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How Yale SOM Made My Dream Career a Reality

Norina Petre ’21 on how Yale SOM helped her prepare her to transition to both a new industry (life sciences) and a new function (strategy consulting).

From a very young age, my parents instilled in me the belief that people can succeed if they have a support system that fosters their potential and empowers them to learn and grow. Knowing the importance of support systems, I started looking for ways I could build and provide these systems to other people and communities—and that is why I choose to come to Yale SOM, the place whose mission is to educate leaders for business and society. From the moment I stepped foot onto this campus and during my entire time at SOM I felt a sense of belonging. I felt cared for and supported in ways that only a family can mimic.  

My professional career started nine years before coming to Yale SOM. Right before starting the MBA program, I worked as an audit manager at one of the Big Four CPA firms. Primarily I worked on financial service clients, such as those in the asset management, real estate, and private equity industries. But my dream for the past few years was to work in the life science industry. It all started when I stumbled upon a science podcast that literally changed my life. I started listening to hundreds of science podcasts and reading scientific journals so that I could learn as much as I could about technological breakthroughs in biotech, biopharma, and life sciences. About the same time, I had the opportunity to coordinate and promote the implementation of robotic process automation and artificial intelligence while working as an audit manager on several engagements, and that’s how I became passionate about solving problems by strategizing the use of cutting-edge tech to make business processes more effective and efficient and to improve overall well-being. 

Because of all this, the next logical step in my mind was to pursue an MBA and further explore the intersection of business, technology, and life sciences and build on the strategic mindset I gained as a CPA by expanding the problem solving from accounting to finance, operations, and all areas of a business. Because of my passion for life sciences, I was particularly interested in working for a life science consulting firm post-MBA. Yale SOM helped me not only transition industries (from financial services to life science) but also switch functions (from accounting/auditing to strategy consulting). Over the summer I had the opportunity to work as a business strategy intern for a biotech startup, during my second year I took a multitude of science course at Yale College to build my foundation of knowledge in science, and in the end, I was able to get a full-time offer with a biotech and biopharma consulting firm.  

During my internship, I had the opportunity to see how everything is built from the ground up. As a business strategy intern for a biotech startup and a summer fellow at Tsai CITY, I helped designing the go-to-market strategy for a product that has the potential to improve the lives of people and protect the planet in the long run—it was such a rewarding feeling going through this experience. I also created the business model for the venture, designed the cost structure, and built valuation models. I participated in a competition in which I had the opportunity to pitch the business idea to a panel of cross-functional industry experts after attending multiple mentorship sessions in which we were instructed on how to build a compelling story and deliver a powerful pitch. Before joining Yale SOM, in addition to science podcasts, I had listened to How I Built This, which is a podcast where founders are invited to share the story of how they built their businesses. The whole summer experience was surreal in a way because I felt like I was the protagonist of one of the many podcasts I listened to in the past, working to start a business in the life science industry.

Being able to take science courses at Yale College during my second year of the MBA program enriched my MBA experience in ways I could have never imagined. As a Romanian American, I was proud and humbled at the same time when I found out that the Yale Department of Molecular Biology was created by George Palade, a Romanian American and Nobel Prize winner, who discovered the ribosome and laid the foundations of modern molecular biology. While taking the Biochemistry and Biophysics course I learned that the change in free energy equation that shaped the laws of thermodynamics was discovered by J. W. Gibbs, a professor at Yale and one of the greatest scientists of the 19th century, who made important contributions to physics and chemistry. Later on, when I took the Genetics and Development course, I learned that some of the first biotech experiments were performed at Yale Osborn Memorial Laboratories. It all felt dreamlike. For the past few years all I wanted was to dive into the world of science and here I was, doing just that, in a place that paved the way for modern science as we know it. 

As I embark on this new journey and start my career as a life science strategy consultant, I’m filled by a sense of immense gratitude toward this institution and the Yale SOM family that supported me and made possible the continuation of my journey in ways I only dreamed of. If you are like me—a dreamer—just know that you are in the right place. Yale SOM has all the resources you need to fulfill that dream. All you have to do is stay focused on the end goal and remain true to yourself. As William Arthur Ward once said: “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.”