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 industry. You can check out all our podcast episodes here.
“Your comfort zone is your failure zone.” This sage advice, made even more impressive coming from a teenager, gave Cindy Dunkle the courage to make a daring career leap.
“At that time, my daughter was in ninth grade and she said ‘I need a positive role model to show me how to do hard things.’ I think back on so many different points in time where I may have forfeited an opportunity because I was comfortable,” Dunkle said. “And it left a lasting impression. I’m so grateful for that wise insight … that I now test myself and always question my level of comfort. We have to stretch. We have to get crazy. We have to do the hard stuff.”
Dunkle joined Denali Therapeutics as chief people officer almost eight years ago after nearly a decade in HR roles at Genentech. From the start, she has been focused on supporting the people, culture and talent of “Denalians” who are doing the hard work of trying to solve the challenges associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and ALS.
“There’s an unfortunate graveyard of failure out there,” she said. “Fortunately, we’re making progress. We have assembled a group of individuals who are committed to defeating degeneration. They’re unstoppable. They’re passionate. And I feel strongly, people need to be our focus to help them carry out our objectives.”
Dunkle said her role around “human capital management” and developing a culture that encourages innovation is continually evolving and needs to keep pace with the world. Recently, she and her team devised a “culture” equation that takes into account the inputs that add, multiply or subtract from employees feeling engaged, such as opportunity, connections and growth. At the same time, they also looked at what subtracts from a culture, like uncertainty and skill gaps.
“Very early on, we realized that people are the key drivers of our culture,” she said. “We placed a significant value on the uniqueness and the individuality of every Denalian, and we asked them to share their personal connection to our purpose and their past experience through a tagline that represents their own lived experience. For example, at one point in time, our CEO’s mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, said something to the effect, ‘Can you use your brain to fix my brain?’ And his tagline is: using our brains to fix your brains. There’s an intimacy and something very purposeful and connected around the intention of why he does what he does and how he leads. It’s personal. When we understand this about each person, we have a way of being able to connect and support and to sustain one another in doing hard things.”
In this episode of the Woman of the Week podcast, Dunkle shares her vision for creating a people-first culture, how investing in STEM can lead to future success and why DEI is not an option but an obligation.
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 Cindy Dunkle, chief people officer of Denali Therapeutics.
Taren: Cindy, welcome to the WoW podcast program.
Cindy: Great to be with you.
Taren: So grateful to have you with us. Cindy, you have almost 30 years of experience in compensation, organizational design, and talent acquisition. I’ve been noting that many companies are phasing out the term human resources to be more people-focused which really ties to your title. Can you talk us through this evolution in general and what your role means specifically in your organization?
Cindy: I’m so glad you asked this because there is a dynamic of our resources to humans. And with that traditionally, human resources have – it’s been focused on policies and practices and operations with a heavy hand in things like compliance and government relations. What I have seen over time and specifically as I relate to the work that I do with Denali, a chief people officer in most cases is still responsible for these practice areas but a primary emphasis is placed on the focus of people, culture, nurturing talent, recognizing the importance of human capital. And over the time with Denali, for me, it’s just simply about loving people, genuinely caring about their desire to have an impact while understanding their personal circumstance, connecting with them, relating and working together.
And what we are doing is really hard in trying to solve for those suffering from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and ALS and other rare diseases that there’s this unfortunate graveyard of failure out there. Fortunate we’re making progress but I would say with no degree of arrogance but with all level of gratitude, we have assembled a group of individuals who are committed to progress in defeating degeneration. They’re unstoppable. They’re passionate people. And I feel strongly, people need to be our focus to help them carry out our objectives.
Taren: Thank you and thank you for giving us a little primer on what Denali is doing in terms of these very serious diseases that really need serious attention. You used the word human capital. And I’ve talked to some other folks in the field and they also use that term as human capital. Let’s talk about that because we always talk about resources and in terms of money but we aren’t really talking about that human component.
