Welcome to the Woman of the Week podcast, a weekly discussion that illuminates the unique stories of women leaders who are catalyzing change throughout the life sciences. You can check out all our podcast episodes here.
Storytelling is a critical part of attracting the attention of potential investors, and Juliette Han, with her dual finance and scientific background, has become an expert in detailing Cambrian BioPharma’s unique business model — part biotech, part venture capital fund and part incubator.
As an academic scientist, Han’s mission was to bring neurological developments to the market. And to achieve her ambitious goal, she intuitively understood that she would need a diversified skillset. She began her journey from academia to consulting to finance, and ultimately to the C-suite as CFO and chief operating officer of Cambrian.
“We have a conglomeration of best practices … across industries to make biotech or the development of drugs more efficient, which allows us to advance moonshot efforts,” Han said. “And in my role as a COO and CFO, I’m able to tell a sophisticated story to financial investors (on) why our model is going to be a much better bet for them as they want to enter the biotech industry, as well as when we work with scientists, to explain to them that we are here to be their true partners in bringing their innovations out of academia. I am very lucky to say that I have many experiences that allowed me to be the leader I am today.”
Cambrian, which bills itself as a “distributed development company,” creates opportunities to bring academic discovery through to drug development, with a focus on therapeutics that extend the “healthspan” through drugs that “target damage that occurs at the cellular, subcellular and tissue levels of the body.”
In 2022, the company closed a $100 million series C round of financing to advance its pipeline, which, in the last few years, has expanded from three products for aging-related diseases to more than a dozen.
“What excites me is the diversity of the pipeline we have,” Han said. “We don’t take just one singular bet on one mechanism. (We are) not looking for a magic pill or the fountain of youth that’s going to cure us all … we don’t know the ultimate answer to why we age and how we age. So each program, beyond being the treatment for immediate indication, is targeting different mechanisms — how they illuminate how we age over time together, is really the most exciting aspect.”
In this episode of our Woman of the Week podcast, Han details her career trajectory, the pros and cons of creating a company culture from scratch and why a “concentric circle network ecosystem” is one of the keys to success.
Welcome to WoW, the Woman of the Week podcast by PharmaVoice powered by Industry Dive.
In this episode, Taren Grom, editor in chief emeritus at PharmaVoice, meets with Juliette Han, CFO and COO, Cambrian BioPharma.
Taren: Juliette, welcome to the WoW Podcast Program.
Juliette: Thank you for having me. I’m happy to be here.
Taren: Well, we’re delighted to be able to speak with you today. Juliette, Cambrian BioPharma has a unique model. It’s a company that’s a biotech business, a VC fund, and acts as an incubator. Can you tell us about this intersection and what your role as CFO and COO entails in coordinating all of these different pieces of the puzzle?
Juliette: Absolutely. So Cambrian Bio, as you have shared, is really a conglomeration of the best practices that we can find across industries to make biotech or development of drugs more efficient and allows us to advance moonshot efforts. And in my role as a COO and CFO, I’m able to tell a sophisticated story to financial investors why our model is going to be a much better bet for them as they want to enter the biotech industry; as well as when we work with scientists, to be able to explain to them that we are here to be their true partners in bringing their innovation out of academia better than other biotech partners that they could find. I’m able to do that because I also have a scientific background as well as finance and other corporate backgrounds as well, so I’m able to bring that complex problem and make it simple for all of our stakeholders.
Taren: So that’s an interesting background because you don’t often talk to folks who have a scientific background and a finance background. Can you share a little bit about how those two intersected for you?
Juliette: Absolutely. So when I was an academic scientist, the thing that I wanted to achieve as my North Star was bringing neurological developments into the market. And I was a neuroscience PhD, but in order to do that I knew I had to work on many chapters of my life because it would take so many different skills to get there. So what I’ve been able to do is to leave academia and enter into consulting where I learned a lot about the industries and how companies work, and entered into finance to understand how capital markets work. And here I am, I’m very lucky to say that I have many experiences that allowed me to be the leader I am today.
Taren: Again, that’s very interesting; neuroscience and then capital markets. Now these are not easy markets or easy sectors to enter. So what drew your interest as a neuroscientist? Does this start from a young age?
