This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now, introducing Marije van Weelden-Cuche, an alumna of IMD…
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? Do you hold any other degrees?
Marije: “Growing up” in a family Pharmacy in the Netherlands, I have always been intrigued by health care. When it came to choosing my studies it was a no brainer for me that I would study medicine. Throughout my studies I learned that even though I loved treating patients and knowing about diseases, the exposure to our family pharmacy had also infected me with a business virus. Upon completion of my Medical Degree, I therefore went to the London School of Economics to do an MSc in Health Economics, with the objective of joining the pharmaceutical industry.
Afterwards, I worked for large international companies like GlaxoSmithKline and Astellas and had great opportunities to make a difference, for example in Astellas by establishing the Health Economics / Market Access function in Astellas’ R&D organization…and yet the business virus kept popping up. I was therefore very excited to join IMD’s class of 2010 to do my MBA.
Accepted: What was your favorite thing about IMD?
Marije: One thing that is my favorite thing about IMD? That’s a tough question! If I really have to pick one, I would choose the so-called Leadership Stream. That definitely was the most valuable part of the year for me. We had coaching sessions and 20 individual sessions with a psycho-analyst (technically this is an elective), in which we reflected on our own behavior and that of our team mates. We also had a full outdoor day where we did team exercises while being observed by a coach. This turned out to be a very effective method where I learned how I can be most effective as a leader in one-on-one and group situations. This is still useful in my professional life every day.
Accepted: If you could change one thing about the program, what would it be?
Marije: As I recently said to a friend: “I have ridiculously few complaints about IMD, I would have enjoyed even more attention to the leadership stream, but other than that, I really think the program is very valuable as it is!”
Accepted: Which other MBA programs had you considered when applying to b-school? Why did you choose IMD? How did the international reputation and its rankings play into your decision?
Marije: I had no doubt that if I would do an MBA, I wanted to do so at a good school, so reputation and rankings were my first selection criteria to narrow down the number of schools.
Having done my review of comparative schools in Europe, I quickly selected IMD as my only target due to the above mentioned Leadership Stream. In addition, the relatively small sized, “hand-picked” class, resulting in a large diversity of MBA candidates from a geographical professional perspective appealed to me.
I was not disappointed. My classmates had many years of experience in a wide range of fields (from diplomacy to civil engineering) and were able to bring valuable real-world perspectives into the classroom, making the learning go way beyond the business cases.
Accepted: What is your current job? What role did IMD play in helping you secure that position?
Marije: I work for one of the top pharmaceutical companies in Switzerland. I collaborate with the head of Europe on the pricing strategy for our products and I am responsible for ensuring that the evidence that supports our products is presented in such a way that we can clearly demonstrate that the price we ask is fair and in relation to the value of our products.
My MD and MSc gave me a strong scientific background which helped me launch my career in the R&D side of the pharmaceutical industry. IMD’s focus on leadership as well as the tools and language of business made that I became more effective in the interactions with the people I work with. I can target my messages differently, such that they resonate best with for example the finance manager, the global head of commercial or the general manager of the UK. This ultimately makes that I am more efficient and more effective at what I do.
Accepted: Clinical medicine is so different from business, do you ever miss it?
Marije: No I don’t! I actually love the combination of business and science.
In my work, I use my knowledge of being a Medical Doctor every day. Moreover, by working on drugs across Europe, I am able to provide benefits to patients on a much larger scale than that I could if I would still work in a hospital.
I also found that business and medicine are closer related than one would think at first sight. The tools that I learned in medicine help me to effectively address business issues. The best doctors are those who diagnose people quickly and prescribe the most effective therapy. The best business executive is one who is able to diagnose problems quickly and who applies the most effective mitigation…
Accepted: Looking back at the MBA application process, what would you say was your greatest challenge? How would you advise others facing similar challenges?
Marije: I felt that I had relevant experience as well as the drive and energy that could make me a valuable participant in IMD’s class of 2010, so I had good hopes of being accepted if I were invited to the interview day. Therefore, I saw writing the application essays as my biggest challenge.
It really helped me to start early. I remember having countless discussions with anyone who would be willing to share their thoughts on my draft answers. I drafted several responses for each question and reworked them until I felt that each question had a strong and clear answer that reflected my personality.
Accepted: Do you have any other tips for our readers?
Marije: Invest in your MBA. And by invest, I don’t mean the finance. I mean give it all you have.
You might find that if for example you have a background in Finance, you will have some free time when your colleagues study for that part of the program. Use that time to do something that is valuable to you. You could do research a topic of particular interest to you with the excellent faculty that is available to you, or you could create a special interest group with your classmates that target the same industry in their job search. It may be a cliché, but the more you put in, the more you will get out!
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Thank you Marije for sharing your story with us!