Alumni Profile: Ciara Kennedy (FlexWeekend 2006)

Why did you choose to attend the Rady School of Management?

When I decided that an MBA would be a good thing for my career, I looked around at the alternatives in San Diego. I was very fortunate in that the exact option that met all of my criteria was opening up, and it was the Rady School. I had a job that I loved and wanted to keep, so I couldn’t be a full-time student. I needed something that was amenable to a working professional.

I was looking for a reputable institution that had a weekend-type program; and to be among fellow professionals in the biotech, pharmaceutical or life science industries. That is, I wanted to be in the company of peers who understood the types of issues, challenges and problems I was facing. When I think about it now, that’s a pretty extensive wish list, and I set a pretty high bar for myself in terms of saying yes to a program. At that point, I wasn’t even thinking about whether the program was going to say yes to me. But I knew what I wanted, and when I started looking for it, I heard about Rady.

Deciding to go for an MBA, finding Rady, sending in my application and being accepted took place over a three-week period. I’m very definitive when I know something fits and works. I just do it and go for it. I met with Dean Robert Sullivan and Assistant Dean Joanne Starr, and everything they told me allowed me to check the boxes. It all sounded like what I was looking for and what I wanted to hear.

How would you describe your Rady School experience?

As a prelude, my MBA at Rady is my fourth degree. My other degrees are in science: a Ph.D., a master’s and a bachelor’s. I would say without a shadow of a doubt that within the first month, aside from the shock of going back to school, I knew that the MBA was going to be my favorite degree. That was primarily due to my classmates, the faculty and the people we were meeting in the community, who turned out to be a very accurate reflection of the school and the experience. It was phenomenal. There was so much energy and intensity without being competitive.

We were actually very collaborative with each other, and the conversations we had in the classroom were quite engaging. We would far overrun our allotted time of 8 o’clock on a Friday night. When you think about it, the last thing you want to do is keep talking about supply chains or statistics, but we would just keep going even when we went to our hotel rooms. It was invigorating, and the energy was such a self-feeding frenzy of activity.

There’s just something about the way the classes are structured that fosters an environment within the cohort of being in it together for two years and making it work. It did work, and I continue to dialogue on a weekly basis with classmates and members of the business community whom I met through Rady.

How has the MBA degree from Rady impacted your career and your perspective on life?

My first three degrees put me on a trajectory diagonally upward, and my MBA made it go straight up. My career took off even before I graduated. When I joined the school, I was the Program Manager for a midsized biotech company. About a year in, I was promoted to Senior Manager, and that was considered to be a fast promotion for someone relatively new to the company. So I was applying the skills I was learning to the workplace.

There’s an immediate benefit to you and your employer as you’re going through the program. I happened to meet the CEO of the company where I work at the Rady School. He was one of my professors, and I was getting some career advice from him. He then invited me to consider his company as an option. Within two years, I joined as Director, then was promoted to Senior Director and then Vice President. Within about two and a half years of joining the company, I was running my own division. Those are opportunities I don’t think I would have ever had if I hadn’t gone to Rady, and certainly not within the time frame that it occurred.

What advice would you give to prospective students who were trying to make the decision about whether to come to Rady?

First of all, I would say congratulations for already making the decision to pursue an MBA. If you’re seeking an innovative environment where, to a large degree, you can create your own outcome and destiny, then Rady should be at the top of your list. If you’re looking for a standard MBA where you can just tick the box and the credits, then any school will probably do. But if you want an individualized experience, and wish to become embedded and connected in the San Diego biotech and high-tech community, then there’s no alternative to Rady. There’s nothing that even comes close. The caliber of the students you’ll be sitting next to, as well as those who will be standing in front of you as instructors and professors, are second to none. That was certainly my experience.