Women Leaders in Pharma: An Interview Series (Part 2: 2021-2022)

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PART 2: 2021–2022

Presented by The DCAT Alliance for Industry Women Committee

About ..................................................................................................................................................................................................... 3 Fran Zipp, November 2021 .............................................................................................................................................................. 4 Caitlin Wege, December 2021 ........................................................................................................................................................6 Dawn Von Rohr, January 2022 .......................................................................................................................................................9 Sally Macaluso, February 2022 .................................................................................................................................................... 12 Courtney E. Stanton, March 2022 .............................................................................................................................................. 15 Marion Kuhn, June 2022 ............................................................................................................................................................... 18 Dr. Maha Mehanna, August 2022 ................................................................................................................................................22 Tarita Qveflander, October 2022 ................................................................................................................................................25 Lillie Talon, November 2022 ........................................................................................................................................................ 27 Lihong Yu, December 2022 .......................................................................................................................................................... 30 Table of Contents Lachman Consultant Services, Inc. Contract Pharmaceuticals Limited and Glasshouse Pharmaceuticals Curia Johnson & Johnson Bioseutica BASF Pharma Solutions XGen Pharmaceuticals DJB, Inc. Sobi Catalent Pharma Solutions PHT International Inc. 2


DCAT Colleagues:

As you are aware, DCAT’s Alliance for Industry Women Committee aims to educate, inspire, and empower women in the pharmaceutical industry. That’s why we are so pleased to provide the second part of our important project “Women Leaders in Pharma: An Interview Series.”

During 2022, industry leaders have been kind enough to share their insights on a range of topical questions posed by our committee. And, as we did last year, we have gathered all those important conversations into another electronic book and PDF for our DCAT Member Company Community.

We certainly hope that you enjoy reading Part 2 of these interviews and are inspired by these leaders. If you missed Part 1, you can find it here.

Thank you.


Frances (Fran) Zipp is President & CEO of Lachman Consultant Services, Inc. As an expert in compliance enhancement, she develops program solutions to meet GXP compliance requirements and delivers strategic guidance and direction toward implementation of effective solutions to client needs. Fran has extensive experience in the pharmaceutical, biologic, and biotechnology industries from R&D through post-market approval. She assists and counsels Senior-level management in areas of Corporate Governance, Corporate Integrity Agreement Compliance, Consent Decree Negotiations and Resolutions, Application Integrity Policy resolution, and Due Diligence evaluations (facilities; products; technologies).

Q: What do you wish that you knew early in your career that would have been helpful?

Earlier in my career I sometimes focused on the goal—the next career opportunity, next promotion, or opportunity, and I may have missed the experience of the role I actually held. I became bored easily and it was not until at least 15 years into my career that it dawned on me that if I stayed in the same role, I still could achieve success, learn, and feel fulfilled.

The focus on upward mobility, especially for a woman in a field which was just starting to experience gender diversity, was intense.

Q: How do you approach networking –internally and externally – and how do you maintain the connections that you’ve made?

I actively reach out to people, on a personal level. I stay in touch, remember key aspects of my colleagues’ lives, and

am genuinely interested. This is not about


how many LinkedIn connections I have, or other social media forums (I only use LinkedIn). I call people, text them, seek to meet them at industry events. We all spend so much time with our work colleagues, they become our extended friends, and I treat them as such. Throughout my career as an entrepreneur, including launching a women’s entrepreneurship program at a local community college.

Q: How do women lead differently?

I do not think women lead differently. Diversity programs also include inclusion. Women bring their experience, no different than any other gender identified person. Focusing on the person, not the gender, defines the leadership style.

Q: What do you see as the future of women in the Pharma Industry?

Our industry has embraced women engineers, scientists, pharmacists, and leaders. There are global heads of supply chain, quality,

R&D, etc., organizations that are now led by women. To continue this in the future, we all need to encourage STEM with those currently in high school and focus on the balance and opportunity the industry offers. I see women as significant contributors to the industry now and in the future.

Q: What is one piece of advice that you would give to women in the Pharma Industry that will help them become better leaders?

Follow the 80/20 rule – if you have 80% of the skills, go for it. If you are the person who may not be the most qualified, be the person who wants the role the most. Believe in yourself and be empathetic. Support your colleagues, and be “YOU” – don’t try to fit any mold. l


Caitlin Wege is Board Chair of Contract Pharmaceuticals Limited and its sister subsidiary, Glasshouse Pharmaceuticals. She is also a partner at MooDoos Investments, a private family-owned investment fund that invests in early-stage companies throughout the US and Canada. Caitlin is an experienced investor and, through her fund, invests in several industries, including life sciences, manufacturing, and education technology. In addition to CPL and Glasshouse, she serves on the board of several portfolio companies.

Q: How do women lead differently?

