Meet UNC Kenan-Flagler’s MBA Class of 2021

Tom Hickey

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

“Engineering-minded technophile driven by the immediate need to improve healthcare delivery in the U.S.”

Hometown: Virginia Beach, Virginia

Fun Fact About Yourself: I used my time off this summer before starting classes to travel across Rwanda for two weeks.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Notre Dame, Mechanical Engineering

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Epic Systems, Team Lead Manager

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: One of my passions is building strong, self-sustaining teams. While at Epic, I coached a direct report, who was also a manager, through the process of growing a team member into a management role. In fostering the growth of this individual, I helped provide a path for the team member to achieve their professional goals while also strengthening the existing management team.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Through the Dean’s Fellows program at UNC Kenan-Flagler, I have already had the chance to meet many of my peers via pre-orientation activities organized by the admissions team. Without exception, everyone I have met has been incredibly eager to get on campus and make an impact on their own career trajectories as well as the UNC community. There is a ubiquitous excitement and energy for joining the UNC Kenan-Flagler family. I have no doubt the energy levels I have seen from my peers will help drive me through the rigors of our first semester of core classes.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? UNC Kenan-Flagler’s commitment to growing their already-excellent healthcare concentration is what drove me to choose them. I plan to work in healthcare after school and it was essential that the program I chose exposed me to industry-specific concepts. UNC’s Center for the Business of Health provides an avenue for MBA candidates interested in healthcare to interact with real-world stakeholders (physicians, pharmacists, etc.) while still in school. This program, paired with the strong healthcare curriculum, further cemented my conviction that UNC Kenan-Flagler was the right school for me.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I am most looking forward to joining the Healthcare Club. Coming from a healthcare technology background, I am excited to interact with my peers who are coming from the different sectors of the industry. I am quick to seek opportunities for friendly competition and am especially looking forward to trying out for the club’s case competition team.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I found UNC Kenan-Flagler’s interview process to be pleasantly transparent and forthright. While the interview process was intensive, there were never any questions asked that were intended to make me sweat. Instead, the admissions team took a conversational tone that allowed them to get to know who I am and how I could contribute to UNC Kenan-Flagler. In turn, the approach they took allowed me to ask questions and learn about UNC’s culture and values.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? The focus of my career thus far has been on the effective deployment of technology to help healthcare providers care for patients. Through my experiences, I have come to learn how much opportunity exists within the business side of healthcare to make progress toward healthcare’s triple aim (improve the patient’s experience, improve the population’s health, lower cost). I am pursuing a UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA to shift my career trajectory to straddle the intersection of technology and business in healthcare.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Wharton, MIT Sloan, Fuqua, Darden, Owen

How did you determine your fit at various schools? After an initial review of rankings and company placements to whittle down the list of schools, I took the time to speak with students about their experiences. I found that reviewing school websites was not especially valuable – all major programs have slick websites with innumerable platitudes about the “uniqueness” of their culture. It was not until I spoke with students that I was able to judge how thoroughly the core values of a program were actually embodied.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? Getting asked to fill out a survey for Poets & Quants … But in all seriousness, I cannot identify a singular defining moment. More often than not, defining moments come about by a series of daily, consistently-made, small decisions. These choices are what actually shape you – the culmination of those choices in a single moment is just the product of who you already are.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? I plan on continuing my focus leveraging technology to improve healthcare delivery in the United States. Ten years from now, I see my career having taken one of two paths. The first path would be to work directly for a healthcare provider (i.e. hospital system) as a systems director or chief information officer. In this role, I would be charged with deploying technological solutions to help the system care for its patients. The second path would be working directly with a producer of healthcare technology as a product manager. In this role I would help develop new technological solutions and create novel products for the healthcare delivery market.

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