Advice to First Years: Take Lots of Risks to Expose Your Weaknesses

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One reason for doing the MBA is to have the freedom to try things that you would be too risk-averse or time-limited to do working full time. It's like buying time - you can pay $50,000 a year for the freedom to learn and explore things about the world that would not be possible with a day job. It would be a waste to not fully utilize this opportunity to genuinely improve yourself during the two year degree.
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Advice to First Year MBAs: Get Functional Experience

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One thing I did not know when recruiting for the MBA summer internship was the following: just how important prior experience in the function that you're recruiting for was. For example, I recruited for marketing and the one thing I didn't have was strong functional experience in marketing prior to the MBA. What I did do was leverage the opportunities in the first year of the MBA to help build that functional skill set in marketing.
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Informational Interview Sample Questions

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Informational interviews are the basic building blocks of career development. It allows you to quickly gain insights from people who have the jobs that you may (or may not) want. During the internship, it is essential to have as many informational interviews with people in the organization as possible. Not only can you learn the culture, but it also allows you to learn how career development happens and also gains you exposure in the company. Informational interviews are also something MBA students do on a routine basis during the program, to learn more about the various career opportunities.
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Advice to First Year MBAs: Get Good at Presenting and Communicating

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Not all good communicators are leaders, but all leaders are good communicators. Communication is an essential tool that leaders need to use in order to get anything done. Almost every post-MBA function that MBAs are hired into will heavily depend on communication skills. Whether its presentations to senior leadership, convincing your team to align with your vision during meetings, or interviewing a customer, you want to make sure your audience is crystal clear about your intentions.
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MBA Case Competition Learnings

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One popular event with MBA students are case competitions. It's a great way to practice analytics and presentation skills, which are key for consulting roles. In addition, teams are under tremendous time pressure because of the short time frame of the competitions. It's a great way to practice leadership, teamwork, and communication skills. In March 2014, I formed a team and participated in the Wake Forest Biotech Case Competition.

My Advice to First Year MBAs Series will continue after this post. A reader and classmate had asked about case competitions so thought I'd post this now.
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Advice to First Year MBAs: Focus On Leadership Development

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As all first year MBAs probably know by now, there are a lot of ways to develop as a leader in the first year. There's the first year teams (C-LEAD teams at Duke Fuqua), first year club leadership positions, admissions coordinators, and the list goes on. However, leadership development can be de-prioritized given how overwhelming the first year is.

I'll be the first to admit that when I was a first year MBA, I didn't spend much time on leadership development. It just felt so distant. I had immediate fires to put out - cases to read, exams to study for, group projects to do, recruiting, etc. I'm sure many of you may already feel the same way.
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Advice to First Year MBAs: How to Not Get Overwhelmed

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The first year of an MBA program can feel like a huge buffet. There are just so many activities to choose from. Should I go to that recruiting event? Or that club activity? How about the end-of-term party? When you combine this with the uncertainty of summer internship recruiting and the competition in the classroom, it can feel very overwhelming.
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Advice to First Year MBAs: Engage During Recruiting Events

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This is the first post in my new series, Advice to First Year MBAs. These are based on my experience as a recent first year MBA student at Duke Fuqua. The focus is on how to get the most out of the first year during the MBA.

The intended audience for these posts are all first year MBA students and is school agnostic. However, I will be using several examples from my experience at Duke, although there should be similar opportunities at all schools. This can help prospective students as well, giving an additional perspective on what the first year MBA is all about.
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Non-traditional MBA Skills, a Hidden Asset

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During my internship I had the opportunity to attend an all-employee meeting. The CEO spoke for about half an hour, then something unexpected happened. The Chief Scientific Officer stood up to explain something research related and I heard a familiar yet almost foreign language.

Barely anything scientific entered my ears in my one year of business school and during my time as a commercial MBA intern. This is the first time after business school that I truly felt my science background was actually an asset that I could leverage in the future.
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Leading Effective Meetings for MBAs

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During the MBA summer internship, you'll spend a lot of time in meetings. If you're an MBA student, you may be wondering why you have so many team projects at school. They are there to prepare you for your future function in the internship and after graduation. In my internship, I've had days where I had back-to-back meetings all day. That's a very common situation in Corporate America.

While we had a lot of meetings at during the first year of my MBA, I was still not mentally prepared for how frequent and how important meetings were for making decisions until my summer internship.
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Leadership Development: Finding the Time to Reflect

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The best thing about leaving your job and doing the MBA is that it gives you two years to pause and reflect. As a bonus, the MBA summer internship is like leadership learning on steroids.

During the internship, students have a lot of time to engage with senior leaders through one-on-ones. You work on a team and do projects, thus acquiring learnings. Then you discuss these learnings during engagement with senior leadership, and reflect.

