Diya Gopalan, MSc International Health Management 2020-21, student at Imperial College Business School

Programme: MSc International Health Management

Nationality: American

Education: BA Human Health, Emory University

Company and role secured after programme: Quality & Supply Chain Associate, Future Leaders Programme, GlaxoSmithKline

About you

What work experience/internships did you have before beginning with Imperial College Business School?

Following my graduation from Emory University in 2019, I worked in life sciences consulting for a year in my hometown, Singapore. I had the opportunity to work at both a big four firm and a smaller boutique company, which allowed me to gain experience in two very distinct corporate cultures. In both roles, I worked primarily with pharmaceutical clients on projects ranging from market access to multichannel marketing and was able to contribute to whitepapers assessing technology disruptions in the healthcare industry. This spurred my initial interest in digital health and health tech – particularly of pharmaceutical companies’ investment into the sector – which motivated me to explore this space further in my career.

Why did you decide to study an MSc International Health Management at Imperial College Business School?

I had the opportunity to enrol in several foundational business modules during my undergraduate degree by undertaking a business concentration in health innovation. This, in addition to my experience in consulting, piqued my interest in business management and drove me to pursue a higher-level degree to further my commercial knowledge and acumen. As I wanted to remain in the healthcare industry, I narrowed my search of programmes exclusively to those that integrated classical business curriculums with healthcare. Imperial was one of the very few highly-ranked universities in the UK that offered such a programme. I was drawn to Imperial College Business School for its impressive healthcare research calibre, digital-first mindset, and culture of heterogeneity and innovation – hallmarks which I knew would define and differentiate specialised programmes such as MSc International Health Management from others. I was confident that the programme as well as the Business School at large would prepare me well for my transition from consulting to pharma, by offering extensive professional networks, practical skills development, and sector-wide commercial exposure.

Did you receive a scholarship?

I was awarded the Imperial College Business School Scholarship as part of my admission to the programme. As an award based on academic achievement and leadership potential, it validated and gave recognition to my accomplishments prior to Imperial, which was an immense honour to receive. The scholarship title itself has numerous benefits. For instance, it enables me to stand out on paper to prospective employers, signposting my accreditation as a future leader in healthcare. Future applicants should take advantage of this scholarship opportunity by making sure to apply well before the deadline and highlighting positions of leadership and instances of academic achievement consistently throughout each supporting statement (i.e. CV and personal statement). Additionally, seeking out referees who can speak to your credibility as a student leader and accomplishments in the workplace and/or university will help put you in the running for this scholarship as well.


What aspects of the programme do you most enjoy the most?

I love how diverse our programme’s cohort is, not just in terms of ethnicity but also in terms of expertise. This year, we represent over 30 different nationalities and hold myriad undergraduate degrees encompassing the sciences, arts, humanities, social sciences, and business. Meeting like-minded individuals who come from an array of global cultures with unique professional experiences is an unparalleled highlight of the programme. It allows for immense learning and personal growth by exposing you to different perspectives and enabling you to explore idiosyncratic approaches to work. It also facilitates interdisciplinary teamwork when working in syndicate groups, which is a critical component of healthcare and a beneficial competency for (re)entering the workforce.

Which has been your favourite module so far and why?

To date, I have most enjoyed Health Informatics, which looks at the application of technology and information systems to healthcare management. I appreciated how interactive the module was in the way it was delivered, via a mix of practical programming sessions as well as a series of guest lecturers discussing topics from health tech in practice to patient data ethics. It also encouraged me to learn more programming languages such as SQL in my own time.

What has been the most rewarding part of the programme?

The way in which the programme is taught allows you to expand your thinking and develop your problem-solving process. As with any business school programme, the majority of coursework takes place in groups. While this comes with many challenges, it can be incredibly beneficial to your development as an industry professional and prospective leader in healthcare. I learned a lot from the way members of my syndicate group approached our projects, by leveraging their particular area of expertise to contribute in individual ways. The autumn term module Organisational Behaviour also touched on this quite substantially, and further helped me cultivate a new understanding of what it means to work well in a team and generate the most optimal output through collaboration – a key learning that I’ll bring with me well into my healthcare career.

What has been the most challenging part of the programme?

Definitely the lack of face time with our cohort, faculty, and programme team. Because of the pandemic, the majority of our cohort had to start the year off entirely remotely, which meant only a portion of students were able to meet each other and our lecturers in person in socially distanced ‘bubbles’. Working in syndicate groups posed a challenge in terms of scheduling meetings that suited various time zones and maintaining consistent communication while working remotely. This diminished the social component of our programme at the start of the year and made it more difficult for us to connect as a cohesive cohort. However, we have had great student leaders who have taken the initiative to keep us interacting in as many ways as possible, and in the duration of the programme, we have slowly adapted to remote collaboration in our groups with the support of the programme’s team.

How have you found the multi-mode teaching delivery?

