Interview by Howie Rhee '04, with contributions by Vivian Chung. Added May 13, 2015
Duke has been an incredible place--it has a tremendously rich and diverse body of students, faculty and alumni. I was fortunate to be accepted into the MBA program at Fuqua with a certificate in Health Sector Management and concentration in Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
Early at Duke, I joined a Program for Entrepreneurs team to commercialize a Duke technology in the pharmaceutical testing industry for experiential learning in the startup space.
Talk about your prior work experience.
I have always had a passion for medicine and healthcare. (This could have something to do with growing up in a family of physicians...our dinner table conversations would probably be too gross for most.) This helped steer me into the Honors Program in Medicine at the University of Miami (an accelerated BS/MD program) where I completed my undergraduate degree and the first two years of medical school. One term, I took classes in economics and accounting on a whim. While accounting would be classified as one of the drier subjects of business, I drank it up and decided to continue business classes until they became boring. They never did, and I finished with a minor in finance. An economics professor and mentor of mine, Dr. David Spigelman, initially planted the seed that business school could be valuable. In medical school, I interned for two years in the University of Miami’s Office of Process Improvement, which in retrospect was the best way to see the guts of the business operations of a hospital.
At some point in the past six years, I was bitten by the “startup bug”. My best friend and I would spend long hours together discussing trends in healthcare and where there were opportunities for a new venture. These brainstorm sessions absolutely energized me! We even taught ourselves to code one summer in an attempt to launch a company around digitizing medical data entry for dental practices. (The demands of medical school ended up being the death of this.) Startups give motivated people the freedom to push the envelope and innovate on the bleeding edge--this is incredibly exciting to me.
The combination of my interest in entrepreneurship and background in medicine drove me to apply to the business school at Duke. I knew I needed to develop the business knowledge, experience and network that I felt was necessary to be a part of a startup, or to launch my own startup eventually.
What did your recruiting process look like? How many people did you reach out to?
I spent most of December and January having conversations with those in the healthcare and startup space to get a feel for exciting companies and types of roles at these companies. Things began to accelerate in February and March when I began to reach out to companies on my target list. My internship ultimately came through in mid-April. My advice to future MBA students:Don’t worry if you don’t have something lined up by April--some of the coolest opportunities come through last-minute. However, I wish I would have engaged with my target companies much earlier (Dec-Jan) to get on their radar.
I can’t exactly quantify how many people I reached out to, but it was probably well beyond 30. I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who took the time to provide insight into their career decisions and knowledge of a particular industry or role. Each and every conversation was incredibly helpful.
It was ultimately a conversation with a Fuqua alum, Arjun Dutt ‘08, that led me to land a summer position at MetaMind. I reached out to learn more about the artificial intelligence/machine learning space, which led to further discussions about the value I’d bring to a small team where everyone must carry their own weight.
How did you come up with a list of companies to target?
I knew that I’d be the happiest (and probably most successful) in a company where I truly believed in the potential of their product. Since my interest is in healthcare, I spent some time researching what technologies and products would inevitably be a part of the healthcare system of 2020. My personal view is that digital health and artificial intelligence technologies have the most potential to improve today’s chaotic healthcare system. I narrowed my search to startups in the artificial intelligence space that had received Series A or Series B funding. AngelList, CrunchBase and Capital IQ were helpful in narrowing down companies that were in the Bay area and had recently received funding.
“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” It was ultimately a conversation with a Fuqua alum to learn more about the state of artificial intelligence/machine learning that led me to the company I’ll be interning with, which was not on my initial list of target companies.
Talk about how you thought about location (city) as it related to recruiting. Did you know where you wanted to end up or were you exploring?
I was initially geographically agnostic. I was (very naively) a little disenchanted with Silicon Valley--it seemed too full of hype. However at the end of the day, the bulk of startups are in the Bay Area--and for good reason. There is a critical mass of talent, capital and drive in Silicon Valley. It seems like a place where a startup-focused person needs to at least spend a bit of time. (I’ll be able to comment more on this at the end of the summer!)
What was a favorite article or tip that someone gave you on the job search process?
Howie Rhee (Duke Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative) hammered one thing into my head every time I saw him: Talk to more people. This is key. Find people who are doing what you’d like to do, or have knowledge in a particular industry, and have a conversation. While advice is always helpful, spend more time focusing on the path that a person took and the decisions they made that led them there.
Paul Graham put it well: “1. Learn about things that matter. 2. Work on problems that interest you. 3. With people you like and respect.” Read the article: http://www.paulgraham.com/before.html
Anything else you'd like to share with Duke students that are doing their own job search?
Don’t compromise. The right position is out there...it just takes some digging. Do some soul searching on the type of company/idea/environment/city where you would wake up every morning excited about the day. This passion will show through in your conversations with companies.