Juliette: That’s a very good question, and I love answering this one because it’s a surprise for me as well. So there are a couple of two different points I can think of in my journey. I actually was not a scientist or did not love science as a high school student, but when I was in college I took a general ed biology course that was taught by a neuroscientist. And the reason why I didn’t previously like science was the perception that I had to memorize a bunch of facts and regurgitate and that was what science was when I was in high school. But when I was in college with this neuroscience professor, and when I asked him anything he would say, “How would you go about answering that yourself?” So the science became much more creative the way I was able to perceive, and I loved the ambiguity of studying the brain.
And this was combined with another life experience I had, which was earlier throughout junior high and high school. I was volunteering throughout to help people with mental disorders, so everything from Down syndrome, autism to seizures. There was a cultural component as well where I am Asian and taking care of these folks with mental disorders and their families. There was a lot of shame that the families carried and I always wondered why it had to be that way. So to me, being able to be in a position now with the background in neuroscience, hopefully I can bring awareness to the pains that they’re going through, their life experiences, as well as bring awareness and education to other folks about what mental disorders are. So that’s really what triggered me to enter this field and continue going.
Taren: I love that. Thank you so much for sharing that piece of your personal journey with us. And I love how you were able to translate what you thought was such a regurgitative-like process and found something very creative in neuroscience. I think I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anybody explain it that way before, so thank you for sharing that with us. Earlier on, you talked about Cambrian looking for moonshot efforts. What are some of those areas that you’re looking at and how do you talk to other biotechs and academics to bring them in? How do you get them excited about your model?
Juliette: First of all, Cambrian is in itself I think a very exciting company. We’re the world’s premier health span company. Aside from the model of what we’re bringing together we talked about, what we’re focused on is how do we understand aging and why we age. Because the modern medicine today is really about treating illnesses once they occur and that’s not a bad effort at all. Of course, when we get sick with an illness, we want to treat that. But what we’re all about is can how can we further that mission and say how do we understand how the different mechanisms of our body ages so that hopefully one day not only can we treat those diseases but we can also prevent them.
And currently that is a moonshot effort and that it carries a greater risk. It’s a much broader question but has a major reward potential. And that’s what really excites everybody we work with, whether they be scientists or pharma biotech players or investors, because we’re not saying we’re only going after the short-term indication selection of treating that disease which we’re initially focused on, but we’re also going after how do we bring all these different programs together in this complexity of science and figure out if there’s a central thesis that’s going to help us develop protector, which is the moonshot, which we hope is what’s going to help us advance into age in a helpful way.
Taren: I love it. You guys are creating the fountain of youth. And for somebody who is aging very rapidly, as they say, I can’t be more excited about your efforts. What is the most exciting thing about your job? You talked about how you’re able to tell that compelling story, but with so many things that are under your area of responsibility or your tent and remit, what’s the best part of your job?
Juliette: So the best and the hardest part of my job is creating a culture from a blank slate. And this is a case of be careful what you wish for because at previous jobs or for many of the listeners, you end up inheriting or becoming part of a culture that already exists and there’s a fixed way of doing business. And many of us as business leaders might say I wish I can do it all over again and start from scratch, and that is really the hardest as well as the most interesting and the most rewarding part of job that I have experienced. Because creating a whole culture that can not only be great for people who are driven but also productively delivered objectives of the company is something we often read about, but implementing it is a completely different challenge.
So overall I think that we’re doing a great job creating a culture where everyone is invited to share ideas and discuss; and we welcome failures and risks and create transparency about how we do things. And it’s been such an interesting journey as a leader to have an opportunity to do that and really, really flex everything I learned in my past experiences to apply the best practices.
Taren: So I’m curious, you said it’s creating it from a blank slate, what’s the first thing you did or what’s the first thing somebody should do if they have that wonderful opportunity to create a culture from, as you said, a blank slate? What’s the first thing to focus on?
