“It is fantastic in the team to be able to show that the product itself is more than the sum of its individual parts, and a small team can achieve truly amazing results,” says Claire Skentelbery, CEO of EuropaBio. Claire is one of the four main speakers of the Women in Biotech 2021 platform event on 29 September. Platform promotes women’s leadership in life sciences and biotechnology. This year’s theme of the event is Women empower teams.
EuropaBio is Europe’s largest and most influential biotechnology industry group, bringing together more than 2600 biotechnology companies. The association, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, essentially operates at European level dialogue with the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of Ministers. EuropaBio aims to influence the legal regulation of biotechnology, particularly in the health and industrial biotechnology sectors.
Claire Skentelbery agreed to share insights into her experience as EuropaBio CEO in forming a team and why a woman’s role in the team is necessary.
You have successfully led a few associations related to biotech industry during the previous years. The share between men and women in this sector is quite usual, but the percentage of women in leading positions is very low. How would you explain that? What challenges does a woman face if she wants to be the leader? Could you share some thoughts about it or give advice?
I am always thought that women can be more self-critical and tend not to jump for something if they think they are not 100% qualified. It’s not helped by the often hierarchical structures where men still dominate senior management roles. It reinforces that there isn’t a pathway upwards and I saw this a lot in my early career. I worked for myself from early in my career, as an independent contractor and you have to learn to ‘blow your own trumpet’ if you want to get work. It doesn’t fall from the sky. I also learned, particularly with the role I have now, to recognize that you don’t know it all when you start but that you will learn quickly and that should not be an impediment in applying for such roles. Being open in your interview process about your skills gaps is actually better than presenting that you know it all already, it’s a façade that will probably come back to bite you. People are there to help support.
“Women Empower Teams”. It’s the core topic of this year’s “Women in Biotech”. Could your share your ideas from your practices of how to empower a team? What skills are needed?
Whilst not knowing of any magic formula, I try to be as enthusiastic as possible about each individual person’s work and aims. Everything should have value and be demonstrated as such to members. I was always motivated by end results so it’s a good starting point to ensure that everybody gets to deliver something they consider valuable. In a team as well, it’s fantastic to be able to demonstrate that the product is greater than the sum of the parts, a small team can achieve really great outcomes and it’s hugely rewarding for everybody.
In your opinion, why it is important to have a good team? What‘s the role of a team in such organization as yours and in general?
A team is more than a collection of individuals, no matter how talented. EuropaBio has a mix of expertise across the team and with the complex topics that we address, you can draw upon people’s experience and knowledge across most of the topics.
In your view, what are the key points / indicators for a successful team?
Willingness to commit and share planning and work and take pleasure in the achievements of others. There will be good days and bad and the shard approach helps minimize a bad day and maximise a good one.
If you had an opportunity to form a dream team, what would it be?
That’s a great question. It’s not about immediately having the perfect team in place, it’s the thrill of starting with right ingredients and developing together to deliver at a scale far beyond the size of the team. The opinions of the whole team create the most viable product so it’s important to be critical and realistic when setting targets – part of the team growth is learning to do that in a productive and shared atmosphere. When a team works, the sky is the limit.
What motivates you the most in your current position as DG of EuropaBio?
Europe sits at a critical time for biotech. Covid has shown us the power of biotech as a diagnostic, vaccine and treatment so we have to build on the strengths that made this possible. With regard to climate change, it is also one of the key ingredients to transform manufacturing and other processes into biotech-driven platforms. The difference in environmental footprint between petro-chemical and bio-derived processes is huge and we really only have a small window of opportunity for the planet to do this.
We invite you to join the live broadcast of the event with Claire Skentelbery and other leaders at 3 pm on 29 September. Event will be broadcasted on the event’s portal, LRT.lt and the Facebook page of the Lithuanian Biotechnology Association.