She had been with the company since 2010. The MBA was Brittany’s catalyst for further career progression, she says, and resulted in her moving to GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) as a project manager soon after enrolling.
When she applied to GSK, they were after someone who had project management experience. Though Brittany had that on her CV, it wasn’t in the area in which she works now.
She says being at the Fox School in an accelerated program studying strategic management meant she would be able to directly apply what she was doing in school to her job every day. That is what helped get her foot in the door, she explains.
Brittany completed the accelerated version of the Part-Time MBA over two years, with a focus on strategic management—students can take up to six years to complete the degree while they balance work and study.
As a research and development project manager, she is tasked with overseeing the teams that take an asset from the lab all the way to market. Her area of expertise is oncology.
Brittany says she always wanted to study an MBA to extend her knowledge and sense of business. Her thought process was that in pretty much any role she found herself in, she could benefit the organization and herself with an MBA degree.
At the time of applying she was in her early 30s and didn’t want to leave Philadelphia. She also explains that breaking into pharma is a challenge without a science background, and the fact that she had already built a career with Bristol-Myers Squibb meant she wanted a program that would allow her to continue to work while studying.
Brittany was also after a program that would fast-track her career without having to spend too long studying. She was after quick progression, and the two-year accelerated track on the Part-Time MBA at the Fox School ticked all the boxes.
“I fell in love with the campus, the program and the people,” she says. “I knew it was the right place for me as soon as I went through the door there and interviewed.”
Balancing the MBA with the PMP exam
While she was studying for the MBA and working for GSK, Brittany took on an additional level of study—the Project Management Professional (PMP) certificate. The PMP is the industry gold standard for project management, “the GMAT on steroids,” jokes Brittany.
All of the teamwork she was doing during the MBA was used as credit towards her PMP—one of the requirements is 35 hours’ worth of project management education.
Studying for the PMP was coupled with exposure to an MBA cohort that was incredibly diverse, with students from all different industries with all kinds of personalities collaborating in the classroom. It mimicked leadership scenarios Brittany was encountering in real life.
The MBA sometimes puts you in a situation where two people want to take on the leadership role of the team, and Brittany adds you gain experience working through the dynamics of figuring out who’s the best fit to lead a team in different scenarios.
The case study method of learning also gives students real-life examples they can adapt and take back into the workplace on a weekly basis.
“I think the way the professor required us to link the case study and how an organization handled it to what we were currently dealing with at work was really valuable.”
How an MBA prepared me for my project manager job
The MBA has shaped Brittany’s entire career, she says. She now feels like a much stronger leader and can analyze situations and think strategically quicker than she was able to before business school.
“My MBA kick-started that and really helped me look at the bigger picture not only for my teams but for the organization as a whole.”
In pharma, her job revolves around individual assets and how she can support their development along the whole of GSK’s pipeline.
An MBA can set you on the path to becoming a better project manager, but it does depend on the individual. “You need strong organizational and communication skills and need to be comfortable leading other people,” says Brittany.
You’re essentially the CFO of your team. Brittany sits next to somebody who fully understands the science at GSK, but is tasked with understanding the specific strategy the organization needs to adopt.
“I need to understand a little bit of the science but more importantly what is the strategy we’re going for?
How does that fit into our pipeline? How does that fit into what the org is trying to do? And what are our competitors doing?
“Those analyses are what you do in business school by reading the case studies, by taking strategy classes, and I think it gives you the higher-level thinking you need as a project manager regardless of where you sit on a team.”
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