A Kung Fu Champion, a PharmD and a Business Practitioner T-bird

Mahmoud Zarati

Mahmoud Zarati

Guest Writer (Class of 2022)

This is part of Das Tor’s ongoing Internship Insights series, in which second-year students write about their summer internship experiences.

I am Dr. Mahmoud Zarati from Tunisia, a small country in North Africa with a rich history that represents both the aspirations of freedom and struggles to make its Arab Spring dreams come true despite significant challenges. Along with its neighbors Algeria and Libya, Tunisia lines the southern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, a strategic location that has attracted Romans, Arabs, Ottoman Turks, and other powers over the years. 

My background before Thunderbird has shaped my career path and my experiences here. I have a medical background, including a Pharm.D, a Pharmacoeconomics & Market Access degree, and a Medical Devices and Clinical Trials degree. I am the founder of many NGOs in North Africa and have served as president, treasurer, and have had different leadership positions in national and international organizations. I also have served as the official delegate of Tunisia and the International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation (IPSF) at the WHO and UNESCO. 

During my spare time, I play Kung Fu and other martial arts. I have played with the Tunisian Kung Fu national team and have participated in many championships, such as the Africa and North Africa championships. As an international professional development trainer, I have trained over 50 new trainers in the IPSF and other NGOs since 2016.

In 2020, these experiences led me to Thunderbird. I was selected to receive the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to attend Thunderbird online due to Covid-19 but declined and reached out to Thunderbird, applying for a scholarship to join in person and live the on-campus experience. Fortunately, I was able to join the program in Fall 2020, and I am now majoring in Global Business and Digital Transformation. 

Despite my previous professional experience, I knew when I started at Thunderbird that obtaining a summer internship after my first year would be crucial to my career development. To get an internship for Summer 2021, I collaborated with team members from the Career Management Center (CMC) at Thunderbird. Networking was key for my success, preparing me for the opportunity when it showed up. 

My internship with Vertex Pharmaceuticals was the fruit of hard work and dedication. I was introduced to that opportunity by my roommate Ryo, a T-bird, who attended an information session organized by Thunderbird-ASU and Vertex. After reaching out to the recruiter on LinkedIn, I submitted my cover letter and resume and went through a series of interviews to land an internship at Vertex as an MBA Associate within the Business Operations & Strategy team, which was part of the Commercial Manufacturing and Supply Chain business unit. 

Vertex is a Fortune 500 global biotechnology company that invests in scientific innovation to create transformative medicines for people with serious diseases. Founded in 1989 in Cambridge, Mass., it has multiple approved medicines that treat the underlying cause of cystic fibrosis (CF) — a rare, life-threatening genetic disease — and has several ongoing clinical and research programs in CF. Beyond CF, Vertex has a robust pipeline of investigational small molecule medicines in other serious diseases, where it has deep insight into causal human biology, including pain, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, and APOL1-mediated kidney diseases. In addition, Vertex has a rapidly expanding pipeline of genetic and cell therapies for diseases such as sickle cell disease, beta thalassemia, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and Type 1 diabetes mellitus. Vertex is not just a biopharma business—it is a business of hope. I feel very grateful to have been given the opportunity to work for them.

Ultimately, the CMC was of great help, leveraging all the available resources to help me and my fellow students during our journey at Thunderbird both professionally and personally. The mock interviews, continuous communication with coaches from the CMC, and all the workshops, business cases, and sessions presented by great trainers and professors all helped me achieve my goals.

To conclude, I would leave my fellow students with this thought: It helps when you have talent, but as long as you have a lot of determination, and you work hard, miracles happen. 

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