Blog Post from MEng ’14 Jennifer Wong
UC Berkeley is well-known for its reputation as a leader in promoting student entrepreneurship, research innovation and cross-disciplinary tech discussion. Another great thing about the Cal community is the wide exposure to a wealth of conferences, networking events and competitions. During the last weekend of January, I was part of a team that flew to Chicago to compete for first prize at the Kellogg Biotech & Healthcare Case Competition. We had a title to defend, as teams from the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business won first and third prizes in 2013.
Of the 32 teams, the UC Berkeley team was easily the most diverse: we spanned three programs, and a decade in age! The common thread among the MBA, MPH (Master of Public Health) and MEng programs is that we’re all taught to think deeply and creatively, and encouraged to generate innovative solutions to complex social problems with our technical knowledge. When we arrived at Kellogg, we connected with teams representing 9 business schools across 4 countries. It was interesting to see the surprise from other competitors when they realized we were the only team with more than one non-MBA student–an engineer and several public health students!
A panel of AbbVie executives served as judges, who critiqued our solution to reduce pneumonia-related childhood mortality in Ugandan children. Our first-prize winning idea: a financial and business model of a year-long training program, that micro-finances local Ugandan mobile health workers who will deliver care directly to communities, and then graduate to jobs elsewhere in the medical sphere. What ultimately led us to our successful proposal was design thinking–we immersed ourselves in the challenge statement, covering walls in post-its and recklessly throwing in crazy ideas. This harks back to the first MEng case study with Professor Lee Fleming, Faculty Director of the Fung Institute for Engineering Leadership, during the Master of Engineering Boot Camp, when we looked at the human-centered, design philosophy which IDEO lives and breathes.
At the conclusion of the competition, I was relieved that the subject of the case was actually present and ready to discuss our thoughts. David Milestone, Senior Advisor at the Center for Accelerating Innovation and Impact at US AID, has asked our team if we are interested in presenting our idea at their office in New York City, and we’re very excited about this opportunity!