A 360-degree view of business: Evening MBA helps scientist become leader

Evening MBA Peter Olagunju

Peter Olagunju
Senior Director of Vendor Management, bluebird bio
Evening MBA (2009)

Peter Olagunju began his career as an assistant research scientist in 2001. Showing promise in biotech, he began rising quickly through the quality assurance ranks with a focus on compliance and operations. “I had a good career in QA, but I had this dream of leading an organization someday and I felt an MBA would help that dream come true,” says Olagunju. “I was a scientist, so I felt some uncertainty about taking a deep dive into business. But I really wanted to know how ideas get launched—so I sought out a 360-degree view of business from accounting to finance, marketing to management.”

Not only did Peter become immersed in business, but he also had hands-on learning opportunities in numerous areas, including entrepreneurship. Following a class in entrepreneurial finance, he participated with some classmates in Foster’s Business Plan Competition, which he calls “the perfect capstone.” A marquee event running for nearly two decades, the Business Plan Competition guides students through venture creation and has awarded $1.2 million in prize money to 139 student companies.

“Our team won,” says Olagunju. “Our concept for a device that could help pharmaceuticals bridge the blood-brain barrier turned into a company called Impel Neuropharma. I’m not part of the company today, but I’m still good friends with the management team.”

Asked what he most liked about the program, Peter hones in on what he learned about—and from—teams. “The curriculum actually teaches how to optimize teams for success. The culture facilitates investment in each other’s success. Everyone brings a unique perspective to the work at hand, and even as you’re applying what you learn, you’re also bringing your experience that benefits others.”

His business acumen led him from compliance manager at ZymoGenetics to director of global operations at Dendreon. He’s recently been recruited by a gene therapy company called bluebird bio, with offices in Seattle, Cambridge (Mass.), and Paris. He and his wife Maria (MBA 2012) moved to Cambridge this summer and are looking forward to exploring the Northeast.

Peter’s proud of the great companies he’s had the opportunity to work for, but don’t be surprised if he ends up realizing that dream of leading an organization.