Studying in the Part-Time MBA at WHU means for many students, an opportunity to develop new business skills while working and putting that newfound knowledge to practice. Many are attracted to the program due to its diverse student body with many coming from a variety of industries and backgrounds, including science. Part-Time MBA student and scientist Dr. Alena Blank-Giwojna, saw a gap at WHU between management and life sciences. To bridge this gap, she founded the WHU MBA Life Science Club. We talk to her to discover more about her background, her motivation behind joining the MBA program, and what she hopes others will gain from the club.
Born in Belarus, Alena studied biotechnology in Danzig (Gdansk), Poland, then went on to study a master’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology. She completed her doctoral studies at Heidelberg University as a Ph.D. candidate at the German Cancer Research Center. “I realized during this time that being a lab scientist is quite an introverted job. I love the challenges the role offers and proving/disproving hypotheses, but I decided that I wanted a change and moved to the life science and healthcare industry.”
Taking her next career step as a scientific project manager in a healthcare-oriented company, Alena found herself involved in strategy, sales, and business development but was lacking the theory to back her ideas. “I realized I was missing that business acumen to provide expertise and complement the knowledge I already had. That is why I decided to study an MBA.”
Keen to keep working while she studied (she is also a new mother), Alena specifically chose WHU due to the reputation and high quality of the school. “It is the best business school according to the rankings, but they also have an individualized recruiting process, so you know the school is selective about who its students are and takes care of each person. I also preferred the weekend-based classes so there was no need to take extra days off from work.”
To connect people like herself to the business network and provide a place for WHU students to explore a new industry, Alena founded a new student club, the WHU MBA Life Science Club. “I noticed WHU is mostly focused on general management, so I wanted to build a bridge between that and the life sciences. When I was in academia there were a lot of talented scientists with start-up ideas, but they lack that business knowledge and need someone to support as a co-founder. The club is a great way to find support for both and build an even stronger entrepreneurial environment. I hope students have the opportunity to expand their network further, develop their soft skills by working with a diverse group of people, and also explore a new industry.”
Due to graduate this year and looking back at the experience so far, has the WHU Part-Time MBA met her expectations? “I started with zero knowledge and now I feel like I have acquired a solid business acumen. The professors are very open – there is no such thing as a stupid question. It is a safe environment to ask anything, there’s always extra material to read, and my fellow students are incredibly supportive. The program has more than exceeded my expectations.”