After several years of supporting medical devices in the operating room, Heather Dyer learned first-hand the imperative role that technology plays in healthcare. More importantly, she learned how meticulously the business of healthcare must be managed. Though her engineering background enabled her to understand the technology side, she decided to attend business school to learn the business and finance fundamentals. Not surprising, like many engineers, she ended up at Harvard Business School — one of the most prestigious business schools in the world. Based on the class of 2022 profile, 26% of HBS students came from engineering backgrounds.
The case study method used by HBS combined with its leadership development program and diverse coursework provides students with the proper toolset to tackle both standard and unorthodox business challenges. For Heather Dyer, all of these assets paved the way for her to make an impact in the world of healthcare. First interning at Celgene, a biopharma company focused on cancer and immunology, she then joined Johnson & Johnson full-time upon her graduation from business school to support the Robotics & Digital Solutions team as a Senior Product Manager.
In this edition of Real Humans: Alumni, we hear from Heather Dyer on how her MBA from Harvard Business School helped fill in the necessary gaps in her experience, empowering her to spend her career advancing patient care and improving the global healthcare system.
Heather Dyer, Harvard ‘17, Senior Product Manager, Robotics & Digital Solutions at Johnson & Johnson
Hometown: Glastonbury, CT
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Duke University: Major in Biomedical Engineering, Minor in French
Graduate Business School and Graduation Year: Harvard University, Harvard Business School Class of 2017
Pre-MBA Work Experience: 3 years, medical device clinical sales
Why did you choose to attend business school?
Supporting medical devices in the operating room taught me first-hand the imperative role that technology plays in healthcare, but also that the business of healthcare must be managed conscientiously since more than just revenue is at stake. My engineering background enabled me to understand the technology, but it was my clinical experience that gave me perspective on the scale of the impact it has on patients’ lives. It sometimes felt that the role of medical technology in patient care was too far removed from the agenda and decisions of industry leaders who bought and sold it. This disconnect is why I chose to attend business school, so that I could learn the business and finance fundamentals to spend my career advancing patient care and improving our healthcare system.
Why Harvard? Which factors influenced your decision?
The Harvard brand and global recognition really stood out to me. Because of their legacy and historical impact on business, the best-of-the-best could be found on Harvard’s campus across their professors, students, speakers and alumni network. The case method really appealed to me as a dynamic way of learning and finding my voice in explaining and debating complex business challenges. I also wanted an MBA program with a global focus and student base to learn from.
What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
I interned with Celgene, a biopharma company focused on cancer and immunology. I knew I wanted to stay within the healthcare industry, and felt there was a lot to learn from the pharmaceutical side that would differ from my background experience in medical device. My internship supported the hematology franchise with commercialization strategy in preparation for a U.S. drug approval. It was a great experience, that made me appreciate the complexity and importance of the pharmaceutical industry, but I ultimately felt my near-term goals were better aligned to med tech.
Why did you choose to work for your current company?
I chose Johnson & Johnson for three main reasons:
- Global Impact: Johnson & Johnson has an expansive global footprint and is among the largest healthcare companies in the world. The impact and reach of their therapies and technology is truly worldwide, and with that comes the ability to influence the overall healthcare industry.
- Responsibility and Upward Trajectory: I joined a post-MBA leadership development program with a focus on building the core skills needed to quickly advance top-talent to roles of leadership within the company. A high degree of responsibility and autonomy was expected from Day 1, which I knew would be the best way for me to learn and grow. The ability to rotate through three rotations in two years offered a diversity of experiences and exposure in a short period of time.
- Culture: The Johnson & Johnson Credo is present in every business decision made across the organization. The company holds itself to an incredibly high ethical and moral standard that goes beyond any other company I came across in my job application process. The employees are purposefully driven by contributing toward a greater good. Johnson & Johnson has also demonstrated they share my commitment to building a more equitable and inclusive workplace.
How did your MBA experience prepare you for your current career?
While the business, marketing and finance fundamentals I learned at HBS are now core to my daily business acumen, my takeaways on authentic leadership are what best prepared me for my current and future roles. At HBS, we analyzed how leaders respond and lead through crisis, turn-arounds, growth, and the typical day-to-day. Harvard pushes you to find and develop your authentic leadership style and to learn from the lessons of some of the world’s best role models. This experience gave me the toolset to be prepared for any business challenge, even those that don’t fit neatly into an existing business school framework.
How has COVID impacted your industry/career plans?
The COVID-19 pandemic further confirmed my passion for the healthcare industry and the healthcare providers and patients I support. The strength and courage that I observed from those within the industry over the last year has been inspiring, and it is truly a privilege to serve and enable them. Lessons in crisis response preparedness, health inequity, remote medicine, and the imperative of science education will continue to influence the advancement of the industry for years to come.
What advice would you give to a current MBA student?
Investing in yourself and your education will pay dividends throughout your entire career. Take the time during your MBA to explore new ideas, skills and experiences. Remember that you can likely learn just as much from the classmates, professors and alumni around you as you can from the cases and books you’re provided.
Learn about more business school alumni like Heather Dyer by exploring our Real Humans: Alumni series.