I started my career in science prior to attending the MBA program at Fuqua, working as a lab researcher at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland. During that time, I dabbled in business through a startup I co-founded in my free time and loved it.

I realized I wanted to move into a business function to make my impact in health care instead of continuing down the scientific route. At the same time, I saw the MBA as the best way to make the transition from science into business.

Now, two years later and a graduate of the Duke MBA program, I’d like to share my personal experience on how Fuqua prepares “non-traditional” business school students like myself to become candidates for roles in the business world. Here are the top 3 ways the school facilitated my transition from science to business:

1. Exposure to the minds of business leaders

When I was in science, I had very limited opportunities to engage with business leaders and role models. This is often the case for many folks who come from non-traditional backgrounds. The Duke MBA changed that for me. Through school-initiated programs such as the Distinguished Speakers Series and classroom and/or seminar speakers, to student-led opportunities such as conferences and company treks, students have abundant opportunities to directly engage with business leaders.

Having role models and mentors in business is very important and helps not only to develop business thinking but also something called “executive presence”—essentially the perception that you are leadership material. Because of the Duke MBA program, I learned from business leaders directly—how they thought about problems, how they captured opportunities, and how they built their careers.

Through my internship at Bristol-Myers Squibb and other one-on-one mentorship programs at Fuqua, I was able to learn from business leaders directly. This aspect of the MBA program at Duke was one of the most valuable resources that aided my transition into business.

2. Highly experiential business training

group photo of students on a visit to McKesson - Duke Daytime MBA alumnus on how Fuqua helped him transition from science to business

Duke Fuqua first year MBA students attend a company trek on the West Coast

Business training at Fuqua is hands on, engaging and—most importantly—relevant. The core curriculum teaches students the fundamentals quickly in short, yet effective, six-week terms. After that, electives and experiential opportunities allow students to practice those newly acquired skills from the classroom.

In my first year, I spent a considerable amount of time on my Program for Entrepreneurs (P4E) and Mentored Study project. For my P4E project I worked on founding a biotech startup, and for my Mentored Study project I helped with strategy for a mid-sized biotech firm. Combined with my summer internship at Bristol-Myers Squibb—a Fortune 100 pharma company—The Duke MBA gave me the chance to experience the entire life cycle of a pharmaceutical company.

Many of my classmates also took part in Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum (FCCP) and other amazing experiential opportunities offered by The Duke MBA. Students can pick their experiences based on their career goals, such as FCCP for consulting and others for private equity, venture capital, etc. The choices I made were instrumental in helping me transition into a general management position at Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Prior to business school, I had little experience working with people in business. This all changed once I joined my Consequential Leadership (C-Lead) team. I was able to work with and learn from a diverse team of professionals withing this small group—two American consultants, a Korean marketer, a Spanish engineer, and an Indian banker. These and many other team experiences helped me adjust to the global work environment in business today.

3. Health Sector Management and other industry tracks

For students who know the industry they want to get into but have no contacts or experience in that space, Fuqua’s industry tracks are a godsend. Fuqua has concentrations and certificates that cover a wide range of topics. As I knew I wanted to enter health care, I took advantage of courses and industry events in Health Sector Management (HSM), general management and marketing.

The HSM courses allowed me to expand my understanding of health care from R&D into other areas such as providers and insurers. This was critical in providing the foundation of knowledge for my summer internship in pharma. Industry events allowed me to begin building my network on the business side of health care and learn what was happening on the front lines of the industry.

Almost half of my classmates in HSM were not coming from the health care space and Fuqua’s industry tracks are a great way for students to break into unfamiliar industries. The networking opportunities and industry knowledge provided are immensely helpful for recruiting for and during the internship. The industry tracks also send a clear signal to companies that Fuqua focuses on these areas which helps return more job opportunities to graduates. Because of the strength of the HSM program, there were abundant on-campus recruiting opportunities available, making networking with firms very effective.

Final words

Steven - blog logoWithout Fuqua, it would’ve taken me a lot longer to transition from science into business. The two-year Duke MBA gave me the skills, network and experiential opportunities necessary to bridge the gap between the functions and industries. In my personal blog, From Bench to Board, I share more details on how The Duke MBA has helped me make this transition—feel free to check it out!