Juliette: So we started by accepting that culture is emergent. What we focused on was what are the decisions of a company that we must deliver on well. And so instead of saying “How do we do this” we focused on what do we need to do and what’s the best way to get there. So once we started to discuss with the team members what are the decisions that have to be made and what are the steps to get there, the culture became emergent. And we had very open discussions; instead of saying top down, act this way, or do it like this, we asked the early members of the company what worked well in this process; what did you enjoy; what allowed you to be creative and what allowed you to not be creative. And we let for at least the first year and a half for people to be organic about their behaviors. And then we look at what are the behaviors that were contributing to positive decisions that we have seen because as a young company you do make many mistakes. So then when we observed which are the ones, the collection of behaviors that actually produced an outcome we’ve seen to be successful, that’s what we crystallized as our values and created performance and behavioral paradigm that will allow us to explicitly state those values and repeat those practices.
Taren: Fantastic. And how big is the company today?
Juliette: So I would describe our size in two different levels because we are a holding company that has many programs underneath us. So we have about 10-plus programs, scientific programs, of various therapeutic stages today.
Taren: Very good. Thank you for sharing that with us. As anybody who’s involved in the biotech sector knows, the ride can be full of ups and downs. What have been a few of the highlights for you so far?
Juliette: There are many, but let me first say that personally for me when people say “highlight”, they think of the bright shining happy moment. But for me the highlight is really the most meaningful moment of one’s time. And in the last year or so, biotech market has not lacked in terms of highlights; and there have been many what people would call low moments as well especially for young small companies. And there are many lessons that I have learned in face with those challenges. So for me, the highlight of the year would be navigating those challenges that the biotech industry is enduring. It’s undeniable the industry has been hit hard as it can be, and some would argue, in the past decades. So when you compound that with Cambrian being a new company, that could be an extra challenge that we are going through.
But that challenge has really solidified what we stand for and how much support our investors and scientists have in us. So I am very proud to say that we are coming out or hopefully we’re coming out of all the industry funk coming out strong. But it made every decision a lot more complex and made us and challenged us actually to be a lot more thoughtful about the risks that we take, the decisions that we’re making as leadership position. And I think it made us and made me a stronger leader, someone with a much better conviction about what we’re doing and how I’m able to explain what we do.
Taren: Yes, I would think that it certainly has tested resiliency and optimism at some point. Well you sound very optimistic; so as we head into 2023, do you see brighter days ahead?
Juliette: I absolutely do. I think you’re right, I would say I’m a cautious optimist. I would like to think I’m a realist maybe because I want the brighter future to be a reality. I do think that there’s always a brighter future ahead especially when it comes to science. I think that science continues to progress. So whether it be that one company or one program progresses or not, regardless, the science and technology continues to advance the civilization. And the way I like to think about my role is beyond just the contribution to this company but how we as humanity continued to progress medicines. So in that sense, absolutely, there’s only bright days ahead.
Taren: Well let’s continue on with that theme. Tell me about the company’s pipeline and some of the areas of focus in which you’re targeting in that biological driver of aging. What excites you about the pipeline?
Juliette: So what excites me about the pipeline is the diversity of the pipeline we have. So we don’t take just one singular bet into one mechanism. Actually, it’s not that we’re looking for a magic pill or the fountain of youth that’s going to cure us all. But then what excites me about the pipeline is that we don’t know what the ultimate answer to why we age and how we age is. So each program beyond being the treatment for immediate indication thereafter, the complexity of the program is that they’re all targeting different mechanisms. So how they will illuminate how we age over time together, that’s really for me the most exciting aspect.
And another more company/corporate financial answer of this is that because we have so many programs that are so diverse whether it be by modality, by indication, by patient population, that really allows us to be risk distributed. So I am very comfortable with the programs that we have and I’m very confident that so many will continue to advance into the clinic. So that’s another exciting aspect of our portfolio.
Taren: Excellent. So let’s talk about your role as a leader as a C-suite executive. You are obviously a role model to other women; how does this mantle of responsibility feel to you? Are you comfortable standing up there?
