From MBA to Dream Job - by Tiana Veldwisch '08

Twenty-two months ago, I wrote a blog post on the second day of my MBA at MIT Sloan, not knowing exactly what to expect, but excited for what I would learn. Now, on the fourth day of my new dream job at Daktari Diagnostics, I can reflect on how business school helped me get here and can share my excitement for my next adventure.

Tiana Degree.jpgTiana proudly displays her new degree from MIT Sloan School of Management

I started my MBA looking to better understand the business context of engineering, particularly in solving problems in human health, but I didn't really know where that would take me. I took courses about management in general, as well as courses focused on the healthcare industry. The classes involving technical and quantitative concepts spoke to the engineer in me - particularly operations and supply chain. My summer internship (2013) at Biogen Idec taught me more about this area via their Pharma Operations and Technology organization. But what I found got me really excited were the courses and projects at school that looked at healthcare outside of the US, particularly in low-resource areas of the world where care is currently inadequate.

Tiana Kenya.jpgViva Afya clinic in Matopeni, Nairobi, Kenya during Global Health Lab project

One of my favorite experiences at Sloan was a team-based, hands-on project called Global Health Lab, where we learned about and addressed healthcare challenges in underserved areas abroad. My team was working with a pair of entrepreneurs in Nairobi, Kenya, on a product concept they had which would help more low-income Kenyans access clinics when they were ill. While our hosts had a notion for how to solve the problem, when we arrived in Nairobi for our two-week visit mid-semester, my team took a step back and did a UOCD-style needs assessment to find out what was really keeping the target users from visiting the clinics. Our insights helped guide our hosts in developing a solution that we hope will help improve clinic access in poor neighborhoods. Visiting Kenya was eye-opening for me, and we had an amazing time both in the city and on a brief weekend safari.

Tiana Safari.jpgPosing from the safari van with lions in the background, Masai Mara, Kenya

More than I realized prior, business school creates many opportunities to travel.   In addition to the class project in Kenya, I spent one long weekend at a conference in New Orleans and another in Paris at a classmate's apartment, journeyed to North Carolina during my summer internship, visited other business schools around New England and in Chicago, and spent spring break touring South Korea with 60 classmates. (B-school advice: budget in travel expenses; it's worth it, but definitely adds up when you don't have a salary!)

I didn't spend all my time on coursework, either. Club activities and conferences play a large role in the business school experience. I took on leadership roles in the Sloan LGBT club and in the Healthcare Club. One of the biggest learning experiences practicing management came from orchestrating the 2014 BioInnovations Conference, a full-day 400-attendee conference about business and technology trends in healthcare. My co-chair and I led a team of 15 student organizers in a 6-month project, with a budget of $50,000, which we raised through sponsorship and ticket sales. It was a great opportunity to practice communication, teamwork, expectation-setting, delegation (something I've always struggled with), and rolling with the punches.

Tiana conference.jpgBioInnovations Conference co-chairs Tiana and Anthony Chiu with keynote speaker Alex Azar, President of Lilly USA

So, how did I end up in what I'm declaring to be my dream job? I don't think my vision of said dream-job was clear two years ago when I entered business school (or it would have made it into the earlier blog post), but I knew I wanted to do something that leveraged my technical and non-technical skills and solved real and worthwhile problems. I also had an inkling of wanting to work with a company that makes a physical product (whether drug or device, etc.) as opposed to the software/process world of software I had been in at athenahealth. 

I learned about Daktari Diagnostics through a professor during my first semester at business school and interviewed the CEO for a brief school paper. When I found myself still curious and excited about the company a year later, I approached the CEO and offered to spend my January break at the company doing a mini-internship; it turned into an extended job interview. They knew I had an offer to go back to Biogen Idec, so when we all agreed I was a good fit, they had to turn around an offer to me quickly. The job I took, Technical Marketing Manager - in which I'll translate and align requirements between the technical team and the market - perfectly leverages my skills and background, in part because I was able to help write my own job description.

It took a lot of confidence to put myself out there and ask for what I wanted, both in the offer, but also in suggesting the one-month mini-internship.   But when I asked, I got it. The obvious lesson here is this - ask for what you want and deserve. I also believe the month of doing projects and pitching in however I could at Daktari really proved my abilities to them, making the case to hire me much stronger than I could accomplish in just a few hours of interviewing. While some classmates spent their January break skiing, I made the most of my month by using it as a springboard to a job I wanted in a company I admired.

I also made the most of my professional network, finding out about the company through a professor and then discovering other connections I had to the team, which all strengthened my offer to join them. As cliché as it sounds, my network has been a huge source of opportunities for me along the way, from internships while at Olin to jobs, new teammates, and recommendations since. So my last piece of advice for this blog post is to make and keep strong relationships and positive impacts everywhere you go.

On that note, I'm happy to talk with anyone thinking about business school, MIT Sloan, or Daktari Diagnostics!   Please reach out at tiana.veldwisch@alumni.olin.edu

Posted in: Alumni Speak, Graduate School