Dr Suhina Singh Cesseni, COO / INVESTOR AT MACAN
February 2021 SgWIS Speaker
Written by Maanasa Ravikumar, Member of SgWIS
For the month of February 2021, we had the honour of welcoming Dr Suhina Singh Cesseni as our speaker. Dr Suhina currently works as COO and Investor at MACAN Pte Ltd, Singapore and took us through her unique professional journey around the globe before she moved to the Little Red Dot.
Describing her trajectory as “less than straightforward”, Dr Suhina is a third generation South African-Indian who initially decided to follow her family’s footsteps as a healthcare professional, but always pushed herself to explore uncharted territories. She studied to become a general physician with a special interest in oncology, but also dabbled in the world of fashion and reality TV as a model. As a practising physician, she describes being able to genuinely help people and save lives as the glorious good side of the profession. However, she also witnessed crippling inefficiencies in the public health system in South Africa, such as insufficient supplies in emergency rooms and a lack of access to healthcare in a timely fashion. This pushed Dr Suhina to complement her medical training with a Master’s degree in International Health Management from Imperial College Business School in the UK, allowing her to understand healthcare systems and policy with a different set of eyes than that of a physician.
Graduate school was not without its fair share of fresh challenges, however. Dr Suhina found herself stuck in a rut as she juggled her studies and a job to finance herself. After earning her degree, she knew she wanted to learn more, wanted to be more, and looked eastward to Asia for opportunities to gain non-clinical experience and expand her arsenal. “Rejection after rejection, it just took one yes”, says Dr Suhina looking back on the tireless job-hunting process before landing a medical writer role in Singapore. Since moving to Singapore, she has continued to push her professional limits and boundaries – from working as Chief Marketing Officer at a tech startup called 10 Minutes With, to taking on roles as a Medical Advisor at Allergan and in Medical Operations and Digital Innovations at Sanofi, Dr Suhina has worn many hats…but always with a single goal in mind, to improve healthcare. Through her experiences, it quickly became clear to her that the future of healthcare lies in digital health and health tech. These were attractive domains for her to explore, especially since her medical training, knowledge in health management and policy making, as well as experiences in tech and pharma would all come together as a perfect blend. When the opportunity to apply for a dream role in digital therapeutics came along, Dr Suhina was pumped and ready! What followed was unexpected though – a rejection.
Dr Suhina described the aftermath as a crushing blow to her self-confidence, fraught with frustration and disappointment. She emphasized that having a supportive partner and great friends allowed her to dust herself off, look upwards again and think to herself, “What could I do the next time to get that role?” Everybody knows the cliché when one door closes, another opens. In Dr Suhina’s case, this could not have happened at a better time. Following a friend’s suggestion, she stumbled upon a chance to apply for an executive MBA at INSEAD. It was time for her to explore yet another unfamiliar territory – “If you don’t try, you don’t know! My motto, nothing ventured, nothing gained!”. Dr Suhina stressed that a great deal of self-reflection allowed her to regain confidence and a sense of purpose. What were her strengths and weaknesses? Where would she be in 10 years? Throughout this trying and testing time, one thing was clear: her goal to improve healthcare remained unshaken. So, she decided to centre her MBA on digital health investments in Asian emerging markets. Upon successfully finishing, she took up her current role at MACAN Pte Ltd, a private holding company backed by European families investing across emerging and developed markets.
Looking at how far she has come and where her thoughts are now, Dr Suhina explains, “It is a fundamental human right that everybody has access to healthcare. As a physician or an investor, the belief is the same but the approach to problem-solving is different!”. When asked what was next on her colourful plate, she calmly and confidently replied that it’s not going to be straightforward, but that story is yet to be written…nonetheless, she will strive to continue creating impact wherever the road takes her!
Before signing off, Dr Suhina engaged in a short Q&A segment with an inspired audience eager to hear a few key lessons she has learnt along the way:
- Your career journey is not a ladder; it’s more of a jungle gym and that’s okay! Be open and adaptable to change.
- Stay true to your purpose – it is easy to lose sight especially when the road gets bumpy.
- Persevere and never give up – there will be a lot of doors slammed in your face. All it takes is one door to open.
- Stay curious and keep growing – being stagnant is the worst thing. Always challenge yourself.
- Believe in yourself – “I’m still working on this. I’m aware that I have suffered from imposter syndrome for most of my life. But I keep pushing myself to believe in my skills and abilities. It is important to do so.”
- Build a support system – we never get anywhere on our own. The people in our lives help us get to where we are today. In the same way, we can all help someone else in their career journey too!
- Never underestimate the importance of networking – surround yourself with incredible, inspiring people, seek advice and reach out when you need it.