Juliette: So first of all, I think that discomfort is a very positive thing and I think many of us should strive to be continuously uncomfortable. So am I comfortable? Absolutely not and I think that’s a great thing. But what makes me least comfortable I would say is that there aren’t enough women of leadership that other women can look up to, especially for a woman of color. And now I say that because we need more leaders and representation. So the takeaway isn’t ‘Juliette’s a leader and therefore, I’m going to be like her’; I want women to take away and say, ‘Well that is one prototype of a leadership. There may be something I identify with or don’t identify with so I can craft my own journey.’
And I really do wish that there were more women, there were more nuanced stories, and there were more complex stories, that so many stories that many young generations can look up to and identify and find people that they personally identify with. And that’s still one aspect I feel most uncomfortable with perhaps that someone will take my story and think that because it doesn’t apply to them that they can’t be a leader. So I hope that one day there will be even more leaders who may or may not be like me, that someone can find a sliver of inspiration in.
Taren: It’s very aspirational. And you are a pioneer in many ways because there weren’t a lot of women who look like you who came before you. So how did you find your voice? How did you get comfortable sitting at that table where maybe you were an N of 1.
Juliette: That’s a great question. I would like to thank many mentors I had in my journey to become more comfortable and become more decisive and trust in myself more. But there’s one particular advice I was given early in my journey. I was coming out of academia so I was not well-versed in the way we talk about companies and corporate culture and especially my business acumen. All of that was severely lacking just walking out of academics into the corporate world. And one of my mentors observed this and said, “Look, I think you’re very smart and I think you have a lot in you but you don’t voice your opinions enough; you don’t bring your opinions to the table.” And then what he said was this, he said, “Look, you have to accept that you have a lot riding against you internally, not just externally but internally. You may be taught because you’re Asian to trust elders and not question authority. You are coming out of academia which is also hierarchical. You are entering a male-dominated field so you feel outnumbered or you feel out of place.
So all those things absolutely exist, but you have to understand that they exist and are going to feel uncomfortable for you, so you cannot wait to feel comfortable for you to speak up. You have to speak from a place of discomfort and just calibrate that feeling and just understand that you can’t wait until that you are sure or have conviction to the level at which others do. So you have to really calibrate within what that means for you and speak anyway.”
And that has been just an eye-opening experience for me because we see so many people who are absolutely confident and have so much conviction in their own decisions that we think, “Wow, I have to be that comfortable, that confident, and that self-assured in order for me to speak.” But I want to assure everyone who doesn’t feel that way, that a lot of people actually don’t feel that way, but it’s okay. You don’t have to feel that way in order to share your opinions, and that’s been the number one learning for me so far.
Taren: That’s a great piece of advice especially to other women. I know you serve as a mentor to other women leaders who are coming up their ranks. So tell me what are some of the other advice you provide to them – getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, leaning into your discomfort; what else can give them an edge as they look to advance their careers?
Juliette: So I would say that one of the advice I give is to think of your career art as a novel not short stories. The reason why I use this analogy is this: I think that many young talent especially recently where job hopping or changing jobs frequently is absolutely accepted, and I encourage that to find the right fit for you. They become so centered on what is the immediate next step and they don’t focus long enough about the long arc of their career story. So I think what they end up doing is short-cutting themselves into decisions that may have immediate shiny aspect of that job whether it be they pay a little bit better or the title’s a little bit better or the company is a little bit shinier, but they don’t really think about what they’re going to learn and how that’s going to impact the long-term journey of their career.
So the advice I would like to give is really focus beyond just those titles and immediate payback of that job and say “What will I learn at this company and how will it position me into three or four years down the road who I want to be” and not be sold by the shiny thing that’s right in front of you; and that’s something I would like every one of us to think about.
Taren: I think that is so extremely important because you’re absolutely right, where there’s the short-term gains rather than thinking about it as like the longer-term perspective because your career is a long span of time so you have to be careful. Is there any downside of taking a lateral move sometimes if it gives you more knowledge because sometimes women don’t do that either; as you said, they’re looking for that jump. But what about a lateral move?
Juliette: I’m a big supporter of lateral move under right conditions. When we used the term ‘lateral’ it sounds bad, but really what you should think about is what is this difference.
