Stephen Ranjan is the Executive Director of Global Marketing, Priority Customer Solutions at Merck in New Jersey. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science and Engineering from West Virginia Wesleyan College, Ranjan began his career as a software developer at Epic, a health software company located in Verona, Wisconsin.
While at Epic, Ranjan was attracted to complex problems including the build and launch of their hospital laboratory information system. He loved learning about the customer and creating solutions to their needs through technology. This passion for solving complex problems was not new, though. Even in college, he invested time in complicated issues that led to new ventures. For example, he helped establish a new system within the IT help desk to manage and repair student laptops over the summer, which led to a part-time job. After reflecting on his time in college and the past decade working at Epic, he began exploring entrepreneurship opportunities and decided that the first step was to get an MBA.
Ranjan received his MBA in Operations and Technology Management with an emphasis in entrepreneurship from the Wisconsin School of Business (WSB). His choice to go to UW-Madison was primarily because of the entrepreneurship track. Not so coincidentally, his favorite class was the capstone entrepreneurship class, Weinert Applied Ventures in Entrepreneurship (WAVE). “It was the best class I could have signed up for,” said Ranjan. “It really puts to practice everything you have learned throughout the MBA.”
His initial project in WAVE was using mobile technology to address challenges for Alzheimer’s patients, but like many in the class, he pivoted once he learned the technology was not there yet. Instead, his team developed a business plan for a technology that would help elderly people find rides to their destinations and optimize matching between volunteers and seniors that needed rides. His team’s technology did not go unnoticed as they won the AARP Challenge that year. Ironically, Ranjan is currently working on a project associated with Alzheimer’s.
During his first year of the MBA program, Ranjan was able to take advantage of the broad UW-Madison alumni network to get his foot in the door at Johnson & Johnson. This led to a summer internship where he worked with J&J’s new healthcare innovation group. After graduating, Ranjan continued to work at one of J&J’s pharmaceutical businesses, Janssen, for 3 years. This is where he developed his skills in meeting customers’ need beyond the product and developing services that can differentiate businesses in the marketplace. He credits the lean startup approach he learned and practiced at WSB for his ability to take on these challenges and explore new business models. One of his accomplishments at Janssen includes initiating a program in orthopedics in the U.S. He developed the go-to-market strategy for taking a successful opportunity in the U.K. and optimizing it for the U.S.
His next challenge came as he took a new role in global marketing at Merck. He works closely with key customers to co-create and develop scalable solutions for new markets and different customer groups. This February, his team identified Amazon as a strategic partner to develop voice-enabled solutions to improve management of chronic disease. He now needs to build the capabilities for this partnership which will help differentiate Merck to customers. It forces him to think like a startup and be agile.
Since Ranjan left business school, he has been the epitome of intrapreneurship. The Weinert Center and WAVE class provided the tools for him to hit the ground running at J&J and he has consistently led teams in developing new technology solutions for various types of customers. His passion for conquering intricate problems will always keep him on his toes and continuing to develop the entrepreneurship muscle.