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Stephanie Patrick is an MBA graduate of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business cross continent MBA programme and team leader of Doin it for the kids, one of the teams shortlisted in the FT MBA 2014 Challenge with UK charity World Child Cancer (WCC). For the challenge, her team needs to write a business plan that shows how WCC can improve access to affordable, reliable drugs.

Ms Patrick’s team has five other members: An MBA student from Fuqua, two masters students from Esade Business School – one studying finance and the other studying international management, a Cems masters in management student based at the National University of Singapore Business School and a specialist in education development from Ghana.

Ms Patrick grew up in Canada and now lives in Seattle. Since graduating in 2013, she works as a business programme manager in the worldwide licensing and pricing department at Microsoft. In her spare time, she enjoys scuba diving and wakeboarding.

1. Why did you enter the FT MBA Challenge?

Having an interest in global health challenges but with limited previous exposure, I wanted the chance to learn about a specific [problem], work with people close to [it], get an understanding of local conditions where World Child Cancer works and think creatively about solutions and impacts. I also want to use the information I’ve learned here for future pursuits and contributions.

2. How have you found the experience so far?

It’s been really interesting. I’ve learned a lot about the difficulties in treating childhood cancers and the barriers to even get to the point of treatment. The project has given me the opportunity to speak to and work with experts in the field and benefit from their knowledge and insights. Working with an international team [meanwhile] is challenging in that we are always co-ordinating time zones and relying on email or texting for communication.

3. Why did you choose to do an MBA?

I wanted to expand my knowledge and career options and learn from other students. I wasn’t satisfied with my career trajectory at the time, as I felt pigeonholed in the position I had. It was very quantitative and detail-oriented and I wanted a position where I would have the opportunity to think strategically and have a large impact.

4. How do you deal with male-dominated environments?

I try to be confident in what I can bring to the table and then just marry that with my genuine, authentic self. It’s totally cliché but I’ve found it really is best to be yourself. Worrying about fitting in, trying too hard to prove yourself or taking on a work style that isn’t really you will distract from your accomplishments and value.

5. What advice would you give to women graduating this year from business school?

Take advantage of as many opportunities as you can. Whether through friends, colleagues, classmates or whoever, it is worth getting involved in that project, going to that interview you aren’t sure about, attending that event or volunteering for that cause. You never know who you will meet or what will end up inspiring you.

6. What is an average day at work like?

It can vary, but my days always involve meeting with a variety of stakeholders – either to stay current on changes that will affect my projects, solicit input on something I’m working on, problem solve as a group or discuss strategic initiatives.

7. How do you deal with pressure?

I try to be proactive in order to avoid too much work accumulating at once and causing me stress. If I’m feeling totally overwhelmed I like to take some time for myself and disconnect from the stress. A yoga class, a manicure or a good book are all great ways to take a step back, refocus and prepare to tackle what’s ahead.

8. What is the last book you read?

I like to read a variety of genres. The last book I read was Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur by Halima Bashir. My mum picked up this book for me and it was a great choice. It is a memoir by a Sudanese doctor, Halima, focusing on her happy childhood through to becoming a medical doctor and suffering the violence of an accelerating war. It was a sad and troubling read, made more so by how easy it was to identify with the bright, ambitious, young doctor. But although the book was intense, Halima’s courage and love come shining through the pages. I’m now on to Philip Pullman’s trilogy His Dark Materials.

9. What are your top tips for networking?

Keep doing it. Sometimes it’s awkward but it is best to push through and meet as many people as you can. If I’m going to an event where I don’t know anyone, I try to look for outgoing people to chat with first as I find they are the best at introducing you to more people. I’m a member of Duke Puget Sound, Duke University’s alumni association and Net Impact Seattle, a community of local professionals creating positive social and environmental change in the workplace and the world.

10. What do you hope women in business will achieve?

Anything they want. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all profile of a successful woman in business. I would like to see continued growth of great opportunities for women in various industries.

Read about the other team leaders:

Onyanta Adama, an MBA student at Lagos Business School in Nigeria and team leader of Ripple

Ingrid Marchal-Gerez, an MBA graduate of London Business School and team leader of Cut out Cancer

Gabriela Galvani, an EMBA graduate of IE Business School in Spain and team leader of Green Light

Sophia Arthur, MBA graduate of Imperial College Business School and team leader of Angel of Hope

Kate Battle, MBA student at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and team leader of The Fuqua Scholars

Michelle Monteiro, MBA student at Thunderbird School of Global Management and team leader of Chipo.

This article has been amended since publication to include further information.

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