Women have historically been outsiders in a male-dominated workforce. I’ve observed through my own experience that leadership style and how women show up in the workplace has a lot to do with women needing to adapt to the environment around them to achieve success. Typically, we do not have access to the same resources as our male counterparts and we have to work harder to build relationships; therefore, women need to be resourceful and creative to get things done. Throughout my career I’ve had to ask for a lot of help, find workarounds, and build consensuses, resulting in a more collaborative and solution-oriented leader. And I’ve seen this time and again with my female counterparts. I’ve also noticed that women tend to over-prepare. I know that I’m constantly focusing on preparation because women are still scrutinized more than men. I still feel the need to prove myself in certain situations.


Q: What surprised you most about your career?

I’ve been involved in a variety of industries in my career. As the boundaries of technology and life sciences continue to blur, I’ve found that it’s helpful to cross-pollinate best practices from other industries to see how they can be applied and leveraged to create value. What has surprised me is that I’ve unintentionally created a toolbox and network to help me think creatively about the company’s strategic future. I used to believe that you had to be a master in one space to succeed, but I see more and more that outside and diverse perspectives are the keys to staying competitive.

Q: What have been your career learnings during COVID? What are you going to carry forward in the “new normal”/post COVID?

More than 1.4 million moms left the workforce over the last year—and that doesn’t include moms who were laid off. Parents in general suffered, but moms had a tough year. With daycares shuttered and families cut off from each other, parents had to do it all—teach,

cook, entertain, clean, and work full-time. Even today, domestic responsibilities are still inequitable, and women took the brunt. But the absence of accessible childcare and schooling reminded me how precious caretakers and our community are. It showed me that we need to ask for more help as parents and not feel guilty. And that kids need more time with their peers and their expanded community to thrive. This appreciation has inspired me to create more flexibility in my day, to focus on managing my energy, and to preserve energy for things that bring me joy outside of work. Pre-COVID, so much of my fulfillment was dependent on work; I’ve learned to find fulfillment outside of work as well. It has improved how I show up as a leader and reignited a passion for my work.

Q: If applicable, how did you become a mentor? What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a mentor?

I have participated in formal mentorships programs through professional organizations and volunteer programs. But you don’t need to


go through professional organizations or even have a “formal” mentor relationship to benefit as mentor or mentee. If you are interested in mentoring, consider how much time you have to give before agreeing to mentor, and when you are working with a mentee, it’s easy to want to solve all of their problems for them, but the best mentors share relevant experiences and guide by example.

Q: What is the one piece of advice that you would give to women in the Pharma Industry that will help them become better leaders? Pleasant experiences make life delightful, but challenging experiences lead to growth. My career has been all about pushing the

boundaries of my comfort zone. I’ve had no choice but to take on responsibilities and roles that I didn’t at first feel qualified for, but with each new opportunity, I leaned in, and even though I met many challenges, each time, I realized that this is where the magic and the growth happens. Resiliency is critical for a woman in this industry, and I believe you can only gain that by pushing your limits and forging new paths when necessary. My advice is to take the leap into a new position and seize opportunities when they are available. l


Dawn Von Rohr was named Curia’s Senior Vice President of Strategy in March 2017. She leads Curia’s strategic planning process, developing and influencing Curia’s strategy, and overseeing the execution of corporate strategic initiatives. Dawn joined Curia, formerly AMRI, in 2016 as Senior Vice President, Head of API and later served as Senior Vice President, API Operations. Prior to Curia, she was Vice President and General Manager of the global API business unit at Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals. She has held senior roles in business development and marketing as well as research and development.

Dawn holds a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Vanderbilt University and an MBA from Washington University. She served as an extended board member of DCAT from 2013-2015.

Q: What is the one piece of advice that you would give to women in the Pharma Industry that will help them become better leaders?

Take the challenge – step outside the “been there, done that” comfort zone. Through my career, I’ve had the opportunity to experience research and development roles, full commercialization roles, direct line P&L ownership, support function leadership. Also, I had the opportunity to actively manage outside my geographic area and manage global teams. I wasn’t the expert when I started the role. I made mistakes. I learned and because I took the challenge, I developed as a stronger, well-rounded leader. Challenging yourself will definitely expose you to new perspectives and enhance your ability to effectively communicate across a broad spectrum of individuals.

Q: What risks have you taken in your career that have paid off?

My biggest career risk was disrupting the norm of operations and changing the strategy to transform a business.


We converted a global business from a cost leader strategy to a more value-add strategy and hence, made the business much more sustainable in the future with solid investments at our operational sites. Going against the grain is never easy, particularly when the business has been successful in the past. I had many challenges thrown at me when transitioning a business. I clearly remember a leader at the time not wanting to change and hence, was not engaged. The transition would have been significantly easier had this leader joined forces and embraced a transition. It forced me to collaborate across a wider network to gain more credibility in the transition. I found that using fact-based knowledge, influencing others, and having the personal confidence to try something new made all the difference.

Q: What do you wish that you knew early in your career that would have been helpful?