Cindy: I think if you look at many organizations, this has become a bit of a buzzword. There is human capital management. There is ESG. There are things that have become more of a way of organizing what and how people do work in companies that offers fair, equitable and a governance practice in the way we organize. And so, clearly over time, our human capital strategy it evolves. And our aim is to attract, retain, incentivize existing employees, new employees and advisors by investing in their professional development and really providing with challenging and rewarding opportunities for personal growth. And so, it comes back to that. What kind of a working environment are we creating that drives value reinforced by developing quality leadership skills, fostering diversity and inclusion emphasizing continuous growth and creating opportunities for engagement and embracing our goal to defeat degeneration. These principal purposes are often backed by – you have your cash and your incentive programs to attract, retain and reward employees. But ultimately again, I would circle back to our first question, it comes back to people. And human capital management should be about the focus of how are we increasing value for people and overall for the success of our organization.
Taren: Wonderful. And that people component is, as you said in the C-suite has really become again a much prominent role in so many organizations. Some might argue, almost as important as the chief financial officer.
Cindy: Right. It’s interesting because our chief financial officer, I would argue that he is as much of the people-person as anyone. And I defend and focus and look at our capital investments in much of a way that – I am no chief financial officer, but I certainly invested in our runway and our ability to use our resources effectively. And so, from looking at the accountability of the people focused in an organization, it is a capital investment as you would see a mass spec and/or just any equipment in an organization. Our investment in people to operate and support them in a sustainable way so that we can achieve our goals. You’re right. There’s a financial mechanism of activity and there’s a people mechanism of activity that one without the other we can’t get to patients.
Taren: Absolutely. You touched on a few things in there. There’s a lot to unpack. So let’s dig in a little bit deeper. A lot of this is what you’re talking about is about a culture of a company.
Taren: And you’ve been instrumental in crafting Denali’s culture. What are some key lessons learned along the way and what advice do you have for some of your peers out there who might be struggling a little bit?
Cindy: Culture is, I think, it’s going to be one of those areas where people continue to try to define this because our world continues to evolve. And you can often ask what is culture because our circumstances, the macro and the micro impacts to our society continue to change. And so, this is clearly evolving. But how we think about it, culture is a collective of the way that we feel we engage and have an impact. And even more recently, we even tried to build an equation of, what are the inputs that add, multiply, or subtract from feeling engaged obviously leading to how do people feel when they’re at Denali. And we took some time to see what are those additives. Maybe it’s opportunity, it’s connection, it’s growth, the multipliers. We see those as purpose, values, impact. And then you also have to consider what can subtract from your culture, uncertainty, skill gap, silos.
So how have we endeavored to really think about a sustainable culture? We actually avoided the word from some time because we thought culture is sometimes what you try to go get when you lost it and it’s gone and you try to recreate the past. But we really try to embrace this from an employee perspective and understand forces that may impact these areas. You just have to really come back to people. And so, what we did very early on is realizing that people are the key drivers of your culture. We placed a significant value on the uniqueness and the individuality of every Denalian and we asked them to share their personal connection to our purpose and their past experience through a tagline that represents their own lived experience because we don’t want to mute all of these collective experiences and skills and learnings. When they come here – in fact, that’s the very reason why we brought them is for that unique perspective.
And so, our culture actually is much of a byproduct of these experiences that we want to cultivate. We want to expose and we want to leverage. I can share with you one such example. And that would actually be of our CEO. He has been fairly public about his own journey with Alzheimer’s in his family. And at one point in time, his mother who suffered from Alzheimer’s said something to the effect, and I’ll paraphrase, can you use your brain to fix my brain. And his tagline is, using our brains to fix your brains. But there’s an intimacy and something very specific and purposeful and connected around the intention of why he does what he does and how he leads. It’s personal. And when we understand that about each person, we have a way of being able to connect and support and to sustain one another in doing hard things. And that for us is one way that we help to cultivate and craft our culture as we continue to build with new people coming to the organization without asking them to conform. But just to let us experience life through your lens so that we can use that in our path forward.
