Headshot of Sandy Williams

5 Questions With Sandy Williams, Ph.D., President and Founder of Access Biomedical Solutions

“5 Questions With…” is a weekly BioBuzz series where we reach out to interesting people in the BioHealth Capital Region to share a little about themselves, their work, and maybe something completely unrelated. This week we welcome Sandy Williams, Ph.D., President and Founder at Access Biomedical Solutions.

Dr. Sandy Williams is a biomedical engineer and marketer with over 16 years of biotech and medtech industry experience. Her doctoral and postdoctoral research focus was on cardiovascular tissue engineering, and she remains passionate about regenerative medicine therapies and tissue engineered medical products.

Sandy is the President and Founder of Access Biomedical Solutions, a consultancy launched in 2015 that is focused on empowering biotech and medtech companies grow and accomplish their goals. She achieves this by combining her technical expertise and marketing skills to quickly identify a company’s current trajectory, what success looks like for them, and what their biggest gaps are.

She has authored several peer-reviewed journal articles, is an inventor with 5 patents, and is actively engaged in volunteer professional activities reviewing SBIR grants for the National Science Foundation, helping draft industry standards for ASTM, reviewing submitted manuscripts to the Annals of Biomedical Engineering, Tissue Engineering and Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering journals, and evaluating biomedical engineering programs for ABET, the college/university program accreditation agency.

1) Please introduce yourself to our audience by looking back at your education, training, and career.

Hello there! My educational journey started in Greece where I was born and earned my Bachelor’s in Metallurgical Engineering. It then continued in the US where I received my Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech. My five and a half years at Georgia Tech were a magical learning experience where I was introduced to tissue engineering at the Parker H. Petit Institute of Bioengineering and Biosciences that was led by the late Dr. Robert Nerem, a pioneer in the field. I continued my training as a postdoc at the University of Minnesota with Dr. Robert Tranquillo, another tissue engineering leader. Those research years honed my problem solving and perseverance skills like nothing I had ever experienced before. Any challenges after that, it was like, bring it on!

I spent 25 years in school getting as much education as one can get and continue to be a learning junkie! But I am more of a practical learner rather than theoretical which might be why engineering appealed to me. I believe in using what you know to make the world a better place. Consulting has provided me the perfect opportunity to combine my learnings with a company’s know-how to fast-track results.

Although I was on an academic track and preparing for faculty positions, a short-term consulting engagement and subsequent job offer by the same company lured me away from academia to industry; the decision was tough but the right one for me. The 10 years I spent with the ElectroForce Systems Group at Bose Corporation, starting as an applications engineer and moving on to leadership roles, were seminal in building up a very diverse business skillset. I worked with an amazing group of people, colleagues, mentors, partners, and customers who taught me so much.

2) Tell us a bit about your consulting business, Access Biomedical Solutions. What inspired you to go into consulting after your time at Bose Corporation?

I’ve always been the kind of person who connects with others on a deeper level. Listening, learning, understanding, and problem solving are my strengths. So after 10 amazing years at Bose developing bioreactors and mechanical test instruments for medical devices, tissues, and biomaterials, I decided to follow a friend’s advice and start consulting. I don’t have any career regrets. It’s been an absolutely fantastic journey.

I am often approached by folks who are intrigued by consulting to pick my brain about it. If you’re considering it, here is my advice. Think long and hard about what you have to offer to others. Most people are enamored by what consulting will do for them: flexible schedule, no boss if you run your own business, freedom, opportunity to earn more, choice of who you work with, etc. All are true and wonderful. But consulting is really about how you can help others, so think about your skillsets and experience that can benefit other companies.

There are three main things I help companies with: (1) become fundable, (2) develop products people want, and (3) choose a marketing approach that works. Combining my engineering and marketing skills with over 16 years of industry experience has opened up a lot of ways I can help biotech and medtech companies grow and achieve their goals.

3) What do you enjoy most about your consulting work?

It’s hands down the people I work with. I’ve been super fortunate to interact with amazing individuals who are in it for all the right reasons. Maybe it’s the industry we’re in, but I don’t want to take it for granted. Most of my clients have become friends; what more can one ask for?

Every company I’ve worked with is bringing a life-changing technology to patients or is supporting companies who are trying to do just that. Being part of that and helping them accelerate their trajectory is very rewarding.

One aspect of the solopreneur consulting journey I had not expected is that it can feel like a lonely path. You know all those days in the office when you just wish co-workers would leave you alone so you can get your work done? There’s not a whole lot of that anymore! The big upside I’ve truly enjoyed is that my clients treat me as one of their team members. I get to attend company parties, team building events, celebrations, and live vicariously through their individual and company growth!

4) Can you tell us more about your blog, BioMuse?

Absolutely! It’s a labor of love and my way of giving back to our community things I’ve learned so that others don’t have to learn them the hard way! I cover all kinds of topics and challenges that biotech and medtech companies face every day – from hiring talent to building your value proposition, applying for SBIR grants, and everything in between! I also try to make my BioMusings fun and easy to read, a big deviation from writing scientific papers! If you want to check it out, go to the BioMuse blog and subscribe so you can get notified when a new article comes out.

I also sprinkle in interviews with industry leaders so blog readers can learn from the experiences of their peers. Plus, I love highlighting trailblazers in our industry who are trying to make the impossible possible. These companies have fascinating stories and missions that I find inspiring. If you have a great company story to share and learnings that will help your peers, reach out so we can chat about it.

TEDCO - Leading Innovation to Market

5) What advice do you have for someone who is looking to start a blog series, podcast, or similar form of media?

I happen to be a Certified Social Media Strategist by the National Institute of Social Media and gave a webinar to the group about marketing to scientists and engineers that contains a lot of the points I would recommend. A good place to start is by getting specific on why you want to start a blog, a podcast, or some other similar activity. This will help you evaluate how much you plan on investing in it and if it is worthwhile sticking to it for the long haul. It will also give you insights on how you will measure success along the way.

So assuming you have a solid reason for wanting to do this, my biggest piece of advice would be to go for quality and not quantity. Our scientific and highly savvy audience will ignore fluffy content and will greatly appreciate valuable information. Of course, high quality content usually takes time, but that’s ok. It’s better to share a highly valuable blog once a month than a useless piece full of fluff every day. The internet is packed with information. When you put something out there, please contribute wisely!

My last piece of advice is key to success: make sure your content is not about you, your company, and your products. People read articles, listen to podcasts, and watch YouTube videos to learn, solve a problem they have, and better themselves. And, of course, to be entertained and inspired too. Pick your topics with that in mind and don’t push your own agenda. Your audience will see through that in an instant and will be turned off. It’s ok to mention what you offer but if you make your whole blog article a sales pitch, you will most likely be ignored. Creating content you’re passionate about that you think can help others is a very enjoyable and fulfilling experience; have fun with it!

Be sure to check out BioBuzz’s previous interviews, and stay tuned for more conversations with others from across the BioHealth Capital Region, Philadelphia, and beyond!