2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Emily Bibak, UC Irvine (Merage)

Emily Bibak

The Paul Merage School of Business, University of California-Irvine

Age: 48

“A dedicated, independent, goal-oriented person who puts the family first and enjoys small things in life.”

Hometown: Tehran, Iran

Family Members: Mason Shojai (husband), Artin (son, 12 years old) and Ava (daughter, 10 years old)

Fun fact about yourself: I would have loved living in the 18th century, living a simple life with no TV, no cellphone, no digitalized world.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Batcher/Master’s degree in chemistry from Linkoping University in Sweden, PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences from Heidelberg University in Germany

Where are you currently working? Glaukos Corporation, Director, R&D/Analytical Technologies

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Past-chair and current chair-elect at Southern California Pharmaceutical Discussion Group arranging speakers presenting new pharmaceutical-related technologies. Adjunct professor at Southwest Collage of Natropathic Medicine, supporting students to transition into industry-based research. Volunteer resume and LinkedIn reviewer at American Association of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Participating in the Stella Zhang New Venture Competition and winning the first round. The competition is fun and exciting, associated with great learning opportunities and it provides an actual innovation and entrepreneurship experience and feeling.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of my achievements in successful development of novel drug products, I have patents associated with one of the HIV drugs in the market saving lives of many patients. In general, it is a great feeling when one of the drugs I have worked on gets commercialized leading to improving patients’ life.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I have several favorites, the first one being Professor Kenneth Murphy. He is a great instructor who makes the topic interesting and encouraged everyone to get engaged and participate in the class discussions. I also learned a lot from Professor Richard Afable and enjoyed both of his courses I took.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? UCI included the opportunity to specialize in both Healthcare Leadership track and Innovation & Entrepreneurship track. I was interested in learning more in both fields and did not want to select one or the other. Additionally, I found UCI has some of the best professors and courses.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? In addition to all the academic learnings, I learned so much from my cohort and their experiences. I significantly increased my leadership skills and learned how to better collaborate with people from different fields with different personalities toward a common goal. I have used many of the leadership skills (especially what I learned from the Woman’s Leadership program) at work to encourage my team to grow and succussed toward a common mission.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? I have so many stories! Due to the lack of time, I have mastered the “multi-tasking” concept. For example, I have attended a TA session through my computer, while I was on an online work meeting through my work computer and asking my daughter to play the piano and correcting her mistakes (and asking my husband to help making the dinner).

Last year we were invited to a friend’s house for brunch on Valentine Day which was on a Sunday. I had a class on Sunday but didn’t want my family to miss this event. That morning, I took shower early in the morning and started the class on Zoom with my wet hair. Throughout the class, I got ready and transformed to a face with full makeup and flat-ironed hair while actively participating in the class discussions (with the camera). I got my kids ready, continued joining the class through my cell phone while my husband was driving, and I was able to achieve both activities at the same time.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? To try to get the most out if this program. This is a great program and needs dedication and effort. Engage with the cohort, make your network stronger, participate in the class discussions, and try your best in the group activities. If you are a passive participant, you will miss many learning opportunities.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? Some myths I have heard are that it is harder to learn after you have aged and people who have a job do not need to go back to school. I disagree with both. People get wiser as they age, and they can use their life experiences to improve their learnings. In addition, any kind of learning will boost career development. I have gained significantly more knowledge through this program that will help me grow in my career. However, it was difficult to get back to the habit of studying due to my full-time job and family obligations at the beginning. However, I learned quickly how to manage a work-life-school balance.

What was your biggest regret in business school? It was not being able to get to know everyone in my class. Since many of our classes were online, I missed the opportunity to have meaningful conversation with several people in the class.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I had a pleasure of knowing so many smart people in my class. I admire Erin for being a strong female leader, Victor for being so wise, Saadia for being so kind and considerate, Derek for his innovative sprit, Jaspal and Christian for being the best teammate, and so on…

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I was interested in expanding my knowledge in different field while continuing working and developing my career. It was important to have an in-person interaction with my cohort to be able to have efficient networking and collaboration. Also, I am very eager to finish a task very quickly, therefore I have not the patient to attend a part-time program.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I am planning to have my own startup developing natural based rejuvenating drug products.

What made Emily such an invaluable addition to the class of 2022?

“I worked closely with Emily during 2 healthcare electives during the 2021-2022 academic year. I was the instructor for these 2 courses and found Emily to exemplify the highest level of achievement for academic performance, professionalism, and leadership among her student peers.

Emily is the Director of Analytical Technologies at Glaukos Corporation, a publicly-traded pharmaceutical company based in Orange County, CA. She holds a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Science and a master’s degree in organic chemistry. Dr. Bibak is methodical, results-driven professional with substantial experience leading analytical R&D and quality control laboratories in support of new drug development within the pharmaceutical industry.

As an MBA student at University of California Irvine, Emily is in the top 20% of her graduating cohort. She has excelled academically, having taken the largest number of classes over anyone else in her group, almost 30 units, or 7 more courses than needed (which is rare). She is truly an academic and personal leader in her class.

During her course work in my classes, I found Emily to be inquisitive, participative, and always sought clarity on behalf of her fellow students. She contributed regularly to our course work, and despite most of our classes being virtual, she made herself well known to her instructors and fellow students. Her contributions made a difference in the quality of our collective work. On a personal level, Emily has a constant smile and an easy sense of humor. She is well-liked and respected by all who know her.”

Richard Afable M.D., MPH, FACP
Instructor, Paul Merage School of Business
University of California, Irvine    


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