Taren: I love that idea of the tagline. I think that is so clever and so as you said personal. It gets to the heart of the individual. That’s fantastic. So thank you so much. That is a great learning. Thank you for sharing that with our audience. Very much appreciate that. Let’s talk about diversity and DE&I. And I know that you are a big proponent of promoting diversity and growth in STEM. Why is this so personal to you? And tell me what Denali is doing.
Cindy: This is again a great question on why am I such a big proponent of promoting diversity and growth in STEM and why is it personal for me at Denali. And I think it takes us each back a little bit in time, and maybe as young girls, many of us have natural – we had natural drive. But likely at some point that untamed energy was recognized by a positive influence in life and we became more bold, more confident and excited about pursuing a passion. That drive however may be impacted by our access or circumstance. And what I feel is that STEM encourages ideas void of a circumstance at a young age. It’s then up to us as caretakers, as educators, as coaches, as mentors and leaders to lean in knowing where we receive that influence and how that was a catalyst. We each have a responsibility to cultivate that spark in the next generation in STEM. Each one with a gift that is truly unique that’s going to make a difference.
And through STEM outreach we are planting those seeds and igniting a light and a curiosity and a connection that there’s confidence because it sends a message. There are people out there who look like me. Something specific that we have done is we have created a STEM outreach program that aims to work with local and national partners to get more young people interested in pursuing STEM careers. If offers general education about neuroscience and provides services and support to under-represented communities. And this is through partnership with national chapters, Girls Inc., SACNAS, Project Onramp and locally through Bay Area Festival, Peninsula Bridge, SACNAS, that’s national but the SACNAS center in Utah. And I think what we learned so much is that it’s a matter of someone taking the time to care about you. A teacher who is energetic and invested and recognize greatness that that’s actually going to lead to our future and we need this generation. They’re powerful. So that we can have continued hope.
Taren: I couldn’t agree with you more. Let’s dig in to DE&I. We know that it’s a key business driver. And yet we’re starting to hear pushback about the importance of DE&I out there in the greater atmosphere. And I’d like to counter that. So let’s talk about why – we talked about STEM. But let’s talk about why DE&I is important overall for your organization and overall for organizations.
Cindy: I don’t think organizations actually really get a choice because we have a very sophisticated employee base and just group of individuals that they care. And they want opportunities to engage in issues important in the world around us. And so, I don’t know that companies actually really have a choice but it is our obligation and our opportunity to raise awareness on how issues of diversity and inclusion can impact work at our organizations. And as such, it is a tremendous miss if we don’t leverage this collective energy to engage in communities. In our case, actively engaging in the community through Life Science Cares, through BioHive to provide opportunities alongside with the scientific exploration but also to give back to the communities and to be consistently engaged and involved. You can’t just bring one scientific part of your self and consider it sufficient.
Our organizations have evolved fortunate to embrace – we want the whole person. And as a part of that, when we leverage this commitment and this awareness, and also bringing about more diverse perspective, it helps us make better decisions. So I don’t know that companies can actually turn back and say, we can’t, we don’t, we won’t. It is, we must, we can, we are, we will. It’s just more of that framework. It’s here and thank goodness we have the momentum and the energy of new voices pushing us in that direction.
Taren: That’s fantastic. Sometimes that push makes others uncomfortable but I think about it as not replacing somebody at the table but the need to build a bigger table to coin that phrase that’s out there. And that’s what it takes is to build a bigger table where everybody feels like they could be included. One of the keys to DE&I is being able to measure the strategies you put in place. How do you define success in the programs that you’re putting forward?
Cindy: We actually have a unity in diversity group at Denali and it is a collective voice of individuals who give us perspective across gender, ethnicity, generation so that we can actually say, how do you feel and what should we be doing? What really matters? And within this group, we have set goals for activation energy across the organization in areas such as, we read books together as a company. We actually have what is called – and we have it measured on we get together and we read books several times a year. We have what is called a unity hour to discuss topical diversity and inclusion issues and engage in discussions related to current events so that there’s a place for voice. And you say anything you want however you want. But we do that also on frequencies throughout the year to now say we did it once but we measure this.
