An Inspiring Interview with Amanda Wagner

October 28, 2014

Amanda Wagner

SM '06 and One of the 2014 BBJ's 40 Under 40

Amanda Wagner, SM '06, was named one of Boston Business Journal's 40 under 40 for 2014. Amanda serves as the Senior Director of Product Planning & Program Management at Concert Pharmaceuticals and was selected out of 350 Boston professionals that were nominated for the honor due to her professional accomplishments and civil engagement.  Amanda graciously took the time to share her story with the Simmons SOM community.  In the following interview she explains why she chose to attend Simmons to guide her professional growth within a STEM environment, how she has used her Simmons experience and relationships throughout her career, and how current and potential SOM students can take advantage of the opportunities Simmons has to offer.  

I know your background was in Neuropsychology/ Neuroscience, what led you to pursue an MBA?

I've been passionate about medicine and research for a long time, and I was accepted into both PhD and MBA programs. Prior to enrolling in grad school, I took jobs working in academic and corporate environments, and learned that I really thrived on the business side. It's valuable to try out your options to learn what you like and don't like. I loved working with fast-paced teams and thinking about markets. The lab work was interesting, but didn't suit my personality as well. As a result, I went for the MBA.

What drew you to Simmons School of Management in particular?

There's a lot of buzz right now about startup "incubators", and I think of the Simmons School of Management as being an incubator for high-potential women. The size of the school allows for each student to get personalized attention and a challenging curriculum, while providing a supportive environment for exploration. Secondly, I'm personally very interested in women's impact on economics and healthcare, and Simmons is at the forefront of thinking about how women are shaping the business world. Finally, the SOM has the advantage of being able to provide exceptional financial aid for promising candidates, and flexible schedules, both of which were important to me.

How did your experience at Simmons prepare you for your current role and how has your experience at Simmons affected your career as a whole?

Clearly I learned tactical skills in the classroom, and my experience in classes such as marketing and finance helped prepare me for the role that I have played at Concert. Simmons has also had tremendous value for me in terms of opportunities and relationship building. Nancy Stuart, Concert's Chief Operating Officer, is a Simmons SOM alumna, and her connection to the school is how I got involved with Concert. In addition, I have a number of other mentors in industry who are Simmons alums, and have also maintained close relationships with some of my professors. The Simmons network in the Boston area is strong, and my connection to Simmons has directly led to career opportunities.

How did you get started at Concert Pharmaceuticals?

I interned at Concert as part of my experience at Simmons. I did internships at two different start-ups and received two full-time offers. I strongly recommend that students do internships. It's the best way to demonstrate and build your skill set, while seeing if a particular company is a good fit.

What has been one of your biggest challenges at Concert?

Early on, one my challenges was making the switch from working in Business Development to Program Management. In BD I was in my comfort zone, and moving to Program Management required building a new skill set and becoming immersed in the details of the development process. It was immensely challenging but also very rewarding.

What has been one of the biggest rewards?

Working on the development plan for our flagship product, CTP-354 for the treatment of spasticity, has been tremendously rewarding. I've been able to see the program progress from research into Phase 2 trials in patients, and we used the development plan as the basis for Concert's IPO in Feb, which was very exciting.

What is it like being a leading women in a STEM field?

There are so many amazing women in STEM right now, I feel like we're really riding the wave upwards, especially in biotech. The great thing about science is that there are constantly new frontiers being explored, and women are driving forward truly innovative products.

What has it been like, being named one of Boston Business Journals 40 under 40?

It was extremely flattering. I'm so honored that people I respect at Concert thought highly enough of my work to nominate me for the award, and it's been great to meet the other awardees.

What advice would you give to current SOM students?

Do internships. Use the alumni network. Build and maintain relationships. Try out different roles to see what you enjoy and where you excel. Cultivate preparedness and a thick skin.

Do you have any thoughts for perspective students?

The Simmons SOM has played a key role in my career trajectory, and they are doing some particularly innovative work in healthcare management. If you are a high potential candidate evaluating schools in the Boston area, I strongly recommend visiting Simmons, meeting some professors and visiting classes, and talking to admissions about the available programs and financial aid.