A successful, satisfying career can happen while being a fantastic mom. I believe mothers with demanding careers all go through a similar emotion of wondering if they can balance it all. I recall my years of child daycare and

questioning if all that time away from my children was unhealthy. A fantastic friend and doctor told me, “It is quality of the time together, not quantity.” And so I live that way, being in the moment you are and appreciating the time you do have together. Also, I have surprisingly found colleagues and managers are incredibly supportive of balancing life and work. Just recently, my boss told me not to miss my daughter’s school event and leave the Board meeting early. No worries. No backlash for doing so. There’s an entire network of colleagues, many successful mothers and fathers, who can share their experiences and support. Just ask.

Q: How have opportunities for women in the Pharma Industry changed over time?

Admittedly, the industry has more room for growth, but opportunities for women over the last 20+ years of my career have expanded significantly. Specifically, I have seen the transition that women’s voices are more heard, from local day-to-day cross-functional meetings to Board meetings. The Pharma Industry has a more diverse employee base and has embraced the value of listening and gathering diverse


opinions to come to better decisions. That being said, the industry has a long way to go, with a recent article reporting fewer women in positions higher on the corporate ladder1: an analysis showing only 8% of CEOs from the S&P Biotechnology Select Industry Index as well as 14 publicly traded pharmaceutical companies were female. I do believe that many companies realize the potential to improve performance and drive innovation with more diversity. The challenge is getting there at a faster pace.

Q: What role has mentoring played in your career, either as a mentor, mentee, or both?

Informal and formal mentoring has been a critical factor in the success of my career.

I am very grateful to the mentors that gave their time and constructive criticism in guiding me and expanding my career. I would not underestimate the importance of informal mentors. Meaning, one does not need to wait for a formal company

program to find a mentor. I have found that taking the initiative on my own has been absolutely invaluable. I took the liberty of talking to my colleagues and asking my management their opinions on topics directly related to help become a stronger leader in the company and in the industry. More rewarding to me has been those opportunities that I could mentor others. When I was General Manager of a business, I was asked to mentor a Sales leader who aspired to run a business. Great mentoring is an interchange of ideas that truly benefit both individuals. In this situation, we had fantastic discussions from balancing the needs of clients to managing the costs within a P&L statement. I am happy to say my mentee did go on to successfully run a multimillion-dollar business later in his career.

Mentoring has been one of the most satisfying parts of my career: the ability to coach and help others develop and find rewarding experiences within their professional career. l

Source1: Business Insider “Men fill more than 9 in 10 biopharma CEO positions, an inequity that costs women more than $500M in pay each year” Shelby Livingston and Andrew Dune, June 30, 2021.

Sally Macaluso is the Vice-President and Chief Procurement Officer of Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices and Business Services Procurement.

In this role, Sally is responsible for the Procurement business engagement activities for the Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices sector. Sally is also responsible for managing $8 billion of global Enterprise-wide spending in the Business Services categories which include Travel, Fleet, and Meetings; HR Services; Corporate Services; and IT. Sally is a member of the Johnson & Johnson Procurement Leadership Team.

Sally is very passionate about women’s leadership. She was the Executive Sponsor of the Procurement Women’s Leadership Initiative for five years. She also currently serves as the Executive Sponsor for the Professional Pillar of the Johnson & Johnson Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Manufacturing, & Design (WiSTEM2D) Program.

Sally has a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Bucknell University and a Master’s degree in Chemistry from Lehigh University. Sally lives in Easton, Pennsylvania with her husband and two daughters.

Q: What risks have you taken in your career that have paid off?

When I first graduated from college with a degree in Chemistry, I worked in Medicinal Chemistry for a few years. I felt isolated in the laboratory and had a strong desire to learn more about the company and grow as a leader. I investigated numerous career options and was drawn to Procurement where I could leverage my scientific education while, at the same time, gaining experience in Supply Chain. My managers, mentors, and peers all advised me about the risks of leaving my R&D role and taking a position in Supply Chain because I would be leaving my technical career path, making it difficult to come back. I ultimately took the biggest risk of my career and left Medicinal Chemistry to start a career in


Procurement. The change was refreshing, and I thrived in an environment where I could learn every day about the pharmaceutical industry and contribute to the company’s ability to get lifesaving products to our patients around the world. Being in Procurement allowed me to strengthen muscles that I never knew I had and grow in ways I never could have imagined. My advice is to follow your heart and don’t be afraid to take risks in your career because they can really pay off.

Q: What impact do you think COVID will have on women in the workplace and how can we mitigate this impact?