We also bring in external speakers that provide us awareness on issues of diversity so that we can appreciate how are we thinking on topics such as diversity and inclusion in clinical trials. How are we thinking about this relative to career trajectory, many topics. We measure these by holding ourselves accountable for a number of opportunities for outreach, engagement and education to ensure that we aren’t deflecting and/or minimizing opportunities for this perspective to become part of overall decision-making.
Taren: Fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing that. You touched on something. You said generational. And I think this is something that’s starting to pop up too more frequently is this talk about ageism and it’s often overlooked when we speak about diversity, equity and inclusion or however you want to couch that cohort of terms. And a lot of attention has been placed on millennials and those generations but not so much on our seasoned professionals. And they have different needs and different goals. So talk to me about how you manage through these generational cohorts of employees?
Cindy: It’s interesting. I recently read a study on the rate of promotion in organizations and it was through a recent study that was done suggesting that our Gen Zs are getting promoted at a faster rate than our Gen X or even baby boomers. And it’s because there is a generational mindset of when should you get a promotion. How should that discussion exist between employee and a manager. And it would suggest that the younger generation is seeking out and asking for it. And that’s just not a generational behavior that we would see for those maybe who are longer in career. And so, I think we talk about this very specifically within the organization of recognizing skills and talents that we have that we want to embrace in order for us to engage the labor market in such a way that we can leverage skills and experiences that may no longer be degree programs and we need that voice within our organizations.
And so, I think as we contemplate the generation aspect of our employee population and ageism, we counter that and we bounce back at it by providing cross functional team opportunities for individuals to exist on project teams together. And it’s really not driven by level. It is based on specially a role on a project team. That will engage a person who has significant years of experience with somebody who is new in role. So I think for us it’s really just allowing people to understand the benefit of learning from somebody from a different point of view.
Taren: That’s wonderful. Thank you so much. Again, a great set of insights there. You’re obviously very plugged in to all of the nuances of DEI and moving the needle for women as well as other under-represented cohorts. What are some of those barriers that you still see us, them facing in terms of promotions, in terms of recognition, in terms of getting off the sticky floor or the sticky rung. What can be done?
Cindy: This is, for me, really targeted toward women and minorities in leadership positions. We need to commit ourselves to promoting, retaining, recruiting women and minorities into leadership positions. People often hire and promote individuals they’re very comfortable with and if we still see individuals in leadership roles that don’t provide that broad representation, we are going to miss out on truly moving the needle and making better decisions. We need much more representation at these levels. We know that stereotypes are still around for people who are not curious or motivated enough to really want to understand someone else’s point of view much less their lived experience. And so, this is where I think organizations can hold themselves accountable to building pipelines for diverse talent as well as really providing internal opportunities for grown and development. Kids and women, under-represented minorities need to feel a connection and we have not just again a responsibility but an obligation to ensure that there is a path forward.
Taren: Agreed, again, a thousand percent. Thank you so much for that. Let’s switch tacts a little bit. Let’s get a little personal with you. What drew you to the biotech or life sciences industry? Because you could obviously work anywhere and have an impact but why did you choose this sector?
Cindy: You’re going to take me down a personal path here and I certainly won’t resist. As a young mother, our son experienced some significant health challenges and this was not a temporary circumstance but it was a journey, and it still is a journey. And over the course of time, I became much more familiar with our healthcare system, with treatment modalities, with clinical trials, with access to care and medicines. And I wasn’t just focused on the solution but I really began to observe the passion and the heart and the dedication of those who are trying to help us. And as my career evolved, I had an opportunity to first enter into the human resource pillar of job opportunities through a recruitment perspective. And I can tell you that because of my experience, I had a different level of engagement and point of view because it was one of gratitude.
