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WoW: What a year | PharmaVoice

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The executive leaders featured in our Women of the Week podcast series come from all walks of life, industry sectors and areas of expertise — what they share is a common bond to improve patients’ lives.

Every Wednesday, we publish an interview that showcases how their dedication and ingenuity are creating a ripple effect throughout the industry. These inspirational stories of perseverance, shared lessons learned and commitment to paying their legacy forward to the next generation of women leaders are like pharma’s “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” For the past three years, I’ve been conducting these interviews almost every week and without fail, I come away from each feeling nourished and ready to conquer the day.

To close out 2022, here are a few standout moments and pieces of leadership advice to generate inspiration for the coming year.

In case you missed any of the episodes, check out the full WoW catalog.

Remember your impact

Sylvie Laquerre, VP, disease area stronghold leader, solid tumor targeted therapy, Janssen

Permission granted by Sylvie Laquerre 


“I can remember like it was yesterday. The most important moment of my career was when I heard for the first time patient testimony on the benefit of a drug that I worked on. This was really transformational. This was a game changer to know you have the gift to influence somebody’s life. In an addition (to) this being a fantastic feeling, it’s addictive. When you do it once, you want to do it again and again.”
Sylvie Laquerre, vice president, disease area stronghold leader, solid tumor targeted therapy, Janssen. Listen to the full episode.

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

Michelle Keefe headshot

Michelle Keefe, CEO, Syneos Health

Permission granted by Michelle Keefe


“Taking the safe route is OK if that’s what works for you. But if you really want to go far, you have to do some things that will make you uncomfortable. And I probably skinned my knees a couple of times. But I just said I’m going to do this and I’m going to figure it out, and that’s where mentors come in. I identified people in situations who had some real success and asked them to coach me and support me and they were my go-to for advice. They helped me accelerate my development very quickly.”
Michelle Keefe, CEO, Syneos Health. Listen to the full episode.

Remember your ‘why’

Najat Khan, chief data science officer, global head of R&D strategy and operations, Janssen

Permission granted by Najat Khan


“The advice I give to folks is to go back to the core moments that make you do what you do. Stick to what grounds you and hold on to that. And don’t let anyone dethrone you from your purpose.”
Najat Khan, chief data science officer, global head of R&D strategy and operations, Janssen. Listen to the full episode.

Talk yourself into success

Michelle Marlborough headshot

Michelle Marlboro, chief product officer, AiCure

Permission granted by Michelle Marlborough


“I think in this industry that is somewhat challenging because obviously we’ve got to do it in a safe, regulated, compliant way. But I think we have to just keep believing that the impossible is possible and just striving every day to do what we can to get there. For me that was (realizing) it’s OK for me to sit down with the team and say, ‘All right, we’re going to go do this’ and then (if they) look at me like I’m crazy, (not saying), ‘But don’t worry if we can’t do it all.’ It’s just like — no, let’s focus on this is where we want to get to, let’s go for it. And not tell ourselves we’re five years too early. Not come up with all of the reasons why you can’t but just go after this thing that we believe should be possible and make it (a) reality.” 
Michelle Marlboro, chief product officer, AiCure. Listen to the full episode.

Become a fire starter

Nikki Jones, chief people and DEI officer, HBA

Permission granted by Nikki Jones


“Big leaps require courage, and obstacles are opportunities and lessons are not losses. It all starts with that leap of faith and being a fire starter for yourself. Others can come alongside and add to that fire and amplify it, but as women we have got to take the reins and say, ‘You know what, I’m ready to really start out on a new journey.’”
Nikki Jones, chief people and DEI officer, Healthcare Businesswomen’s AssociationListen to the full episode.

Push yourself forward

Cindy Mesaros, head of marketing and communications, Foresite Capital

Permission granted by Cindy Mesaros


“I recommend to everybody, if you’re unsure of next steps, invest in a coach. Really think about what it is that’s going to make you excited and don’t be afraid to try something brand-new. Especially for women, we tend to think that we have to meet all 10 qualifications to apply for something and men will look at it and say, ‘Yeah, you got three of these. I’m in.’ We are our own worst enemy. We hold ourselves back and we have to stop that.”
Cindy Mesaros, head of marketing and communications, Foresite Capital, head of marketing and people, Foresite Labs. Listen to the full episode.

Keep your eyes ahead

Teresa Bitetti Takeda Oncology

Teresa Bitetti, president, global oncology business unit, Takeda

Permission granted by Teresa Bitetti


“It’s important to occasionally look in the rearview mirror, but don’t spend too much time looking there, because you’re going to drive off the road. It’s important to be self-analytical but don’t dwell on the past. It’s done, just move on, learn from it. And we have to learn to give ourselves a little pep talk.”
Teresa Bitetti, president, global oncology business unit, Takeda Pharmaceuticals. Listen to the full episode.

Lean into leadership

Barbara Kosacz, COO and general counsel, Kronos Bio

Permission granted by Barbara Kosacz


“The best piece of career advice I ever got was from my dad, who said, ‘Make yourself essential, whatever environment you’re in or whatever job you have.’ Now, having said that, sometimes you can become too essential. So, the other thing that I think is important, which I learned later in my career, is you can’t do your own job if you’re doing someone else’s job.”
Barbara Kosacz, chief operating officer and general counsel, Kronos Bio. Listen to the full episode.

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