This cycle of learning and reflection in such a short amount time is incredibly powerful and hard to find outside of an MBA program.
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Get Promoted: First Build Trust With Your Boss

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Learning about leadership is like being a detective. You're given bits and pieces by different leaders - clues, if you will. And then it's up to you to interpret those clues and create a story of what leadership actually is. I had a conversation with a senior executive and he told me one of the trademarks of a rising leader is when your bosses aren't in the room, they still trust that you will take the team further to achieve their vision.
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Pharma MBA Commercial Roles

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This week, a reader had requested information on MBA roles in a pharma company. I thought it may be a good idea to write a blog post on this while the MBA summer internship is still fresh in my mind. I won't mention any companies in particular, and will keep this information as general as possible.

This post will only focus on the commercial function as that is the only area where I have first-hand experience. While I put down pharma in the post title, it also applies to medical device companies for the most part. Alright, let's get started.
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Duke MBA Healthcare Recruiting

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Because Duke University is located in Durham, NC, many folks are concerned about recruiting across the US. For example, the major hubs for pharma, such as Boston, New Jersey, and the Bay Area are far away. Fortunately the Health Sector Management (HSM) program at Fuqua has a solid relationship with many health care companies. Because of the strong reputation (and size) of the HSM program, the Duke MBA is a key target school for many companies in the health sector.
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Why I chose Duke Fuqua, Top 2 Reasons From a 2nd Year MBA Student

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2 years ago, I was in the shoes of a prospective student trying to figure out which schools to apply to. It's difficult knowing beforehand how well a school fits your personality and career aspirations, because, well, you haven't been a student there yet. Interacting with current students and experiencing the classroom is helpful but oftentimes less objective. Here is a look at my reasons for choosing Duke Fuqua, with a focus on objective evidence. You may find my framework of looking for clues to be helpful for other schools as well.
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2014 MBA Health Care Conferences

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MBA health care conferences are an amazing opportunity to learn and network in the Health Sector. The latest topics on news articles and text books come alive and attendees are brought to the cutting edge. People who dedicate the time and energy to go to these events are also very passionate about the topic and are great to meet and talk with. 

I know that many fellow MBA students would like to attend a few of these conferences. But how many are out there, and when and where are they? I've always assumed that all the top MBA programs held a health care conference. I now share with you a comprehensive list of all the Top 20 MBA programs that have at least one annual student-run health care conference. 
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Gaining Exposure to Senior Leaders: Night Jobs

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If your goal is to move up in an organization, it's important to gain exposure to senior leadership. And when I say exposure, I don't mean through a one-on-one or a couple of social events. I mean by working on an actual project together. These are projects that typically take extra time beyond your day job. They are called - quite simply - night jobs.
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What the MBA Doesn't Teach: How to Become a Leader

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I had always been intrigued by people's transitions into leadership. In fact, that was my motivation when I started this blog. One of the first things I sought to find out during my internship was how leaders got to where they were. My finding is this. It's not the degree. It's not age or how smart they are. It's not the resume, or otherwise a checklist of experiences that appear to be necessary to move up. It's the person and their motivators. It's how they interpreted the world around them and how they were able to take the initiative to transform themselves.
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Leadership: the Key Ingredient to Success

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Toward the end of my internship, I was asked by a senior executive what I was surprised most about my summer. I paused for a long time, and finally answered: "Leadership, and how it was so front and center to my experience".

Like many new MBAs on the job, I thought my goal was to perform functionally. My expectation going in was to learn a thing or two about health care and give a stellar performance on my project, or in other words, to get a "good grade". I wanted to hone and show off my marketing skills and industry knowledge. However, at the end of the internship, I realized that leadership was in fact what was most important. And that success in a corporate environment was enabled by placing leadership at the center.
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Does School Location Affect Fuqua MBA Recruiting? Not for Pharma

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A question I get asked a lot is whether Duke Fuqua's location puts students at a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting for health care. My answer is no, because Fuqua is a target school for many companies that recruit MBAs and they make an effort to come to the Duke campus. However, I did not know objectively how Fuqua compared with schools that were local to health care hubs. I took some time and got some data from LinkedIn, and used the pharma industry as an example. Surprisingly, at least for pharma, Fuqua has a stronger presence than many local schools.
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Byron Sharp's How Brands Grow

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This book was given to me as a gift from a very senior leader in marketing. I was told that the book would cover things that are not taught in MBA programs. After reading the book, I must say that I agree. In my marketing classes, I was intrigued by why established brands still spent so heavily on advertising and how brands actually measured advertising effects, while not controlling for confounding variables. This book looks at empirical evidence and proposes the laws of marketing.
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Spring 2 Duke MBA: Deep Dive into Marketing Part 2 Marketing Strategy

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Taking Christine Moorman's Marketing Strategy course was essential to building my skills as a business thinker. Marketing has really evolved in recent years and is being more tied closely into business strategy. Focusing on the customer, then, is the role of any good marketing strategy and is thus key to a sustainable competitive advantage for a company.
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Health Care Employment Stats for Leading MBA Programs

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One helpful factor to consider when choosing which MBA program to apply to are the employment statistics. While almost all MBA programs have solid consulting and banking employment numbers, health care results are less consistent across schools.
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Should you get an MBA or an industry position?