Understanding how those who were going to consider inclusion criteria for a pediatric indication on a clinical trial, how that impacted me and became much more grateful for their skills and their capabilities for a regulatory professional. And considering writing emergency access protocols and/or thinking about safety in filing. It became something very different and I was very curious and excited and engaged in trying to understand if there was a way that I could help others have the experience that I did by being part of the solution and getting the right people in the right roles at the right time.
Taren: That’s lovely. So you are truly a servant leader paying it forward and with gratitude. And it’s quite understandable why you were named one of the top 25 Women Leaders in Biotechnology in 2022 and then the Bay Area’s Most Influential Woman in Business in 2019. You’re very humble too. But what do these accolades mean to you?
Cindy: They’re obviously sometimes awkward. It feels funny. Actually, my kids saw this and again, they’re adult children. My son giggled and he’s like, ‘no kidding, like really?’
Taren: Mom. Yeah, okay.
Cindy: He didn’t mean that with any disregard. But honestly, I certainly appreciate the accolades. But what is really meaningful to me and where I get my reward and award comes from getting to serve and support people and leveraging their gifts and talents that will ultimately help us to achieve our goal. I don’t at all take for granted the opportunity I’ve been given to have an impact and the responsibilities that I have been given. And I certainly intend to stretch to make good on those who have invested in me.
Taren: That’s very nice. And again, I knew you were going to be very humble about this. You are sitting in a C-suite role and as such, you are a role model to others. Again, what does this mental responsibility mean to you?
Cindy: You better be nice and behave because you always know someone. Certainly, as we thrive and in some ways survive on our networks and being able to reach out to a community of those who may have answers or solutions, what that means to me is again, with the utmost of integrity, respect and sincerity, holding that mantle with an understanding that what I do may have a downstream effect on just the title and what that reflects for my colleagues in other environments. And if it is to be known that I act as a CPO in one way, it could be generalized as a statement of, this is how people act and we see how generalizations for individuals can come about through the behavior, good or bad of one individual. And so, I take it again very seriously and intentionally that I have an opportunity to represent not only myself and Denali but also my colleagues in such a favorable way to show that this is a role and responsibility that has an impact.
Taren: Fantastic. You obviously have a very busy career but you also find time to lend your time, talent and treasure as a board member for Life Science Cares Bay Area and BioHive. Tell me about the work that you’re doing for these organizations and what that means to you.
Cindy: These two organizations have actually similar goals in some ways in that Life Science Cares Bay Area is a spin-off and actually a part of the larger Life Sciences Cares that was started back in 2016 by Rob Perez and others in Boston. And it really gives us a collective effort of the life science industry to address the impact of poverty and inequality on our neighbors in the Bay Area. And specifically for Life Science Cares, we unite the human and financial resources of life science companies and industry leaders to support service organizations that do the best work in the areas of survival, sustainability, and education. And so, what does that mean really? We are here to support and be a part of that collective to ensure we seize opportunities with donations that have come in to Life Science Cares to appropriately volunteer, engage with the community, make grants.
This might mean we assemble backpacks for coastal farm worker children who may not have resources for adequate backpacks to start school. It could mean providing kits and vaccinations during the pandemic to the homeless. It really is an opportunity for us to come together like I said and organize those human and financial resources. Similarly, Denali is very excited to be part of one of the fastest growing life science hubs in the nation in Utah as we build out clinical manufacturing. And important to us as a company to be a part of what is BioHive serving a unified voice for employees, more than 1,300 life science companies in Utah for health innovation, diagnostics, delivery, therapeutics. We want to amplify our opportunities for what we can’t do as individual companies on our own to do better. But when we come together, we can create awareness. We can serve and we can support the under-represented and under-served in our areas. Obviously, very passionate about these two organizations and what it means for companies as a responsibility to give back to our communities.
Taren: That’s lovely, and what two worthwhile causes. You gave me some chills there. And I love the work that you’re doing with Life Science Cares as well as BioHive. Kudos to you and kudos to those organizations for making an impact on the communities in which they are centered in. Again, to switch text just a little bit, as you’ve been through your professional career, did you have any mentors who impacted your journey, gave you good guidance for advancing your career?
