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I want to be … a healthcare leader

The healthcare industry has massive potential for career advancement – but in a diverse and expanding industry the key to success is finding your niche, say our panel of experts and Cambridge MBA alumni.

I want to be ... a healthcare leader

The industry expert – Tony Dutton

Executive coach and strategic and operational business consultant with experience of delivering revenue and profit growth across healthcare and consumer markets, Tony gives specialist career coaching to Cambridge MBA students.

What’s so great about healthcare?

The healthcare industry is of course extremely wide – from biotech start-ups to medical organisations, and multi-national pharmaceutical companies through to private equity consultancies and public sector healthcare. There are numerous opportunities for a career in this sector, working with very knowledgeable people from a variety of fields. It’s an exciting landscape.

Do I have what it takes?

Many of the major healthcare organisations, such as Johnson & Johnson and GlaxoSmithKline, all run leadership programmes for MBA graduates, and of course they’ll expect you to put in the hard graft. But a lot of students think they’ll be going direct to strategic management and are unprepared for how much time they will spend on the commercial side at these organisations. It can be a shock. Are you happy to carry a samples bag to a doctor? You need to be prepared to do that, to learn on the ground about selling, products, marketing, supply chain and finance. Successful students soon realise they need to take that step back and get a more holistic view of the industry.

How can an MBA help?

The Cambridge MBA gives you a toolkit, a strategic mindset that fits well with MBA leadership programmes in these organisations. There is a lot of industry expertise here – I am one of four external career consultants (my speciality is pharmaceuticals and other general industry sectors). Our MBA also offers fantastic opportunities to do project work in Cambridge, one of the world’s leading biotech communities, as well as with healthcare clients anywhere in the world through the Global Consulting Project. And the Cambridge Venture Project, in which groups of MBAs work as a team of consultants in a local business, is perfect for those wanting a healthcare career, because of the connectivity with the local biotech industry in and around Silicon Fen. But these projects aren’t just about learning the industry – they also offer excellent networking opportunities.

What should I do next?

Try to think about your personal positioning. Think: “Why am I here? What am I really good at? What is the journey I’m on and where does the MBA fit within that?” Some people expect instant answers to questions they’ve never asked themselves. We can help you to do that.


Alumna – Ranjini Mathew (Cambridge MBA 2010)

Ranjini Mathew

Ranjini Mathew

Leaving IT consultancy behind, Ranjini is now using the skills she learned on the Cambridge MBA as Medical Directorate Manager at Papworth Hospital.

What’s the story?

I was an IT consultant before coming to Cambridge Judge. It was great, but with consulting you give people a lot of ideas and advice and then leave. Moving on to the next project meant missing the opportunity to carry through my ideas and scale up. I was also becoming more socially conscious, so I thought about a career switch. I wasn’t at all clear where I’d end up – I had some notion of going into a social enterprise – but I thought an MBA would help me focus on what I wanted to do. I was accepted by other MBA programmes but came to Cambridge Judge because they seemed the most committed to bringing the best out of their students. At interview they were interested in how I wanted to contribute to the programme and how it would develop me.

What did the MBA give you?

Cambridge drew me in with its intellectual but collaborative environment. My classmates were phenomenal – people with fantastic experience in so many sectors, and stories that blow your mind. The course content was outstanding. The MBA’s Global Consulting Project is an invaluable way to learn – I went to Vodafone and developed a mobile health strategy targeting long-term conditions. I also particularly recall the biopharmaceuticals module, which was an excellent, practical course covering not just pharmaceuticals, but finance and venture capital.

How has the MBA benefited your career?

Very directly! For my final project, I delivered recommendations to improve cardiac theatre efficiency at Papworth Hospital, which led to a job offer. Now, five years on I’m the hospital’s Medical Directorate Manager, delivering on strategic initiatives on behalf of the Medical Director. As I’m not a doctor or nurse or from any allied health background I initially had doubts myself of my suitability. But the skills I need here are about assessing data and looking strategically at the big picture. If you have the right skills, you don’t have to be an expert in any particular field to ask a really good question. If you can see that something is not logical, or you can spot a gap, or can step back, examine how processes work and formulate better methods, you can make an extremely valuable contribution.

And don’t underestimate the power of the fantastic networking opportunities, whether for job applications or just helping you get an insight or broader perspective on a particular issue in your field.


Alumnus – Lalit Peddakota (Cambridge MBA 2014)

Following his early career in a lab-based research role, Lalit is currently a Project Manager at pharmaceuticals company, Novartis, following graduation from the Cambridge MBA last year.

Lalit Peddakota

Lalit Peddakota

What’s the story?

I come from a pharmaceutical research and development background and spent seven-and-a-half years developing such products as nasal sprays and injectable drugs in the United States. But I was curious about the commercial side – all my work was in a lab or manufacturing suite but I enjoy working in dynamic teams and commercial experience brings you closer to the patients who need your drugs. It became clear over time that a good way to get out of the lab would be to do an MBA.

What did the MBA give you?

The learning experience was extraordinary. The Health Strategies Concentration on the Cambridge MBA is a tailored set of courses and projects specifically for those interested in getting into healthcare, or in moving from one healthcare function to another – it was fantastic. It was led by Pam Garside, a healthcare management consultant to government, NHS organisations and regulators and the private health sector, who exposed us to so many healthcare leaders. She facilitated genuine interaction between us students and those professionals that allowed us to discuss issues directly with these experts. This gave us an opportunity to learn their sector language, find out about their challenges and what keeps them awake at night; getting first-hand knowledge from the very best people in the profession is not just important, it’s absolutely vital.

How has the MBA benefited your career?

Cambridge Judge is a “target school” for Novartis. They offered me an internship in brand management to work on the launches of two dermatology brands. The internship is invaluable – it helps you to work out who you are and what your strengths are. For those switching job functions or industries, it is a way to actually prove your worth to your desired employer. After the internship, I was offered a permanent role and I am now part of a project management team directly reporting to the UK CEO – a transition that would have been virtually impossible without the Cambridge MBA.