A Conversation with Minerva Graduate Student Brian Crowder

Nov 22, 2022

This is part of a series of profiles introducing students from Minerva’s incoming Fall 2022 graduate class. If you would like to learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

"I always felt like pursuing what I thought was right. Then, at some point, I realized there is no such thing as ‘right’."

Currently based in the United States, Brian Crowder completed his undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The content, as well as the interdisciplinarity of the courses, intrigued him and he particularly enjoyed being able to challenge himself by studying under multiple branches of science throughout the degree. Conducting formal research and exposing himself to scientific methods gave Brian an invaluable perspective on uncovering what is yet unknown, which, after graduation, led him to start working as a Bioprocess Manufacturing Technician at Genentech—a biotechnology company aiming to find solutions for people facing the most difficult-to-treat health conditions.

Shortly into his career, Brian realized that manufacturing might not be the best career fit for him as he discovered a fascination with making data-driven decisions. Consequently, he pivoted from his role at Genentech to becoming a Business Analyst in the same company. In order to complement his knowledge in that area, Brian went on to pursue a Master of Business Administration at California State University, Monterey Bay.

Alongside his new job responsibilities, Brian was inspired to share knowledge on decision making with likeminded people. This led him to create and lead a community of practice centered around the Improvement Kata pattern—a model used by companies to operate in a scientific way when making decisions about vague and nebulous concepts—by coaching and guiding professionals through their experiences while activating their imagination and creativity in the process.

Given his newfound curiosity and drive for self-development, Brian decided to enroll in Minerva's Master in Decision Analysis (MDA) as its science of learning-backed curriculum resonated with his goals and objectives.

“I felt like I completed two of my degrees out of necessity. This time, I am doing it out of passion.”

Brian appreciates Minerva's interdisciplinary approach and the program’s focus on statistical analysis, which, according to him, is paramount to every aspect of data-oriented decision-making.

Realizing the pharmaceutical industry's risk-averse nature that stems from avoiding undesirable side effects of the products they provide, Brian has come to understand that there are many high-impact decisions that need to be made for Genentech to yield more optimal solutions. To do that, the company must take its mission, translate it for other people and employees, and implement various strategic objectives. With this in mind, Brian sees pursuing the MDA program as a way for him to deepen his knowledge and be exposed to different perspectives within the realm of impactful decision-making in order to aid the company in this process.

Brian plans to center his graduate thesis around making more effective decisions and self-improvement, complementing a book he has been working on for a few years on those topics. Through his project, he wants to inspire people to pursue self-discipline in a non-destructive way, without being hard on themselves, to reach their goals and fulfill their ambitions.

Brian understands that there are many more underlying choices involved in making any decision than is initially apparent at first sight. Therefore, he believes it is important for people to realize that even though there are trade-offs and sacrifices in making higher-level decisions, they need to stay true to their values and ideas throughout the process.

"If you base your decision-making on how other people feel, you are not coming with your own perspective. If you want to cultivate an idea that is unique and unconventional, you need to ask yourself first: How do I feel about this? Otherwise, you may lose your own standpoint and make your ideas stop being yours."