A Women’s Leadership Panel Discussion & Dinner

In my humble opinion after meeting the women below, the more appropriate question is; What Can’t you learn from 5 successful Women in Pharma?

ISPE’s Women In Pharma (WIP) group is a relatively new community within ISPE that is quickly growing in membership and spreading into new chapters.  WIP provides women in the pharmaceutical industry a forum for connecting and collaborating on technical and career advancement topics. Earlier this week the ISPE Chesapeake Bay Area chapter held its first WIP event at Montgomery College.

Panelists Included (in order as shown above):

Dr. Judy Staveley –  Program Director Bioprocessing Technology, Assistant Professor, Frederick Community College

Shiva Fritsch –  Sr. Vice President HR, RegenxBIO

Katherine A. Sacksteder, Ph.D  –   COO, Benevir Biopharm Inc.

Sia Anagnostou –  Senior Director of Corporate Development, Immunomic Therapeutics

Marcella Goodnight –   Director, Global Technical Operations, AstraZeneca Biologics

Moderator: Shanna Falcone – Senior Associate, Director Strategic Accounts, CRB

What better way to kick off the event than an introduction from the event sponsor, Alison Demarest, Principal at Meridian BioGroup, who welcomed the crowd and impressed the importance of supporting such a community.  Alison stands as a role model for other companies as se not only supports Women in Pharma, but hires them too.  Meridian BioGroup employees are two-thirds women, which is a rare occurrence in the biopharma world.

CRB’s Shanna Falcone moderated an engaging dialogue and created a comfortable atmosphere among the panelists that that helped the audience really connect with them and feel comfortable asking some very personal questions. The conversations pivoted between career advice, personal advice, stories of challenges they overcame or moments of pride.  Overall, I think that everyone left the event more inspired, and with some sage advice and more tools to help their own career growth.

There were a few themes that resonated through the discussion that I thought were important to share with those who couldn’t make it.  One empowering message came from Shiva Fritsch, Sr VP of HR from REGENXBIO on a concern that many women may think a lot about, which is; ‘How do I achieve the best advancement in my career and how do I explain gaps if I had to take time off or family?’

Slow down. Life get’s messy and it’s OK,” Shiva advised; “It’s the story that you can tell about your career that matters most. So own it and get good at telling your story.

Here are a few of my personal highlights and quotes from these insightful leaders that I summarized around a few of the key themes/topics of the night.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

All panelists seemed to agree that the work-life balance is a struggle, and one that will probably never go away because it’s near impossible to be perfect at both.  Some helpful tips were shared though.

  1. Be present, whether you’re with your family or at work, and be clear on what’s important to you – Shiva
  2. “Just like your professional network, you have to work at your personal network to help out at home.” said Sia, “There is both internal and social guilt that women often deal with around balancing family vs work. A good network and support system can help that too.”
  3. “Time management is the key to balance. Discipline and knowing what’s important to you at the time is key to that” – Dr. Judy

Success comes by taking your career in your hands.

  1. Many panelists, including Katie, Sia got their first jobs by writing letters to dozens of CEO’s.
  2. “Be curious and proactive. Ask around and look outside your departments to learn about other careers.” said Shiva, who moved from the bench into HR while early in her career at HGS.
  3. Katie worked in almost all aspects of the business in a small biotech company which gave her a well rounded background. Her advice is to not be afraid to move on from a job once you’ve learned all you can there.
  4. After 100’s of interviews Marcella noticed that the women she interviewed almost always felt they were 100% qualified for the job the were interviewing for, where men often felt they were 75% qualified but were confident they could grow into it. She encouraged women to learn from that and not be afraid to take more risk.

Networking is an important part of your career growth.

  1. “You need to work at your network, a good network that you can access is critical to being an entrepreneur” – Sia
  2. “Always keep your mind open to who you meet, you never know when they will be relevant to your career” – Katie
  3. Dr Judy recommended that everyone should take advantage of the organizations around you that foster helpful communities like ISPE, BioBuzz, Academy of Science.

Establish Mentors.

  1. Be open to men and women mentors who can teach you a lot and different things – Dr. Judy
  2. Mentoring doesn’t have to be a formal process, it’s about learning and fostering relationships that you can access when you need them. – Sia

Women can be their worst enemies.

  1. “There will be people, men and women, who will try to hold you back or be competitive – focus on your goals, and just always try to be supportive of others.” – Dr. Judy
  2. “Women are often hard on themselves, therefore they are often hard on one another. I focus on being supportive and encourage others to as well.” – Shiva

These last pieces of advice felt like a great way to close this article and will hopefully inspire you in your career and also encourage you to attend the next Women in Pharma event.

“America is the best place in the world to work and be a woman,” said Sia Anagnostou

“Don’t ever pass up on an opportunity given to you.” advises Marcella Goodnight.

For more on joining ISPE or the ISPE Women in Pharma group please contact Lynda Duffy at [email protected]

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