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Please note: this post was written back in 2013 when I just started my MBA. I'll update this again later as now have more insights to share as an MBA student. In addition, the original target audience for this post are scientists, although general principles will apply to all backgrounds.

With the scarcity in academic job openings, many, if not most, life sciences professionals are considering industry positions. This was definitely the prevailing sentiment at the 2013 NIH career symposium. A commonly asked question at these events is, "should I pursue an MBA to enhance my resume, or should I just try to find a job at a company?"
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Spring 2 Duke MBA: Deep Dive into Marketing Part 1 Product Management

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My apologies for the lack of posts lately. I've been totally immersed in my internship at Bristol-Meyers Squibb and haven't been able to find the time to write. Thank you for everyone who had emailed me about the blog - I'm gearing up to getting back to publishing two blog posts a week. I know that many prospective students are starting to apply for Round 1 for the Class of 2017. Now that it's July, the Class of 2016 will be joining us in Durham soon as well. I hope that my perspective as a second year MBA student may help.
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Spring 1 Duke MBA: Focus on Health Sector Management

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The Spring 1 term is not only memorable for the two major snow storms but also for its immersive health care experiences for Health Sector Management (HSM) students in the Duke MBA program. While we had a lot of opportunities during the Fall 1 & 2 terms in health care, Spring 1 definitely feels more focused on health care from an academic perspective.
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Duke MBA Fall 2 Courses

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Fall 2 is the second 6-week term for the Duke MBA. 1st year students continue to take core courses and this is also when recruiting really heats up for the consulting and finance folks. Many student clubs also have their annual conferences this term. We learned from orientation back in the summer that Fall 2 is ranked the most stressful term in the entire Duke MBA experience by most students.
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CED Life Sciences Conference 2014

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The CED Life Sciences Conference is the largest biotech event in the Research Triangle Park (RTP) and spans 2 days with over 1,000 attendees. You can check out the agenda for the 2014 conference here. Students have an opportunity to volunteer for one shift during the 2 days and in return get a discounted ticket price ($100) and access to the conference. A couple of MBA students from Fuqua and UNC Kenan-Flagler volunteered and it was a great time.
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Duke MBA Classroom Student Experience (Reader Request)

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A reader had made a blog post request to learn more about what the classroom experience is like in the Duke MBA. Thank you Sakthi for asking this! I'm glad that this was asked as it is an important experience that so far has been missing from this blog.  Please leave any future requests in the comments section in this post. I get email alerts for any comments so you can expect a response within the same day.
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The NCI/Avon Breast Cancer Startup Challenge at Fuqua, the Duke Experience

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This is Part 2 of a 2-part series on the NCI/Avon Breast Cancer Startup Challenge. I've already introduced the challenge in Part 1 and wrote about my team and why we're in the challenge. Part 2 will be about my team's experience in the challenge.
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Health Sector Management at Duke MBA (Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum, Duke University Hospital Internship)

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This is the last post in the series on Health Sector Management (HSM) at the Duke MBA outside of classes. The Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum and the Duke University Hospital Internship are another set of wonderful experential learning opportunities that are offered to students who are interested in pursuing careers in health care.

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Health Sector Management at Duke MBA (Health Care Club)

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One of the most attractive aspects of the Duke Fuqua MBA for me was to be surrounded by other students who were passionate about health care. The 90-plus students in the Health Sector Management (HSM) program at Duke definitely helps create a very immersive environment. Student leadership for health care opportunities shines in the activities run by the Duke MBA Health Care Club.
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Health Sector Management at Duke MBA (Week in Cities)

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Recruiting is a major activity for MBA students and networking with firms is important. During term breaks, the Fuqua Health Care Club (HCC) organizes treks where Duke Health Sector Management (HSM) students visit companies together. We call these treks "Week in Cities". They are a structured way for students to learn more about the companies that they are interested in and meet alumni who are working in relevant functions post-MBA. It was also a fantastic opportunity for 1st year bonding! I got to know a lot of my classmates better through going on this trip together.
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MBA Admissions Book Give-away

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As appreciation to my blog's readers, I'm giving away a copy of MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools (http://www.mbaadmissionforsmarties.com/), a book by Accepted's CEO & founder, Linda Abraham.

All you have to do is leave a comment below and share with me one idea to make the blog better and give me one blog request. The request can be for be anything related to the MBA or the Duke MBA.

