How six MBA students helped Seer Medical expand its epilepsy care
When Damien Kenny from Seer Medical took on six MBA students during COVID-19, he didn't expect how big an impact they would have.
Seer Medical develop and manufacture medical devices that assist in the diagnosis and management of epilepsy. The devices are fitted on to patients at any one of the organisation's 21 clinics around the country and worn for long-term monitoring and medical diagnosis.
Damien is the Strategic Adviser to Seer Medical's CEO. In 2020, he undertook a large research project to gather data on similar organisations around the world and inform a global strategy for the business. Seer Medical works with Three Chairs Consulting on its strategy and governance and was after new ways to make its care even more accessible to people who require seizure investigation.
Melanie Bois, Director of Three Chairs Consulting and Melbourne Business School MBA alum, suggested an internship wherein she would coach Full-time MBA candidates throughout a real-world learning experience that Seer Medical would provide.
"We were looking to validate our business model assumptions, decide on which overseas markets to enter, the basis of the market entry, and how to best marshal our resources," Damien says.
"We're a young business, only just beginning to explore possibilities outside of Australia and not yet ready to allocate massive budgets away from our R&D investments to strategy consulting.
"Melanie understood that and suggested that we could bring in capable people that are accessible to work on this, and it didn't need to be a scary thing – it didn't need to be a large consultancy."
Melanie approached the Career Management Centre at Melbourne Business School and was able to quickly mobilise a team of talented MBA candidates.
"Currently, we're making epilepsy diagnostics much more accessible by substituting a traditional process – in which someone goes into a hospital for a seven day stay at a cost of $10,000 or so to the hospital system – for at-home care that costs closer to $2,000 and is covered by Medicare," Damien says.
"Waiting times can be up to six months for someone to go into hospital – if they're able to get into a hospital – and it can even be up to a couple of years in some states. With us they're in almost straight away. We see more than 5,000 people on an annual basis."
Six MBA students jumped at the chance to work on the project – Austin (Tianxiao) Yang, Huong Chu, Aakriti Gupta, Erin Craig, Maximiliano Quimbar and Priyanka Mawjee – and Damien says their impact was felt immediately.
"The MBA candidates quickly gave us the ability to understand the questions we were asking ourselves by bringing data into those conversations, and some common language for the C-suite to use when talking about those issues," Damien says.
"It was very useful in that regard, but also a stepping stone on our way to a better understanding of our strategy and resource allocation needs into the future."
Before Damien's project began, Melanie from Three Chairs Consulting had already been talking to the Career Management Centre about opportunities for MBA students during COVID-19.
"In the news, I heard the big four firms were shedding consulting roles," she says.
"I thought it must be hard for MBA candidates to get the internship opportunities that they want during COVID and wondered if we could offer some students a meaningful and challenging learning experience with a client."
Melanie was surprised to find the students had a level of talent and experience that allowed them not just to help, but gain the attention of senior executives as well.
"The skill sets that we brought in were really extraordinary," she says.
"Take Max – he has a PhD in bio-med, which helped him better understand Seer Medical's work – or Austin, who has an incredibly high level of finance skill.
"The whole team had direct access to the C-suite because their skills were so high and relevant, which was an incredible growth opportunity for them."
For Full-time MBA student Aakriti Gupta, the highlight of the project was the opportunity to work with an organisation that helped people every day.
"Seer Medical's technology can revolutionise the lives of countless epilepsy patients," she says.
"It was an honour to chart their growth strategy and add to the evidence base to be used in its capital raising efforts which will, in turn, widen the company’s reach. The team was a pleasure to work with and they continuously inspired me to grow and learn."
Maximiliano Quimbar echoed his classmate's thoughts.
"Working on this project was both exciting and insightful. It allowed me to apply knowledge from multiple subjects – including concepts I had learnt just 48 hours prior to meeting with the team," Max says.
"It was great to work with Damien as he was very open to ideas and he facilitated communication with senior members of the company who talked with us about their activities, their roles, and their perspectives.
"This was all made possible by Melanie who brought together a very diverse group, gave us guidance, and granted us creative freedom to investigate the project and produce a robust assessment to inform the company's decisions."
Seer Medical CEO and co-founder Dr Dean Freestone was the research project's executive sponsor and engaged with the students at several points throughout the process.
"Seer Medical has a deep and long-standing relationship with the University of Melbourne. The MBA students brought energy and fresh thinking to the project," Dr Freestone says.
Looking to the future, Damien believes that taking on a group of interns again might be a viable option for the company – perhaps even on an annual basis.
"I'd be certainly open to having a structured program where we could get some MBA candidates in again, absolutely," he says.
"Working with the students was great. They were very competent, very skilled and very professional. All in all, great diplomats for the project and for Melbourne Business School."