Executive women offer career advice

Aug 01, 2001
By Pharmaceutical Executive Editors

When Kimberly Farrell, currently president of Unlimited Performance, a training consultation company based in Highland Park, IL, was asked by the National Society of Pharmaceutical Sales Trainers – now the Society of Pharmaceutical and Biotech Trainers — to put together a workshop for the society's 2000 meeting, she immediately designed a questionnaire for top female executives, networked to identify top talent, and wrote and called female executives to interview them. The answers to her queries were presented in the workshop. "The turnout and response were so positive," said Farrell, "I was asked by the board of SPBT to facilitate a similar workshop in 2001. I redesigned the workshop to include a live panel of three top industry vice presidents to speak to our membership about career strategies, challenges, successes and insights."

The redesigned workshop, dubbed the "SPBT Executive Women's Forum," was presented at the SPBT annual meeting this May. It featured a panel discussion moderated by Farrell and highlighted the success strategies of: Karen Daniels, vice president of marketing for Aranesp™ (darbepoetin alfa) at Thousand Oaks, CA-based Amgen Inc.; Marie Mickey, vice president, U.S. training and communications for Peapack, NJ-based Pharmacia Corp.; and Marianne McGowen Nugent, vice president of training and development for Innovex, Parsippany, NJ.

Many topics covered

The panel covered topics ranging from whether there is a glass ceiling for women in the pharmaceutical industry, to mentoring, to balancing work and family life. The panelists also offered advice for women who hope to develop their careers in the pharmaceutical industry.

"Listening is a key skill needed for women to evolve in our industry," remarked Mickey. "I have always been very open to feedback and listened closely to any input I was fortunate enough to receive. This has helped me attract mentors and learn about blind spots impacting my career so that I could continue to learn and grow."

Offered Daniels: "One of the biggest issues I see facing women is their ability to make themselves heard. Keep your cool at all times. Constantly work on improving your ability to communicate. Just when I think I have made progress, I find I need to continue to improve it to the next level. Constant self-development is key, especially in the area of effective communications."

In reference to balancing work and family, Nugent, who is a mother of two pre-school-age children, commented: "You don't have to chain yourself to a desk to have a satisfying career in this industry. As long as you make yourself accessible to your company and your team and do your job to the best of your ability, you don't have to sacrifice time with your family."

She added, "I was provided with a flexible opportunity to build my career, so that's also the way I manage."

Something for everyone

Farrell, who is also a member of Pharmaceutical Representative's editorial advisory board, reported a lot of positive feedback from women who attended the workshop. "Women in the audience said that they found it to be a positive example of how to succeed in our industry with knowledge, experience and talent," she said. "Women who addressed the panel via the microphone in the aisle said they found the insights the women shared to be real, practical and transferable."

Though the discussion was geared toward women, much of the advice offered by the panelists was not gender-specific. "There were a number of men who attended the panel discussion and told me afterward they felt the topic was pertinent to both genders," Farrell commented. "They said they, too, gained a tremendous amount of insight from these top executives, and would attend a forum like this in the future."

Due to the positive response from the audience members, Farrell is hoping to develop the panel into an annual event. She has also received queries from several companies looking to develop an entire conference around the topic. "It is clear the demand is high to develop specific leadership programs and career conferences for groups underrepresented in industry leadership. With sensitivity, knowledge, clear communications, career pathways and skill-building programs, committed employees in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries have tremendous potential to reach their career goals." PR

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