Lan Nguyen 0:03
Behind every effective leader is a network of great mentors and advisors. Building enduring and meaningful relationships with mentors is a common thread across our conversations at the intersection of women, leadership and healthcare.
In this special edition of Her Story, we’ve asked a few of our guests from this season to share their take on the significance of mentorship in their own career trajectories. So let’s jump right in.
First up is Nancy Ann DeParle, popularly known as one of the brightest political minds. Nancy Ann is the Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Consonance Capital Partners, and former assistant to President Barack Obama.
Nancy Ann DeParle 0:42
You might be surprised at the people who become your mentors, as I was when Donna Shalala called and said, “Come over, I want to talk to you about your career.” I didn’t even think she liked me, much less that she would help me achieve one of my career dreams, to run HCFA. I had someone like that in the law firm that I worked with. He wasn’t even someone I worked with closely, but who took the time to mentor me. I would just urge any young woman listening to this to really look for who can be a mentor–who can really be a sponsor for you, because those people are really just priceless.
Lan Nguyen 1:15
Dr. Julie Gerberding EVP and Chief Patient Officer of Merck, reflects on the early days of her academic career, which ultimately set her on a path to becoming the first female director of the Centers for Disease Control.
Dr. Julie Gerberding 1:29
There was a point in my academic career when you had to go in for kind of your midpoint evaluation to see if you were on track for tenure. And the person who was responsible for that review for me was someone who came from a very traditional academic background–very lab-based. And at the time, although I was on track–I had lots of publications, great grant funding, lots of fellows, and was really excited about the direction my career was taking–he really thought that successful people at the university needed to be in the lab. And so although I had spent time in the lab, that wasn’t my priority. And he suggested I find a new mentor, get back to the lab, buckle down, and restart my career. I was horrified and cried in his office, which was even more horrifying. And then I got mad. And then I got very busy. And I just set about the prospect of making sure that my academic credentials were impeccable. And ultimately, I did get tenure, but it was really a wake-up call that you know that emotion had to be channeled into something good because otherwise I was really going to fall apart.
Lan Nguyen 2:41
Recognized as one of Forbes 30 Under 30, Carolyn Witte is building the modern medical home for women’s health as Co-Founder and CEO of Tia.
Carolyn Witte 2:50
When you hit rock bottom, when you feel like you just feel stuck–the trough of sorrow, I think they call it, that founders experience, whatever it is–you hit it, you lose that deal, you get, you know, your hundredth rejection from an investor. Whatever it is, if you’re obsessed enough with the problem, I think you find a way to iterate out of it and continue to build something that matters to your customer and to uphold the vision that you want to create. Every challenge that I’ve quickly faced on a very long and treacherous journey that is becoming, you know, a healthcare founder building a company–having that emotional safety net, and a family that I think was comfortable with failure and making big bets was, I think, something that made me willing to try. The emotional roller coaster, I think this is the hardest part of it. Personally, I think there’s a balance of it that can be motivating, but you also need to manage that with this support.
Lan Nguyen 3:46
And wrapping us up is Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath, President and CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, with her broad lens of academia, government and industry.
Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath 3:59
We think about mentorship in such a transactional way sometimes. And I think it’s really a lot about finding people who remind you of yourself or who you aspire to be in some sort of way. And then, not just approaching them for the 30-minute coffee where you ask them about their lives, but really finding out how you can volunteer to help them on something because you will not get paid to do the job you want to do today. You have to earn the skill set to really be valuable enough to take that on, and often the way to earn that experience is to volunteer for it and learn from them as much as you can.
Lan Nguyen 4:38
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