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Real Humans of Deloitte: Sydnor Gammon, Duke Fuqua ’15, Manager of Healthcare Strategy

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When thinking about a career in healthcare, the leading business school Duke Fuqua should spring to mind, as they consistently send the highest percentage of MBA grads into the field.  Deloitte, perhaps best known as a “Big Four” accounting firm, is also the largest healthcare consulting company in the world by revenue.  In 2017, ALM Intelligence ranked Deloitte as a global leader in healthcare consulting.

Deloitte recruits heavily at Fuqua, and that gave Sydnor Gammon MBA ’15, a hearty chance to get to know this diverse and expansive organization.  In this edition of Real Humans: Alumni, you can learn more about her reasons for pursuing an MBA, how the Duke MBA stood out for healthcare and also prepared her for team-oriented work at Deloitte, and more.

Sydnor Gammon, Duke Fuqua ’15, Manager of Healthcare Strategy

Sydnor Gammon, Duke Fuqua ’15, Manager of Healthcare Strategy at Deloitte

Age: 30
Hometown:  Charlotte, NC
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Davidson College, English
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration: Duke Fuqua, Daytime MBA 2015, Health Sector Management
Pre-MBA Work Experience:  Emory Healthcare, hospital and clinic administration, 2 years
Post-MBA Work Experience: Deloitte Consulting, healthcare strategy consulting, 4.5 years

Why did you choose to attend business school?
I decided to pursue an MBA when it became clear to me that a graduate-level education would be essential to keeping future career doorways open. After two years in hospital and clinic administration at Emory Healthcare where I learned the business of healthcare delivery from the ground up (from manning the Cardiology practice front desk to optimizing call center performance), I was affirmed of my passion for improving healthcare in the US. I recognized, however, that a grounding in business fundamentals would be table-stakes for my future success. I was fortunate to work with two terrific leaders at Emory Healthcare who had MBAs and encouraged me as I took the next steps.

Why Duke Fuqua? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
As I began my MBA program search, I sought out programs with rich academics, opportunities to deepen my healthcare experience, trusted faculty who value student relationships, and supportive team-based cultures. My undergraduate experience at Davidson College instilled in me the importance of community-based learning (for example, professors with ‘open door’ policies), and I wanted to find a similar learning environment for my MBA.

I was first attracted to Fuqua for the strength of the Health Sector Management program. Fuqua benefits greatly from life sciences and healthcare industry experts on faculty, as well as its connection to Duke Health (a world-class medical center just down the street) and its proximity to the Research Triangle.  For students focused in healthcare, the academic opportunities for healthcare-focused learning and career support for jobs and internships across the sector are strong.

What solidified my decision to choose Fuqua, however, was attending the accepted students weekend, called Blue Devil Weekend. I was amazed by the caliber of my potential future classmates, faculty, and administrators. I wanted to find a place that was supportive, not “cut-throat,” and where I could build a lifelong network of friends and colleagues. What started as a “hunch” at the beginning of Blue Devil Weekend emerged into a true “gut feeling” that Duke was the best next step for me. I did not know then that it would be the best decision I’ve ever made.

What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
My two years at Duke strengthened my ability to work with diverse teams, to lead authentically, and to find balance, which are all critical to a consulting career:

  1. My MBA experience opened my eyes to the world. A bit ironic, as Durham is 2.5 hours from where I grew up, but I learned more about myself and about others in those two years than I ever had.  My class was 40% international, nearly 40% women, with an average age of 29. The curriculum was designed to maximize working in diverse teams, which is terrific preparation for a consulting career. At Deloitte, all of my work is in teams and being able to build and sustain trusted relationships with clients is critical. There’s little more important in business today than being able to work well with others.
  2. I also greatly appreciated a two-year study in my personal leadership development. Duke takes leadership development very seriously, and I continue to go back to the lessons I learned in and out of the classroom for how I lead others.
  3. Finally, an MBA program is rigorous and hectic. Finding personal balance by honing time management skills is important to success both during school and in future careers. In business school I juggled academics, club leadership, social activities; at Deloitte, I juggle client service, firm initiatives, and network-building.

What was your internship during business school?  How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
I was a Summer Associate with Deloitte Consulting in the Strategy & Operations practice in the Atlanta office. The summer internship proved to be a 10-week opportunity to “test drive” a consulting career. I had an opportunity to operate as a Senior Consultant: I was staffed with a dynamic and supportive team, had an opportunity to travel regularly, juggled client work and various firm opportunities, and began building my network in the firm that would become my future home.

I came into the summer wanting to determine whether a consulting career in Deloitte’s healthcare practice would be the right fit for me.  I accepted my offer to return full time without hesitation.

Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
I leveraged my MBA to pivot from healthcare operations into healthcare consulting. Having worked for a healthcare provider prior to Fuqua, I knew I wanted to stay in the healthcare sector, but desired to increase my rate of learning and impact, which could be possible in consulting.

I filtered my consulting firm search on firms where I could engage with the healthcare practices right away and focus (as opposed to those with more ‘generalist’ models). The business of healthcare is highly complex and requires years of learning. I wanted to continue building my expertise and not lose ground by working in other industries.

Deloitte is the largest healthcare consulting firm in the world by revenue, and has a tremendous relationship with Fuqua. Deloitte recruits frequently at Duke, so I had the opportunity to get to know a number of fantastic Duke alumni in the healthcare practice at Deloitte through the MBA recruiting process.

Skiing with Fuqua friends!

Ultimately I asked myself, “Where can I learn the most and who has the best people to teach me?” The answer was unequivocally Deloitte where the breadth of the healthcare practice ensured my future learning, and the caliber of people and supportive culture ensured I was entrusting myself to the best teachers.

Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
I would recognize that each person you’re meeting is a “sample size of one.” Everyone takes a different path and values different things, so to understand differences between companies, it’s important to connect with many different people to understand the common experience among them. Don’t underestimate culture: realize how important the people you’re surrounding yourself with are to your professional success and happiness.

–One thing you would change or do differently?
I would take the process a tad less seriously. As someone who now recruits MBAs for Deloitte, I recognize how important it is to be yourself and enjoy the process. (I recognize those in the throes of recruiting may roll their eyes!) Everyone lands where they are meant to be, and it is important to be your full self so that can happen. For example, if you’ve got a great sense of humor, work that humor into your interview! There’s not a ‘one-size fits all’ equation to landing the job.

–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
No big surprises! I really did my homework to prepare.

–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
The greatest investment you can make during your MBA is in your classmates. Your MBA network is what you take with you when you graduate. Yes, academics are important, but if you are choosing between cramming to memorize a formula or getting to know a person who could become a lifelong friend, advocate, colleague, or future business partner, always choose the friend.

What’s the best thing about working for your current employer?
I learned very early on that my happiness and sense of fulfillment is determined by the people with whom I surround myself. This is most certainly true in consulting, which is inherently a ‘people business’: we bring multi-disciplinary teams to work alongside our clients to solve complex problems and deliver impact.

The reason I selected Deloitte is also the reason that I have stayed: the people and culture. In fact, so many of my Deloitte colleagues cite “the people” as the primary reason they stay at the firm, that is has become almost a cliché answer. For me, it’s absolutely true. My Deloitte colleagues have become some of my closest friends and career confidantes, and this culture extends to the trusted relationships we build with our clients.

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.