Tracey Sharma is a National Senior Solution Sales Manager at Stryker, one of the world’s leading medical technology companies. After realizing it had been eight years since investing in her professional development, she chose to pursue Darden’s Executive Education & Lifelong Learning’s noncredit online Certificate in Business Strategy. Sharma shared the impact the certificate program had on her and her advice for those trying to make more time for professional development.

Tell us about your career journey and what led you to pursue a Certificate in Business Strategy at Darden.

As a trained clinician in respiratory therapy, I have worked in healthcare sales for many years including medical devices, pharmaceutical sales and digital health. Most recently, I worked for a digital health company for about eight years, and it was during COVID that I was laid off. Like many people in the same situation, it was a time to reflect and the realization that this was the best time to invest in my professional development. I love strategy and I love sales – strategy is something you do everyday when you are in sales. However, I had never participated in executive training in order to understand the art of strategizing and what was involved in building a formal strategy.

Having joined Philips as an Account Executive, building strategic plans was a key part of the role. With every single account or prospective customer, you need to have a strategy. It was this time that I began pursuing my Certificate in Business Strategy at Darden.

How have you applied what you’ve learned in the program thus far?

During the first part of the certificate course, I accepted a new role at Stryker.  I was tasked with helping to develop business plans and a strategy as the company was going through an acquisition.  It was so easy to make a powerful impact in my new role having learned some basics through the Darden program. The program is set-up in such a way that you are able to apply key learnings immediately and demonstrate what you have learned to date.  As an example, I was able to start asking questions like, “Where is our competitive analysis?”, “Where’s our environmental analysis?” and “Do we have any of these?”. It allowed me to understand how businesses could be using the tools learned in the program to maximize their strategic direction and enable organizations to increase visibility and ultimately increase revenue.

My key learning in the program was that strategy is an actual formal process – it’s about researching and understanding your market and figuring out how your organization can become that strategic partner for those prospective customers. Whether it’s with a pricing strategy or a people strategy or both. I learned strategy needs to come from the top down, building on the mission and vision of the company. Now, I’m able to ask the confident questions of the leadership team and help them understand where we need to take action or potentially outsource to help us establish our strategy. When I’m asked, “What’s your strategy?”, I now understand the response needs to be, “Looking at our mission and vision as well as the overall strategy of the company, we need to ensure they are aligned.”

What was something memorable about the program?

When it comes to evaluating one’s work, I found it very interesting that there are peer-to-peer reviews from your classmates. There were participants from different industries and this was something that was new to me. That piece of the program was different from what I had experienced in the past.

What would you say to someone who is considering a Certificate in Business Strategy, but feels like they might not be able to make the time for it?

I had not done a single executive training course in eight years, and you come to this point where you need to keep yourself current. I’ve found that if you want to start improving yourself in your professional development, you need to invest that time. It’s also a part of self-care by taking that time to invest in learning, invest in trying something new and putting yourself out there. With the Darden program, the fact that the course was online and self-paced, allowed for flexibility when it comes to completing the supplemental work.

Learn more about the Certificate in Business Strategy and how it may help you reach your career or organizational goals.