You know how it works: Someone mentions a name and you search your memory, eventually coming up with something like, “Oh, I think I’ve met so-and-so…” No one ever said that about my first manager and mentor in the pharmaceutical industry, Evelyn. If you’ve met her, you’re SURE. Evelyn grew up as the only child of elderly parents who were Holocaust survivors. After college, she joined the pharmaceutical industry at a time when barely any women if any were in management, and even at lower levels women were dramatically underrepresented. Back then, nobody was talking about things like diversity, equity and gender bias. Evelyn knew that to progress, she needed academic credentials that would force the industry to take her seriously and for her that meant getting a PhD. But doctoral programs required resources Evelyn didn’t have. Choosing between food and education, Evelyn chose education…and survived on popcorn.
After getting her PhD, she ascended through the ranks eventually to become a Vice President, which is when I met her, hired right after medical school into my first position in the pharmaceutical industry. During one “Secretary’s Day” the company gave Evelyn a rose. It seemed the gift was given to her based on her gender. Evelyn marched into her manager’s office and politely gave him the rose back and simply said that as a Manager, it was not appropriate for her to accept it. Needless to say, those involved with the faux pas never made that mistake again!
By the time that I started working for Evelyn, she was an experienced, well respected manager who ran a large and diverse Department of Medical Affairs. As a coach and mentor, Evelyn was always professional, personable, and extremely direct. She certainly gave me the good, the bad and the ugly along the way regarding my orientation to the industry and job performance. She explained the many roles in Medical Affairs and modeled leadership. She also gave me the “lay of the land” in terms of the political environment, which even today is hard to discern about a company even with all of the searching and social media resources available to us now. As my career evolved, many years after moving on to other roles and companies, I continue to discuss next steps and career possibilities with her. She has been a wonderful beacon to help me navigate the tumultuous waters of the healthcare industry. Although she has remained a close and trusted friend and mentor, she has always joked that I never was and probably never will be the easiest person to “manage”.
At MAPS, with over 4,000 incredible colleagues, there are many people like I was in my first role: Motivated, educated and a bit lost in the sea of possibilities. And there are a few people like Evelyn willing to guide the path forward. MAPS is a place of connectivity, not just “membership”. Now it is also a place of mentorship. The new MAPS Mentorship Program offers both the mentor and mentee a chance to explore areas of interest, share skills, grow and learn from each other in a trusting, neutral and non-judgmental environment.
If you are interested in learning more, please visit the MAPS Mentorship Program page.