S2BN Guelph: Women in Science: Breaking the Glass Ceiling

On February 25th, 2020, the Guelph Chapter honoured Women in STEM day with our second annual virtual Women in STEM event. Four panelists, Kyla Cochrane, Krista Coventry, Sarah Farr, and Barbora Hrapkova shared their diverse successes and obstacles as women within the scientific industry and how female scientists looking to transition out of academia can excel as women in STEM.

Perspectives from the Panelists

With an undergraduate degree in Life Sciences from Queen’s University, Barbora has always been very passionate about healthcare. After graduation, she began to explore how healthcare and business intersect through marketing roles in the medical device industry. Barbora then joined the MBA with co-op program at the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University. Barbora had two great co-ops during her MBA where she worked at BD and SickKids. During these, she found shadowing meetings was a great way to understand the ins and outs of how both BD and the hospital ran. Reflecting on her experience throughout her MBA, she found it allowed her to develop her business and networking skills with classmates and other organizations. She currently leverages her business skills and knowledge of the healthcare system in her role as a Product Manager in the Medical Device industry.

Kyla completed her PhD at the University of Guelph studying the fundamental aspects of Fusobacterium nucleatum and its role in human infection within the gut microbiome. Following her PhD studies, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the BC Cancer Agency. Iportantly, Kyla highlighted there is no "straight" or "right" path to being successful, she herself took time to explore the world between her career transitions and worked as a bartender. Currently, Kyla wears many hats throughout the day at Nubiyota, a pharmaceutical/biotechnology startup as "you make your own rules in start-ups...there are no rules to follow". She spoke about how exciting and fun being a part of something new can be, but also has its rigors as they work with regulatory affairs. Overall, Kyla underlined that things come full circle, "spend time working hard and do what you love. Mentors are invaluable resources that can support you along your journey".

Sarah joined Genesys Capital in 2020 as an Associate, bringing to the team eight years of experience at the bench in laboratory research and discovery. Before Genesys, she worked as a Business

Development Officer in the Industry Partnerships & Commercialization office at the Hospital for Sick Children, where she identified commercial opportunities, managed industry partnerships, and handled the Research Institute’s intellectual property. She also led company creation efforts around a lead spin-off opportunity, including engagement of investors, pharma partners, and KOLs. Sarah received her PhD from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto where she studied the effects of an anti-diabetic hormone on lipid and lipoprotein metabolism. After completing her PhD, Sarah quickly realized she no longer had a passion for lab work. To find different career options, she held many informational interviews with individuals within industry and asked herself a few self-reflective questions: "What do I enjoy doing?", "What am I good at?", "What lifestyle do I want?". As she was trying to find her right fit, she understood herself more and found she is a hands-on person and likes to make an impact within health-care. With the help of her interview-style networking meetings, she was able to find a "perfect fit" position that was not formally advertised.

Krista is the Director of Regulatory Affairs at a contract research organization. She specializes in strategic planning for health product commercialization and has broad expertise in the critical evaluation of evidence-based clinical research and she continues to expand her expert knowledge of acts, regulations, policies, and guidelines relating to various types of products. Krista has presented regulatory perspectives on various health sector themes and industry conferences, workshops, and seminars. She mentioned now is a great time to be within the nutraceutical industry and within regulatory affairs as there are many opportunities arising. Krista is currently completing her PhD in Human Health and Nutritional Sciences with a focus on clinical research pertaining to health benefits and consumer awareness of functional foods and natural health products.

Key Takeaways

  1. Diversity in industry is changing. It has had its challenges, but perseverance and having a voice make an impact. Don't be afraid to speak up.

  2. Develop your network. Continue to meet others throughout grad school and keep in touch. Many are happy to share their experiences within industry.

  3. Jump in. Trust in yourself and highlight your transferable skills from grad school and keep doing 'research' about prospective career paths.

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