Made it to the top. Now what?


A dynamic panel of pharmaceutical and healthcare executives shared their career insights and personal experiences at the first HBA Executive Women’s Breakfast event for 2012, “Made it to the Top…Now What?” The event was held on Mar. 14th and was hosted by Pfizer at their Madison, NJ, location.

A dynamic panel of pharmaceutical and healthcare executives shared their career insights and personal experiences at the first HBA Executive Women’s Breakfast event for 2012, “Made it to the Top…Now What?” The event was held on Mar. 14th and was hosted by Pfizer at their Madison, NJ, location.

Shawn Tomasello, corporate vice president and general manager, hematology and oncology, Celgene Corporation, was the event moderator and introduced the distinguished panel: Barbara Dalton, vice president, venture capital, Pfizer Inc., Laura Schoen, president, global healthcare practice, Weber Shandwick, Julia Lennox, vice president, marketing, MetLife and Erica Peitler, founder, Erica Peitler & Associates and former senior vice president, global R&D and global strategic initiatives, Bayer Healthcare Division.

Barbara Dalton was the first speaker to share her career journey. She compared herself to an “accidental tourist” who chanced upon new opportunities over time. During the early part of her career she believed education was important to set her foundation. She really enjoyed the academic setting and earned her PhD. She discovered her interests and passion—lab work and technology—which then led her to biotech and landing a position at GSK. The thread that helped her to advance from one position to the next was her large network of people. Her network included a variety of people, not just those in her specialty, which helped her to learn, grow and land new opportunities. In her current role as vice president, venture capital at Pfizer Inc., she enjoys working on new projects and, with internal and external groups, continues to learn, grow and evolve her network.

Our second speaker, Laura Schoen, also believed that a high-quality education was going to provide her with a solid foundation. She earned her master’s degree in international relations and business from one of the top schools in the country, the University of Pennsylvania. She started in broadcasting news and advertising and began her career journey at an advertising firm. She focused on acquiring new skills, building client relationships and getting established. Like many driven professionals, she wanted to do well in her current position yet work towards seeking new opportunities for strategic reasons. She developed expertise in the area of healthcare with an interest in the international landscape. She accepted a position at Euro RSCG in France using her specialty in healthcare where she progressed through the ranks to become president of Euro RSCG’s healthcare public relations network in the United States. Her advice to our audience is to reinvent yourself—look for new opportunities internally or externally to take on new challenges. Networking is also important in breaking the barriers of the male networks and establishing yourself in professional women’s networks and networking within the industry. “The key traits for success,” as she quoted from the Harvard Business Review “are self-confidence, strategic thinking, decisiveness, assertiveness, and authenticity.”

Julia Lennox was our third speaker at the event and began with a personal sentiment. She shared a conversation in which her dad told her “I always thought you would do well. I didn’t know if you’d be happy.” He passed away just days after he spoke those words that framed her career journey. Early in her career, she was married and raising children while focusing on her career. As each new career opportunity was presented, she thought the new job may have an impact on her personal life. She evaluated each choice. She thought, “Would this make me happy?” and decided to forego several opportunities. Later in her career, she looked back and thought she had made the wrong decision on several occasions. She was setting up these constraints—barriers to new opportunities that may have turned out to be terrific choices. Through years of experience, she learned that sometimes you just have to try it. Take on the new challenge. Take more risks. If it’s right for you, you will find a way to make it work for your career and your family. If it doesn’t work, you will learn from it and then find a new career opportunity that’s right for you. As she thinks about the future and “what’s next”, she is trying to seek new opportunities with her interest in the mature market segment and to develop and effectively market products to this growing segment.

Erica Peitler was our last speaker at the breakfast event. With her enthusiastic and creative presentation, Erica shared her career journey that started out as a learning journey of growth and change. She offered, “Make your journey part of the organization.” Share your journey with your staff and let them become involved through meetings, projects, presentations and other opportunities at your organization. This not only helps you to get your message heard but will also help your team members to develop new skills and give them visibility in the organization. Erica also believes that telling the truth will help you on your career journey. Erica found that her experience serving on a board with two other women has been rewarding given they are women who are honest and appreciate open communications. There’s a level of emotional intelligence that provides energy from the group of women to generate new ideas. One final point that Erica shared was regarding risk. “Don’t be afraid to leave your role in the corporate world to start something new. I left the corporate world and never looked back. I enjoy coaching and consulting and feel passionate about my work. Life is short so enjoy each work day. I am energized by my work and business relationships and I’m selective with people who I choose to work with.”   

Each presentation and honest feedback generated a good buzz with an engaged audience and generated an interactive Q&A discussion. Throughout the presentations and discussions at the event and during a follow-up conference call after the meeting, several audience members asked our panel for more detail on determining “what’s next”.

Here’s a summary of the panel’s input:

  1. Take more risk. Take on new challenges.
  2. If you are happy in your current organization, seek out new challenges, new projects, new opportunities to grow.
  3. Step outside of your comfort zone.
  4. Get involved with a board(s) that could expose you to people outside of your industry.
  5. Think about your career and where you want to be. Develop a plan. Network to get more information. Take charge. Reinvent yourself.
  6. Network to develop solid relationships with men and women in the industry.
  7. Think about your interests and what you are passionate about.
  8. If you are in a large organization, think about taking on a larger role in a smaller company.
  9. Expand your skills. Work on a variety of projects with a variety of people. Think about how to take the skill set going forward.
  10. Determine if you are on-track to do meaningful work. Is your work “on purpose”?
  11. Always think about what you want to do next.
  12. Be more selective with people you are working with and what you are working towards.

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