UL MBA alumni feature

Hilda Mulvihill

2010 MBA graduate

The UL three-day block release was fantastic. I could fit my studies around work and improve my skillset on the job

When I initially applied to study for the MBA, I had recently started in a new position as a Business and Process Development Project Manager with a Global Medical Technology Company. The role was great, making full use of my technical knowledge around medical device testing & approvals, yet all too often, I found myself struggling, I was grappling with an unfamiliar language, particularly around finance, strategy, economics and marketing and I knew I needed to up my game.

My manager at the time was very supportive. Rather than sit a series of short courses, he suggested that if I was serious about the role, I should consider an MBA. So, in 2008, I began looking for the right course, designed to fill the gaps in my knowledge and structured to fit around my existing job.

After considering other options such as UCD Smurfit in Dublin, I realised that the MBA at UL was a perfect match. The finance and economics modules promised to round out my understanding, and the three-day block release helped me plan my work diary around my studies. The international workshop was also a key motivating factor, and my manager was a UL MBA Alumni. With this endorsement and the full sponsorship of my employer, I was thrilled to enrol at the University of Limerick.

The MBA provided the foundation in finance and law that I needed to progress in my role, plus the skills to accelerate my career.

From day one, the course positively impacted my day job. As a Business Development Project Manager, I was working to bring new combination drugs-device products to market. My understanding of the stringent Med Tech regulatory environment was vital to ensure correct testing procedures and garner FDA approval, but the MBA enabled me to round out this expertise. For example, the finance and law modules were especially useful, providing instant insight on the strategic importance of the projects for the business.

Later, I was also able to tailor the MBA to meet my needs, completing my dissertation on the subject of ‘Successful Mergers & Acquisitions in the Medical Device Sector’. Undoubtedly, the MBA improved my ability to succeed in my role. As a manager, it gave me a broader view of the business, helping me understand those internal and external forces that can impact decisions.

The strategy and critical thinking modules were invaluable in this respect. With a PhD in Engineering, I was very much a researcher. I had a strong foundation in critical thinking, but I needed a broader perspective. By upskilling in areas lacking my expertise, I became adept at taking decisions more quickly using available information from across different areas of the business.

With these skills in place, I felt confident to take on new roles and progress in my career. It certainly gave me the confidence to go for it; now, I feel the sky is the limit.

After graduation in 2010, I was able to take on positions with more responsibility and deliver in those roles, facilitating strategic career progression

Today, I am a Senior Research and Development Director. I stayed in the Med Tech sector because I love the early tech development and acquisition stages, but I excel because of the MBA. My technical knowledge is now backed by a strategic approach, which enables me to spot potential successes in any new trend. My broader finance and economics knowledge helps me to identify which ones are likely to do well.

Overall, the MBA helps me to prioritise my decision-making and to take my team with me. I currently lead two teams: one here in Galway and one in the US. With just under 30 people reporting directly to me, I successfully coordinate projects across different markets, cultures, and time zones.

Certainly, the MBA leadership module informs this success. It gave me a fresh perspective on the way people think, resulting in a much more empathetic approach. People have different points of view, and there might be more than one right answer in any discussion. That was key learning, especially coming from an engineering background. The MBA broadened my mind.

Now, my leadership style is designed to get the best out of my team. It starts with HR, prioritising recruitment so we get the smartest people through the door. Day to day, I use MBA tools to motivate and manage staff so I can set them up for success. I know I'll get great results by establishing clear objectives and coaching rather than micro-managing.

When Covid hit, my MBA leadership and strategy skills really came to the fore

During the pandemic, I called extensively on my MBA leadership learnings. This period made me aware that you must look after the people who work for you as a leader. It was tough for some team members to cope with home and work life. It added pressure for everyone, but I felt confident that my skills in people management were up to the job.

Med Tech is a life-and-death industry, and I was very proud to be part of an industry that could make a difference. We continue to work producing critical medical devices through the pandemic and, along with a lot of the pharma and MedTech companies in Ireland, donated our PPE to the HSE.

In effect, the business had to pivot overnight, but I felt equipped to deal with events. Thanks to the MBA, I could see the bigger picture, and throughout the crisis, the strategy tools helped me navigate rapid change and lead with confidence.

Med Tech is not a static industry. With each change, I find myself going back to the fundamental skills I learned in the MBA

Post Covid, the Med Tech industry continues to change. There are cost pressures due to rising inflation and stock shortages, both of which exert keen pressure on sector growth.

However, as the market evolves and changes, I always return to my MBA learnings. It provides a solid foundation for growth, and I’m quite sure I wouldn’t have made it to my current position without this core learning.

Looking ahead, I’m confident I can steer my own path in the years to come, pursuing new technology developments to effect positive change and drive improvements in medical care. I’m passionate about the advances that can be made, and I’m always excited to see the next wave of medical technology in the pipeline. Honestly, I can’t wait to see what the future brings.

  • Undergrad Education: B.Sc Chemistry, University College Cork
  • Current Role: Sr. R&D Director - Global Medical Technology Company

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