It’s been just over a year since the DeGroote School of Business launched its Executive MBA in Digital Transformation (EMBA). Now, the inaugural cohort is set to graduate and make an impact on business and society worldwide.
On Thursday morning, students in the EMBA program will cross the stage at the School’s fall convocation ceremony, taking place at FirstOntario Concert Hall in downtown Hamilton. They’ll be applying newfound knowledge from the program to a wide range of industries, including: healthcare, technology, government, hospitality, finance, and sports and entertainment.
The 20 graduating students are already well-established players in their respective fields, with an average age of 42 and average work experience of 12 years. Nearly a quarter of the inaugural cohort is international, with students traveling to DeGroote from as far afield as Hong Kong, Finland, Germany, and India.
The unique 13-month program, based at Burlington’s Ron Joyce Centre, is built around four residential modules in Southern Ontario and Silicon Valley, California. Students learn from a mix of DeGroote professors and industry experts, and corporate partners include theScore, CIBC, IBM, SAS, and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. It’s the first EMBA in the world in which students focus on learning how to manage and utilize digital systems.
Below, EMBA graduand Mỹ Dang (pronounced “May”) discusses what attracted her to the EMBA program, as well as how studying at DeGroote will impact her professional life. Dang, who has been with pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim since 2011, has specialized in regulatory affairs for more than a decade. Her aim is to empower patients and caregivers with credible and easily-accessible health knowledge through the use of digital technology.
Tell me about your current position at Boehringer Ingelheim. What does a typical work day entail? What are you responsible for?
My responsibilities are split between three very different areas, including: spearheading a global team and innovating for patient-centric solutions in order to increase market access and improve patient experiences, especially in targeted high-risk patient populations; managing and negotiating with the regulatory authorities for the registration and maintenance of veterinary drug products; and ensuring that our processes and procedures are compliant with regulatory requirements. A typical day involves juggling between these three responsibilities and working with cross-functional teams in all areas, including: business innovation, market access, sales, regulatory affairs, marketing, quality assurance, and research and development from around the world.
How did you hear about DeGroote’s Executive MBA in Digital Transformation? What attracted you to the program?
I heard about the program when I was looking for a healthcare-focused institution that offered design-thinking and innovation as part of their curriculum. The EMBA also carried the McMaster brand, which is renowned for its leadership in the healthcare space. I am a patient advocate and very passionate about the healthcare sector, which is in dire need of innovation. The EMBA program focused on the exact needs of the healthcare industry, which include leveraging digital platforms and data analytics, as well as integrating design-thinking methodologies, while emphasizing bringing innovation to the forefront. There is much work to be done in healthcare so patients can have better experiences. Current practices were never built from the perspective of patients, and this is becoming increasingly unacceptable. In addition, the pharmaceutical industry has been undergoing significant transformation in the last few years. We are behind, when compared to other business sectors in this digital revolution era. This industry needs individuals equipped to meet the changing times.
Can you offer some thoughts on the convenience of the program? Why was its structure a perfect fit for you?
The design of this program was perfect for someone like me. I am a dedicated employee who is passionate about what I do. I am also a mother of a toddler. This program allowed me to continue to be all of this while also being a student. Furthermore, we were able to study in California for two weeks, and my son got to go to Disneyland and Legoland for the first time.
In terms of your classmates, what was it like learning alongside students from around the world?
The experience has been amazing. As all business sectors struggle to keep up with rapid digital changes, I have gained immense insights from very experienced classmates. I have learned how other industries from around the world have been able to capitalize and leverage their work, while trying to instill innovation and a change in mindset on new approaches and new ways of working. Learning from top-tiered faculty members was a real gift. Learning from successful leaders who are pushing the envelope in their domains was exciting. But, learning from the vast expertise of your classmates, and being inspired by their drive, was for me the real winner.
Moving forward, what key lessons or insights from the EMBA are you hoping to apply to your position at Boehringer Ingelheim?
Bringing forward a new project idea, spearheading this initiative from the ground up, and having to pitch this proposal for support and funding has been a challenging process. DeGroote’s EMBA has equipped me with the right skills and competencies to be able to build a business proposal for a new innovation, and bring forth an idea to executive decision-makers, including board members. By gaining a deep understanding of what is happening in business around the world, I was able to tap into what C-suite executives cared most about.
I know you have a keen interest in the intersection of health and digital technology. Why was the EMBA the perfect program for you, in this regard?
Digital technology has enabled the democratization of many things, from e-commerce to easy access to information. In the healthcare space, there are still barriers to access to one’s own health information, and this is simply unacceptable. Patients have a right to this information, as well as to know and understand their health. They also have the right to better care. DeGroote’s EMBA offers the skills, competencies, and network connections needed in order to go out and make a difference. It’s no coincidence that the Executive Director of the EMBA, Michael Hartmann, is also Co-Director of McMaster’s Health Leadership Academy. I see huge opportunities in connecting these two initiatives and empowering those motivated to make a difference. I see McMaster as the catalyst to enabling impactful healthcare transformations.