In college, Nefertiti had no idea that she would be at the helm of a major pharmaceutical division—her career focus was pre-med, but that took several turns along the way—it changed to research, to overseeing clinical trials, and then to managing a business. This savvy leader is a people-person, whose goal is to make a difference in the lives of patients and their medical providers.
Here are some of her tips for pushing beyond limits.
Jump over the hurdles with support
I’ve never found a roadblock that couldn’t be overcome with tenacity. But it’s very difficult to be successful without mentorship. Make sure you have a network of leaders you trust who you can call on for advice. Know there’s always help out there when you need it.
Take the job, then figure it out
I hear women say, “Oh I’m not qualified, I can’t do that job.” Don’t take yourself out of the game before you even try! I tell that to women I counsel and my children too. A school counselor once advised one of my kids to consider taking fewer advanced classes as it may be too difficult. I encouraged them to try the classes—they could step down later if they needed to. How do you know what you’re capable of, if you don’t give it a shot?
Step outside of your comfort zone
I was a biology/chemistry major in school, so at first I thought I would go into pre-med. But during an internship I found that I didn’t like being in a hospital environment, although I loved working with patients and making an impact. So I went into research and then was fortunate enough to have a female mentor who guided me in a different direction—she thought my personality was suited for commercial leadership. She helped me make the change to a commercial role which allowed me to continue helping patients and working in healthcare, but in a way that worked best for me.
Make smart priorities
I’m incredibly organized. I leverage technology to keep myself disciplined time-wise. When my daughter was little, I coached her softball and lacrosse teams for many years. Being organized (and color coding our home calendar) allows me to go to important games and school events. I can’t make it to everything, but because I plan ahead, I can make it to a lot.
Focus on the end goal
It’s wonderful to be in an industry that is making a difference. Obviously as a business we need to drive results, but at the same time we can also provide value and benefits ultimately improving the lives of patients. On a personal level, it really hits home, because we all have friends and family affected by illness. When I was working in diabetes, my niece was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. She was only a year and a half old.
How do we get more young girls interested in STEM?
We need to make it exciting. In high school, my biology teacher made it fun. I wanted to learn more. Being a biology/chemistry major can be challenging, so when we see someone with talent, we need to encourage them.
What advice would you give to your younger self knowing what you know now?
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Life isn’t easy: you have to balance your personal and professional life. Little things may take you off-track, but they aren’t important. Sometimes they may seem big, but they really aren’t.
What’s your favorite book/movie?
I like historical fiction novels, especially Philippa Gregory’s work. I recommend both The Other Boleyn Girl and The Constant Princess.
What are your hobbies?
I have a big love of lacrosse from having played it myself—now I enjoy watching my daughter play as well as watching it on TV. I also play tennis on the weekends with friends. While playing, I think for a moment we all think we’re Serena Williams—and we’re not!