Interview with Steven Ma '15

Interview by Howie Rhee '04, with contributions by Coco Chen. Added July 5th 2016

Tell us about what you studied at Duke and which program you were in?

I studied in the Daytime MBA program and was part of the Class of 2015. 


Talk about your prior work experience.

Prior to business school, I worked in a clinical lab at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Washington D.C. It was there that I discovered my passion in health care - and also realized that I wanted to be on the business side, which led me to the Duke MBA. During my stint at the NIH I built a strong foundation in analytics and biotechnology, both of which I rely on heavily post-MBA.


What did your recruiting process look like?  How many people did you reach out to?  

While I only recruited on campus (i.e. companies that interviewed at Fuqua) I networked across geographies and various company types. This meant going to/volunteering at both Fuqua and non-Fuqua industry conferences, building out my network through extracurricular projects (such as P4E) and reaching out to alumni. Recruiting was also a great networking opportunity as I learned a lot about potential careers at companies through just talking with recruiters (usually Fuqua alums). I'd say I probably set up one-on-one discussions with about 30-40 people throughout the MBA - which isn't a lot - but I was very focused on health care, and specifically pharmaceuticals.


How did you come up with a list of companies to target?

Namely the following: Companies that recruited formally at Fuqua, local startups through the Mentored Study program at Fuqua, people recommended to me from faculty, LinkedIn, companies that gave presentations at Fuqua and folks that came and spoke during classes/conferences


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 open to location, however I wanted to target hubs that had a lot of biotech/pharma growth and opportunity. This meant California, Boston, New Jersey, and Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. Fortunately, the Duke MBA program had opportunities to visit or network with companies in these regions, such as through the Week-in-Cities program, where students visit companies during the school breaks. Seeing the companies in person and interacting with more folks at those companies were invaluable - recruiting does go both ways and you want to find a good fit for your leadership style and career goals as well.


What was a favorite article or tip that someone gave you on the job search process? 

I can't really think of any, but if there was one piece of advice I could share with future students is that all advice is biased in some way. Definitely keep in open mind, be humble and be a good listener and take good notes. However, you have to frame any advice that someone else gives you in your own perspective and career aspirations. No two careers are alike and it's important to chart your own path. 


Anything else you'd like to share with Duke students that are doing their own job search?

Just take it easy. As a recent alum I've learned that you'll be recruiting for the rest of your career so it's important to keep a perspective on this. While getting an internship or job is important, there are other experiences during the MBA that are perhaps even more meaningful in the long term. Get recruiting done, but also make sure to chart out your leadership development and growing holistically as a person.  


Read other interviews with Duke students talking about their job search process


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