Despite the fact that women now outnumber men in earning Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, there is still a wide gap between men and women in leadership positions in the workforce, which suggests that women continue to face barriers in their advancement. There has been some progress made in the last decade; however, the COVID pandemic is expected to have a disproportionate impact on women because of the role that they continue to play as

primary caretakers in society. As a result of the pandemic, many women are taking positions with less responsibility and are also leaving the workforce. Therefore, the pandemic threatens to set women back in the progress that has been made in increasing their representation and leadership positions in the workforce. I think that companies will need to focus on how to create the flexibility needed to mitigate this impact on females in the workforce. Many companies like Johnson & Johnson are creating more flexible programs in which employees can elect to work from home a certain number of days per week. Companies will also need to leverage “Returnship” programs when women who leave the workforce are ready to return to their careers. For example, I am proud of a program that I sponsor at Johnson & Johnson called Re-Ignite that allows us to bring back women (and men) who have taken breaks in their careers into our workforce and provides them with the support they need throughout the transition. We have now hired over 100 Returners to Johnson & Johnson through the Re-Ignite Program and know that the program will only increase in importance in the current COVID environment.


Q: What role has networking played in your career advancement?

Networking both internally and externally has probably been the single most important tool that I have leveraged to develop my career. Going back as early as my college days, it was my Organic Chemistry professor who introduced me to his graduate school colleague which ultimately resulted in my first job in the pharmaceutical industry. Then, when I was considering a career change from Medicinal Chemistry to Supply Chain, I networked across the company to learn about various career opportunities. It was through that networking that I met Bob Kanuga (a past DCAT President by the way!) who gave me my first role in Procurement very early in my career. Finally, I also leveraged networking when I made the career change to come to Johnson & Johnson. I had met Anu Hans through DCAT who not only inspired me to make a career change but also had an extraordinary impact on my career by becoming one of my mentors. The amazing leaders that I have met through networking have had an indelible impact on my career. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to create both an internal and external network for yourself no matter where you are in your career.

Q: What advice would you give to women in the Pharma Industry that will help them become better leaders?

One piece of advice that I would give to all women is to have confidence in themselves and be open to any opportunities that come your way no matter how outside of your comfort zone they are. Most of you are probably aware of the statistic which shows that women are much less likely than men to apply for positions when they are not 100% qualified. Have confidence in yourself as a leader and do not be afraid to take risks.

When I reflect on my career, the positions that I grew the most in were those that were the most intimidating to me. Secondly, invest in building an internal and external network that will be there to support and guide you when you need it! Finally (and I saved the most important one for last), be a supporter and enabler to other women. One of the biggest responsibilities and privileges we have as women leaders is to help and enable the women around us. I have spent my career trying to give to other women what so many women have given to me… friendship, mentorship, sponsorship, advice, opportunities, and more! l


Courtney E. Stanton serves as the CEO, Americas and Global Head of Strategy and Sales for Bioseutica, a Netherlandsbased biotechnology company focused on developing advanced ingredients for the food, feed, and medical industries. Prior to Bioseutica, she founded and served as President of Smithfield BioScience and as the Vice President of Bioproducts for Smithfield Foods, Inc., a $17-billion global food company founded and headquartered in Smithfield, Virginia.

Prior to joining Bioseutica, Stanton held leadership positions at several large companies in the food industry, including Tate & Lyle, Fonterra U.S.A., and Tyson Foods. Throughout her career, Courtney has served in a variety of business development roles and was responsible for numerous successful ventures into new international markets.

In addition to DCAT, Courtney is a member of TERMIS and the Advanced Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI).

She serves as an Advisor for the Animal Agtech Innovation Summit and the Georgia Research Alliance and Venture Fund. Passionate about advancing women’s health, she is a Board Member of the YWCA of Hampton Roads and on the Executive Leadership Team of the American Heart Association, Virginia. She earned her B.A. in International Relations and Economics from Wellesley College and her MBA from the Harvard Business School.

Q: What surprised you most about your career?

When I attended Harvard, I cultivated a growth mindset. I never imagined what an incredible impact it would have on my career and the businesses I have led. When I joined Smithfield Foods, I was tasked with leading one of their agricultural businesses. I successfully transformed what was originally an overlooked value stream into a new multimillion-dollar business. With a growth mindset, I knew anything was possible – with the right team and the right resources. We stumbled occasionally – but

Courtney E. Stanton
CEO, Americas and Global Head of Strategy and Sales for Bioseutica

who doesn’t when they are helping transform an industry and a way of bringing medical solutions to market. In four years, we have grown from a basic porcine raw material supplier to a leading pharmaceutical, medical device and regenerative medicine business. It’s humbling to know that having the right mindset enabled me to have such a tremendous impact not only on one organization, but on an industry.

Q: How do women lead differently?

I’m a strong believer of a diverse workplace where gender and cultural differences are the norm. This often begins with a diverse leadership team. Including diverse perspectives on my team has led to the development of radically new ideas on how to grow a business by 10x over 4 years.

Q: What industry organizations are you involved with and how has this enhanced your leadership skills and career development?

