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Indian Engineer Becomes US Pharma CEO After MBA Degree

Kogod School of Business alum Alok Sonig earned an MBA to switch career paths into pharmaceuticals. He’s helping shape healthcare policy amidst the COVID-19 pandemic


Mon Jun 22 2020


Alok Sonig is a big name in the global pharmaceutical industry. He’s a top executive at Indian multinational pharma firm Lupin, focused on developed markets in North America, Europe, and Japan. 

Alok has been working his way up the corporate pharma ladder since the early '90s, having moved to the US from his native country of India. Back then, he was in a completely different industry and was looking for a career change. 

Working as an engineer, he says he learned a lot about identifying problems and creating solutions, but his perspective was narrow. He wanted to know about business as a whole and switch career paths. 

“I was interested in learning more about business strategy and marketing at an international level at an internationally renowned school,” he explains.  

This drive brought him to the US, where he enrolled in the full-time MBA program at American University's Kogod School of Business 


Alok Sonig, Kogod MBA turned big pharma CEO, with his family

Why Kogod? 

To Alok, the US was the bastion for successful businesses, and there were many B-schools to consider. It was Kogod’s experienced faculty and the school’s location in the epicenter of a business hub––Washington, DC––that solidified his choice.  

At Kogod, Alok learned about business analytics, research, finance, and corporate development during his MBA program.  

“I was taught how important it is to know which choices to make at pivotal times, such as during a development transaction and mergers and acquisitions,” he says. Working in a superior job role, this is increasingly important. I have these hard skills because of Kogod, which are still very handy when I’m making business valuation decisions or transaction decisions at a corporate level.” 

Alok says he was always given the opportunity to work on independent projects alongside study, whether that was a consulting internship or working with a professor on academic publications.  

“I was able to apply what I was learning in real-world business situations that can arise in the workplace,” he adds. 


Getting a top MBA job

Kogod's Office of Career Engagement offers students one-on-one support, providing advice on transitioning into new job roles, crafting résumés, and even customizing social media profiles to appeal to potential employers.  

With the shift to remote learning due to COVID-19, the Office of Career Engagement continues to reach out to students and help them plan their next steps after school. They offer students free skills courses to further their expertise and professionalism, as well as opportunities for internships, volunteering, and pro bono projects they can get involved in to make the most of their time at B-school.    

Decades ago, with access to Kogod’s network and resources, Alok secured, his first job in pharma with US firm Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS), who he continued to work for full-time after he graduated. He worked his way up to vice president over the course of almost 14 years. He held a number of positions with increasing responsibilities, from general management to heading up the leadership team in the US. 

“Kogod supported the progression of my career alongside study,” he says. “I kept in touch with some of my professors after graduation, too.”  

Alok is now an advisory board member at Kogod. “I wanted to stay in touch and give back to Kogod’s exceptional community––which is made up of students with a strong work ethic and genuine interest in academics and research,” Alok says. “They’re the next generation of businesspeople, and it’s exciting to be a part of that.” 


Today, as CEO for developed markets at Lupin, Alok is in a position where he’s able to have a direct influence on healthcare policy and says he’s passionate about continuing to provide the best healthcare––from equipment to medication––to patients around the world.  

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, he says his current every day is largely focused on the shortage of and increased demand for face masks and medical swabs, as well as vaccination testing. It's been challenging, but this is the kind of situation that reminds Alok of the importance his role has.  

“Going forward, I want to continue making improvements to the lives of patients and to help them prevail over serious conditions,” he says. 


As international students continue to flock to the US, looking for opportunities in DC's business ecosystem, Alok advises MBA students to take advantage of every opportunity they are given. “I have always looked back on my time at Kogod with great fondness,” he says. “I made great friends and was inspired by professors who later also became my friends. 

“Let them help you plan beyond the MBA,” he continues. “The faculty at Kogod is exceptional, and they’re backed by real-world business experience and strong networks of their own––they want to help you achieve your career goals.” 

Student Reviews

Kogod School of Business - American University




On Campus

Clean and well maintained campus

I am completely enamored with this school. The entire student body is driven, inclusive, and highly intelligent. The decision to attend American University is not made haphazardly. Its close proximity to Washington DC, making it one of the most strategically located schools after Georgetown, means it's just a short train ride away. The campus is well-maintained, with mostly attractive buildings, although there are a few that are less appealing. Additionally, there are numerous excellent food options available. The wide range of clubs and organizations to join is remarkable. It is undeniably a school filled with immense passion.




On Campus

City life

I’m having a wonderful time at American University. I love that I can get to a big city and still feel like a traditional campus. Sincerely, it is a school that may require some adjusting to, but in the end, it is a very good school with numerous opportunities for its students. The atmosphere in AU is so great that it pushes you in a positive way and offers every opportunity you could want.




On Campus

Amazing helpful professors

American College is an incredible school with astounding teachers. Best professors I could have asked for at an amazing school. My opinion is that American University's professors are its greatest asset. They are extremely intelligent and always eager to assist their students. They go above and beyond in their classes to make sure that their students do their best.




On Campus

AU Review

The workload is quite high and AU is definitely not an "easy" school. Students take their studies very seriously and can almost always find a group in the library, DAV, Starbucks or MGC. Courses can be quite ambitious if the right courses are offered and the admissions process can be confusing at times, but with the help of an advisor it is quite easy to navigate. The library can be crowded, and while it's not huge, there are plenty of other places to study on campus. The professors really want to help during office hours and interact with students. I've had good experiences with the professors and workload at AU, but it's an expensive city.




On Campus

Majoring in Political and International Relations

The instructors are unique and the classes can be boring at times. Check-in is stressful (but it is everywhere). The workload is what I expected. The most popular majors are international relations and political science




On Campus

I Love Being A Musical Theater Major

I love being a musical theater student, if you want to help behind the scenes, if you want to be an assistant director, if you want to be a director, if you want to write, you can do anything at this academy, very supportive, it's amazing, they are always there to help you. This is their working time. Even after the audition tells you what you did wrong, you can do better, or if you get picked, you know why they picked you, which is great




On Campus

AU's Business Model

Overall, there were a lot of good opportunities at UA, both in terms of course range and faculty. However, I had a few complete misfires. People who shouldn't have taught at all. Like all universities, AU's business model is to hire hands-on assistants so they don't have to pay them extra or perform well. They are signed and if that does not work, they are not hired any more. The problem with this is that you end up with people who are unqualified and bring their own agendas, biases that may or may not be based on research. Most of the professors were absolutely fantastic.




On Campus

AU - The Real Problem With Academics

Some teachers are amazing, some awful - typical of any school. But the real problem with AU is that many students don't care about academics as much as other things (eg, partying). The academics are really interrupted by the Greek life and the social life of the students. This makes it difficult for students interested in academics to get the most out of their school experience. Some students do not take classes seriously and do not respect teachers and other students. Courses and opportunities at UA are perfect for people who want to take advantage




On Campus

American University - The Best Place to Study

They know their stuff - I chose American University because the campus is beautiful and the biology program is relatively small. But after the first semester, I realized that all the professors, especially the people in the science department, are experts in their field. They are enthusiastic and helpful in lecturing; even the TAs who teach the labs are amazing and engaging.




On Campus

Engaging Students and Incredible Professors

I would 100% recommend this school. I am a Marine Corps Veteran and proud AU alum. NI received my BA in Comparative Politics at AU in 2017. It was engaging and worth every minute. I was constantly engaged with the material the material and was fascinated by the culture the school presented. As an older student I was nervous to go to a highly competitive college but with the culture of both student and staff it was enjoyable through and through.