“I knew I wanted to stay abreast of biotechnology and the pharmaceutical industry, but I also wanted to be more aware of diverse and broader business issues that impact them.”
Fal Vaidya, EMTM’05
Global Procurement Manager
Merck & Co., Inc.
Whitehouse Station, NJ
Fal Vaidya, EMTM’05
Staying Current / Balancing Work, Studies and Family
Fal has bachelor's degrees in chemical engineering and biology from City College of New York. She was interested in working in the pharmaceutical or biotech industries and straight out of college accepted a job offer from Merck, where she has been working for 16 years. At first Fal drew from her engineering background, working as a staff engineer in quality, then as a senior engineer and project manager within manufacturing, facilities and equipment, and environmental engineering. During this time, Fal became interested in the business side of the company. "As an engineer you're focused on a silo area. Procurement, on the other hand, is focused globally with different areas of support R&D, manufacturing, marketing, sales which provides a broader perspective of how business and science come together in running a company. That was intriguing to me." Fal also recognized that from a management position she would have better leverage to direct her career forward. Today, she works as a global strategic sourcing manager in global procurement.
During the program Fal had two children and worked full-time with increasing responsibility, and switched between full-time and part-time schedules at EMTM. The program's flexibility and supportiveness, she says, allowed her to balance work, studies and family.
When she joined Merck's global procurement organization seven years ago, Fal knew she needed a better understanding of business principles. She wanted to develop the tool kit of skills that would enable her to manage a group within a major corporation or as an entrepreneur. She had been researching schools for some time and was considering applying for a traditional MBA program, Law School or PhD, when a colleague told her about EMTM. "It made sense because I knew I wanted to stay abreast of the science and biotech/pharmaceutical fields, but I also wanted to be more aware of diverse and broader issues that impact them. I started to talk to EMTM students about their technology electives and I loved how the program combined these aspects with the business bent."
Fal liked that EMTM offered access to the University of Pennsylvania's excellent resources and faculty and because she wanted to continue working fulltime, the short commute to Philadelphia was another enticement. As Merck houses a satellite of Lehigh University's continuing education network, Fal had to present her case to upper management and explain why EMTM's full-time program would better suit her needs. She received their approval and began the program with full sponsorship from Merck.
Career Impact and Benefits to Merck
Fal's job demands an understanding of many business disciplines, so she has found that EMTM core courses in Accounting, Corporate Finance, Marketing Strategies and Business Policy have been particularly useful, as well as management electives like Intellectual Property Management. "When I started in the program, I was a business analyst and conducted benchmarking, financial hedging and due diligence work, so I was able to draw on my finance and accounting classes. Later, as a sourcing manager, I had to negotiate licensing deals and outsource some of our operations. That meant pulling together many of these concepts and being able to package and present my decisions to senior-level management for approval."
Fal says she used her technology electives to "widen my comfort zone," sampling Information Technology, Software Engineering and Nanotechnology. The Drug Discovery class reaffirmed her desire to stay within the pharmaceutical industry. "It really brought technology and entrepreneurship together and took me back to my roots. I am now better able to see where the opportunities for licensing new technology are," she says.
In her Total Leadership class, Fal was able to develop an "actionable" vision statement. "I learned to articulate my values and understand that they are the foundation of how I lead others and myself. The class forces you to focus on work, family, self and community, and how it is possible to leverage many of these domains. You begin to see how you can increase business results while living a more balanced life. It was a lot of work in terms of soul searching but it helps you lay a foundation for your career and other important aspects of your life. At Merck, I'm expected to manage a team effectively and deliver results. This course gave me greater confidence in my leadership style, which was demonstrated through small but poignant wins, and my management and family recognized and encouraged my efforts."
The experience of EMTM peers from a range of industries is another plus. "I can't say enough about the EMTM community. Students bring their experience, not just to class, but to lunch discussion, Friday evening discussion basically everywhere they go. I've got a network now and I know who to call when I have a question."
Fal sees EMTM's impact on her thinking and on what she brings to her work. "If I took a pulse-check today, I would say that I am able to think more strategically and apply business principles as well as the analytical tools to approach a wide range of issues."