In addition to DCAT, I am actively involved in Regenerative Medicine organizations such as TERMIS, the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine

and the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI). I also serve as an Advisor for the Animal Agtech Innovation Summit and the Georgia Research Alliance and Venture Fund. Combined, these organizations provide me with a well-rounded perspective on science and technology trends and innovations across agriculture, pharmaceutical and general human health and wellness. I have had the great fortune of working with scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, investors and Fortune 100 companies to address and solve critical issues in health. This has made me a more knowledgeable and more effective leader in my career as I seek to address not only real-time health challenges through Smithfield BioScience, but also focus on the next generation of solutions in areas like tissue regeneration and organ transplantation. Learning from a multi-disciplinary group of minds has enabled me to be an industry leader, carving a new path, versus being a follower.


Q: What have been your career learnings during COVID? What are you going to carry forward in the “new normal”/post COVID?

Smithfield has been no different from other organizations in experiencing adversity during the pandemic. However, the BioScience business continued to expand and grow in 2020 and 2021 as we remained flexible to labor, supply chain, and in-person business challenges. I attribute this success and growth to the strength of my team, as we take an autonomous and decentralized approach to management. This decentralization of decision-making was especially important as the team was spread out across the country, and our customers were (and continue to be) spread out across the world. Empowering the team to better service our customers is a strategy we plan to carry forward.

Q: What is the one piece of advice that you would give to women in the Pharma Industry that will help them become better leaders?

My career path was untraditional. I never would have imagined being where I am in my career today. Through hard work, I developed the skills and knowledge base to be successful. However, what enabled me to turn hard work into a successful career was having a growth mindset. It forced me to look at challenges differently. Therefore, the advice I would give anyone on becoming a better leader is to always have a growth mindset. This enables you to look at any business, team or challenge and find creative solutions. A growth mindset reminds you of the importance of empowering your team, challenging them to learn from mistakes, persevering in the face of adversity and constantly re-imagining ways to drive your business forward. l


Marion Kuhn is the Director of Sales Management, North America at BASF Pharma Solutions and a member of the Pharma Solutions Global Business Unit Leadership Team. In this role, Marion is responsible for the North American Pharma business including all sales and technical services activities. Her team leverages broad pharmaceutical formulations expertise and digital solutions to support customers in developing efficient, sustainable, cost-effective, and reliable formulations for a wide range of applications.

From 2016–2018, Marion led the Global Marketing & Product Management for BASF Nutrition & Health’s Aroma Ingredients business, based in Germany. Prior to that, she held positions with increasing responsibility in BASF’s Life Sciences Segment in Marketing, Product Management, and Strategy in Europe and Asia. Marion is a certified professional coach and graduated from the Vienna University

of Economics and Business with a MSc in International Management, and NEOMA Business School in France, with a Master’s in Business Administration.

Q: What surprised you most about your career?

As my career progressed, so did the technical component of my roles. I had always liked science, but initially this intimidated me. Turns out, I loved the opportunity to learn, bring in my commercial and sometimes, more outof-the-box background, and to integrate both perspectives into the bigger picture. I am surprised how much I underestimated the value of being able to live in both worlds and develop an understanding of both the technical and commercial sides to the benefit of customers. I am grateful I stepped outside of my comfort zone and asked for help when I needed it. Today, I am convinced that a learning mindset, humility, and the eagerness to


continuously integrate outside and diverse perspectives are fundamental to business growth and to staying competitive.

Q: How do you approach networking—internally and externally—and how do you maintain the connections that you’ve made?

Having been with BASF for more than 10 years, I have organically built a strong network across business units and hierarchies. These relationships often result from shared challenges, interests, and appreciation for each other and have helped me tremendously to broaden my perspective, grow as a leader, and get things done. Outside the company, I stay in touch with people in our industry, with alumni of my academic programs and a network of coaches of which I am a member. This has not only helped me to grow and gain perspective, but also to know there is someone to cheer me on and give me the encouragement we all sometimes need and that I get to do the same and give back! In addition, I serve as a probono coach and mentor, which allows me to interact with incredibly talented professionals, entrepreneurs, and mentors.

Q: What do you see as the future of women in the Pharma Industry?

While our industry has embraced female leaders on all levels and in all roles, I do think there is still a gap, despite the research indicating the economic benefits of diversity and inclusion. I’m a strong advocate of a diverse workplace where everyone walks the talk. This needs to start with diverse, inclusive leadership teams. I remain hopeful that self-interest of the industry to stay competitive, as well as passionate change makers, of all gender identities, will continue to drive equal opportunities in our industry. In doing so, the importance of collaboration and connection cannot be underestimated. We have an excellent opportunity to creatively build connections to partner with other women, use our voice, lift each other up, and advance our industry in these demanding times. Looking around during the DCAT Women’s Networking Breakfast pays testimony to that—I love the breakfast for the feeling I get when leaning back and absorbing the energy, competency, and passion in the room.


Q: What have been your career learnings during COVID? What are you going to carry forward in the “new normal”/post COVID?

