As part of our series spotlighting inspiring women in STEM fields, we talked with Andrea Douglas, CSL's Vice President for Research and Development Strategy and External Affairs.
What is your role at CSL?
I lead our global R&D strategy and portfolio investment prioritization and also external affairs, which includes strategic partnerships with the Australian medical research and biotech communities, and government affairs in Australia.
How did you come to work in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)?
I was always really interested in sciences at school – I am not at all creative! My interests led me to a science degree, followed by a Ph.D. -- and the rest is history! I still find science, particularly biology, fascinating.
What was the biggest career challenge for you and how did you overcome it?
Moving out of the lab and into industry was a real challenge. After eight years of study and a four-year postdoctoral, it felt like I might have wasted all that time, and it didn’t help that the career scientists were telling me that my IQ would reduce by 40 points! Fortunately I realized I had an EQ strength. Learning from, understanding and also influencing key people became an effective way for me to grow from the core science into translation of science.
What do you enjoy most about working in STEM?
The factual basis of the discipline and the constant discovery.
What are your career tips for women starting out in STEM?
Follow your interests, because most of the time they are also your strengths.
Find a style that’s unique to you. Look for role models, but then identify what works for you and your personality, and make it your own.
Find your own balance: Make sure that you know what’s important to you and that you get to spend the time on the things you’re passionate about.
Why is it important for women to pursue careers in STEM?
We need to encourage all youngsters to help them understand and pursue STEM, and help them realize how fundamental a STEM education is to everything around us in life – from work to the home. Just like any industry, we need a diversity of skills and opinions.
What opportunities has your training opened up for you?
Having a STEM basis to my education has created so many options for me – I think it’s a lot easier to learn about industry and develop new complementary capabilities than it is to understand the underling technical complexity of STEM. Employers really value the rigor that comes with scientific thinking.
What career achievement are you most proud of?
I joined CSL when we were in the very early stages of thinking about whether it was possible to take our Australian-based influenza vaccine to global markets. Within six months we’d received approval from the Board to invest in a more than $100 million in clinical development and a facility expansion program and I was leading a cross-functional team to make it happen. I was very proud when we achieved registration in the U.S., thanks to the partnership of colleagues around the world.
How does your role impact patients and the overall CSL business?
For all 20,000 CSL employees around the world, each of us is patient focused. For me, developing an R&D strategy and prioritizing our portfolio to ensure we have the financial and human resources to develop new products for patients and to enhance their quality of life is my priority for our patients. Our robust and diverse pipeline also ensures sustainable growth for CSL well into the future.
When not at work – what do you enjoy? Why?
I enjoy packing as much as I can into life – it may be walking by the beach, watching my son play cricket on a Friday night, helping him with his math and science homework (that’s a joke), reading a novel or spending time with my dearest friends and family – they are all important to me.