2023 MBA To Watch: Lauren Cziesla, Northwestern University (Kellogg)

Lauren Cziesla

Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management

“Creative problem solver and empathetic leader with a flair for innovative thinking.”

Hometown: Wheaton, IL

Fun fact about yourself: My family grows oysters as a hobby!

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Notre Dame 2016, B.S. in Chemistry-Business

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Associate Consultant Scientist at Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis, IN

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? General Management Development Program at Fortive in Irvine, CA

Where will you be working after graduation? Commercial Leadership Development Program at Horizon Therapeutics in Deerfield, IL

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Hawryluk Biopharmaceutical Scholar

Director of Sponsorships, Kellogg Business of Healthcare Conference

Director of Prospective Outreach, Women’s Business Association

Vice President of Auction, Charity Auction Ball

Co-Chair, Diner En Blanc presented by Cork and Screw (Kellogg Wine Club)

KWEST Leader (orientation trip)

KBUD (Kellogg Buddy for New Admits)

Day at Kellogg 2022 Section Leader

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of being chosen as part of the inaugural cohort of Hawryluk Biopharmaceutical scholars. This program has been instrumental in advancing my career in the biopharmaceutical industry. Through the program, we have access to monthly talks hosted by various biopharmaceutical industry executives, mentorship from notable alums in the industry, networking visits to companies, and an intimate cohort of diverse students with similar interests. I have learned so much about the commercial side of the biopharmaceutical industry and have made contacts across the industry that will serve me for the rest of my career.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Prior to business school, I worked as an engineer in a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant. In 2019, I was sent on a short-term assignment to our sister manufacturing site in Puerto Rico. While there, I led a process validation project to transfer a new drug product into the plant. I was responsible for creating the manufacturing instructions, developing enhanced testing protocols, and coordinating the cross-functional execution of 16 validation batches – all while navigating a new culture and large language barrier. I led the cross-functional team to complete the project and deliver a data package that could be filed with regulatory agencies within the six-month term of my assignment. Additionally, I learned how to quickly adapt to new working cultures and build relationships amidst communication barriers.

Why did you choose this business school? It sounds cliché, but I chose Kellogg for the community. Coming from a non-traditional business school background, I knew I wanted to be somewhere where I would be surrounded by positive, outgoing, and friendly people who had a diverse set of experiences from which I could learn. Kellogg, with its “high impact, low ego” mantra, fit that bill perfectly. I was impressed with every student and alumni who reached out prior to my commitment to attend and could tell that Kellogg was a community where people were eager to help and genuinely cared about one another’s success.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor was Craig Garthwaite. Professor Garthwaite taught my core strategy, healthcare strategy, and value creation and capture in biopharmaceuticals classes. He pushes all of his students to critically think about their opinions on certain topics or solutions to problems they face. I enjoyed his classes because he would always present both sides of an argument surrounding a topic before telling you what he thought. His deep knowledge of all sides of the healthcare industry has enriched my MBA experience.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? My favorite class at Kellogg was a finance class called “Managing Firms for Shareholders and Society,” taught by Professor David Matsa. This was an 18-person discussion-based seminar. We discussed and debated on a wide range of topics, including shareholder primacy, economic inequality and diversity in corporate leadership. I was able to learn from the perspectives of my classmates who came from a wide range of pre-business school backgrounds and who held wide-ranging beliefs. I also focused on improving my ability to study a problem, develop an opinion, structure an argument around that opinion, justify that opinion in a public setting, and learn from and understand opposing viewpoints. These are all skills that any senior leader needs to know how to do effectively.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite Kellogg tradition is KWEST [Kellogg Worldwide Exploration Student Trips]. This is our pre-orientation trip for incoming first year students. It is a five-day trip led by five second year students that brings together a diverse group of twenty first year students in a new place.  I participated as a first year and got to lead a KWEST trip as a second year. My favorite part of the trip is that for the first three days, no one talks about their life before Kellogg: where they are from, what they did before, their relationship status, etc. This allows people to get to know one another without forming any pre-conceived notions based on where someone comes from, or their experiences. I think this helps to foster community and inclusion early in students’ journeys at Kellogg and sets the tone for what is to come.  Kellogg prides itself on being full of kind, empathetic, and inclusive leaders and KWEST is the start of fostering that type of community.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I don’t think I would do anything differently. I was very intentional prior to coming to business school about setting my priorities and being clear about what I wanted to get out of my two years. I have used that priority list to guide my decision-making when faced with competing opportunities (of which there are plenty in the MBA program).

What is the biggest myth about your school? I think the biggest myth is that Kellogg is a CPG marketing school.  While we definitely have really great offerings and support for students pursuing roles in CPG marketing, Kellogg is so much more. There is something for everyone at Kellogg. I came into Kellogg relatively sure that I wanted to continue my career in healthcare, but pivot out of the manufacturing space. I have been blown away by the caliber of the healthcare programming, faculty, support, and opportunities.

What surprised you the most about business school? I have been pleasantly surprised with how quickly I have been able to form close connections with classmates from a broad range of backgrounds. I think this speaks to the power of the community at Kellogg.  I was sure I would meet cool people and grow my network, but I had no idea just how strong of bonds would be formed and how quickly they would develop.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose?  I think the thing that helped me most during my application process was staying true to myself and embracing my non-traditional background. I went in with a clear vision of the story I wanted to tell about my background and how an MBA would help me achieve my future goals. This led me to understand the types of questions to ask when talking with individual schools to gain insight into whether or not I would be a good fit.  This approach led me to discover the Healthcare at Kellogg program. After doing some research, I was able to clearly articulate how I could be a value add to the program and how the program could help me in my application essays.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? While it is so hard to choose just one classmate, I would have to choose Sarah Duffey. Sarah is a kind, energetic, curious, and smart leader. She is the type of person you feel like you have known for a lifetime within five minutes of meeting her. She constantly is lifting up those around her and is genuinely curious about any and everyone she meets. She is the perfect example of an authentically empathetic leader and I am lucky to call her a friend!

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  1. One of my long-term bucket list items is to become a senior leader at a biopharmaceutical company focused on delivering innovative, life-saving therapies to patients throughout the world.
  2. A shorter term goal is to take an international assignment to continue developing the skills necessary to work in a global environment. In my experience, some of the biggest personal and professional learnings come when you push yourself very far outside of your comfort zone and an international assignment seems like the perfect way to do that.

What made Lauren such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“I’ve had Lauren Cziesla in three different classes during her time at Kellogg as well as interaction very closely with her as part of in the Hawryluk Scholars Program. This highly-selective program is designed to train the next generation of biopharmaceutical leaders and Lauren has been an active participant in shaping this newly-directed program.

Both in and out of class, I’ve been impressed by Lauren’s clarity of thought and insight into the business of healthcare. She is exactly the type of MBA student that we want to be sending out into the labor force — primed for the ability to lead substantial and productive growth for the organizations in which she will work.”

Craig Garthwaite
Professor of Strategy
Herman Smith Research Professor in Hospital and Health Services Management
Director of Healthcare at Kellogg


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