5 Questions with Geeta Peverada, Ph.D., P.M.P., Program Manager, Quality Control at Catalent
“5 Questions With…” is a weekly BioBuzz series where we reach out to interesting people to share a little about themselves, their work, and maybe something completely unrelated. This week we welcome Geeta Peverada, Ph.D., P.M.P., Program Manager, Quality Control at Catalent Pharma Solutions and Vice-Chair of the Women In Bio Capital Region chapter.
Geeta Peverada is a highly motivated, data-driven, and goal-oriented program management professional with over 12 years of experience in cancer research and gene therapy. She is bridging the gap between science and business through her expertise in client management and scientific knowledge. Her analytical, leadership, and management expertise has led to strengthened client partnerships at her current organization, Catalent Pharma Solutions.
Before joining Catalent, Geeta was a R&D Scientist at Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School in Boston where she worked on improving treatment strategies for breast cancer patients. Geeta is passionate about being active and has finished three marathons. She loves spending time with her husband and dog.
1) Please introduce yourself to our audience by looking back at your education, training, and career.
I was born and raised in India. Growing up I had a natural inclination towards science and human physiology. Science concepts were easy to understand and I often learned by observing things in nature. My father was in the Air Force of India, giving us the opportunity to travel across the country every 4-5 years. We were stationed in New Delhi when I was in high school, and this opened the doors for pursuing my undergraduate and graduate degrees at University of Delhi, one of the premier universities in India. I pursued an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry followed by a graduate degree in Biomedical Sciences.
Studying cell biology during college sparked my interest in cancer. I wanted to understand the mechanisms that lead to cancer and the factors that make certain cancers untreatable. The best way to quench my curiosity was to pursue a Ph.D. in this field. I was accepted into a highly competitive international Ph.D. program offered by the University of Würzburg in Germany. After finishing my Ph.D., I came to the U.S. to continue my research in cancer biology at Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School in Boston.
Boston is a biotech hub; it provoked me to think strategically on how to bring my research from bench to bedside. I wanted to make direct impacts on patients’ lives and wellness, which led to my transition from academia to industry. I moved to Maryland to be with my husband and pursue an industry career and joined Catalent Pharma Solutions in March 2020 as a Program Manager in Quality Control. It is deeply satisfying to see that my leadership and efforts at Catalent are facilitating delivery of gene therapy products to patients—the majority of which are children—with rare genetic disorders.
2) Tell us a bit about your role as a Program Manager. What are the most exciting and challenging aspects of your job?
As a Program Manager, I coordinate meetings and activities across various departments within the organization as well as with external clients. As a Quality Control leader I ensure that our company’s gene therapy products pass all analytical tests and are ready for administration to patients. I have a client-facing role; I facilitate and lead analytical discussions with key stakeholders to keep them updated on the progress of their projects, ensuring that all critical timelines are met.
The most exciting part of my job is succinctly communicating a wide array of critical information to our clients. Risk mitigation and problem-solving keep me engaged. The main challenge is to keep myself from taking on new projects; Catalent is growing at a rapid pace and working with great partners in the industry. The temptation to work with the majority of them becomes challenging at times.
3) You’ve been involved with the Women In Bio Capital Region chapter for about two years now. What has been the most exciting thing you’ve accomplished as a volunteer thus far, and what are you excited for in 2022?
I am so proud to be a part of the Women In Bio (WIB) Capital Region Chapter. The most exciting thing is the amazing network of women that I have because of this organization. WIB is a multifaceted organization with 14 chapters across North America. It offers an array of impactful professional educational programs, peer-to-peer learning, mentoring, and networking opportunities. WIB supports the professional growth of young women in school as well as professionals in executive-level positions.
I joined the Capital Region chapter after attending the 2019 HERstory Gala, which is the chapter’s premier annual event. I came in as the HERstory Gala Committee Chair and organized the highly interactive virtual HERstory Gala in 2020. I stepped up as chapter Vice-Chair in early 2021 and have been deeply enjoying the role. I am really excited about the in-person events that we have scheduled for 2022. The most exciting one is going to be our in-person HERstory Gala on April 21st, 2022 on the rooftop of VisArts in Rockville. Be sure to attend!
4) You not only have a Ph.D. in Natural Sciences, but you also recently obtained your P.M.P. and are currently working on your M.B.A. at the University of Maryland. What motivated you to pursue these additional certifications/degrees post-Ph.D., and how are you hoping to use the knowledge gained in your career?
I am a big advocate of professional development. I believe professional growth is a big part of a successful career. Pursuing additional certifications and degrees beyond my regular duties not only makes me highly proficient in my job—it also opens avenues for opportunities that I might not otherwise be aware of. I am of the opinion that one must spend 30% of their working hours on professional development and 70% of their working hours on regular job duties. I admire and support organizations that take a proactive approach in advocating the professional development of their employees.
The PMP certification allowed me to understand various project management concepts at a rapid pace and helped me to manage my projects efficiently. I have a toolkit that helps me monitor the progress of my projects and ensure that no critical deadlines are missed. The business side of the industry always fascinates me and my goal is to join the C-suite leaders in the near future. I want to understand the rationales behind various business decisions—such as mergers and acquisitions—made by industry leaders. This was the motivation to pursue an M.B.A. Currently, I am pursuing a part-time M.B.A. at Smith School of Business, University of Maryland and will be graduating in summer 2023. It’s been an exciting journey with my M.B.A. program so far. I have already learned various economics, leadership, analytics, and marketing concepts. I can’t wait to apply these to both my professional and personal life!
5) As more and more Ph.D. students/postdocs are looking for careers beyond the bench, what is one piece of advice that you’d give to someone who is interested in this type of job?
The ability to prioritize projects and being highly proficient in oral and written communication is key! As Program Managers, we are presented with multiple projects, meetings, and tasks that have competing priorities. The ability to pivot when priorities change is crucial for finishing projects on a tight timeline.
Program Managers have to ensure that the deliverables from all other departments are delivered on time. The ability to deliver necessary information in a clear and precise manner saves a lot of time. Efficient communication with clients and external partners strengthens relationships.
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Sarah Ellinwood is BioBuzz’s Managing Editor. A scientist by training and a science communicator at heart, Sarah specializes in making complex concepts understandable, engaging, and exciting. She received her Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology with a focus in infectious disease immunology from the University of Maryland and is passionate about all things related to scicomm, peer mentorship, and women in STEM.