I got a reminder email today about writing my essay. Unlike the first one which was sent to “Dear Student” this one was sent to me by name. I wish that I were a better writer. I had my dear girl-scientist friend who is an editor at a very mighty scientific journal proof-read and comment on my first draft. She had advice about “aesthetic pleasure” and “pleasing symmetry” in addition to commenting on the actual content of my essay. I did my best to include most of her suggestions. Some how I don’t think I’m going win any awards for this essay. However, it does accurately reflect how important and valuable I have found this training to be.
I get asked from time to time, why, when I already have a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, would I go back to school to get an MBA? When I started the evening MBA program at the University of Colorado at Denver in January of 2004, I had three major goals. First, I knew that my management skills could improve dramatically. Scientists learn many incredible things but management skills are not among them. If I got nothing else from the MBA program, improved managerial skills would be great boon to the productivity of my laboratory and the happiness of my employees. Second, as a life long academic, I wanted to learn how to transition my skills into a biotech setting. While I understood very clearly the goals of academic research, the focus of for-profit biomedical research entities was a complete mystery to me. Third, my research institute almost closed in 2003 and I aspired to learn how to manage and run a successful non-profit institution. Ideally, I hoped to someday become the Director of my research institute.
With each of these goals, I naively envisioned the impact of the MBA occurring after the degree was completed. Although my MBA is not yet complete, the ongoing training has already generated more and larger opportunities than I could possibly have imagined when I started.
My managerial skills have already improved since starting the MBA program. I have a much clearer idea of where my specific strengths and weaknesses are. I am also using some of the specific tools I learned in the MBA program to improve morale and increase productivity in my laboratory. Perhaps most importantly, I have come to understand the value of the people I employ for themselves and not just their specific skills. I expect to further improve these skills with time and practice.
My ever growing participation with a fledgling biotech company is another example of this trend. While going to school and working full-time, I became involved with a local biotech start-up company, BP Proteomics. We submitted our business plan to the 2005 Bard Center for Entrepreneurship business plan competition and were thrilled to win the Biotech Prize and second place overall. Our current efforts are focused on launching a subsidiary company in Northern Ireland. During this process, I have gone from being essentially an intern to receiving an offer to become a full partner in the organization.
Finally, in September 2005, I was appointed to be the Interim Director of my research institute. The past Director, who headed the institute for more than 20 years, decided to step down to focus on his research efforts. I was the most junior person to apply for the position. My MBA training gave me the courage and confidence to apply, years ahead of schedule. This appointment has also given me the opportunity to utilize everything that I have been learning. There is absolutely no way that I could have taken on these responsibilities without the training I have received in the MBA program.
I have already achieved everything that I had hoped to accomplish at some nebulous time after completing the MBA. I have learned how to identify and seize opportunities. I have discovered a great deal about myself, my values, and my strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps the most important thing I have learned from the MBA training is to not limit what I perceive to be possible. What else might I accomplish in the future? What else is possible? Anything; Everything.