As a digital innovation strategist at Pilot 44’s Innovation Studio, Leela Ganesh’s role is to support corporations in developing and launching new products and ventures.

Her work spans the entire process, from analyzing market trends and identifying opportunities to sourcing for the right partners to work with and the eventual product or venture launch.

The world of innovation may seem a distance away from where she thought she would end up when she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences from the National University of Singapore.

Still, thanks to her time at the ESSEC Master in Management (MiM) program, the class of 2020 alumna is more than equipped for the role.

She shares how her MiM journey paved the way to where she is now.

What drew you to the ESSEC Master in Management program?

I wanted to stay close to my field of study but take on a more commercial role, specifically in the pharmaceutical industry.

The MiM program made sense for me because it helped me build commercial acumen, it was highly customizable, and I felt it was a good fit for the level of experience I came with—which at that point had primarily been internships.

Are there features of the MiM that make it particularly suitable for those with a science background?

Yes. Firstly, the Junior Consultant Experience (JCE) is unique to the ESSEC Asia-Pacific MiM program. This allows students to work as consultants for an industry partner.

This is a good chance for us to work with clients and understand their expectations and how to respond with confidence and poise.

There are a lot of soft skills we can acquire from industry experiences like that.

The MiM program also has so many options for chairs*. When I was in the MiM program, two were within the healthcare specialization.

I also liked that I could do it in France, which allowed me to meet industry experts overseas while I gained exposure working on case studies with real clients.

These offerings are unique and have prepared me for the working world.

*Chairs are professional tracks at ESSEC co-sponsored by a company.

Could you tell us how you ended up in the field of innovation?

My interests have always been in healthcare and digital health. When I joined ESSEC, I wanted to enter the pharmaceutical space, so I did the Therapeutic Innovation Research Chair*.

One student project we worked on was with Sanofi. It focused on rare diseases and how to introduce a digital disease management platform for patient support.

It was my first introduction to Sanofi as a company. When I came back to Singapore, I reached out to Career Services, which connected me to Sanofi’s HR in Singapore for an internship with the Vaccines team.

Through some internal networking, I went from there to an apprenticeship with Sanofi’s consumer health business.

That’s when I got exposed to the innovation management team and gained experience in the innovation space.

Pilot 44 was one of our partners, and at the end of my apprenticeship, I got in touch to see if they had opportunities—which is how I eventually joined the company.

Looking back, how was your time at ESSEC different from your previous schools?

The school has a very international outlook. Besides a very diverse faculty, students also come from different countries.

For many of them, it was their first time in Asia—yet they were so open-minded and willing to absorb all they could about the different cultures.

I’m happy I started the program in Singapore because I was able to build a network of friends, some of whom are French, before going to France with them and expanding my connections further.

How has your ESSEC MiM experience changed you?

I’ve definitely become a better communicator. I was more reserved during my undergraduate days, but at ESSEC, I engaged more actively with the students and faculty.

I’ve also developed my cross-cultural intelligence, which improves as I work with diverse teams.

I advise MiM students to explore the different campuses and tracks and capitalize on the industry exposure they will get.