Director, Sales & Business Development, Northern Europe at Acutus Medical, Inc.
Based in the UK, Ian Culshaw is Director of Sales & Business Development, Northern Europe at Acutus Medical, Inc.. Having earned his MSc Business (Leadership and Management Practice) in 2019, he has gone on to complete two other diplomas and is currently looking into a sixth.
Tell us about your career background
I initially trained as a cardiac physiologist in the NHS and spent 11 years there, ascending through the ranks. I’d always been quite ambitious and became a little disillusioned with the inability to progress in the NHS, so I moved over to the medical devices industry, taking a role as a clinical support specialist in electrophysiology. Soon after, I took a sales position in cardiac pacing with another company, where I thrived and was promoted to regional sales manager within three years, managing a team of 11 people. In 2016, after six years of managing a very successful team, I took on my current role – national sales manager for electrophysiology.
What attracted you to the MSc in Business (Leadership and Management Practice)?
I’d wanted to study for an MBA for several years but balancing the commitments of a busy role and a young family presented a challenge.
I’d pretty much written off further education when I received an email from UCD about the Diploma in Strategic Growth (Biotech and Pharma). I spoke with the course administrator to learn more about the diploma and found out about the MSc pathway.
After a decade out of further education I had a touch of angst around my ability to integrate back in to university learning. However, I quickly realised the diploma would be perfect for me. I’d be committing to six modules over a 10-month period; these would run on Fridays and Saturdays (so wouldn’t impacting too much on work); and the required study would be around eight hours per week.
My thinking was that even if it was difficult I’d be able to get through six modules, particularly as they were assignment-based rather than exams so I could complete my studies around my commitments rather than cramming. In my opinion, the worst thing that could happen was that I’d lose half a dozen or so weekends. On the upside, if I enjoyed the programme and coped with the study then I would look to take on the MBA.
I never expected to complete the MSc pathway but I am now on my fifth diploma!
What were your expectations of the pathway and how were they met?
I expected the structure and delivery to be similar to my undergraduate degree, with large impersonal classes and to be frantically taking notes as the lecturer delivered the content. I also overestimated how difficult the assignments would be.
Instead, I found relatively small classes, with interactive learning hosted by the faculty. This was extremely engaging and enjoyable. Having assignments that linked each module’s learning to challenges in your own workplace was great too as it helped make the content relative, further embedding the learning.
Were there any particular challenges that you wanted to address through the MSc pathway?
Part of my desire to undertake the course was that I’d been quite successful in business, but held no business qualifications. I wanted the credentials and underpinning knowledge.
Did the programmes in your MSc pathway helped you in this regard?
Absolutely. I guess the highlight was learning more about venture capital, given that the company I work for is quite aggressive in its acquisition strategy.
The coaching module completely opened my eyes too, taking me from a very fixed mindset where I had somewhat shunned the benefits of coaching to a very open mindset of embracing it. The session where we coached each other under supervision was the ‘Aha!’ moment for me. Having a very mixed group with people from diverse sectors helped to show me that you don’t need to have done someone’s job to effectively coach them. I now have a coach I speak to regularly.
What did you think about the networking opportunities?
I am somewhat introverted and have a small group of friends, a busy job and a young family, so had no desire to make new friends or develop a network coming in to the programme. The set-up of the classes, however, with experiential learning and knowledge and information being drawn from you and your classmates, makes you naturally curious about each other. What actually happened, somewhat unintentionally, is that I developed quite a broad network.
If you could single out one key takeaway that the MSc pathway delivers, what would it be?
The MSc pathway is extremely flexible, allowing each participant to make their own journey specific to themselves.
If pushed for one key takeaway it would probably be to ‘stay curious’. When John O’Gorman (programme director for High Performance Sales and Business Development) first said these words it didn’t really hit me. As he repeated this statement several times it really resonated. Be engaged, be energetic and keep asking questions to enhance your learning.
How would you describe the Diploma in Business Finance?
For those with no finance background, this diploma can be like learning another language. The content at times can be a little heavy and requires some background reading. With a little dedication, however, it is fascinating. I was as impressed with the content of the syllabus (enhancing my understanding of debt/equity, derivatives, financial ratios, mergers and acquisitions, etc) as I was with the stories of the financial industry (as told by Cormac Lucey and Ken O’Sullivan).
As a result of completing the Diploma in Business Finance, I can now find my way around a 10-K quite easily and have a much better relationship with finance.
How would you describe the Diploma in Strategic Growth (Biotech and Pharma)?
The tone of an enjoyable diploma was set with an introduction to how the French Revolution and Industrial Revolution led to convergence and how the landscape has changed through several further revolutions.
Karan Sonpar is a gifted lecturer, who delivers the strategy module with great expertise and wit. The case studies we used (Honda and Schindler) were thought-provoking and still stick with me several years later.
The supply chain post-module assignment was excellent, providing me an opportunity to spend several days with the VP of global supply chain within my company and some great learnings.
The leadership module, hosted by Jan Rosier, was really useful for me and allowed me to make a big decision in my workplace. It also taught me more about myself and my leadership style.
I loved the venture dynamics module. It was extremely interesting to learn more about creative destruction and how venture capitalists operate. The post-module assignment (although quite meaty) allowed me to study a large acquisition made by the company I work for and inspired me to read more on the topic of venture capitalism.
Would you recommend the programmes you undertook to others?
It’s fair to say that there were one or two modules that I didn’t particularly enjoy, but I would wholeheartedly recommend each diploma I sat.