Can you tell us about your background?
I have a pre-med, biology and psychology background. I started out at Raychem, but the majority of my experience is in the biopharma sector. I was fortunate to kick-start my career in ’92 at Genentech, during the early days, when it was considered a ‘boutique biotech’ – where I had the opportunity to wear many hats. I started out in sales and marketing (which morphed into “healthcare affairs” and “post-marketing” within commercial), enabling me to apply my biology and psychology background and blend it with my deep desire to help people. I wound up working closely with uninsured and underinsured individuals, helping patients obtain coverage and reimbursement. For me, it was all about supporting the patients and families that needed our medication. At that time, we needed to help families convince physicians and insurers they should cover a particular drug by supplying them with medical information and appeals letters for their insurance companies. This work required me to partner closely with medical affairs, which led to me being recruited to medical affairs (their post-marketing division) where I focused on drug safety and medical information. Things really took off from there, stemming from several major positive studies and product approvals. My responsibilities quickly grew (hiring temps, vendors, etc.) and I started moving up in the ladder, taking on more operational/leadership/management roles, building and scaling to large departments. It all sort of grew from a medical information perspective into a larger medical communications, education, access and compliance organization.
Then there was the Roche merger, where I thankfully landed on the newly combined medical leadership team. (Actually, I was the only ‘legacy’ Genentech member on it.) Several years and leaders later, we underwent a major transformation, where we redesigned the US organization, and I designed myself out of my role. I then spent 18 months or so spearheading pull through of local medical affairs organizational transformation redesign efforts, before moving to the global Roche Clinical Operations organization, leading Patient Recruitment and Retention efforts, with a focus on supporting diverse and inclusive research. During the latter years, I was also fortunate enough to be on several advisory committees and boards – but the closest to my heart was being on the board for the Patient Foundation, a separate non-profit entity, ensuring access to our medicines. That role really brought things full circle for me from my first role working the reimbursement hotline.
What’s interesting is I never imagined being at a company for 28 years, but by the time I left if felt like I had worked for many different companies since my roles touched on so many different functions and the organization changed shape many times. I think ultimately for me it was about following where the business and patient needs were and finding the intersection with my passions. In reflection, there was the technical piece that I loved, but there was also the leadership and organizational change pieces that brought me a lot of satisfaction. Let’s just say my diverse experience across clinical development, medical affairs and commercial has set me up well for my next chapter.
Why did you decide to join Hands On as a facilitator?
When it came time for me to think about what’s next after spending some time caregiving, I knew whatever I did needed to be flexible yet fulfilling. I got in touch with all the things I really enjoyed doing such as developing people, including coaching, mentoring, educating and training leaders. Additionally, the idea of learning from all the different innovative companies Hands On is involved with was really appealing.
Through my search process, what I found is that a facilitator role really plays to my skills. At Hands On, I’m leading technical trainings, where I have the opportunity to share my deep Life Sciences industry knowledge leveraging expertise and personal stories, focused on a wide variety of topics. I’m also leading career development trainings such as coaching, managing and mentoring as well as workshops focused on time management and becoming a leader. Kathryn Matz, Senior Partner at Hands On approached me about a facilitator role after we worked together at Genentech – and the rest is history!
What’s unique about Hands On and what qualities personally drew you in?
I really enjoy working with a boutique firm and the ability to closely collaborate with Kathryn, who has a deep sense of integrity and a vested interest in the quality and design of the programs. She also has years of experience not just in the learning and development space but also a deep understanding of the Life Sciences industry. Additionally, she’s extremely present with the facilitators and is very hands on (no pun intended) with the content.
I think what’s particularly great about the programs at Hands On is that they are all very relevant and applicable – that is, they’re kind of spot on with what people need to know to do their jobs well. Plus, the company has done a great job with business development – not just selecting the big ones to work with but advising and training early-stage organizations too. I particularly enjoy working with early-stage companies, with all of their brilliant people that want to break out of their silos and obtain the big picture (not just focus on their specific area of business) as they move to the later stages of drug development. I find it very gratifying to tap into my expertise and deliver educational content that is transformative. Furthermore, Hands On has a well curated staff of facilitators that are experts in their field – specifically, I think the expertise of their leadership in the learning space and in healthcare is really impressive.
Can you share more about what specifically you facilitate at Hands On and what you find most rewarding?
I facilitate Life Sciences content at Hands On, leading sessions for both technical and leadership trainings. People from different companies can sign up and join remotely for classes. Some of the topics I focus on include Drug Discovery 101, clinical operations, ramping up to Phase I and Phase II, preparing for an IND or for commercialization, patient centricity and drug safety. On the management or leadership side, I focus on strategic planning, becoming a leader, coaching, mentoring and time management. What’s great is the content is all ready to go. What I find most rewarding is if I’m talking about a section that may be perceived as a little dry, providing real-world examples stemming from my experience, which spark great discussions. Specifically, I enjoy bringing to life the content in the slides through sharing of my own experience.
What brings me the greatest joy are those aha moments and the questions I receive, stemming from my stories. Additionally, what I especially appreciate about the Hands On experience is you’re not just doing an online module that’s been recorded, rather it’s very interactive, and with each group of different learners the experience becomes dynamic. I’ve also really been enjoying providing input/content for the creation of new modules. For example, we are about to launch one on patient centricity, which is an area I’m very passionate about it. It was great to be able to bring my fresh perspective to this hot area and collaborate on the development of this new content. Again, I’m impressed that Hands On doesn’t keep their content stale – they are willing to create or pivot as the learning needs of the industry changes.
What’s been your greatest joy so far working with Hands On?
For me it’s been the aha moments from the learning community. I love the interactive nature, and when I see them turn on and get engaged in the pure learning. Like when I put participants into break out groups and they come back and do their read outs and I’m able to observe the learning that people get from each other after just meeting. Or when I hear someone say – oh I get it, or that’s a key takeaway – it feels really good. Not only do I feel like I had something of value to contribute, but it’s from the process of people being in the virtual room together and learning from each other stemming from their stories and examples shared where I’m really touched by the work. That’s my greatest joy – seeing all of that playout.
What’s your favorite learning program from Hands On? Why?
I’d say my current favorite is Drug Development 101. The reason why is because often the people that join are very siloed in what they do. For example, some people might be exclusively focused in their roles on early-stage research, but Drug Development 101 provides a big picture of the entire process – often prompting a light bulb to go off in people. I’ve heard many say now I understand why I need to do this (e.g., now I understand five years from now how this toxicity data is going to be used for filing an IND or for designing a Phase II study). So, no matter who you are, you fit in there somehow. Furthermore, you often have people from all walks of life joining this program, like a finance manager or a HR manager as they just want to understand the big picture. What’s really cool is when these people from different companies in all different roles begin to connect with each other and see how they fit together.
How do you leverage your great background and expertise when you’re facilitating Hands On programs?
As previously noted, I really like to share specific examples with participants to ignite learning. Also, knowing what to play up is key. Because stemming from my background, I can say, trust me, if you can get this specific thing down, its half the battle. Or, here are three things to focus on. With that said, the content is all there, I can just deliver it, but for me it’s about putting my personal spin on it by pointing to what to sweat and not to sweat, sharing some pearls stemming from my experience as well as delivering compelling key takeaways at the end. I guess there’s something deeply pleasing about just knowing what to emphasize from the content, or what’s the most important, because I lived it. That’s not to say that I still don’t have a lot to learn – I certainly do. I’m a strong believer in lifelong learning, and I learn something myself from each program we run.