The U.S. healthcare system requires leadership and analytical skills to influence change. In this edition of Real Humans: Alumni, we meet Amanda Pearson, who saw first-hand the early chaos of the pandemic from her position in the COVID ICU. Read on to find out how Washington Foster gave Pearson the skills to bridge the healthcare and business worlds.
Amanda Pearson, Washington Foster MBA ’22, Healthcare Consultant at McKinsey & Company
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Georgetown University, International History (2007) and Nursing (2014)
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration (if applicable): University of Washington Michael G. Foster School of Business, 2022
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 13 years; the majority of my pre-MBA career was in healthcare, initially working for a women’s health NGO in Turkey and subsequently transitioning into clinical care as a registered nurse in the intensive care unit in Washington, DC
Post-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): ~1 year; management consulting
Why did you choose to attend business school?
As a nurse in a major trauma center taking care of the Capitol region’s sickest patients, I struggled with the problems plaguing our healthcare system every day. I knew I wanted to transition into a role where I could have a broader impact on healthcare operations, equity and access. Though I was not initially sure exactly where my MBA path would lead, I felt confident that an MBA program would build greater leadership and analytical skills and provide a platform for entry into the types of roles that would allow me to influence healthcare at a higher level.
Why Foster? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend
My husband and I were looking to relocate to the west coast, and Foster stood out as a program with a great combination of excellent academics and job placement, affordability, and ties to compelling opportunities in the Seattle area. Foster was an exciting, up-and-coming choice for my MBA.
What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
The excellent education at Foster prepared me with the skills to bridge the clinical and business worlds and to become a strong candidate for the leadership roles to which I aspired. The experiential opportunities available to students were especially useful, as we tackled real-world problems in ways that translated very directly to success in post-graduate working life.
What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
I interned at McKinsey & Company as a Summer Associate between my two years of business school. I loved my summer experience and was enthusiastic to return after graduation. The team was incredibly smart, kind, and inclusive, and I couldn’t believe how much I learned and grew in such a short time.
Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
I was interested in management consulting for the ability to take on today’s toughest problems while continuously learning and leveraging great impact. McKinsey stood out to me as the firm that led the pack both in terms of incredible client work and thought leadership in healthcare. I met so many people at the Firm who were not only impressive and passionate about their work, but who truly led with their values, and I connected deeply with that.
How has COVID impacted your industry/career plans?
To say that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the healthcare industry is the understatement of the year. As a nurse hoping to advance into healthcare leadership, the pandemic impacted my own career plans in myriad ways. My last full-time nursing role prior to Foster was as a charge nurse in a COVID ICU, as the hospital descended into the chaos of the early pandemic. It was bittersweet to leave the struggling hospital workforce in a time of nursing shortage, but this experience only fueled my commitment to strengthening our health systems to better weather this and future challenges.
Due to the pandemic, my planned traditional MBA ended up being taught mostly remotely. While this was not the MBA experience I had anticipated, my classmates and I were amazed at the high-quality, collaborative experience Foster educators and administrators provided in the virtual setting.
In terms of the job hunt, one surprisingly positive side effect of the virtual format was that geographic barriers melted away. In the old days, MBA students took a train downtown between classes for a single coffee chat before returning to campus for an evening class. The embrace of Zoom allowed me to connect with professionals all over the country and network in an expansive manner that I don’t believe was common prior to the pandemic. In terms of my current industry, consulting firms have embraced many flexibilities since 2020, which make the lifestyle more sustainable, particularly for women. It has been amazing to see that we can achieve the same top-notch results while accommodating an array of working styles.
Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
During the first year of my MBA program, I arranged 3-10 coffee chats per week to speak with professionals in positions of interest. It was a significant time investment, but as I was making a major career transition into potential roles very different from what I had done before, this allowed me to build my network, explore many different career pathways, and eventually direct my energy in the right directions when it came time to apply for jobs.
–One thing you would change or do differently?
I would stress less. Unnecessary tears were definitely shed over finance homework.
–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
I was surprised at how unique and thoughtful McKinsey’s recruiting and interviewing processes were. They care little about previous business experience, but instead about values and personal traits. This allows them to recruit an incredibly diverse group of people from different backgrounds and life experiences who all bring something special to the table. While I respect the recruiting process, I am happy to now be on the other side of the table during interview season!
–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
I wish someone had told me that rejection will definitely come, and that I should embrace it. In my experience, you receive rejections before acceptances, and that can be very demoralizing at first- especially when you have put a lot on the line to return to graduate school. However, it was really empowering to realize that failure is an inherent part of the advancement process, and once you get comfortable with rejection, you can stop holding yourself back for the ‘safe’ opportunities and really reach for the stars.