Born in Bangladesh, Yaasha Hasan (MBA2022) immigrated to the US as a teenager, where her family hoped to make a better life for themselves. After much success in the retail world - and a life-altering health experience in her personal life - the Laidlaw scholar has embarked on a new chapter in her career. Today, she finds herself at the cutting edge of AI and fulfilling an early passion for healthcare, thanks to the MBA programme at LBS.
I spent my early life in Bangladesh and at the age of 15, left everything that I had ever known to establish new roots in Sugar Land, Texas. Growing up, my family didn’t have much. The constant financial struggles, in addition to my father’s deteriorating health conditions due to a major car accident, meant we lived life on a bare minimum. When we found out that our visa application to immigrate to the US was approved in 2006, like so many other immigrant families, we wasted no time in packing our bags and making the move to live out our very own American Dream.
However, the move was not easy for me, especially with the backdrop of an American high school, where everyone seemingly had a place except for me. I wanted to blend in, assimilate, and not stand out as ‘fresh off the boat’. I looked to popular American movies to adapt my personality, appearance, and mannerisms, to one that would be more accepted. Unfortunately, this was at a time when people of colour were never the main characters on TV – leaving me feeling that to fit in, I needed to be more like my White American peers. Needless to say, I was confused, somewhat ashamed of my identity, and clueless about who I wanted to be.
In addition to experiencing major culture shock, I continued to endure financial hardship during those initial years, as my parents were still figuring out how to support a family of five with minimal blue-collar income. Making ends meet was challenging, so I decided to take on part-time work to support myself financially as I navigated the college application process, while still in high school. From working as a cashier at my local Forever 21 store to waiting tables at an Italian restaurant, I tried it all! What no one told me was how expensive and arduous it was going to be to level my CV with that of my wealthy peers – I had to use all my savings towards expensive prep and Advanced Placement courses to make myself stand out. It was tough balancing rigorous schoolwork, volunteering in the community, and working 20 hours a week. I was constantly sleep deprived and had no time to socialise. But it was all worth it – not only because I got into my dream school (Emory University) with a huge scholarship, but because all those experiences made me realise my place in the world and how I had to work that much harder to achieve my goals in life. I don’t take any one of those experiences for granted.
I wanted to study medicine and become a doctor. Unfortunately, within the first year I realised that the path to becoming a doctor in the US was a long and expensive one - a decade-long process of studying and undertaking hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of student loans in a country with the most expensive education system in the world. It was not an option for me. I decided to study business administration instead, which gave me the assurance of starting a career with an income upon graduation, giving me the security and stability I desired after living a life of financial hardship. I graduated with a BBA degree, with a focus on management information systems, with the hopes of leveraging analytics in an industry I’d be passionate about.
In my final year of studies, I ended up interviewing for a job which brought together my interest in retail and my new skills in analytics. I moved to New York to work for the department store Macy’s in their merchandising function, developing and implementing innovative merchandising strategies for multi-million-dollar categories. For the first time in my life, I became financially independent – enough to have disposable income to travel, see the world, experience good food, support my family, and most importantly enjoy New York City. There was so much energy and diversity and a level of acceptance I had never experienced before. I remembered the struggles I had with the need to fit in and realised that I really didn’t have to change – I just had to embrace myself. I found pride and satisfaction in my identity like never before, as a curious Bangladeshi-American immersing herself in all the experiences life had to throw my way.
The turning point for deciding to pursue my MBA came in 2020. I really enjoyed what I was doing at Macy’s but there was always that element of making a positive impact missing. I decided to leave my job and try to find something that aligned more with what I was looking for. During this period of unemployment, I was asked to sign up for a pilot for Medicaid (government funded healthcare for the unemployed), and so for the first time in my life, I felt incentivised to get everything checked out in terms of my health. At the time, I thought my hearing was off and made an appointment with an ENT to take a hearing test. While I was there, I asked the doctor to check my nose and throat too; I came out of that appointment diagnosed with a suspicious tumour. A few tests and two major surgeries later, it turned out that the tumour was cancerous but because of the timeliness of the diagnosis the cancer hadn’t spread. I now get to live my life to its full extent, like a normal healthy person. I couldn’t believe my luck and privilege. From then on, I found my calling – I wanted to commit to a career with the mission to expand access to quality healthcare. I realised I didn’t need to be a doctor to save lives - there was enough wrong with how healthcare systems function in the world that a little fixing in management could make a big difference!
I wanted to pursue an MBA to explore and pivot to a career in healthcare. I was so curious about the concept of public healthcare, especially after my happen-chance cancer diagnosis, that I wanted to pursue an MBA only in Europe, where public healthcare existed in a way that would be unthinkable in the US. Before making the move, I visited several MBA programmes across Europe. When I arrived at LBS for an open day, I felt instantly at home - I loved the diversity and the multiculturalism on campus and in London. But what resonated the most with me was the kindness and generosity of the students I met that day on campus. After that, it was an absolute no-brainer that LBS was my top choice, and I was so lucky to get accepted.
The Laidlaw scholarship meant that finances weren’t as much of a barrier for me to pursue my MBA. Even though I was committed to an MBA, the financial requirements made it challenging to pursue one in Europe, especially after having accumulated significant medical bills and spent a lot my savings. Thankfully, LBS made me aware of the Laidlaw Women’s Leadership Fund, for which I quickly applied and was lucky to have been amongst the 20 women selected. What the Laidlaw Foundation stands for is so profound - the financial help it provides is so powerful in injecting gender and socio-economic equity into the business world, and I am eternally grateful for it.
I remember attending an Exploring Careers in Healthtech webinar at LBS, where one of the speakers shared that healthcare is one of the few industries where being compassionate and empathetic is a requirement for success. That really resonated with me – I wanted to speak about my career in the same way as these healthtech leaders. Right after, I decided to dedicate the following two years to carve out a career path in healthtech. I initially did that by completing my summer internship with the NHS as their first MBA intern. It was an incredible experience, and I learned how hospitals were integrating digital solutions in their workflow. Later, I founded a medtech start up that aimed to use breakthrough nanotechnology to make cancer screening more affordable and accessible. Although the start-up ultimately folded, I realised the world of healthtech is extremely rewarding and is exactly where I’d like to be in the long term.
The more I learned about the trends in healthtech, the more I gained an interest in AI and the role predictive analytics is going to play in the future of healthcare. I wanted to equip myself with enough subject knowledge during my MBA so that I could confidently apply for roles in innovative AI companies. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that LBS offered a basic machine learning course, which I ended up enrolling in and coding a machine learning model as a final deliverable for my last class at LBS. It’s a testament to the growth of the tech and analytics concentration at LBS and all the resources from the Tech and Media Club that I ended up getting this level of exposure and experience before applying for jobs.
I'm currently working at Scalpel, an early stage medtech start-up, which uses AI to optimise operating rooms and make surgery safer. As Global Commercial and Product Marketing Lead, I am developing the go-to-market strategy in the UK and the US, while establishing and managing partnerships with leading healthcare systems around the world. I am also concurrently integrating customer research into our product development pipeline, collaborating with machine learning and computer vision engineers to launch our first product. Although this is the very first time I am working in these functions, I can confidently say that my MBA experience at LBS has equipped me with the right skills and confidence to tackle these challenges and I am so very grateful for that.
My pivot from the world of retail to the world of healthcare has been an amazing experience. I have a level of passion and commitment that I’ve never had before. So much of that is down to the opportunities I got at LBS, and the generosity of its people.
Learn more about the Laidlaw Women’s Leadership Fund.