What really stood out to me is the importance of truly listening and, importantly, listening with your heart, not just your head. As stresses skyrocketed and many of us felt increasingly isolated, I felt a shift towards the need to create more space for personal exchange, connection, as well as a more empowering and a decentralized approach to decision-making and getting things done. This shift allowed us to fast-forward to more humanfocused and flexible ways of working with trust, empathy, and empowerment as a foundation. We made progress, but there is still a lot to experiment with and address—and the infrastructure is still set up in a way that women/caretakers are disadvantaged (record numbers of moms leaving the workplace in 2020–21, inaccessible care, etc.). I want to continue to support my team to create more flexibility in their days and set an example by doing the same. The pandemic taught me how manage my energy better and show up as a leader.

Q: What role has mentoring played in your career, either as a mentor, mentee, or both?

A huge role. I grew up in the Austrian mountains with a family that worked locally in non-business roles. I am the first one who went to college, and the only one who moved abroad for college and work and entered the international business context. During college, internships, and throughout my career, official and unofficial mentors, and sponsors, have helped me by providing direction, encouragement, and opportunity. I believe having strong mentors whom you trust and connect with can make all the difference to unlock your potential, find your voice, and dare to explore what really drives you. When I started my current role four years ago, I really benefited from the mentorship of my counterpart in Europe, who had been in a similar role to mine at a Vice President level for several years. He supported me not only by having an open door for exchange and sharing experiences, but also by actively inviting me to industry events and introducing me to peers. I’d go one step further and suggest that we need to have and act as not only mentors, but sponsors.


Where mentors point out opportunities and make suggestions, sponsors create opportunity, for example, by offering the sponsored talent a seat at a committee, a project, or a panel. I am deeply grateful for the individuals who had and continue to have this impact on me. Paying it forward is important to me, which is why I act as both a mentor as well as a sponsor within our diverse talent sponsorship program.

Q: What is the one piece of advice that you would give to women in the Pharma Industry that will help them become better leaders?

Be authentic and allow your team to understand who you are and what drives you. Invest in

building relationships and understanding what your team excels at and respect and appreciate them for it. Encourage them to lift each other up. Trust, appreciation, and collaboration are the basis for everything.

This doesn’t mean things have to be always smooth and easy—it means that everyone feels safe to bring their full self to work, engage in healthy friction when needed, and feels recognized. Finally, believe in yourself and your team and ask for help when you need it. And, especially for women—have confidence and be open for opportunities. Never think you are not good enough for an opportunity just because you don’t check all boxes. l


Dr. Maha Mehanna is the Associate Director of Portfolio Management at XGen Pharmaceuticals DJB, Inc., a privately held generic pharmaceutical company focused on developing and delivering specialty pharmaceutical products. Maha joined XGen after being the Manager of Business Development & Sourcing at i3 Pharmaceuticals, a start-up that focuses on developing high-technological-barrier solid oral generic-drug products, and its sister company, Pontis Pharmaceuticals, LLC, which co-develops complex injectables. Prior to that, Maha was the Operations Manager at Absorption Systems, a pre-clinical CRO, and its sister company, Clayton Pharmaceuticals, which focuses on expanding the reach of Biopharmaceutics Classification System-based biowaivers.

Maha has a multidisciplinary background in chemistry, microbiology, and engineering. She has lived and worked on three different continents.

Maha earned her Ph.D. in process and environmental engineering at the Institut National Polytechnique de Toulouse in France. She did her post-doc at Pennsylvania State University in the US. She holds a certificate in Leading with Finance from the Harvard Business School. Maha is an avid skier and cook. She serves on the Board of Directors at PhilaFLAM and is an active volunteer of the DCAT Science & Scholarship Committee.

Q: What career advice do you have for someone new to the industry?

I would say be open and adaptable and embrace learning. Take every opportunity to expand your knowledge and understand every aspect and intricacy of your daily job. Communicate clearly and build a powerful network around you. I would like to share advice given to me by my French Ph.D. advisor, early on in my career. It is actually, an excerpt from the Nepali movie, Himalaya. “When two paths open up before you, always choose the hardest one.” The only reward of an easy


path is that it is easy while choosing the most challenging route brings the best in us, and that’s when we realize that we are stronger and more capable than what we thought.

Q: What surprised you most about your career? What has been your biggest learning to date?

My career path is atypical. I grew up in an entrepreneurial mindset where reaching one’s highest potential was not an option among others; it was simply a work ethic. My parents didn’t have the luxury of an education. They made a lot of sacrifices, so my brothers and I could receive the best education possible. I got a scholarship for my Ph.D. in France and wanted to experience the American Dream, so I arrived in the United States in February 2009 for my post-doc. While my education was more science-focused, early on, I worked with my parents in our family-owned business. There I learned about negotiation more than any school could teach. I think having a strong education enabled me to advance faster in my career. I am thrilled to be able to combine my passion for business with my science education

and am proud to work in an industry that truly makes people’s lives better. It is so rewarding to wake up in the morning and feel that somehow, I can contribute, even a little, to make the world a better place. My biggest learning is when you don’t get what you want, when you want, then something better is waiting for you. Keep an open mind and work hard and smart. Don’t be afraid to fail. Michelangelo said it right: “The greatest danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.”

