What is your current role and how did you get to be there?
I am the Chief Operating Officer at Living Cell Technologies, an Australasian biotech company focused on developing novel therapies for chronic diseases. I was an academic for almost 20 years before joining LCT.
I loved academic research, I still do. It was a brilliant way to cultivate my love of scientific discovery and training others. I really enjoyed all aspects of it (OK, maybe not the endless grant and manuscript rejections) and discovered that I had a unique skillset for problem-solving projects and taking them to completion. I also had amazing mentors and supervisors who really supported my career development.
The decision to leave academia was tough for me – I was so sure my path was a traditional academic career. Lack of funding, the pandemic and unfortunate circumstances left me looking elsewhere for a way to continue my passion for health and scientific discovery. I was completely unsure of what was out there and what I wanted, and terrified that I was letting down everyone who had supported me along the way. After reaching out to the trusty Franklin Women network, I spoke with multiple people in multiple different roles before finding a place for myself in industry (thanks to the Franklin Women mentoring program and the amazing connections I had made!) – and some peace that I had made the right decision
How does your work contribute to the field and/or overall health and wellbeing of the community?
As COO I manage strategic project development across the translational pipeline. From preclinical collaborations with partners in universities, to seeking regulatory approval for therapies and designing clinical trials. Communicating the science to people outside of the usual academic network has been an important aspect of my role, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed discovering how academics and industry can work together to achieve a common goal. This great divide that was once there is closing quite quickly, and I love being able to highlight what is possible for the health community when we all work together.
You recently started your own business, what motivated you and can you tell us more about it?
When I left academia, I was inundated with people (other academics) asking me how I did it. I couldn’t believe the response – it was almost relief from others that there was a way out, or that others had similar experiences and we weren’t all alone! I began talking to people on a regular basis and coaching them through their career journey and decisions to either stay or leave. This has been the backbone for my new side hustle BD stemm strategies.
I discovered that in STEM there is so much fear around keeping people in an academic career path that people often feel stuck. I found that I could offer a unique perspective on this, not only have I worked in both academia and industry, but also from the perspective of being a woman and mother in STEMM – a cause I advocate for with great passion. I’ve been working with a few people regularly now, some who are staying in academia and others who have left, and I enjoy every aspect of being on this journey with them. I love seeing others succeed and be happy. It was what I loved in academia as well – I always strived for students and staff to reach their full potential.
I’ve finally found that I can continue my passion for advocating for people and hope they benefit from my experience.
What are your loves outside of work?
I am a mum of 3 kids (cue tired emoji), so they pretty much occupy any time I have outside of work when I’m not building up my new company. But I have discovered that I am a crazy sports mum – not in a bad way, I promise, although my husband might disagree with that! I manage my daughters’ junior AFL and netball teams and I’m mad for it. I love seeing these young girls strive for excellence both on the field/court and off. Nothing makes me happier than to see them score a goal and be proud of themselves and the amazing effort they put in each week.
I’m also currently working my way through a podcast series Multiple hats with Angelique Greco – it’s so inspiring.
What is one piece of advice you could pass onto others following their own career in health and medical research sector?
IAfter everything I’ve been through, my advice is to be honest with yourself; life is too short and precious to spend it being miserable.
And a couple of pearls from one of my favourite people in the world – he knows who he is 😊 – ‘Fail fast’ and ‘It’s a journey’.