Imperial has made a substantial effort to implement multi-mode learning as effectually as possible for its students, which is a huge feather in its cap during such a trying time for education. Although distance learning differs to in-person learning, I found that our online classes were highly productive and time-efficient, which was especially valuable in times when coursework piled up. Professors also made the effort to keep lessons engaging and interactive throughout, which made remote learning equally as enjoyable. We were fortunate enough to have a few classes in-person a week and were able to work with our syndicate groups on-campus regularly. Imperial took significant measures to ensure we were able to do so safely in accordance with social distancing guidelines. Our cohort really treasures any opportunity to meet in person so having the Business School’s support in these unusual circumstances is consequential.


How would you describe your cohort at Imperial?

The MSc International Health Management cohort is one of the most friendly and outgoing ones at Imperial, and that definitely holds true for this year’s group, even with being multi-mode. What’s unique about our cohort is that everyone’s incredibly willing to go out of their way to help out others, whether it’s programme-related or not – people take the initiative to make social messaging groups, flag up events of interest, share recruitment tips, send reminders of imminent deadlines, and give you a hand with really anything you need. As an inherently social group, we capitalise on meeting up as much as possible within COVID regulations – for instance we’d frequent The Union Bar several times a week when in tier one/two COVID regulations and would organise regular meetups in Hyde Park whenever the weather was in our favour. Members of our cohort are always keen to explore the city and do new things together, so weekends (when we’re not buried in coursework) are never dull.

Did you have a favourite professor/lecturer and why?

Jeremy Fernando, our accounting teacher, was definitely a favourite! He’s a man of many talents (as you’ll come to know if you ever have him as a lecturer) and always brings his cheery demeanour to lectures, which makes them fun to attend even when remote. Aside from this, he also makes himself readily available to students outside of class, which is particularly valuable during distance learning, and attentively ensures both online and in-person groups are made to feel included during lectures.


What has been the greatest opportunity you have had at Imperial?

Taking a leadership role within one of Imperial College Business School’s career clubs has opened up so many doors in the time I’ve been enrolled in the programme. Not only has it allowed me to develop an entirely new network across the Business School, from the Careers team to other student leaders, but it has also enabled me to secure lasting connections with a variety of industry professionals. As the Vice-President of the Healthcare Club, I have had the privilege of working with talented students across the School to set up events putting prominent healthcare topics at the forefront. At our recent three-day Healthcare Summit (focusing on the sectors of consulting, pharma, and tech), we had over 300 attendees from 30 different universities across Europe and the UK to engage with a roundtable panel of nine working professionals representing industry giants such as Google, Accenture, AstraZeneca, and more. The event, though virtual, allowed us to establish connections with other notable Healthcare Clubs as well as new corporate partners for future collaborations, a major notch in our belt going into the new year. It has also helped me grow my own professional network in the region as well, which I’m sure will come in useful for when I start working in the UK.

To those considering a programme at Imperial College Business School, I would highly recommend taking advantage of leadership roles in the career clubs – doing so will also help you cement close relationships with the careers consultants, who are exceptionally valuable during the recruitment period.

Which workshops, events or guest lectures at the school have been useful in developing your skills and knowledge?

I found the interview techniques workshop by Careers to be useful as a practical exercise of commonly asked, and often sector-specific, first and second round interview questions. Also, for those unfamiliar with assessment centres (like me), the small group assessment centre activity sessions can be a worthwhile opportunity for you to get answers to questions and receive insightful tips on how to stand out during the interview. One-on-one mock interviews with career consultants can also be fruitful practice sessions more tailored to your specific job and industry.

Have you had opportunities to work/socialise with students across programmes within the Business School?

Through our virtual events and committee meetings in the Imperial Business Healthcare Club, I have had the opportunity to meet and interact with many students from different programmes which has been a great privilege in the current circumstances. I have also been able to connect with students from other programmes through virtual roundtable meetings with other student leaders and look forward to collaborating with them and their clubs more in the upcoming terms.

How have you benefited from being part of the wider Imperial College London STEM community?

Imperial at its core is a science-driven research institution, recognised for its excellence in innovation and enterprise. Imperial is shaped by this reputation, and with the university’s long-lasting commitment to healthcare, so is the MSc International Health Management programme. The health-focused modules within our programme (taught in the spring term) are backed by a high standard of healthcare research and led by faculty at the very forefront of the industry, tying in with the wider STEM community at Imperial. It’s a huge perk of being in this programme, and something I’m looking forward to for next term!


What are your future career goals and how have they been realised since being at Imperial?

Within pharma, I aim to eventually work in developing and securing health technology partnerships and products to integrate digital technologies into commercial aspects of the business – to work towards increasing disease awareness and medical access in emerging and underserved markets. In the long-term, I hope to work more actively at the intersection of healthcare, technology, and strategy, to address global healthcare challenges – this vision has largely been realised while undertaking the MSc International Health Management programme and listening to the insights of guest speakers from the Health Informatics module, as well as networking with the digital health panellists from our Healthcare Summit event.

Have you received any job offers since commencing your programme?

