Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.
I am a strategy and management consultant for pharmaceutical/biotech firms via my firm Hughes BioPharma Advisers, founded in 2005. I’m passionate about innovating health so everyone can live stronger, healthier lives. My latest venture is revolutionizing healthcare via the mission-focused action tank, the Total Health Consortium (THC). THC includes people passionate about making health integral to our daily lives through deep alliances and collaborations between companies in healthcare. As an innovator and serial entrepreneur, I also founded award-winning digital health startup, AdapTac Games, which launched an app for ADHD. Over my career, I've helped 40% of the top 25 global pharma and leading biotech firms gain more revenue or reduce risk through strategy, marketing and regulatory consulting.
What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?
As an entrepreneur, you need to have uncommon qualities in abundance. You need to be innovative to stand out and think up new ideas. You need to be driven, to work hard and achieve more than others. You need an independent streak because entrepreneurs rely on themselves and tolerate long periods of isolation. They are confident of success despite others doubting and spreading negativity. Entrepreneurs can hold opposing ideas without mental distress- both immensely optimistic, but also realists, who see the challenges. Above all, entrepreneurs have true grit. They are knocked down, yet get back up smiling and ready for another fight. Entrepreneurs who succeed are persistent beyond reasonable expectation. Edison made 1,000 light bulb prototypes before one worked. As Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
What is one of your most memorable career accomplishments?
Founding a new division at a venture-backed firm is a career highlight. This new firm wanted to launch a new division for pharma and biotech conferences, but no one had experience. I began with a senior. Within a year, I was so successful, I was promoted to VP and given my own department where I hired and managed a staff of 5 people plus a shared marketing manager. I brought the revenue from $0 when I started to $4MM within 2 years (current dollar value). Our conferences became legendary and many are still ongoing.
What are some career challenges on your radar?
I’m seeking passionate people and firms to grow the Total Health Consortium, which addresses vital needs: to help firms survive the coming market inflection, to help people live healthier and longer, and overcome the political blockades in healthcare policy. Some firms may not see the value, but collaboration offers financial and human value. We just need a few people with the courage to step up. Besides Total Health, I am looking for a Board position where I can add value to a firm or non-profit that fits my values and interests.
What project have you worked on that you’re most proud of? Why?
I'm proud of my success managing a $10MM global clinical trial regulatory project. Due to a regulatory change, pharma firms in the US had to publicly post clinical trial information quickly. I identified 2 CROs and on-boarded them. As the project and alliance manager, I set up processes to ensure needed work was completed timely with high quality. I directly hired and managed 2 on-site consultants plus about 30 writers at the 2 CROs. I extensively negotiated and collaborated with senior managers throughout the pharma firm including clinical, legal, regulatory and others. When the work was completed, the client was delighted. I was enormously satisfied to help them be compliant, eliminating risk of penalties and fines.
We’d love to hear more about your career path. What led you to where you are today?
I started my career as a research scientist. I hold a PhD in Anatomy and Neurobiology attained at the Boston University School of Medicine. Research allowed me to investigate the mysteries of life, especially the mind. How can that not be fascinating? Later, I pivoted to the biopharma field, where compensation was stronger, working in a variety of roles including marketing, medical education, and regulatory/clinical/compliance. In 2005, I started my own strategy and management consulting firm, Hughes BioPharma Advisers. A few years ago, I earned an MBA at the Kelley School of Business, to increase my understanding of how to create and manage a business.
What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?
Entrepreneur is a good fit because it combines several things I enjoy and excel at: technology innovation, being a futurist, strategically plotting ways to reach a specific future or innovation or business goal, and learning new skills. As a visionary, I am excited by healthier futures. As an achiever, I am constantly pushing forward and implementing the innovative ideas I have.
Is work-life balance a problem for you? What is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
Work-life balance occurs over longer periods instead of a day-to-day basis. Life has different phases. Early in your career, focus on your career; power through accomplishments. Slow down before having children. Think about who and how you can enlist extra support during this time. When you have children, seek support, especially through age 12. As your children become older, less yet different support is needed. Your children still need your presence, but you spend less time physically watching them. As older teens leave home, you will become an empty-Nester. At any time, you may also need to support parents. My key advice for any of these situations is to get help within your family or outside your family. Don't put pressure on yourself to make every day perfect. It won't be.
What advice would you offer future leading ladies wishing to break into your industry?
It is hard to break into the biopharma industry because it is unique and heavily regulated. Learn a skill the industry needs such as pharmacy, bioscience, or computer science. Try an easier point of entry to start. Seek jobs at contract research organizations (CROs) or ad agencies or other types of vendors who offer services to the biopharma industry.
Tell us about your favorite Ellevate Network memory or success story. Why are you a member?
Ellevate is the most impactful group I have belonged to. It raises my profile but, also provides a way to give back through mentoring and advocating for women. I was thrilled to attend the White House Working Families Business Schools Convening 2015 through Ellevate. I also publish in Forbes and Huffington Post. Ellevate connected me with multiple women-owned firms I've partnered with or hired to help me build my company.