How pharmacist Dee Shah stepped out from behind the counter with the help of an AGSM MBA

Dhruti (Dee) Shah, AGSM MBA Executive 2019, had a whirlwind three years from 2017 to 2019. 

“I went from being a pharmacist and co-owning a business, to becoming a clinical strategist at a pharmaceutical company to management consulting at Ernst & Young (EY) – and moved across Australia,” she says.

Now, two years after completing an AGSM @ UNSW Business School MBA, she is a Senior Management Consultant, and responsible for overseeing EY projects lasting anywhere from two weeks to six months. Her daily responsibilities include meeting with clients, directing team members and developing strategies to resolve pain points and improve business flow.

“What we do is solve problems,” she says. “These problems can be anything from small team restructures to large-scale strategy development for an organisation’s future.”

Dee works on projects across a range of sectors, from healthcare and finance to infrastructure and child protection services. 

It’s a stark difference to her position behind the counter at Terry White Chemmart Pharmacyin Perth just a few years ago. 

Dee loves her role with EY, which she says satisfies her natural curiosity about how organisations work. And she knows she couldn’t have made her transition from compounding to consulting without the help of her AGSM @ UNSW Business School MBA – and the invaluable network that came with it. 

An MBA was her prescription for success

After graduating from Curtin University with a Bachelor of Pharmacy, Dee accepted an offer to become a partner in a greenfield pharmacy in 2015.

Unsure how long she wanted to remain on her pharmaceutical path, Dee decided to use the opportunity of the partnership to learn more about the business side of things. But to get the most out of developing her business acumen, she wanted to supplement her real-world experience with an MBA.

As she researched the best programs in Australia, two kept popping up – AGSM in Sydney and Melbourne School of Business in Victoria. But the WA resident needed a flexible MBA that suited her location, schedule and aspirations.

“I was drawn to AGSM because of its high-ranking program, but also because it fit my lifestyle,” Dee says. “It allowed someone like me, living and working full-time in WA, to study remotely.”

To learn more, Dee went to an AGSM social event in Perth, where she met current students and alumni, which helped to seal her decision.

“There were vets and people from other clinical professions, engineers – all sorts of different personal and professional backgrounds,” she says. “I knew it would be a good fit because I would be able to learn with and from a diverse group of people and industries.”

It was the first of many times she benefitted from AGSM’s extensive Australia-wide network.

Consulting the experts

In April 2017, shortly after starting her MBA Executive program, Dee ended her pharmacy partnership and moved to Melbourne. There, while continuing her program, she joined French pharmaceutical company Servier Laboratories to work in clinical strategy. 

“I was able to tap into and implement my real-world experience as a clinical pharmacist and also the knowledge and skills I was gaining through my MBA,” she says. 

But her career transition wasn’t finished. During the final year of her MBA, Dee travelled to Sydney for a five-day residential session. That’s where she was introduced to the world of consulting.

“I liked the idea of working across a range of industries,” she says. “I chatted to people in my cohort who were working for bigger consulting firms like Deloitte, EY and BCG, and I knew I wanted to pivot my career again.”

To learn more and see what was out there, Dee turned to one of the most valuable features of AGSM – the Careers team.

“Rachel Guest, AGSM MBA Student Specialist, was an absolutely incredible part of my career journey,” Dee says. “I would call her every week or two and she would connect me with different consulting firms. She was so interested in the trajectory of my career, and she had such a tailored approach for helping me.”

In 2019, Rachel introduced Dee to an AGSM alumnus working at EY. He referred her into the firm’s application process. Just before completing her MBA that year, Dee was offered a role. Her journey from pharmacist to consultant was complete.

“AGSM was the platform for that,” she says. “AGSM’s alumni network was extremely valuable to me and helped me make that final career transition.

“The value the Careers team provides in terms of networking, especially to students coming from such a diverse background – they’re just amazing at connecting people.”

Since then, Dee’s been using many of the frameworks she learned doing her AGSM MBA to help lead teams that transform organisations around Australia.

"The Managing People and Organisations foundational course, which touched on the development of leadership and culture, has been invaluable to me,” Dee says. “It lets me look at organisations through a lens – how leadership culture is built and maintained – which provides a lot of value in consulting.”

She also says the Growth Strategy course helped her better understand the different horizons of company growth, and how to address challenges in relation to those timeframes.

“Going back to my notes and just scrambling through to understand those frameworks helped more than I could’ve imagined,” she says. “What I learned at AGSM wasn’t just theoretical – we did a lot of case studies as well, which really helped me apply what I learned to real-world situations.”

Building a healthy network

The AGSM Careers team wasn’t the only way Dee expanded her network. The wide range of student clubs and organisations at AGSM provided great opportunities for meeting new people and sharing ideas.

Dee followed some of her biggest interests and passions into the AGSM Consulting Club, AGSM Women in Leadership Club and AGSM Innovation Club.

In the Consulting Club, Dee and fellow students did case prep, tapping into AGSM’s portal of case studies and trying to solve them. Whereas the Women in Leadership focused on female students who aspired to gain leadership positions in the business world.

“Women face barriers when they want to study further or change industries, so it’s important to connect with others who have had similar experiences and faced similar challenges,” Dee says. “We talked about what it takes to thrive in business environments, went to workshops and seminars together.”

In Innovation Club, members discussed frameworks and trends for driving innovation across various business sectors. They explored how to use tech, data and other insight-led approaches to improve businesses operations.

Dee says AGSM’s clubs and organisations are a great way to learn from and meet new people outside the physical or digital classroom. 

“It’s a much more natural connection built on shared interests. We were able to connect over a glass of wine or a coffee. It helped me make some amazing friends and was another way to broaden my network. And it wasn’t just people in my specific MBA program – they came from different cohorts, so it was a great way to cross collaborate with the whole AGSM student and alumni community.

“Building a redundant and non-redundant network is a big part of the program, and clubs and groups are a great way to create connections outside of your work and friend circle that can help you thrive.”

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