Sophie Merckelbach, Weekend MBA 2021-22, student at Imperial College Business School

Programme: Weekend MBA

Nationality: Dutch

Education: MSc Medicine, Utrecht University

Role: Senior Associate, Global Fund to fight Aids, Malaria and Tuberculosis

My career journey

My professional journey so far has been quite unique. I have not always made the most logical or straightforward choices, but I am proud that I dared to deviate from the ‘standard pathway’. After finishing my medical degree, I started working at McKinsey and Company as a Strategy Consultant. Many people in my environment didn’t really understand this drastic change after studying medicine for all those years. This made the decision harder but also convinced me even more: despite these opinions I still wanted to do this.

I am currently on a two-year experience leave from McKinsey and working at the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Malaria and Tuberculosis. This is the largest global health fund in the world. We invest over $4 billion a year to fight HIV, TB, malaria and COVID-19 and to ensure a healthier, safer, equitable future for all.  I feel grateful to be able to work for an organisation that can make such an important impact in a field I am passionate about.

A STEM influenced MBA

I wanted to do an MBA to build a stronger foundation of business knowledge, to understand the complex problems organisations deal with, and to further develop my managerial skills.

Due to my passion for healthcare, I was looking for an MBA with a strong connection to STEM, providing me with the opportunity to build a strong network for my further career in healthcare. Additionally, I was looking for an MBA that would prepare me to be at the forefront of innovation. In my view, innovation will be key to ensure global access to healthcare for everyone, and to keep healthcare affordable and at the same time, of high quality. An MBA from Imperial offers me a focus on all the above, and I am honoured to now be affiliated with the incredible medical and scientific knowledge base and world-leading faculty of Imperial.

The strong Imperial network helps me to understand the international healthcare space and its career opportunities better. Imperial is supportive in making valuable connections between its different faculties. In my view, working together on a cross-functional level with other students, really adds to the MBA experience.

Unique aspects of the Weekend MBA

I deliberately chose the Weekend MBA format since I have always experienced a steep learning curve at my jobs and would prefer not to pause my career.

It is amazing to do a part-time programme that gives me the opportunity to go on-campus, meet people in person and thus have a real MBA student experience.

I also believe in the strength of hands-on learning opportunities, applying my MBA learnings directly in working life. The design of the MBA curriculum with practical learnings via many case discussions further contributes to this

The benefits of going back to school

I really enjoy studying again: gaining new knowledge, meeting new people and exploring a new environment and new city. For the future, this motivates me to make sure to prioritise learning and to keep a growth mindset.  

Studying in London one weekend a month

London is one of the most international cities on the European continent. I wanted to have an international, global experience during my MBA, and London offers me that for sure!

I love coming to class every month to see all my classmates in person. The weekend is always so much fun and every evening after class we do nice activities to catch up. The cohort is very diverse with people who have different backgrounds, cultures, working experiences and personalities. I find this very enriching since I would never have encountered a lot of my classmates in my current working environment. Getting to know them better has taught me a lot about life in general, as it broadens my perspective on the world.

Balancing work and study

I enjoy studying, so that makes it easier to stay motivated. I believe that if you like the things you are doing, balance is something that comes naturally. I also make sure to continue to do things I like in my spare time since those give me the energy to be motivated at work and studies.

Extra-curricular activities

Since I am interested in healthcare, I am part of the Healthcare Club. and the Imperial Healthcare Business Podcast team. The purpose of this podcast is to discuss business challenges facing the healthcare industry with real-life experience and expertise of leaders in the industry.

I was also part of the Impact Investing Team representing Imperial College Business School at the Turner MIINT competition, a global social impact investing competition between top-tier business schools.

Support from Careers

The Personal Leadership Journey is a great addition to the coursework, and it helps you to be purposeful and conscious about your personal development and further career journey.

The insights of a personal leadership assessment and the additional sessions with my career consultant were helpful in identifying a development opportunity that also came up in my performance reviews at work. We made an action plan, and although I am still working on this, even being aware of such a development opportunity is a first great step. The assessment also gave me valuable insights into my strengths and how I could leverage and develop those further.

Advice for future Weekend MBA students

If you are considering an MBA, my advice would be to take sufficient time to understand what you are looking for in an MBA and a business school. Get in touch with people that are currently doing the MBA to get a better view of what the MBA offers. Don’t get distracted by rankings as they do not always focus on the things that are important for you and will change. See the MBA as an investment in yourself and your future – it will be worth it!

Programme: Weekend MBA

Nationality: Dutch

Education: MSc Medicine, Utrecht University

Role: Senior Associate, Global Fund to fight Aids, Malaria and Tuberculosis

Is the Weekend MBA right for you?