Cindy: Oh, I have and it’s so hard to choose. There’s a time and a season when I was younger that that mentor and advisor may have offered me a tool and a resource at the time and then you evolved and maybe just a recency bias, I would reflect on several individuals that I’m privileged to work with directly today where I have to admit I’m still not done learning and growing and there is active learning taking place. But I also have learned so much, like I said, from pioneers in the field who have taught me valuable life lessons. Not directly but indirectly as I read and learn from their experiences. You can learn from examples like Ruth Rogan Benerito that was a pioneer in bioproducts and credited with saving the cotton industry in post-World War II. That was not common with a woman to be in that sort of position at the time but it links me to even my grandmother who was a single mother in the 1940s working on assay development for Dow Chemical on a bioproduct that we now know today as Saran wrap. They took the hard path.
And when I think about having the courage and the boldness to do hard things, it starts from knowing that no matter what season or time or decade we’re in that I have a sequence and a series of role models that can show me how to do hard things. And one individual I would call out that I work with today is Dr. Carole Ho who is our Chief Medical Officer and a world-renowned drug developer and neurologist. And I’ve worked actually with Carole now professionally longer from a career perspective than I haven’t. And so, we’ve had quite a journey together and I see how she is unwavering and unstoppable in her focus to find a meaningful therapeutic for patients in a sea of failures. And it just reminds me, don’t give up, don’t stop, just keep going. And I sometimes feel like Dory, just keep swimming, just keep swimming.
Taren: I love that.
Cindy: It’s that confidence. It’s also Ryan Watts, our CEO, of being such an extraordinary example of living our values and embracing family, faith and career. And demonstrating to me that you can do all of those things together and not give up on one or the other feeling that something has to give in exchange for your family or your faith or your career.
Taren: Thank you so much for sharing those personal insights. I love that story about your grandmother. That is fantastic. I mean, what a role model she must have been for you and your mother.
Taren: That is tremendous. As you said, back in the day when it was so unusual. Over the course of your career as well, can you share some of the valuable insights, some leadership advice that you’ve received? And what is the best piece of leadership advice that you provide?
Cindy: I just love people. I don’t know that I actually say something that’s impactful but boy, do I believe in giving good hugs and just wrapping my arm around people sometimes and just saying, it’s going to be okay. We’re doing the right thing. I’ll go back to Ryan and he has often shared and this resonates with me in reflecting it. Uncertainty without a plan equals anxiety and uncertainty with a plan equals opportunity. There is much uncertainty about the world around us and about what we are endeavoring to do and it can become a lot and overwhelming. But referring back to the neutralizer in that and feeling in control of uncertainty, personal or professional, simply creating a plan will lend itself to us seeing opportunity in a circumstance. So my lesson learned was create a plan. Let’s whiteboard it out. Let’s get it on paper.
Maybe another example is Dr. Vicki Sato, chair of our board. And I have been linked with her over the time of Denali over the past seven and a half years and learning from her. She recently came and she spoke with our team and offered the following advice. And she said, “At some point in your life, you will do your best work. Do it here.” That means to me, don’t wait. Do it right now because as we evolve, our capacities, our opportunities will evolve and change, but I am focused everyday to do my best work right now, right here.
Taren: I love that. Do it right now. That’s fantastic. I love that quote about uncertainty and having that plan. I can see you being a good hugger, I have to say. It’s awesome. You are also very instrumental in building high performing teams in order to move that needle doing hard science. What are some of those key attributes you look for and people you think, hey, they’ve got the spark that I’m looking for.
Cindy: I love that you used the word spark because I translate that into strengths. And I found that making the best of each person’s spark or strength allows us to acknowledge that we all have specific role to play on the path to success building high performing teams. Not everybody has the same spark or strength and to me, it’s like the body. All of the parts serve a unique purpose that work together. As a high performing team, we have to cultivate our part in order to work together. And it’s not just about having your own skill building events and exercises but it’s also for that team, it is providing clarity of vision and mission combined with enthusiasm and articulation of a connection of the team’s mission to the purpose.