Let’s say you’re dressing yourself and you’re putting on one sweater and you’re saying, “Well should I put on a different sweater?” – that’s really a lateral move. But because that sweater though, it is the same sweater and categorically it’s the same, but you’re saying “That’s a better color; that’s going to provide more warm warmth for me.” And that’s really how you can look at a job. So instead of saying the position’s the same, the money’s the same, the company is similar, you can say “How is this experience going to add something in my learning journey” and say even if it looks on the surface lateral, it could be that that company is providing you with risks that you haven’t been able to take before. Maybe that company is providing you with opportunities to interact with the senior leadership in a way you haven’t been able to do before. So there are so many nuances to a job that can make you a much stronger player than just what is immediately offered on the surface.
Taren: I think that’s a fantastic analogy. And when I look at your career history and time spent at the VCs, in the hedge fund world, as well as consulting, you really gained so many of those different skill sets that you’re now bringing to the table. Can you pinpoint, and I’m not going to ask you your WoW moment yet, but has there been like a job that has been your favorite so far or is it your current position?
Juliette: I would say of course the current position is my favorite, but I can share with you the job that people perceived to be the biggest risk and thought I was out of mind for sure and then I would say that was the best that I’ve taken. So when I left my consulting into going to a company, you’ll see that I left to become a leader of HR. Now there is a misperception that HR is somehow a dud department, which is true in some companies that don’t value HR. However, I was of the mind that if I want to one day be a leader of a great company, then I must understand how people work, how people decisions work, and how I can be an HR leader. So that’s why I took that HR position role instead of most of my colleagues that took roles in other functions that were more prestigious, let’s say finance, legal, strategy.
But that has been the best bet I’ve ever taken that furthered what I can be as a leader because I understood the complexity of people’s decisions. I understood all the nuances of what HR can do for a job; and not that I am now the expert in all things HR but I absolutely deeply understand the importance of what HR and really people human capital can do. And I think that without that deep understanding, when we say ‘people really make the company’ and I think a lot of people say that as lip service and they’re trying to really figure out what people are all about, but that’s why I encourage every executive to really spend the time understanding not only people at a personal level but at organizational dynamics – how incentives program work, what drives and motivates people, and really deep-dive into thinking about that. And that’s the bet I took that many people thought I was insane for doing because I had so many other options they thought are more prestigious. But I’m really happy that I did that and I learned tremendously at that job that I still carry to this day.
Taren: Juliette, thank you so much. That is such great insights there about the complexity of people’s decisions and I loved how you called it human capital. I had a leader once tell me that a lot of money comes in from investors, et cetera, the science is all good, but our most valued resource is our people; and if you don’t view it that way, you really aren’t building a company with a culture that can springboard all these great scientific advances into patients’ lives. So that’s really fascinating. And I can imagine a lot of folks said to you “What are you doing?”, but what a great decision.
Juliette: Absolutely. I’m very happy I had that experience and I think that more HR should be or human capital practitioners should be involved in the day-to-day business with the business strategy.
Taren: And, yeah, let’s make it not a dud job, as your jud profession as you called it. I love that because I think that’s going to have a lot of people in HR going “Yes, yes, yes. Finally, somebody gets it.” Good for you. So as you’ve looked back over your career and your thinking about…I loved that story you just told us; what was it like working in the hedge fund world? That had to be extremely stressful.
Juliette: Yes, but I really appreciated that stress. The reason I went into that field was I was looking for a few things. I said I wanted to work in a company where I was surrounded by smart people driven to do things together and where performance was the key lever of what we’re trying to do because I really wanted to figure out how does high performance happen? And there’s nothing better than hedge fund or finance when it comes to that because the KPI is so clear. There’s no more clearer KPI than an investment or hedge fund – did you make money or did you not make money. So when you reduce the complexity of what you’re trying to deliver to one thing which most companies can argue, right? I mean ultimately they’re trying to return shares or profit margins, but they can’t be as crisp as a hedge fund can be about that goal.
So when you reduce one variable in a complex equation, you can focus on all the other variables that amount to that outcome. So that really allowed me to stress about how to get to that outcome and to really focus on the how of the answer, not the what. And while it was stressful, I was surrounded by very smart people, very driven people, and I learned a lot about what makes a company move fast and deliver results in a timely manner. And that’s one of the best things that I took away from the experiences of that industry.
