From science to the C-suite
Dr Sanjeev Alfred already had a PhD in biological science and a passion for business. A decade after completing his Executive MBA from ACU, he is now the Chief Commercial Officer with blood analysis products manufacturer Haemokinesis.
Studying an MBA full-time while working full-time is demanding. Throw a one-year-old child into the mix and many people would run for the hills at the prospect. But with good planning, Sanjeev made it all work.
“As an MBA student, balancing study with work and family was one of my most critical challenges, especially with a one-year-old at home,” recalled Sanjeev, who started at ACU in 2011. “I wanted to finish within two years, which I did, but I really had to prioritise what was important to me.
“I had to plan my days, weeks and months. I would finish work, go home and start my assessments. I’d plan to spend an hour on each assessment every day. For group projects, we would catch up on a Friday afternoon or night, or even weeknights. And I’d have face-to-face classes on weekends. This kept me occupied fully.”
Sanjeev, who was a product manager with Roche Diagnostics Australia at the time, said a strict regime and a supportive wife allowed him to graduate from ACU in 2013 – the year his second child was born.
“I really wanted to do this course and I believed, if I did it, it would help me in my career goals. All this took dedication and commitment. But it was worthwhile in the end. The experience helped to improve my time management, communication skills and perseverance.”
Planning to get ahead
It’s a dramatic pivot to go from researching in a lab to heading a corporation, and an option not all scientists would choose. Sanjeev, however, had an innate sense for business from the word go.
“I always had a passion for the commercial side of science, and after I completed my doctorate in biological science at the University of Sydney I wanted to move into that field,” he said.
After multiple job knockbacks due to his lack of commercial experience, Sanjeev landed a sales role with Roche Diagnostics Australia. But transitioning from academia to business wasn’t easy.
“A business environment is totally different to an academic environment,” he explained. “With science, you do your research, you find something interesting and there’s no pressure to make a profit or meet targets. Business is all about achieving and coming up with results. There are KPIs, you’ve got to make your targets, your budgets, and manage your time.”
It was at this point that Sanjeev enrolled in ACU’s Master of Business Administration. It wasn’t a requirement of his role, but he did it to solidify his business knowledge and progress in his career.
“I wanted to move into senior leadership roles. That’s not just leading people, it’s also taking responsibility for the strategic objectives of a company. Additionally, it’s about driving and building commercial goals and building profitability; running divisions and functions.
“Although I had some experience, I wanted to enhance my leadership skills and increase my knowledge of marketing, finance, human resources, and how to run a business ethically.”
Not only did the program expand Sanjeev’s knowledge, it also grew his network. The small class sizes allowed him to interact with and learn from his peers, who had a wider breadth of managerial experience.
And he appreciated the emphasis his professors had placed on doing business ethically.
“That was a unique feature about studying at ACU,” said Sanjeev. “My professors encouraged critical thinking and emphasised the importance of ethical behaviour too. As you move up the corporate ladder, finding outside-the-box solutions to critical business problems is imperative, but they also need to be within the ethical framework. As far as I am concerned, the only way to do business is the ethical way.”
A competitive advantage
In the 10 years since he graduated from ACU, Sanjeev’s career has gone only one way: up.
He has worked with multinational clinical diagnostics companies including PerkinElmer, Thermo Fisher Scientific and Bio-Rad Laboratories, choosing roles strategically to gain exposure to different business functions and take on increasing sales, marketing and management responsibilities.
Now, as the Chief Commercial Officer with blood analysis products manufacturer Haemokinesis, he oversees the company’s objectives and implements all commercial strategies.
Sanjeev loves being at the heart of a company that operates in 56 countries and has a growing presence across the world.
“I enjoy being involved in key decision-making processes that drive growth and development of the company,” he said. “As CCO, I’m an integral part of developing strategies to grow the business, thus leading to profitability of the organisation.”
Does he think his MBA was worth the two years of juggling work and study, and would he recommend it to others? Yes, and yes.
“My career has really progressed since I did my MBA. When I added it to my resume, companies looked at it favourably and, on many occasions, I was called for interviews. In my view, the MBA was the key to acquiring a competitive advantage in the job market.”
Sanjeev also wants other scientists to know that this is possible for them too.
“Scientists believe they are confined to a certain career. But I want them to know there are other options available on the commercial side. This is a potential career path for them, and there are opportunities to get into other roles which could benefit the community as well.”
Learn how you can get a career advantage like Sanjeev. Explore ACU’s suite of MBA programs.