Kelly Rebmann Shepperson

Kelly Rebmann Shepperson

Executive Coach & Head, Organizational Capability & Transformation, Sanofi Vaccines


Master of Science in Organizational Dynamics, Certificate in Leadership Coaching, University of Pennsylvania ’22
Bachelor of Science in Biology, The College of Wooster ’95

After two decades of success in the pharmaceutical industry—in various customer-facing and business roles at Sanofi—Kelly Rebmann Shepperson (Master of Science in Organizational Dynamics ’22) was ready to pivot. While the vaccine company’s mission of prevention is deeply meaningful to her, she admits realizing that solving business problems was not her passion. “I love strategy and tactics; I'm good at those things,” she says, “But I like solving people and leadership problems a little bit better.”

With the Penn Master of Science in Organizational Dynamics program Kelly was able to gain the tools to open up a new chapter in her career devoted to the well-being of both people and the organization.

Kelly began her pharma career 25 years ago as a telephone sales representative at Sanofi Vaccines. From the entry-level position, Kelly was put through her paces. “I went through a very traditional path with sales, sales training, managing sales teams, and working in marketing,” she says. “Usually, that path leads to becoming a leader of marketing,” she says—a career destination she was not interested in. 

A shift to global roles in sales force effectiveness and medical affairs brought new business problems to solve, including launching the world’s first dengue fever vaccine. It was challenging work, but still not the right fit. “I knew this wasn’t where I wanted to live in my career,” she says. “So, I thought, how do I design the next couple of chapters before I retire from the corporate world?” What she pictured for herself was a career in executive coaching.

Most people in her field enter MBA programs to aid the next step in their careers, but, she says, “that didn’t feel right to me.” Then a consultant she was working with at Sanofi told her about his experience earning the Penn Organizational Dynamics master’s degree. He recommended that Kelly look into it. She was impressed by the course selection, the experience of the faculty, and especially the program’s Leadership Coaching Cohort (LCC) concentration option. “I thought, this is exactly perfect,” she says. She enrolled in the program in 2019 while continuing to work full time.

Kelly designed her curriculum to meet her professional aspirations. For example, she chose DYNM 6350: Organizational Essentials for Leadership as one of her foundation courses to gain the C-suite perspective. “My goal was to coach people that were high up in an organization, so I wanted to make sure that class was part of my stable of courses,” she explains. 

The master’s program also offered an opportunity to gain different perspectives from her classmates, who came from fields as diverse as the military and the arts. “Sticking to one industry for a career can create an insular way of thinking,” she says, noting she started in pharmaceuticals when she was 22. Working with people from other industries, she found, was refreshing. “It brought a richness to the whole academic discussion,” she says.

Her last six courses at Penn were devoted to her LCC concentration, which went far beyond her expectations and experience. “In pharmaceuticals, coaching is very performance-based: There are quotas and set expectations, and you are coaching people to meet those established parameters,” she says. “Penn Organizational Dynamics shifts the paradigm around coaching in a fundamental way. You gain an entirely different understanding of what it means to coach human beings against their goals and aspirations, and not necessarily a company’s,” she discovered.

The first step in the coaching cohort, Kelly continues, is to be coached. “The program puts you through a rigorous self-examination,” she says. By applying various theories, like positive psychology, Kelly as coachee began to dig into various behavioral patterns. “You uncover things that are positive or negative about how you walk through the world, and then choose whether those behaviors are serviceable, whether they need to be managed, or whether they need to be destroyed,” she explains. She admits the process occasionally brought her to tears. “It’s painful work, but very useful,” she says. “Penn has radically changed how I approach coaching and approach people in my role.”

Coaching is no longer only one aspect of her role as a manager; it’s now her profession. A few months after graduating from Penn in May 2022, she was recruited by Sanofi’s human resources and transformation groups for a role as an executive coach and Global Head of Transformation and Capabilities for the Vaccines organization, which sits in Human Resources.

“It’s uncommon for HR to recruit someone without an HR background,” Kelly points out. “They knew I had just finished an Ivy League degree in organizational dynamics and coaching. The Penn degree was the key to unlocking what I wanted and what I think they wanted,” she says.

Her new role, which she started in March, includes assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the current workforce, and evaluating the organization’s capabilities and health where they are today and where they should be in several years to remain competitive. “What I’m in charge of now, it’s everything I did in the degree program,” she says.

Techniques learned in her master’s concentration help her speak with her coaching clients broadly about their skillsets and personal goals—not solely about how their performance impacts the organization. “I wouldn’t have known to do that as a coach when I was 22,” she says. And when an employee is more whole, they can be matched with the right role. “Now I can serve the human being, knowing that doing that work well will serve the organization in the appropriate and optimal way,” she summarizes.

For a restructure-reconfigure assessment she is tackling, Kelly has pulled out textbooks from her degree, contacted professors for new reading recommendations, and even referenced models she used in her coursework. “Exactly what I did in the classroom for the degree is exactly what I'm about to live through and put into practice in my organization. I couldn't have asked for a better fit.”

To engage further with the coaching field, Kelly also volunteers with the Graduate School Alliance for Education in Coaching (GSAEC), an organization that supports the coaching profession through graduate-level education. She serves alongside one of her Penn Dynamics professors, Dr. Charline Russo, whom Kelly keeps in touch with regularly. “I feel like I can reach out to any of the instructors from the program at any time,” she notes.

“I am definitely writing a very interesting last few chapters for myself,” she says. “This journey was always about finishing my runway with an organization that I have been a cheerleader for and have loved for many years,” she says. “Completing the degree was also very much in service to me and what I think my future beyond the traditional corporate world can be,” she adds. Long-term, Kelly plans to start her own coaching and consulting business.

“I wouldn’t be doing it without Penn, without the program, and without the professors. This degree has put the key in the car,” she says, and now the rubber is hitting the road.

Organizational Dynamics Programs Concentrations

MSOD and MPhil students can deepen their knowledge through one of our three degree concentrations.

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Meet our faculty

Derek Newberry is a lecturer at Penn and a leadership development consultant in the areas of interpersonal communication, collaboration and corporate culture.