Alumni Profile: Sean McCarthy (FlexWeekend 2006)

Why did you choose to attend Rady?

Attending business school and getting my MBA was something I had thought about for a long time. I’d been working as Vice President of Business Development for a local biotech company called Structure Genetics, and had been there for a number of years. A scientist by trade, I was beginning to think that I should get trained in the job that I’d actually been doing. So I was very pleased to see that UC San Diego came out with the concept of the Rady School, and I use the word “concept” advisedly because it was very embryonic, a startup. Actually, that was something that attracted me as well — that is, a local option for a business school. And you couldn’t argue with the concept of entrepreneurship with [Dean] Robert Sullivan wanting to get this school running from the ground up. It was a very ambitious plan. So for me, it was really a straightforward decision to sign up. Once I was accepted into the class, it just seemed to be a really natural fit.

How would you describe the Rady School’s curriculum, culture and the student experience?

As a lab scientist who’d been doing business and who’d been exposed to biotech at that time, it was a great opportunity to take things to the next level and to begin working collaboratively with a team of MBA students. In fact, I pulled a team together for a spinout company that actually did get incorporated and raise some funding. The team I helped pull together represented all of the disciplines that I felt we’d need in the company: great finance, regulatory, biotech and biology backgrounds — and that was the kind of thing you could pull together in our interdisciplinary class. The school offered us a platform to do that. In its first year, when things were still being pulled together, I thought it was really an outstanding opportunity for all of us. We formed some very close networking relationships as a result.

How has your Rady MBA influenced your career?

Before talking about my career, I’d like to talk about how it influenced me personally, and then I will come back to my career in a moment. From a personal standpoint, I always felt that going to business school was about the nuts and bolts — about learning spreadsheets, economics and accounting. But I found that the experience actually changed my outlook fundamentally with respect to everything I do in my job each day, in terms of thinking about the world from a business standpoint as opposed to a scientific standpoint. It’s a hard thing to articulate, but my MBA degree really did have a very profound impact on the way I think about the world in general and also on how the economy works — things that you don’t necessarily think about as a scientist.

From a personal standpoint, on the evening of my graduation, I went straight from the ceremony to the airport and took a red-eye flight to start my new job on the East Coast to work for a venture-capital firm. I’ve spent the last five years learning the nuts and bolts of how to do finance deals. That’s a position that, frankly, I would not have gotten without my MBA from Rady. But I decided after several years in that world that what I really wanted to do was get back into a company setting. I’ve now moved back to the West Coast, the Bay Area. where I am the CEO for a biotech company that recently received $30 million in venture financing. Again, I don’t think I would have gotten that position without the totality of my background, which was rounded out by my Rady education. So from both a career and a personal standpoint, my MBA had a very profound impact on me.

What advice would you give to prospective students thinking about attending Rady?

For me, it wasn’t a difficult decision to attend, because I felt that the culture of entrepreneurship and the fact that it was UC San Diego, here in town, made it a very straightforward decision. Given the fact that Rady has gotten accreditation, I think the decision to attend is easier than ever. It’s an entrepreneurial school on its way up — an institution that really looks to blend business with science and technology; as well as with Lab to Market and other programs that are simply not found in other schools. I think that it is a very unique offering. Certainly from my standpoint, I would encourage anybody who’s thinking about a career in biotechnology to take the opportunity to attend Rady.