Discovering Healthcare As A Career For MBAs

At DigitalGipfel18, Michael Sen, chairman of the Supervisory Board of Siemens Healthineers, discusses the digital heart model with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Courtesy photo

Recruiting is a challenging, full-time job for MBA students. Peer competition is intense, and various uncertainties about different career paths add more complexity to the decision making. For those who are looking to leverage their MBA as a pivot point, this is a crucial time, and the decision before them is likely to be life-changing. Unfortunately, healthcare as a career option is not always at the top of students’ priority list. Check out the 2018 employment report from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management (below), my alma mater, which shows that only 7% of the Class 2018 accepted a job in healthcare. Instead, as usual, the majority gravitated toward consulting, tech, and financial services. 

Figure 1. Kellogg School of Management 2018 Employment Report

Reflecting on my own journey, I started my career in medical device consulting, then worked for GE Healthcare before attending the full-time MBA program at Kellogg. I was determined to one day be a general manager of a global healthcare company. But as passionate as I have always been about healthcare, even I wavered at the possibility of working for a tech company — after all, who wouldn’t want to be a product manager for a tech giant, working on the next big sexy thing? I had multiple full-time offers, and I contemplated pivoting to a new industry and starting fresh.

I agonized over the decision for days, making pros-and-cons analysis tables and talking with advisers and family. But then I realized that healthcare is still the most exciting place to be. I’ve never regretted my decision. Joining Siemens CEO Program 18 months ago, I have been working on various exciting healthcare assignments globally.

So before you quickly brush aside the potential in a healthcare career, let me offer some insights. First, let’s understand the context of the current healthcare trends and challenges.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has created tremendous pressure on care providers. The ACA fundamentally reformed the health insurance sector. With the new payment structure focusing on an outcome-based versus fee-for-service model, providers face unprecedented challenges in transforming the entire value chain of care delivery. The success of the transformation requires different skill sets and mentalities. This is evident in the shift of C-level leadership backgrounds: Hospital CEOs used to consist of mostly medical doctors, but more and more the C-suite in healthcare is made up of leaders with business acumen. 

Digital innovation in healthcare is happening in every facet. The Internet of Things phenomenon certainly applies in healthcare. Electronic medical records enable providers and payers access to troves of insightful patient data. Even hand sanitizers in hospitals could generate terabytes of data on a daily basis. Working at Siemens Healthineers, I am excited to see how we’ve utilized the digital twin to create workflow simulations to assist facility designs. With artificial intelligence, we are augmenting physicians’ clinical decision-making to achieve personalized and precision medicine. With all of these exhilarating innovations underway, healthcare companies need to equip their workforce with competencies in data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity. 

As providers and payers face new pain points, med tech companies need to cultivate new go-to-market approaches to strengthen value proposition. Medtronic’s “pay if it works” model is a great example. Providers and payers are pro-risk sharing. Med tech companies must deploy new partnership models and gain expertise in consultative selling and health economics to demonstrate value add. For example, more med tech companies are migrating from product-based marketing to disease-oriented marketing

These are just a few of the dynamics at play. Given these and more, I can’t think of a better time to have a career in healthcare. Let me simply offer three facts in favor:

It’s never boring. As global as healthcare is, it’s also localized. Given its unique regulatory constraints that trigger a completely different market environment, working in healthcare in there United States is completely different than in Canada, or for that matter, any other country on the planet. Despite rapid medical technology advancements, if you ever find yourself complacent, just cross the border and it’s a whole new ballgame.

It’s self-fulfilling. Regardless of what you do, your work will at least indirectly impact hundreds of thousands of patients. At the end of the day, patients are all that matters. The moment you realize that you’ve helped save lives is a truly priceless feeling. 

It’s job security. Think about what happened to the oil and gas, financial services, real estate, retail, and automotive sectors during the last global economic crisis. On the other hand, healthcare is not only relatively unaffected by macroeconomic conditions, it is also a consistently growing field. As global economic development continues, the general public can afford and will demand better healthcare standards. 

So let me connect the dots for you. If you are a strategic thinker who is up for unprecedented business challenges; if you are a tech maven who is determined to bring innovation to life; if you are an audacious leader who is passionate about making lasting impacts — then search no further. Healthcare is the answer! 

Jason Kang,  a Class of  2017 Northwestern Kellogg MBA, also holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Rice University. His healthcare career has ranged from medical device consulting to managing commercial operations for GE Healthcare in the greater Houston area. Since earning his MBA he has become a CEO associate in the Siemens CEO Program, working in various international healthcare assignments. 

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.