Duke - The Fuqua School of Business

Winning Company Buy-In for an MBA

Alison McKay MBA '12 is smart, competitive, and self-motivated—all characteristics that have helped her achieve her professional goals.

Alison's first job out of college was in human resources at Johnson & Johnson where she quickly moved up the ranks to launch their Global Operations Leadership Development Program. Always one to look for new challenges, McKay moved to Morgan Stanley to manage a financial leadership program, and then took a position at BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company) where she built a new university recruiting program from the ground up.

With few resources initially allocated to BD's university recruiting program and no budget for campus events, Alison quickly put together a compelling strategy, gained necessary buy-in, and secured funding to drive a best in class program for the growing Fortune 500 Company. In the first year, Alison recruited 6 MBAs and 9 undergraduates. But, her program matured quickly and within 3 years, she brought in 80 new graduates and grew her team to include 5 people who oversaw BD's global university recruitment and diversity outreach.  

With strong support from management, Alison was exposed to various leadership programs and development opportunities. She was asked to join BD's Early Career Experience accelerator program where she and other high-potential employees took courses and experienced challenges that expanded their knowledge and cross-functional skills. During this time, Alison realized she was at a turning point in her career. She needed a stronger set of general management skills and knew getting an MBA was the best route.  

To gain sponsorship from BD, Alison made a proposal to her group's Vice President on how the Duke Cross Continent MBA program would benefit the company. The cornerstone of her proposal was based on the program's diverse student body. In addition to gaining valuable business know-how, she argued she'd learn new best practices from her classmates who worked in different industries and functions and that those interactions would inspire new ideas for how to solve challenges, in real time, at BD. Her reasoning impressed her boss and Alison received support and funding for the program.

The timing couldn't have been better—the program began in 2011, just a few months after Alison's promotion to Worldwide University Relations Manager. It was because of her expanding business knowledge that she was able to easily transition from a talent management role to one focused on market access. Then, using her MBA to take her career to the next level, Alison leveraged her Health Sector Management classes, her work on business cases that challenged her to think under different "functional hats", and her interactions with her classmates to step into her latest role as Associate Director of Worldwide Health and Payment Policy.  

Duke's Cross Continent MBA program was the perfect fit for Alison. The global component helped her become more competent working with people from different countries and cultures. In fact, BD's present CMO hails from Lebanon and he champions outreach programs that increase diversity within the organization. On various occasions, he has taken time to hear how Alison's studies have helped her expand her, and BD's, capabilities. 

As she reflects on her path to date, Alison says that earning an MBA is one of her top 5 life experiences. Gaining a global perspective has changed her approach to people, both personally and professionally; and to her surprise, some of her best friendships are with colleagues in Beirut and Beijing. Alison's manager was excited to hear about her experience each time she returned from a residency. While quite accomplished himself, he has learned vicariously through Alison and encouraged her to share her learnings and insights with the broader team—hoping they too can benefit from her global experience.