Women Leaders in Pharma Share Insights in Latest DCAT Webinar

On October 28, the DCAT Alliance for Industry Women Committee held a complimentary webinar titled “Lessons in Leadership: An Exclusive Live Chat with Women Leaders in Pharma.”

During the hourlong program, three women at the forefront of today’s pharma industry leadership shared insightful and engaging perspective into their own experiences and lessons learned throughout their successful careers. The webinar was part of the Committee’s quarterly webinar series for DCAT Member Companies.

Elena Polansky, Global External Supply – Internal Medicine Portfolio Lead, Pfizer, Inc. and chairperson of the Committee, moderated the discussion with:

  • Priyanka Chigurupati, Executive Director, Granules Pharma Inc. & Granules USA
  • Lisa Martin, Senior Vice President for Global Procurement and Chief Procurement Officer at GlaxoSmithKline
  • Karin Shanahan, Senior Vice President of Global Biologics and Sterile Operations, Merck & Co.

The webinar kicked off with Ms. Polansky asking the panelists about the importance of professional risk-taking, a common theme in each of the panelists’ careers.

Ms. Martin described the factors she considered when proposing a significant structural change that resulted in a career change for her. “The most guidant thing about making that suggestion to the CFO, at the time, was about doing what was right for the business,” she said. Although the suggestion did not pan out the way Ms. Martin had hoped, it had positive long-term effects. “In retrospect, a risk that I took that felt traumatic at the time ended up being the best thing that I ever did professionally,” she said.

Reflecting on her decision to relocate to Italy early in her career to revitalize a plant site, Ms. Shanahan said she considered the opportunities as well as the risks. “I think about risk taking from the standpoint of looking forward,” she said. “I’ve never looked at each individual decision as a risk proposition. I’ve always looked at the opportunities that can be presented by it.”

The panelists also discussed the value of continuous learning and development, their advice for those early in their careers, assessing and developing a company’s culture, and more.

“Knowledge really is your ammunition, especially when you move industries, like I did,” Ms. Chigurupati said, who left an established parent company in India to take responsibility for a US subsidiary, which was a complete startup. “Understanding areas outside of your direct focus can truly aid your performance.” She noted the importance of understanding the various divisions within a company; however, she cautioned against chasing after too many things and trying to do it all on your own. “Sometimes, we try to do too much and then we falter. It’s helpful to learn through others doing the work instead of trying to do everything ourselves,” she said.

To conclude, Ms. Polansky asked the panelists to share one lesson that they hope attendees walk away with.

“I hope everybody walks away with an understanding that career development is not a formula,” Ms. Shanahan said. “You can’t get away from having to do the hard work of really understanding yourself and what it is that will satisfy you, professionally and personally.”

Ms. Chigurupati emphasized the importance of passion in developing a career. “If you’re really passionate about what you do, that’s the only thing that will take you further,” she said.

Ms. Martin advised participants to pay attention to the people, projects, and situations that contribute to, and detract, from their energy and notice what gives them purpose in their work. “Follow your heart,” she said.

The webinar follows the Committee’s Women Leaders in Pharma: An Interview Series, which shares insights from nine women leaders in pharma on a range of topical questions posed by the Committee. The interviews are now available as an electronic book and downloadable PDF at dcat.org/interviews. Additional complimentary webinars from the DCAT Alliance for Industry Women will be announced in 2022.

About the DCAT Alliance for Industry Women Committee

The committee is responsible for programs and special events that will create opportunities to educate, inform and inspire the women in the pharmaceutical industry. The committee activities include creating quarterly webinars, publications and posting topical social media conversations. The committee also develops and hosts the Women’s Networking Breakfast during DCAT Week.