To help illustrate where the pursuit of innovation management can lead, our Innovation Pathways series asks our current students, recent graduates, and established alumni to describe their journeys. This Q&A features graduate student Linya (Leah) Liu (MSSP’21).
You’re pursuing a masters in social policy and a data analytics certificate at Penn. What drew you to the study of innovation management?
Before coming into Penn, I majored in business in college and took interest in management, with a focus on corporate strategy and organization culture. But nowadays we’re witnessing how emerging technologies create and transform industries, so I decided to pursue a STEM advanced degree that applies quantitative method of thinking into solving qualitative problems.
Mack’s Collaborative Innovation Program (CIP) was recommended by one of my friends from the engineering school, when we worked at Penn Graduate Consulting Club during my first semester at Penn. I joined a team with three female MBAs. We were tasked with helping the innovation team at one of the largest Japanese banking institutions to prioritize and resolve multiple departments’ needs within the North America division. Though our client is a financial services company, my takeaways are also transferable to the healthcare industry.
To further my skill sets in healthcare innovation, I worked as the marketing project lead at a health IoT startup in summer 2020 and will serve as a teaching assistant for Penn Med’s Online Master of Health Care Innovation program in fall 2020.
What did you take away from your CIP experience that you expect to be applicable in your future career?
In CIP, the first thing I learned is how to manage a project by specifying different roles. Our work became very productive as each team member knew what she was responsible for. More interestingly, getting along with all female teammates created very different working dynamics. For example, we were super supportive when any of us initiated an idea and focused on detailed check-ins and follow-ups during client meetings. From the project management standpoint, I learned how to scope a big problem and segment it into small ones and how to flexibly refine recommendations by pushing the client to update.
All of these takeaways from innovating a largely scaled group are valuable for working in a startup too, especially as I took the responsibility to lead a project. I strived for outperforming delivery expectations as much as I could by always thinking about how to synthesize my work into a company’s legacy for future employees.
Looking ahead, what do you find most exciting about innovation in healthcare? What do you see as your role in that space?
I feel that most of the innovation in healthcare comes from optimizing the process, ranging from a drug delivery system popular for decades to the spike of telehealth demands during the COVID-19 pandemic. The industry is fragmented and hard to disrupt. My previous experience primarily focuses on the strategic side within health-tech organizations and getting familiar with how the industry works. And now I’m shifting more to capture the economic value from those innovative health technologies, such as new drugs, diagnostic methods, drug delivery systems, and medical devices that offer better treatment and less cost. Although it may be hard to determine what I would do during this uncertain time, I hope I could get involved in projects that will strive for improving the quality and value of care on a long-term basis.