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As soon as Weekend MBA student Chandan Singh heard about the emerging coronavirus pandemic, he knew that he could help.

Singh, who will graduate from Booth this spring, works as an engineering project leader in GE Healthcare’s Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) division in Milwaukee. In late 2019, he learned about the virus that was quickly spreading across China and had started to impact the daily lives of his colleagues in Beijing. Singh, who has a background in biomedical engineering, watched the news closely. Something awful was likely coming, he feared.

Singh’s previous role within GE Healthcare was in the Madison, Wisconsin facility that produces ventilators. Seeing GE Healthcare products in hospitals always left him feeling gratified that something he worked on could potentially save lives. Now, ventilators have become one of the most important tools in treating critically ill COVID-19 patients. Singh spoke with his managers, volunteering to help scale up ventilator production at GE’s facility in Madison. They quickly accepted. GE announced in March that it planned to double its production of ventilators, running the line 24 hours a day. Working alongside about 100 other volunteers pitching in as part of the effort, Singh is helping increase ventilator production to meet the global demand.

Chandan Singh standing in front of a hallway of ventilators at GE
Weekend MBA student Chandan Singh

“We are doing everything we can to try to scale to meet the increased demand,” Singh said on a lunch break amid another busy day. 

At the same time, Singh is continuing to work remotely on his MRI division job while finishing his last courses at Booth, which have moved online for the Spring Quarter. Singh will help manage ventilator production at GE until June, when he is scheduled to take a postgraduation job with consulting firm AlixPartners in its Enterprise Improvement division. Singh believes that the lessons he has learned from Booth and in ventilator production amid a pandemic—the soft skills, the strategic decision-making, and the ability to navigate an ambiguous and rapidly changing environment—will transfer well into his new job.

“I’m excited about moving to the next phase of my career after seeing teams excel by working together in a very stressful environment,” Singh said, adding that he’s loved how his fellow employees have communicated openly and calmly while making quick decisions. “This experience will be helpful in other high intensity situations where the future is unclear but quick and efficient execution is critical to success.”

“This experience will be helpful in other high intensity situations where the future is unclear but quick and efficient execution is critical to success.”

— Chandan Singh

Life amid a pandemic is complex, especially when you are managing multiple priorities. But Singh is so busy that he said he barely notices that his life is now split between a hotel room, a computer screen, and the GE production facility in Madison. He sneaks in coursework when he can—he only needs one more course to graduate but he is ambitiously taking two-and-a-half classes because he is fascinated by the subjects. It is a balancing act, and for now, most of Singh’s time is dedicated to scaling the production of ventilators, work that he finds enlivening.

“It’s a unique experience and a privilege to be in a position to help,” Singh said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen this level of intensity and dedication for a cause in my career. It has been an extremely rewarding experience and I hope our efforts here at GE Healthcare will have a positive impact on fighting this pandemic. The cause is worth it.”

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