opportunity for other people. For managers, taking on a stretch assignment is a wonderful opportunity to give your team greater autonomy and see them grow, too. Help them prioritize and remove obstacles but let them know you trust them to act on the company’s strategic priorities, and then let them.

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When team members move to new roles across Ascend, they grow their skills and stretch their capabilities within a company they already know, maintain their benefits and connections with colleagues, and teams gain an employee already invested in the work, mission and culture — one that can ramp up quickly and bring legacy knowledge to their new role. To learn more about career opportunities at Ascend, visit our Careers page.