The first person to respond to this post will get the copy of the book. I haven't personally read the book, but it should be helpful to anyone who is applying to MBA programs in the future.

Even if someone has already commented, please still let me know about your feedback or any blog requests you have. I'd be happy to accommodate any requests!


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Health Sector Management at Duke MBA (Mentored Study)

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Almost all Duke MBA students choose to do a full-time internship during the summer (10-12 weeks). For students looking for something in the fall or spring, Fuqua’s mentored study program offers an internship for one semester (12 weeks). For students in the Duke MBA Health Sector Management (HSM) program, there are many opportunities in health care.
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Health Sector Management at Duke MBA (Program 4 Entrepreneurs)

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A reader had asked me what type of health care experiences that the Duke MBA Health Sector Management (HSM) program offers outside of classes and seminars. Because of this, I'm starting a blog post series on this topic. If you have a question, just leave me a comment and I'll help answer it for you, my reader.

P4E, short for Program 4 Entrepreneurs, is an experiential course that Duke Fuqua MBA students can take in their first or second years. There are 3 courses in total, New Ventures 1 (NV1), NV2, and NV3. In short, in NV1 students evaluate the opportunity; in NV2 students develop the business strategy of the venture; in NV3 students develop the operation strategy and launch the company. NV1 is typically taken in the fall semester of first year, NV2 is taken in spring semester of first year, and NV3 is taken fall semester of the second year. This is the short version – for more detailed information, visit P4E’s official website. I’ve also written about the P4E kickoff that I had attended in the summer before starting my first year. Read about it here.
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Accepted.com: Interview on my Duke MBA Experience

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Accepted.com reached out to me and asked if I would be willing to do an interview on my Duke MBA experience. I'm always happy to share this with prospective students and thought it would be a good opportunity for that. Answering the interview questions allowed me to reflect on my reasons for attending Fuqua. These questions are also a lot easier to answer now, as I have concrete experiences to share! I still can't believe that I've already been at Fuqua for close to 7 months now.

Find the full transcript on Accepted.com here.


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Duke MBA Fall 1 Courses

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Fall 1&2 are the first formal terms of the Duke Fuqua MBA after the Global Institute and the Health Sector Management (HSM) bootcamp (HSM students only). We remain in our sections and take 7 of the 8 core courses - accounting, statistics, and economics in Fall 1, and strategy, marketing and finance in Fall 2 - we take management communication in both terms. For Duke MBA HSM students, we also take a seminar series on top of the core courses.

In addition, this is when the 2nd years return to campus from their summer internships so everyone is back. Club activities also started in this term, as well as recruiting for the summer for 1st years. Each term runs for 6 weeks so classes are very fast-paced. 
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Belinda Martineau's First Fruit

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Belinda Martineau's First Fruit takes us back to the 90's when Calgene developed the first biotech food, the Flavr Savr tomato. It was the first genetically-modified product approved for human consumption - a significant achievement - and one can only imagine the regulatory hurdles they had to overcome. The story was mentioned as an example in the text, Building Biotechnology.
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Blog post on the NCI/Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Startup Challenge Published!

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A couple of days ago I submitted my team's introductory blog post to the competition organizers over at the Breast Cancer Startup Challenge. It's since been published, and talks about the members of my team and why we are participating in the challenge.

Read the blog post here.
In addition, you can find my introduction on what the start challenge is in this post.

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Robert M. Grant's Contemporary Strategy Analysis

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Strategy was my favorite core course for the Fall 2 term at Fuqua. If you have a science background, then you're probably like me and have never been exposed to these frameworks. Taking the course has allowed me to clearly understand why companies do the things they do when I read about them in the news. The partnering and M&A sections were especially useful for understanding the recent trends in pharma and biotech.

Formally taking the course has given me a more comprehensive and disciplined understanding of business strategies that I had only developed intuitively over my short career thus far.
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The NCI/Avon Breast Cancer Startup Challenge at Fuqua, an Introduction

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If you had asked me what was my favorite Duke MBA Health Sector Management (HSM) experience thus far, this would be it. Since the Fall 1 term started in September, a strong student and an advisory team was formed and we were one of the 46 national teams that was accepted into the NCI/Avon Breast Cancer Startup Challenge. This is part 1 of a 2-part series on the challenge.
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Global Institute at Fuqua

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The Global Institute (GI) was a 4-week long experience back in August, sandwiched between the HSM Bootcamp and Fall term 1. While HSM students have had one-week of classes before GI, this is the first time that the entire first year class gets together in our sections for classes. At this point we were also divided into our 5 to 6-student C-LEAD teams to work on cases and group projects.

This will be my last bi-weekly post on the Duke MBA before the round 2 deadline (Jan 6) due to classes starting again soon. I'll continue publishing 1 post per week, still on the topics of the Duke MBA and biopharma. Hope that this information has helped those applying for round 2, and good luck!
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