I began my professional journey as a public defender in Washington, DC – I wanted to take a leadership role to help people, especially those who did not have the resources to help themselves.
As I began to experience burn out from my job, I made the pivot to work in the pharmaceutical industry, where I could continue to act as a voice for those with unmet needs and unequal access. Moving from sales to marketing, and then combining both in roles with increased responsibility — every step of the way, I was able to help people secure life-saving treatments. My journey has, and will continue to be amplified, as a leader, by S.P.E.A.K.ing like a leader – Strategic, Passionate, Empathetic, Ambitious and Knowledgeable.
Success doesn’t come without a plan. The famous quote by psychologist Fitzhugh Dodson comes to mind, “Without goals and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.” Every step of the way, I made sure what I was doing was heading towards a desirable outcome – in my case, expanding my leadership footprint to help more and more people. There were pitfalls and detours, of course, but I made it a point to keep my eye on the prize and stay on course.
Anyone who knows me will tell you, first and foremost, I spend my days, both personally and professionally, pursuing things that I feel passionately about. The pharmaceutical industry is very highly regulated (appropriately so) and you really have to approach each launch, clinical trial, advisory board, marketing campaign, meeting with payers, sales calls – basically everything you do, with unbridled passion not only to get your message across, but to inspire others to be on top of their game as well.
Empathy is critical – it was a key tool in my work as a public defender and continues to shape my leadership perspective in pharma. I’ve learned that you can’t go through life with blinders – it’s rarely about how you feel and think – it’s all about how the other person thinks and feels. By putting yourself in the position of the people you’re trying to help, persuade, supervise or even critique, you can better understand why they do what they do, and how you can help them pivot to maximize impact.
There was a time when calling a woman ambitious was considered an insult. That has changed somewhat (although a vestige still lingers), and I am proud of my ambitions. I have found in business, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. By making it clear what I wanted, why I wanted it, and that I earned it, it gave decisionmakers the confidence to move me up the ladder.
Early on, I was an meaningful contributor, but I wanted to lead, and knew it wasn’t going to be just handed to me because I “deserved” it. Once I let the powers-that-be know where I was headed, I became accountable – and that is a major motivator.
Make your ambitions known, and be sure you’re ready when the time comes.
Whoever came up with “Knowledge is Power” knew what they were talking about! I go into meetings having done my research and homework on the subject at hand, but I also approach with an open mind. Nine times out of ten, I’ll learn things I didn’t know and draw different conclusions based on what I’ve learned through listening. I never stop listening and learning, both at home and at work.
One of my best teachers is my daughter Madison, who offers both unsolicited and unfiltered advice and observations that have made me a better parent and a better person, as well as a leader. Those who work with me know how much I value their opinions, insight and perspective.
The more you listen and learn, and consequently know, the better you can lead.
In any language, in person or virtually, you can S.P.E.A.K. like a leader – with a strategic plan, a passionate delivery, an empathetic perspective, ambitious approach and knowledgeable understanding. It’s my North Star, and I’m proud to share it.