Anna Karmann, alumna in Silicon Valley
What New York is for fashion, Los Angeles for entertainment and Wall Street for stock markets, Silicon Valley is for technology. Tech behemoths such as Google, Facebook and Apple have their headquarters in this region near San Francisco. What is it like to live and work there? Alumna Anna Karmann answers this question.
Millions of people all over the world but also in the United States and the west coast of the country itself consider Silicon Valley a special place. Perhaps even enigmatic; after all, how can just one region be home to so much innovation? According to Anna, the secret lies in the enterprising mindset of the people who live there. ‘‘The best of the best in science and commerce converge here. Taking action is part of the culture; people fully encourage each other to really do something with their plans. Not talk, but act. For example, in addition to my job, I am the co-founder of a medical start-up, which I most likely would not be if I wasn’t inspired by the electrifying, unique environment here.’’
From Aachen to Australia
First, let’s go back to the beginning. Anna – ‘Anni’ to those closest to her – was born in southern Germany. She ended up in Silicon Valley by taking a roundabout route that included multiple continents, countries and cities. Anna: ‘‘I studied medicine in Aachen, after which I had residencies in the Surgery and Radiology departments in hospitals in Australia and Maastricht. That was how I got involved with Maastricht University. I liked the university and the school so much that I did my advanced training to become a radiologist and my PhD track in Maastricht. I look back fondly on my time with my supervisors, Professor Schurink and Professor De Haan.’’
A unique opportunity
Maastricht undeniably has a special place in Anna’s heart. ‘‘I enjoyed having a meal and drinks at Café Sjiek and going for a run or a hike on Mount Saint Peter. And my husband and I had our civil wedding in Chateau St. Gerlach, just outside the city.’’ But after several delightful years in Maastricht, a new adventure called. ‘‘Through my PhD research, I met a professor at Stanford University, which is located in the heart of Silicon Valley. I asked him for an opportunity to work together.’’ A grant from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences (KNAW) made it possible for Anna to collaborate on a project there. This led to a long-term - and still existing - research partnership between UM and Stanford University.
Back to the US
‘‘Together with my husband and with a degree, an appointment as a physician, and a large network of great colleagues and friends from Maastricht, I returned to Stanford after obtaining my PhD in the Netherlands. I was able to tackle interesting topics such as prediction models for vascular treatments and artificial intelligence involving medicine, digital health and precision care.’’ Anna and her husband continue to make Silicon Valley their home. ‘‘Our daughter was born here; she is one and a half years old. Nowadays I work for McKinsey & Company, a strategic consultancy agency for organisations. As a management consultant, I help companies advance their business. Thanks in part to my time in Maastricht, I possess wide-ranging knowledge of the medical field. This is helpful, since clients’ businesses are often medical in nature. I believe my education and PhD in Maastricht laid a good foundation for my career. I would do it all over again the same way.’’
Living in the future
Silicon Valley and Maastricht and environs actually have a lot in common, according to Anna. Both regions are open to innovation and diversity, and warmly welcome people from other countries. Companies in Silicon Valley are likewise open-minded. ‘‘They believe diversity and inclusivity are important; employees are assessed on the basis of their intelligence, values and willingness, not so much on their age or sex. Like in most technical sectors, there are more men than women employed here, but even so you feel welcome as a woman. You get to know possibly the most brilliant and committed people in the world here. It is as if you are living in the future: you are working on themes that will become important later.’’
Working as a physician
Despite all of the positive experiences, Anna does not rule out the possibility of moving back to Europe, the Netherlands or perhaps even Maastricht with her husband and child, in order to be closer to family. ‘‘At the moment, this environment suits our career and life the best. But who knows how our story will unfold! In any case, there are plans for the near future: my employer McKinsey & Company encourages consultants who were originally medical specialists to practise their profession alongside their job. I can see myself doing this in the future, but for now, I am enjoying being a full-time consultant and learning everything about this unique field.’’
By Milou Schreuders, October 2019
Anna Karmann (1984) studied medicine at RWTH Aachen and did residencies in Australia and Maastricht. During her medical training, she earned a Master’s in Business Administration in Aachen and Beijing. Next, she specialised as a radiologist in Maastricht (which included one year in The Hague). Anna earned her PhD at UM’s School for Cardiovascular Diseases (CARIM). Three and a half years ago, she moved to Silicon Valley in the United States, where she works at McKinsey & Company.