by Bryson Saez, MBA ’14 and Environmental Finance and Impact Investing Fellow (7/29/13)
Mission-driven SGE student interns with the founding biotechnology firm.
Early in my career I found that, like many other SGE students, I didn’t fit into the typical mold for an MBA candidate. Instead of looking at particular industries or roles, I was more interested in people and their passions. This led me to explore a number of different industries as potential career options. Renewable energy and consulting with non-profits and NGOs both held their own appeal. Health care also stood out as a possible industry where I could make a substantial positive difference in someone’s life and solve interesting and challenging business problems. Ultimately, these three converged on the company Genentech.
I first heard about Genentech the summer prior to starting business school. Formed in 1976, Genentech is the founder of biotechnology, a heavily science-based industry that uses living organisms to make medicines.
From my first encounter I knew the company was trying to do something different by the way the people spoke about their work. They talked about putting the patient first and creating innovative medicines – to address unmet needs and to tackle areas where others had failed. Most notable was a particular biologic named Herceptin, a breast cancer medicine so successful that people demanded its release while it was still in the testing phase. This led to an FDA fast track and inspired the documentary “I Want So Much to Live.” With further exposure to the company it became apparent that for the people who worked there, what they did was more than a job but a meaningful part of their lives.
In early June I joined the Market, Analysis, & Strategy (MA&S) team. MA&S is the internal consulting division for the company and serves specific brands. I would be working in the capacity of Competitive Intelligence for two brands that address Rheumatoid Arthritis, a debilitating form of arthritis prevalent in women and particularly women over 65.
The learning curve in a new industry and a new role has been steep. I am now a little more than halfway through my internship and would honestly say that it has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences I have ever had. My thinking has become both more data driven and strategic, and my critical thinking skills are tested everyday as I take large amounts of competitor information and distill it down into tactics and strategies.
Two Johnson courses served as the strongest in preparation for this experience: Core Strategy and the SGE Immersion. I receive new and often disparate information daily to help me unravel the strategies of Genentech’s competitors. The preparation I received from Professor Vrinda Kadiyali, Nicholas H. Noyes Professor of Management, in her strategy class has helped me to analyze this data from multiple perspectives, choose the most logical assumptions, and deliver sound recommendations to my brand teams.
My project also has a high degree of ambiguity. This was something Professor Mark Milstein, director of the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise and faculty of the SGE Immersion, promised would play a major role in my MBA internship. The SGE Immersion provided invaluable training in taking an abstract business question, hypothesizing and evaluating potential solutions, and then selecting the solution that is the most actionable and impactful. Before long, I will be presenting to senior leadership at Genentech. Having presented recommendations to the senior leadership of a major company during the SGE Immersion, I am ready for the task.
Ultimately, I’m most pleased with my daily interaction with people at work. This experience has reinforced that in the long-term I am committed to using business to make a difference in the lives of people around me and working with like-minded colleagues who are also passionate and mission-driven about improving lives.