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This week, we chatted with biotech expert Hafeez Dhalla, who is in currently in our Fall 2016 class and about to graduate. We learned more about his MBA experience and what’s in store for him post-Smartly. Browse, connect, and hire candidates like Hafeez on the Smartly Talent Network.

Tell us about yourself.
In 2012, I finished a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at Duke, where I researched an imaging technology that provides ophthalmology surgeons with a cross-sectional view of the tissues they are manipulating – a different vantage point than they can achieve from the top-down view through a microscope. After graduating, I initially followed an academic path as a postdoctoral fellow at MIT.  I then had an opportunity to join my Ph.D. advisor’s startup, Bioptigen, which was trying to commercialize a technology similar to the intraoperative imaging technology I worked on in graduate school. At Bioptigen, I saw this product from the research phase, through product development and ultimately into commercialization. Bioptigen was then acquired by Leica Microsystems, and I moved from an engineering role to a commercial one. Now, as a product manager, I work directly with surgeons in an upstream marketing capacity, gathering feedback and defining requirements to improve the product. I am also still the resident technology expert, and so I still perform a fair amount of technical work as well. I had wanted to do an MBA to support my new commercial role, but it was difficult to find the time or the funding to do it. That’s when I found Smartly. It seemed like a natural fit – the classes were the right size and could fit it into my schedule whenever I had time. It gives me the knowledge I need for my new commercial role without the rigid structure of a traditional MBA.

How has the Smartly curriculum helped you?
I use it all the time. For example, the digital marketing course has been really useful of late. We’ve been looking at digital marketing campaigns for one of the products that we’re launching. While I’m not directly involved in the downstream marketing work, I do work closely with the marketing team and help to develop content for their campaigns. Knowing what they’re talking about (for example, when they discuss inbound and outbound marketing) has been invaluable. A lot of the content that I develop is tailored to inbound marketing, but they’ll create outbound campaigns to draw people into the technical pieces that I create.

What have you enjoyed about the MBA so far?
How bite-sized the classes are. I’m pretty busy. I have a young kid and another on the way. I have a full-time job and some investment activities on the side, so my days are pretty full. When I was thinking about doing a weekend or executive MBA, I wasn’t sure how I could squeeze it in. This has been great.

What are you hoping to get out of Smartly Talent?
I took on this MBA to help me with my current career path. Of course, if I were able to find something that would be a good fit for my experience and skills, I would be interested in learning more.

What are you hoping to do after you graduate?
The knowledge base provided by Smartly has been valuable and will continue to be valuable in this new career path that I’m on. Looking towards the future, I’m not sure if I want to stay on the commercial side or move back to the technical side. I like what I’m doing right now where I’m straddling both. I would love to have a career that maintains roles in both product development and product management.

Which industries are most appealing to you?
Medical technology and medical devices. I’m also interested in renewable energy and global health. Anything that addresses large overarching problems in the world.

What is your long-term career goal?
I’m hopeful that I can make an impact on the world and make it a better place through the development and commercialization of technologies in these spaces.  I think I can best do that through a product development or product management role, especially one in which I can leverage my technical skills.

What makes you a great job candidate?
I am pretty persistent, and when I get into something, I’m very dedicated to it. I’ve been working on this same technology for over a decade, trying to develop a product I believe in and bring it to market. That experience has been valuable in that I’ve been able to take something through multiple phases: from conception in the research lab to product development in a startup to global commercialization in a multinational corporation. I’ve learned a great deal through these experiences; from the rigors of academic research, to addressing more practical concerns in product development, to now navigating commercial challenges in product management and new product introduction.

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