Q: What role has mentoring played in your career, either as a mentor, mentee, or both?

A crucial role! Five years ago, while reading the book, Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss, I realized that 90% of successful leaders had a great mentor.

I am very fortunate to have many outstanding mentors who guide me and help me find my path, encourage me to get up when I fall, and believe in my potential. I strongly encourage everyone to reach out to people who inspire them and whom they admire and ask them if they would be willing to be their mentor.


You would be pleasantly surprised to realize how many would actually agree. I recall how, in my early days in the industry, on a rainy Friday afternoon, I cold-called an extremely accomplished, self-made leader and asked him to be my mentor. He had just sold his company and started a new one that was flourishing. You would assume he wouldn’t have time to waste advising a novice, but he was so pleased and made a big difference in my life. I had the opportunity to be a mentor for women across the globe at different stages of their careers.

I found it quite rewarding, especially when they succeed, exceeding any expectations.

In one instance, as a volunteer at a global foundation, based in the UK and focused on women economic empowerment, I mentored a remarkable woman: she was the founder of an energy trading company in South Africa. Despite the very hostile environment, she managed to successfully grow her engineering company and improve the lives of people in her area. Her strength and drive were truly inspiring.

Q: What is the one piece of advice that you would give to women in the pharma industry that will help them become better leaders?

I would like to share a piece of wisdom that was given to me by my father a long time ago: “You can buy anything but your reputation.” Therefore, my advice would be work with people who share the same work ethics and have high morals. And instead of asking yourself: “How can I be successful,” rather ask: “How can I reach my maximum potential and enable everyone around me to do so as well” because a hand alone can’t clap—together we will go further. l


Tarita Qveflander is the Head of Strategic Sourcing and Direct Procurement at Sobi – Swedish Orphan Biovitrum AB. Tarita has 18+ years of pharmaceutical operations, supply chain, and procurement experience. She also has extensive knowledge of global API/ drug substance, drug product, and finished goods supply chain, including hands-on technical expertise and a deep understanding of quality and GMP regulations.

Tarita has a natural networking ability expanded through living in Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland and working in multiple countries and cultures (Europe, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland and the US). Tarita is fluent in six languages (Native Finnish, Native Swedish, Full Professional English, German and Danish, and Limited Working Italian).

Q: How do women get a seat at the table?

By asking for it. In my experience, if you want to be part of a discussion or get a seat at the table, make sure to be prepared and don’t be shy to ask for it. In many cases I have encountered, I have heard my friends say “they should ask me if I’m interested” but I rather say “you tell them that you want it”.

Q: What do you wish that you knew early in your career that would have been helpful?

That there are females out there that are willing to support and push for you to succeed. I was not fortunate in my early career to have females around me that wanted to support but rather the opposite. This created an unwillingness from my side to continue certain paths. Had I known and been able to find support groups and inspirations, I might have been in a different position today.


Q: How have opportunities for women in the Pharma Industry changed over time?

I think in Europe it has changed quite significantly over past years. Several companies have hired female leaders and diversity is looked upon as something natural. In my company, especially in Technical Operations, we have three of the six director positions filled by a woman (Sobi, Swedish company, based out of Stockholm).

In my previous company (Biogen, American company, Zug European HQ), there was also lot of focus on diversity. Since COVID, it’s also possible to work part-time, work from home, share jobs, 100% or other opportunities, which allows females the opportunity to combine home and career.

Q: What role has mentoring played in your career, either as a mentor, mentee, or both?

This has been crucial for getting guidance on topics that has been/are challenging when working and thinking about your career. For me it has been crucial to have both a male

and female mentor at the same time to get a calibrated view on different topics, whether its career related or how to handle difficult situations. I have also been a mentee for people in my career, both in the same function and other functions, both male and female. This has helped my listening skills and trying to understand what they really are looking for. Sometimes the question asked is not always the question they want answered.

Q: What is the one piece of advice that you would give to women in the Pharma Industry that will help them become better leaders?

Don’t be so “boxed in” on the path you need to take to become a leader. There are different paths out there, each specific for your own choices. Inspiration to grow can come from everywhere, does not have to be an MBA or a special course in leadership, it can be as simple as volunteering for sailing training for young kids. l



Lillie Talon is a Cell Therapy Proposal

Lead at Catalent Pharma Solutions. In this role, Lillie is responsible for the authorship of proposals supporting Catalent’s Biomodalities business unit in order to win new business. In addition, she serves on the global steering committee for Catalent’s intergenerational employee resource group. Prior to this, she was a part of Catalent’s Global Organizational Leadership Development (GOLD) program in which she did three rotations in different roles at various Catalent sites.

Q: What surprised you most about your career?