Taren: Thank you for sharing that. I love that, that intense focus on that KPI and then figuring out all those other deliverables. That’s great advice there just in and of itself. We talked a little bit about your academic background before and yet you continue to still have a foot in academia. You continue to serve on the alumni advisory council of Harvard Medical School, the division of medical sciences, and as an academic advisor. You’re very busy; why carve out the time for this? Why is this important to you?
Juliette: Everything I am today really has been because I was able to spend time in academia and academia has evolved a lot in the past 10 years. And I’m really proud of what my program Harvard or any many other programs have done for their students because the fact is the evolution is that acceptance that most students won’t become scientists the way we’re continuing to educate the number of scientists that we have. And I think that’s a great thing that we have more scientifically-minded and educated and experienced people in other jobs outside of academia. But the thing that is lacking with that evolution is how to do things outside of academia. So when you have this intense academic training, you’re not trained on how to be successful outside of that as you go move into “the real world” out there and then how do you bring about the rigor and the data-driven decision making to other industries that you’re now entering.
So I wanted to figure out how I can contribute to filling in that gap. And I think that what is going to be important is teaching these students early how they can go about applying their academic training out into this other industries that can really close the gap on advancements in academic science and technology into advancements in what is actually applied in the commercial world. So that is why I like to engage. And another thing too is whenever you engage academically with students, it actually continues to challenge you philosophically as well as intellectually because they always ask wonderful questions that I really cannot answer often. And I like to keep myself on my toes.
Taren: I love that. You said a lot of things that were very interesting in there and a lot to unpack that you noted the scientific and then in the commercial space because when we often talk to scientists or academics, they don’t think about that application in the commercial world, but yet you’ve drawn a very clear line between the two which is quite unusual.
Juliette: It is. And the reason I draw that line is actually what keeps me up at night because I think there’s immense progress that people don’t realize that’s happening in the laboratories or in studios in academia that has not reached the commercial sense because there’s gaps in the way these two segments think about. So when you’re in academia, and I think this is for a good reason, that we don’t often think about how the science is going to be applied. We’re not thinking about what is the commercial market, what’s the potential revenue going to be; we’re just thinking about how much can we progress in this division of science that I’m working on.
But that also means that often the commercial market does not know what kind of progress has been made in the laboratories that they could apply. So there’s a disconnect in the demand and as well as the supply of intellectual capital that’s been pursued on both sides. So I do think that there needs to be a better bridge of the two so that we can best route or funnel the academic science that has progressed into commercial applications in a much more efficient manner. And I think the only way to really do that is to create a common language between those two parties.
Taren: I love that. And how do we start to create or how do people such as yourself start to create that common language? Because you may still be a sole voice out there advocating for this.
Juliette: The good news is that there are many stakeholders for a variety of incentives thinking similarly in this way. And another good news is that many PhDs have left academia to pursue other things such as finance, consulting, biotech, and then they want to figure out how to bring more science out of the labs and into what they’re doing. So the common language we’re able to create with so many scientists now being able to give back to science is that we can talk the language of scientists in training and then translate to the language of commerciality. But I think that thing that we haven’t quite done yet is to align the incentives as well.
The way academia is incentivized is by a publication; for instance, how many can you publish into how many of a prestigious journal. But as you move into the commercial realm, it’s absolutely opposite because of IP protection and the propriety of the intellectual capital you produce. So not only is language an issue today, which I think I have better hope of it resolving soon, but I do think that incentive alignment is a gap that we haven’t quite figured out. But I am very hopeful and optimistic we’re going to get there given the number of different types of stakeholders that are now trying to bridge this gap.
Taren: Fantastic. It sounds like this is such a rich network too. And when we talk about a network, how important has been your network to get you to where you are today?
Juliette: I wouldn’t be here without my network. And the way I like to think about my network is I call it a concentric circle of ecosystem is how I like to view my personal network. The reason why I call it an ecosystem is that it’s really group of people that I find something in common with that give back to each other. And it’s not just a linear line of connection between us but really a conduit where we share ideas, we share our vulnerabilities, and we share our questions that we have. And then as I have become more mature in my career, I realize more deeply how important this is.
