Brittany Gulledge (MBA ’16), president of the MBA Healthcare Club, discusses the intersection of business and healthcare – and how UNC Kenan-Flagler is helping her hone her leadership skills and prepare for her new career path.
What made you want to pursue a career in healthcare?
I’ve known that I wanted to work in healthcare since I was very young. As an undergraduate, I majored in Chemistry and Biology and was encouraged by my professors to pursue a PhD and teach the next round of scientists as a professor at a research university like UNC-Chapel Hill.
I started my PhD in chemistry and chemical biology – a field designed to use chemical tools to manipulate biological processes with the goal of treating and curing human ailments. It was about the third year of my PhD program when I realized that my future career as a scientist didn’t fit my personal needs of spending my days surrounded by a team of people. That is when I decided to leave my PhD program and pursue my MBA so that I could work in pharmaceutical marketing.
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Why did you choose UNC Kenan-Flagler?
I wanted a place that aligned with my own values, and I really like the core values at UNC Kenan-Flagler. Meeting with the MBAs here and hearing about their experiences is what sold me. Everyone at UNC Kenan-Flagler just really loves it here.
What is the most valuable experience you’ve had at UNC Kenan-Flagler?
Coming into UNC Kenan-Flagler, I knew that I wanted to work in the healthcare industry, so I wanted to be very involved in the MBA Healthcare Club. I got involved as a first year and was elected president for my second year, which is a huge honor.
Being president of the Healthcare Club has been a fantastic learning opportunity. I’ve never had this kind of leadership experience before. UNC Kenan-Flagler is the best business school for leadership, and I think one of the many reasons for this is because there are so many opportunities for students to lead and make real impacts within the School. Earning your MBA here offers a unique chance to develop as a leader in a safe environment and get honest feedback from your peers. I’ve had the opportunity to lead a group of extremely talented, motivated people, which has been very humbling and has allowed me to develop my own leadership style and techniques.
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What opportunities does the club offer for students interested in a career in healthcare?
The club is mostly geared towards helping MBAs get the best jobs possible. We run 12 programs and events to help students understand the very complex healthcare industry and provide opportunities to interact and network with members of the industry.
The annual UNC Kenan-Flagler Healthcare Conference is our largest event, with about 400 attendees annually, and is great for education and networking. The night before the conference we hold an alumni dinner, which is our biggest recruiting event. Students get fantastic access to representatives from the companies that sponsor the conference and the talented speakers on our panels.
What are the qualities of a successful leader?
UNC Kenan-Flagler students who take on leadership positions take an elected leaders class, which allows us to learn more about leadership while we are serving in our roles.
In the elected leaders class, we learned about what employees need from their bosses: compassion, stability, hope, and trust. I think those four things are essential to being a successful leader. A leader must provide a vision and make sure his or her team has the resources they need to run with it while not taking over the process.
Working with the Healthcare Club, I was sometimes surprised by the way my team put our vision into action. In fact, more often than not, my team has created something even better than I imagined when we discussed the vision initially!
What are some of the challenges business leaders face in the healthcare industry?
Change is the biggest issue in the healthcare industry. Anticipating challenges is almost impossible – there will be new ones all the time.
To work in this industry, you need to be flexible and comfortable with ambiguity. It’s a lot of fun for me because it’s extremely challenging. There are trends of consolidation, vertical integration, increased patient involvement, changing legislation and more. The industry changes every few years, so you have to be ready for that.
At UNC Kenan-Flagler, students are provided with real leadership experiences before joining the workforce. That’s been the best way to prepare myself.
What is your definition of success?
I look at success holistically. I look at my life and what I want out of it: happiness. To achieve true, deep happiness in which you feel completely fulfilled, you need to do something that you love. I love helping people, so I need to be in a job in which I get to do that.
Working in the healthcare industry gives me that happiness. I’ll get to do really meaningful work, taking complicated information and making it understandable for doctors, nurses and patients. Later in my career, I hope to lead teams that are doing this work and continue to improve as many patients’ lives as possible.
What advice would you give incoming MBA students?
When you’re applying to business school, you have to say that you know what you want to do because admissions committees need to know that you’ve thought through at least one plan. Once you start school, you are bombarded with opportunities. Start exploring your passions early on. There are a lot of ways to do that – such as through conferences and networking with current students – before you even step foot on campus. I was probably one of the most focused people in my class, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t explore. It’s part of the process.
When you find your dream job, spend some time figuring out the core requirements, and write them down. Then, when you are bombarded with all of the opportunities, events and job prospects as a student, you can keep yourself grounded as to why you did this in the first place.