I am always surprised by how often I deviate from my original plan. Early in college I was dead set on graduating, then accepting a laboratory position, preferably in R&D, through the University of Wisconsin or one of the many local biotechnology companies in Madison. It wasn’t until a close friend of mine told me about her internship in pharma that I even knew that was an option. I pursued many pharma internships the following summer and was only extended an offer for one:

QA-Operations at a biologics facility. While at first, I was slightly disappointed, I soon grew to love the dynamics of working alongside multiple teams while also balancing cGMP standards. When the summer ended, I realized that I enjoyed the scrutiny that can come with a quality role and finally had confidence in what I wanted to do post-grad.

Following my graduation in 2020, I joined Catalent’s Global Organizational Leadership Development (GOLD) program in which I was able to experience three

Lillie Cell Therapy Proposal Lead, Catalent Pharma Solutions

unique positions across three emerging technologies within two years. I was incredibly thankful for this opportunity as I still was unsure of where I wanted to grow my career. I assumed lab work or manufacturing would be a good fit for me and was eager to test out these roles. However, this was not in the cards for me and surprisingly, I didn’t find myself wishing that I was in a lab or on the manufacturing floor.

One position allowed me to return to my quality roots, as a QA supervisor while being able to gain leadership experience. This shook me to my core and gave me a very different perspective on leadership than what I was accustomed to. First, the site was approximately 100 people, so my reach felt a lot more impactful. Second, I was working in cell therapy, which I had no prior experience with. I enjoyed the challenge of comprehending a new science while sharing the knowledge I had acquired throughout my career while continuing to balance my day-today activities.

I currently sit as a proposal lead for Catalent’s cell therapy business and am loving it.

Throughout my academic studies and early career, sales and business roles had never been

appealing. However, now I am able to leverage my biochemistry knowledge while learning about a new side of the business in a modality that didn’t even exist until recently is mind-blowing!

In short, I will always be surprised by the opportunities that arise due to my willingness to try new things and deviate from a plan that I perceive as foolproof.

Q: What role has mentoring played in your career, either as a mentor, mentee, or both?

As a mentee, I most valued receiving candid advice from those who care about my personal and professional growth. As I am very early in my career, I find the advice of mentors invaluable. I tend to be headstrong, so I appreciate those who call me out and know that it’s okay to break away from my plans and see something new.

As a mentor to newer employees, I am constantly shocked by what I don’t know and the unique experiences they are able to introduce me to.

I love the ability to share knowledge with each other as most of my mentoring has been with peers.

In both relationship dynamics, I really treasure being transparent, genuine, and supportive


as I feel the key to growth is having a team in your corner. Having a strong network is key to new opportunities, good advice, and overall comradery for when you need support.

Q: What do you see as the future of women in the Pharma Industry?

What I hope for the most is equity for all. Being a young black woman, the first and only member of my extended family to work in biotech, and the second to graduate with a degree in STEM, at times it feels like my career has been an uphill battle. What I want for the future is for all to know that there can be a place for them within pharma, regardless of socioeconomic background, race, sexuality, or gender identity.

In the future, I believe the pharma industry will be a place where all feel welcome and an industry that is known for its innovation and inclusion. I think there are key steps many companies are taking to get here, such as employee resource groups. Also, programs such as DCAT’s Alliance for Industry Women are key to helping women build networks and seek guidance.

It is my honor to be a trailblazer, and in the end, I hope that I can uplift those like me, those who

feel as though they are unable to get a seat at the table, and educate the ones who have always had a place.

Q: What is the one piece of advice that you would give to women in the Pharma Industry that will help them become better leaders?

Though my career is still relatively young, in the leadership positions I’ve held, I am always humbled by my team. I struggle with knowing what energy I should put out and how I should approach relationships with those on my team. As a woman, it can sometimes be a hard balance to strike as sometimes you aren’t taken as seriously. I also think it is key to be genuine and open with your team. The leaders I have always looked up to were the ones who were willing to go to bat for their team and that created a culture of honesty, not hostility. In the future stages of my career, that is the type of leader that I strive to be. Know that your ideas are worth being heard. You were hired for a reason, you are qualified and deserve respect. l


Lihong Yu is the Founder and President of PHT International Inc., a full-service CRDMO company based in Charlotte, North Carolina, serving innovative pharmaceutical customers. Lihong came to Charlotte, North Carolina with $5,000 to start PHT (standing for People, Honest and Trust), started the business with distributing chemical intermediates for dyestuff manufacturers in the Carolinas, then transitioned into R&D, and manufacture serving the regulated pharma industry in the late 1990s. Today’s PHT is an over $100-million company, owns its own Research Center (PHT Tech), and is a US FDA-inspected CGMP facility (PHT Pharma).

Lihong believes as a woman leader, authenticity is very important. “When you are authentic, you are confident. Confidence is a beautiful thing. When you are confident, you can be humble and bold in vision and leading,” she says.

Lihong was awarded a Women in Business Achievement Award by the Charlotte Business Journal in 2015. She was also recognized with a leadership award in International Commerce by the Carolina World Trade Association (CWTA) in 2016.

Watch Lihong’s video interview here.


The DCAT Alliance for Industry Women Committee

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