We have a patient fellow at Denali. His name is Seth and he’s extraordinary in every way and he is living with ALS for over 12 years now and sees things from a very different point of view. But he’s helped us to learn something really important and I think it translates into high performing teams and it’s how do we move together. You think about the reference of a body and/or your role in a team but it really is how we move together. And he and his wife have figured out how they need to move together, literally, her moving him in different positions that allows him to continue to be genius in the ways that he is, but how she can do that for him. And to me, this is also part of creating unity, building trust, helping us grow together and sometimes just being gritty. That’s part of being on a high performing team. It’s how do we move together.
Taren: What a powerful story. Thank you so much for sharing that. I love that you have him as a patient fellow. I have not heard that term before. Is that something that you think is unique to Denali or do other companies also have patient fellows?
Cindy: I can’t certify that others are not doing this. I feel that it was a unique acknowledgement based on a very unique individual who provides powerful insight. Not only into the patient journey but very directly also into how do we think about the ways that we develop medicines. And when a patient is receiving a medicine, how do they feel? And so, for us, it was a very valuable insight and reason for us to acknowledge Seth and his contributions as a patient fellow to help guide us in our efforts. We in fact have several such fellows because it’s not always about us and what we think, it’s about the patient. And ultimately, we’re here for patients and having their perspective and insight is a better way to deliver exactly what’s needed.
Taren: Again Cindy, thank you so much for sharing that insight because I have not heard that before. Now I haven’t talked to every company in the world but I think that that’s really – let’s start to bubble up that concept because I think it is so powerful just as you described. So thank you for sharing that with our audience. Sadly, our time is coming to an end. And you told me already a very powerful story around your son and your entry into the life sciences industry. But I’m going to ask you to identify another. If that was one of your wows, I’d like for you to identify another wow moment that either changed the trajectory of your career or has left a lasting impression on you.
Cindy: Well, I don’t want my children to feel like one has more than the other. And so, I’ll acknowledge my daughter in that as I was contemplating leaving a really, what I would say fulfilling and satisfying point of my career with a large pharma, it was such a great journey. I learned from powerful leaders and they shared insights. I had wonderful mentors and opportunities for growth. And suffice to say that experience over many years was also good for my family. They loved it. They experienced the extension of that company in our home. And when I was thinking about leaving, I went to my husband and he said, “Oh, this is bad. This is not going to go well. Nobody’s going to like this. We’re all comfortable.” And we proceeded and we sat down with the kids. And at that time, my daughter was in ninth grade. And you know what, she snapped her fingers. She was like, “Mom.” She said, “Your comfort zone is your failure zone and I need a positive role model to show me how to do hard things. We got to go.”
I looked at my husband and I was like, “Did you teach her that?” He said, “No, I would not teach her that.” And she was like, “No, no. It was on the wall of my homeroom at school and I think it makes sense here.” And gosh, I think back on that so much now and at different points in time in my past or even looking forward where I may have fofeited opportunity for others or even myself because I was comfortable. And it left a lasting impression. And I’m so grateful for that wise insight and reflection from such a beautiful mind that I now test myself and I am grateful for both the lessons learned of why I’m here in life sciences and where I’m going and to always question my level of comfort. We got to stretch. We got to get crazy. We got to do the hard stuff.
Taren: Oh Cindy, that was a mike drop moment. That is fantastic. Out of the mouth of a ninth grader. Your comfort zone is your failure zone. I’m going to print that up and paste it all over my office. I love that. That is fantastic. Thank you for sharing that story with us. Appreciate it.
Cindy: I’m so grateful to spend time with you today. And the wonderful things that you are doing to help women and others see their potential and the opportunities ahead of them. This is a wonderful program. Thank you so much.
Taren: Thank you so much. And thank you for being part of our WoW podcast program. You have been terrific.