I have recently been offered a place on GlaxoSmithKline’s Future Leader Programme in the UK, where I will be completing a three-year rotational programme in supply chain management on the consumer healthcare side before moving into a fixed role at the company.

How did the services from Careers help in your professional development/securing employment?

Toby Emmerson, the Healthcare Club’s trusty advisor and member of the Careers team, was a huge help during my preparation for GSK’s assessment centre. He proactively helped me get in touch with a former MSc International Health Management student currently working at GSK prior to the interview, which allowed me to receive valuable advice and further insight into the company. Toby additionally shared some notes with me on the FLP programme as well as GSK at large, which came in particularly useful during my interview prep.

Melody Goh, one of the careers consultants for specialised programmes, also played an instrumental role in preparing me for the assessment centre. She conducted my mock interview session, which consisted of several final round interview questions tailored to GSK, and gave me useful feedback on my performance. The assessment centre practice session led by Marie Porter was also extremely helpful as she shared some perceptive, lesser-known tips for succeeding in an assessment centre, which came in very handy on the day.

London Location

Do you think studying in a central location such as London is beneficial for networking and career opportunities?

In London, opportunities are everywhere when it comes to your career. Beyond its standing as the world’s financial centre, London has evolved into an unparalleled global hub for countless industries. Being a student in this city means having innumerable companies and industry executives, representing all major sectors, right at your doorstep. From this exposure alone, you have the best prospects of finding the right organisation and career path for you. As one of the most interconnected cities in the world, London gives you the opportunity to create a strong professional network and build on it consistently. I’ve experienced the perks of this even from a virtual standpoint, from networking on LinkedIn with mutual contacts from my target companies (each of whom are similarly situated in London) to discovering a greater breadth of corporations and jobs. This has helped me substantially while recruiting and has opened many doors for my forthcoming career.

Where do you live in London and why did you choose to live there?

I live in Vauxhall, which is 30 minutes south of Imperial. Vauxhall is a very attractive location for graduate students and young working professionals alike – there are many new apartment-style developments in the area, and it gives you direct access to the National Rail, tube, and bus lines, so it’s extremely easy to commute around Greater London. It’s also very safe and I personally appreciate that it’s residential in nature and more removed from the chaos of the main city.

When you’re not studying, what do you enjoy doing?

I really love that London is a pedestrianised city, much like Singapore, so a lot of the time you’ll find me out on walks – I regularly go to Battersea Park and Hyde Park, but also love my riverside walks – a big perk of living right by the river. I am also a big fan of exploring London’s food scene and trying out new restaurants, markets, pubs, and bars in the city (there’s no limit on these in London). Despite current restrictions, I still manage to visit food markets which have fortunately remained open.

If you had to move to London for the programme, what have been the benefits and challenges of moving to London?

I am lucky to have lived in London before, having completed a study abroad programme at King’s College London in my third year of college, so I am quite well-acquainted with the city. However, it can definitely take some time getting used to London for those moving here for the first time. I think the best part about the city is how interconnected it is – it’s really easy to get around, so even if you don’t live centrally, you’ll never feel cut off or secluded. The main challenge and known fact about London is the high cost of living. As a student, however, there are ways to reduce your expenses – for example with travelling you can purchase certain TfL railcards such as the 18+ Student Oyster to minimise how much you pay for your daily commute. Planning your expenses and maintaining a strict budget is a good way to ensure you don’t overspend – which can often be hard to avoid in a place like London.


Looking back to when you were applying for the programme, did you attend any online webinars or on-campus information sessions?

I attended the online webinar for my programme and had a coffee chat with a member of the recruitment team in Singapore, both of which gave me significant insight into the programme and Imperial at large. At a minimum, I’d recommend that prospective students attend the webinar to get a more holistic picture of what to expect from the programme. The coffee chats can be a great way to clarify any questions or concerns you have about your application on a one-to-one basis, so if given the opportunity, definitely take advantage of these sessions.

What advice would you give someone who is thinking about applying for the programme?

The most useful thing for me personally when applying for the programme was speaking to current or prior students, as they can give you a much more in-depth look at the programme through their own experiences and personal evaluations. Beyond connecting with students on Unibuddy, try to secure contacts through LinkedIn – most students will gladly find the time to chat with you and answer any questions you have. Additionally, I’d strongly recommend taking the time to look through the contents of the modules offered and the learning objectives of each and consider how this relates to your wider career goals. You don’t necessarily need to know what you want to do after graduation, but it does help to know your areas of interest going into the programme, especially since recruitment starts almost immediately from the get-go. Again, connecting with prior students does help in this area as they can shed light on the career opportunities made available to you following the programme. Finally, make sure to apply early so you can be considered for scholarships – don’t miss out on the opportunity, it’s well worth it!

Interested in applying for a scholarship to this programme?

Programme: MSc International Health Management

Nationality: American

Education: BA Human Health, Emory University

Company and role secured after programme: Quality & Supply Chain Associate, Future Leaders Programme, GlaxoSmithKline