And I think that one other advice I would give to younger tenure employees is that they activate this network only when they’re looking for something specific, mostly to look for new jobs. They say, “Well, I’m going to go out into the network to help me find a new job or a new opportunity.” I want everyone to change the mindset to how can I create an ecosystem around me that I’m a part of where I can add value to them and at some point they may add value to me. And if you create this type of nurturing ecosystem for yourself, you’re going to see insights, not just job opportunities but insights that make you better at your job today. You’re going to see ideas that you have never thought about. You are going to see more opportunities that you weren’t thinking of when you weren’t even looking for a job. So absolutely for me this creation of a nurturing, thriving ecosystem for myself has been amazing in everything I do day-to-day and I encourage everyone to create something for yourself.
Taren: Juliette, I think that is such important advice and it’s to build that network before you need that network and don’t think about it as transactional because that’s the antithesis of what you’re talking about. And I loved how you talked about it being nurtured and that it surrounds you because you can touch it on so many different aspects of your life. Thank you, that’s really wise advice; I appreciate that.
It has been a fascinating conversation and we could go on for another hour; however, sadly our time is drawing to a close. So I’m going to end with our WoW question as we do for all of our WoW podcast programs. And we’ve talked a lot about some really specific areas of your career journey so far that have given you a lift or have changed maybe your prospectus, but I’m going to challenge you to name the one moment, that one WoW moment that changed the trajectory of your career or has left like even a greater lasting impression on you.
Juliette: Absolutely. So there’s one moment that I think about often actually and the meaning of that moment has changed throughout my journey in the last 10 plus years. And this was when I was towards the end of my PhD and I had by then decided I was going to leave academia to pursue other learning experiences outside of academia. So I went to a job fair and it was a job fair where all biotech and pharma companies. So I approached a biotech company and said, “I love all the drugs that you have developed. I love your portfolio. I would love to be a part of your company, but I don’t want to be a bench scientist. I want to learn how to make decisions about what drugs get made.” And this recruiter looked at me and asked me who I am, what I’ve done, and I said, “Well, I’ve been a scientist and I am a PhD student and have been a scientist the last 11 years.” And he said, “If you’ve only been a lab scientist all your life, what makes you think that you’re qualified to make any of the decisions that you say you want to experience making?”
First of all, I was very naïve in thinking that in biotech and pharma companies it’s the scientists that made decisions on what science to work on because that’s how it was in academia, but I think about that question a lot to this day. So in the beginning of my career journey, it really compelled me to think about what are the opportunities that’s going to give me the knowledge and the experience to make the decisions I want to make. So that really drove me to make the decisions I made about my career, the decisions why I left to go to X company, to Y company, to gain what knowledge to do what.
But I’ve also learned more recently, I reflected on that and it also makes me be too robust in the way I need to find conviction in a way that stereotype could be true where I feel I need to have every experience, validation, data, and knowledge in order to have a decision-making power when decision when you’re a leader is about being able to have that conviction with gap in knowledge, gap in experience, and gap in anything you can muster and still being able to make that decision courageously and own the outcomes of that decision.
So I think that moment has really cemented in my head as to how I want to pursue and what I want to pursue, but it now has become a pivoting stone where I say I am now more trusting of myself where I can make decisions even if I don’t have all the facts in front of me and I have to trust my own experiences to be there and make that decision because I’m a leader and I can do this. So I would say that that small statement made by this recruiter has really been a pivotal moment.
Taren: What a fascinating insight to come from somebody who was really challenging you in a moment that maybe you weren’t expecting to be challenged and that has changed your perspective. And as you said, that has meant different things for you at different times along your career. Thank you for sharing that very personal analysis. And I want to thank you for being so open and transparent and wonderful with great advice for our audience during this episode of our WoW podcast program. It’s been quite a delight, Juliette. Thank you so much.
Juliette: Thank you so much for having me and it was really fun for me as well.
Thanks for listening to this episode of WoW, the Woman of the Week podcast. For more WoW episodes, visit pharmaVOICE.com.