Why a MBA / Leadership Development Program (vs. direct hire)?
Diverse cultural experience, high visibility, networking opportunities
Opportunity to gain lots of experience quickly and accelerate career
What are the key advantages / disadvantages of being on a MBA / Leadership Development Program?
Much wider exposure than one could get in a normal job across different business units, functions, geographies, and global/regional/affiliate, allowing us to better understand the different perspectives and the business and organization as a whole
Access and visibility to senior leaders, ability to gain wide diverse network
Cultural learning, actually living and working in different countries
Opportunity to explore full-time positions during assignments (can’t do this in a normal job!)
How does the MBA / Leadership Development Program fit in your career goals?
To be a successful leader in big pharma requires understanding different parts of the business, different functions, different cultures, and global/regional/affiliate ways of working
How strongly did you weight the location of the program?
VERY strongly, location was very important to me. In particular, I wanted to be in both emerging markets and headquarters, and in relevant countries in which I may work in post-rotation.
What to look for in a MBA / Leadership Development Program?
- Understand who are the stakeholders in the program and who are the stakeholders in you. Is it your first boss? HR? The Program manager? Global? A senior exec? or no one or everyone? Multiple stakeholders may have conflicting priorities, no stakeholders will mean little support and attention.
- Who is paying for the program? What is their interest and is it aligned with yours? Is it a specific department or business unit, a certain exec's budget, or global HR?
- Discuss ahead of time how structured the program is. Is it extremely rigid? no way to change rotations later? Or extremely flexible? You have lots of say to determine your rotations and exit path? or completely unstructured? in which you'll have to really push hard to get what you want out of it
- Look for how well the program is known in the company and what people think of it. Have they heard of the program? Do they see you as a high potential? Or just some kind of temporary intern?
- Negotiate ALL Benefits up front if you can. Assistance finding housing, housing or housing allowance, tax equalization, tax preparation help, relocation costs (breaking leases), flights home, vacation between rotations, etc. Make sure to get everything you need, or you may have to pay later in money and time.
- Understand how your performance will be reviewed - is it by one boss the whole program? or multiple people?
- Is anyone invested in your long-term development? Or just your short term deliverables?
- How much experience does the company have running these kind of programs? It's a lot of effort and coordination and if it falls through it's on you
- What are potential exits from the program? Focus on your role at hand, but also make sure to work toward a good exit.
Can you summarize the recruiting process you went through and how long it took?
I was found by the HR Recruiter, had a round of interviews with the local HR contact and my future supervisor. Had another interview with the global program manager and was given an oral offer. I was lowballed with the initial offer, and had to negotiate it up significantly.
What were the required skillsets and prior experience and how were they evaluated (behavioral interviews, case studies, assessment center, panel interview, etc)?
Demonstrated understanding and interest in the pharmaceutical business. Most of the interview was on my prior projects and experiences. Additionally there was a personality assessment and in depth discussion on my strengths and weaknesses as pointed out by the personality assessment. Long-term goals and interest in rotation programs and returning to the Asia market was also confirmed to ensure a good fit with the program.
What advice and tips can you share with those interested in MBA Development Programs?
It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity
Need a lot of flexibility to deal with change, and aggressiveness to push and get what you want
Program may have very little structure, many diverse, potentially conflicting stakeholders that one needs a lot of tact to navigate
It's a great opportunity but can also be quite tough to pick up and move your life around 3-4 times in 2 years, lots of consequences to think about