Both programs offered academic excellence, international reach and exposure, and strong alumni job placement profiles post-program

Alumni Success Story: Ania Vargas, Dual Degree Alumni 2009 and Head of Business Operations at Genentech. See profile on Linkedin

Hello and welcome to Ania Vargas, one of those adventurous alumni who enrolled in our Dual Degree program, specifically the one with IE Business School in Madrid. This new journey automatically implied a move from Dominican Republic to Spain. How well did you adapt – any highs/lows to report?

Moving to Spain was a big step for me, it was the first time I lived abroad away from family and friends, it also meant leaving a good job to explore other opportunities. Like in any transition it took some time to adjust. Adjusting to the weather, to Spanish expressions in both Madrid and Zaragoza, learning how to find a flat (or “piso”) in Spain, etc. While there were many new things to learn, discovering the richness of Spanish food, culture and wines was definitely a high for me. In general, keeping an open and curious mind while abroad help me expand the possibilities yet to be explored making the experience a positive one.

The Dual Degree obviously has quite a few unique advantages in general, compared to other traditional degrees, but what was it that sold it to you personally?

I decided to go for an MBA to complement my engineering background and expand my business acumen. Choosing IE was easy, IE Business School is recognized for its entrepreneurial spirit while the International MBA program offered academic excellence in a truly global learning environment – I was hooked. Having the experience to work with and learn from classmates coming from more than 25 nationalities provided a unique lifetime experience.

I also knew my passion was still connected to operations and supply chain. When I learned about the Dual Degree with ZLC and MIT in Zaragoza it just seemed like the perfect combination of both worlds – business and operations. Both programs offered academic excellence, international reach and exposure, strong alumni job placement profiles post-program, etc. It is important to highlight that these programs are intense and demanding, so come prepare to work hard and learn a lot.

The hardest part of my decision to go for the dual degree was financially driven. It is a sizeable investment, particular for someone from the Dominican Republic deciding to enroll into two full-time programs without a steady income. Yet, this was possible through student loans made available via partnering banks that support both schools.

Once you completed the program you secured an exciting opportunity at Roche, a Swiss multinational healthcare company that operates worldwide for 10 years. Could you briefly describe your role at one of the world’s largest manufacturing companies for medical solutions?

I have been a member of the Roche family since 2009, from the beginning my experience has been rewarding in many angles. Those that know me well, know I am particularly driven by creating broad positive impact and connecting the bigger picture while breaking down barriers – With Roche I have had several opportunities and roles that have helped realize this passion.

My first role with the company was as Demand Planner for western and eastern European markets. In that role, I was responsible for balancing market demand and production capacity in a responsive and cost-effective way. I was Key Account Manager for Russia, Poland, Netherlands and Norway, lead the successful implementation of ERP and SAP APO systems across multiple European countries and was ad-interim Logistics Manager in Norway while covering a paternity leave in that country.

My next role was as Strategy and Asset Manager, in this capacity I lead key Roche Pharma initiatives with vast exposure to senior executives. I summarize this role as enabling strategic decision-making under uncertainty in many fronts, leading sourcing evaluations/projects on a case-by-case basis and defining risk mitigation plans for recommended options.

Your hiring set a precedent and to date there has been 28 alumni working in Switzerland, mostly for the pharma and chemical industry. Are ZLOGgers really helping companies drive optimization through their supply chains?  If so, how?

The alumni community in Basel has grown a lot over the last 10 years. There is also a big alumni community in the Bay Area (mix of ZLC and MIT alumni), we connect with each other as one big network. I believe we help companies optimize their supply chain via our ability to apply systemic thinking when improving processes, for example when we look at inventory strategies and targets we think end-to-end rather than focusing on one single echelon within the chain. We understand the importance of resilience and the role variability plays when defining supply/demand models, among many other examples. As the alumni network grows, we also support companies by sharing best practices and continuously bringing new opportunities to improve internal practices.

The Swiss pharma Roche agreed to buy Genentech, a legendary biotech firm that is a leader in developing antibodies, in 2009. Years later, you made a natural move from Switzerland to USA. As Head of Business Operations at Genentech, what specific project have been both innovative and revolutionary for the company?

Genentech is an important member of the Roche group, representing over 45% of Roche’s global revenue. Genentech is the Birthplace of Biotechnology since 1983, we developed methods for manufacturing complex proteins from E. Coli and CHO cells, now industry standard within a thriving Biotech community. Being exposed to this part of our business has expanded my appreciation and impact of our global operations.

Innovation and following science to improve patients’ lives is present in everything we do at Roche and Genentech. There are many examples of innovation, just to mention a few –  1) The Individualized NeoAntigen Specific Immunotherapy (iNeST) is a next generation immunotherapy for the treatment of patients with cancer manufactured on a per patient basis, truly confirming our focus on personalized healthcare; 2) New facilities designed for easy reconfiguration and future technology implementation (single-use technologies, digital manufacturing) enabling ease of technical transfers and facility replication while maintaining speed to market.

Unfortunately, latest news is that the number of coronavirus cases continues to grow worldwide. Faced with unpredictable and uncontrollable conditions such as these, how do logisticians get the right goods, to the right place, at the right time?

Strong and resilient supply chains are key to enable proper responses to demand and supply variations, while this is always true it quickly becomes a matter of life of death particularly during a global pandemic such as COVID19. For life saving products in particular, it is imperative that we guarantee uninterrupted supply to those in need around the world, while also ensuring a safe and healthy work environment for all employees who must work on-site. Rapid and effective responses under these conditions are key, some key considerations include: define options to rapidly expand/optimize production capacity, manage staffing levels and model what-if scenarios, decide where/how to allocate available supply to sites with greatest need, assess the reliability of key suppliers (including contracting obligations), ensure robust business continuity plans are in place, real-time monitoring of supply/demand signals,  increase safety stocks and expedite deliveries, among many more.