Greg Vernon Headshot
Gregory Vernon  Manager, Office of Emergency Management, District of Columbia Water & Sewer Authority

Gregory Vernon has supervised emergency management for several different areas of critical infrastructure throughout the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area. The daily infrastructure operations in any city are complex on their own, and in emergencies, that complexity is compounded.  But this is the nation’s capital, a city that can’t be slowed down for even a minute–which makes Greg’s job even more challenging.

A fresh look at crisis management
Seeking new perspectives and learnings that could help him manage more effectively in a crisis, Greg applied for Leadership in Crises, an executive education program at Harvard Kennedy School. Working with Harvard’s renowned faculty and peers from around the world helped Greg crystalize his thinking about the ever-evolving crisis management field. As he put it, “People are the focus in all emergencies; to help those most in need, relationships are essential. Without them, crises can spiral. With them, the crisis might be averted in the first place.” 

Counting on people, adding to strengths
The week-long on campus program helped Greg develop tools and frameworks to better manage people in crises. Along the way, his coursework also led to the development of many new and valued professional relationships.

One theme of the program that particularly resonated with Greg is building on strengths. “Yes, there will always be a need to improve systems and infrastructure after a crisis, but by building capacity and focusing on the strengths it’s already developed, an organization, agency, or jurisdiction can be even more prepared for the future, because usually those improvements require people, values, and culture to change.” 

Why he would recommend executive education to others
Harvard’s world-class faculty, the program’s convenient online learning, and a peer group that can become colleagues and friends for life combines to create an unmatched experience for all who take part in an executive program. Greg also noted that the collaboration with his counterparts in various industries strengthened his knowledge, leadership capacity, and resolve to be prepared for the “next one” whenever and however that crisis strikes.

And speaking of the future, although Leadership in Crises was Greg’s first Harvard Kennedy School executive education course, he now plans to pursue an executive certification in Public Leadership. 

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