3 Tips for Advancing Your Biotech Career

The biotechnology industry, and in particular R&D, is fundamentally about hope. Hope for patients and for the company that you work for. It is also the business of risk, change and experimentation as researchers strive to build and deliver on an exciting and broad pipeline that serves new patient communities or patient communities already being treated in new ways.
In order to stay ahead and innovate in this ever-evolving industry — employees must develop and personally grow. As a global organization collaborating around the world, CSL is mindful to provide a culture for our employees that offer the chance for new skills, new roles and new opportunities. That’s why we invest in development opportunities to provide a forum where we can explore possibilities, share unique perspectives, strengthen skills and build networks. But it’s also important for researchers to focus on their own professional development.

Personally, I entered this industry having been in private clinical practice and have grown to be capable of leading a global, growing R&D group of more than 1,700 people around the world. This progression has been the result of professional development – a combination of coursework, lateral (not necessarily vertical) moves, opportunities that built my skills and capabilities and leaders that gave me a chance.

For example, leadership development courses helped me to learn ways to create great results through the talents of others and not just through my own hard work. And at one point in my career a leader offered me the chance to lead a new global alliance in a new department instead of taking the safe promotion in my own department. This “risky” choice sent me on a path of global working that has led me to where I am today.

Across a number of companies, I have been responsible for growing and managing top performing, multinational teams and developing senior leaders. Helping others realize their potential is something I take great pride in. Here are three tips that may help you as you grow your career in biotech.

1. Think about your career like a weeping willow tree. You rarely see a weeping willow tree go down in a storm. It’s because it starts by growing laterally under the surface. Its root system is strong. And when the storm comes, it’s ready to bear it.

Also like the weeping willow tree, emerging researchers should grow in various directions, without concern about how high they are growing — at first. Not only will that help in your stability, but it also broadens you. In an environment, like CSL, where we work cross-functionally and collaboration is a core value, the more horizontally you grow, the more effective you are.

2. Focus on “4 R’s”. Be ready, relentless, resourceful and resilient on your path toward success.

Readiness: Be ready to take opportunities when offered. When I first decided to enter the biotechnology industry, after a successful career working in private clinical practice, I took a significant risk. But when the right opportunity was presented to me, I knew entering the industry was the right place for me at that point in my career and where I felt I could do the greatest good while continuing to grow and progress along the way. Looking beyond what’s in front of you and preparation are critical for when opportunity knocks in your own career. As disruptive innovator Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”

Relentlessness: Be ready to work every day like people’s lives depend on it. As researchers we have the training and skill to solve medical mysteries and advance treatment care, but we also need to have the will.
For example when COVID-19 hit – it’s the medical community that quickly aligned to fight this deadly pandemic – where we are now making inroads. At CSL, when it comes to COVID-19, our company has gone all-in on the battle and are in the fight together with many external partners in areas that make sense for our business and the development of our people. We have continued the fight for months, on both our good days and bad days and will continue the fight until the pandemic is over. I like to say that anyone can make progress on days they feel 100%; it’s making progress when you are only at 50% that separates people.

It’s this relentless pursuit of doing what’s right that can set you up for career success.

Resourcefulness: Be efficient and effective. Take the time to reflect on your and your team’s capabilities and how to use those capabilities to be most effective – adapting and adjusting along the way. Big company or small, you will never have all the resources that you think you need. Learn to be creative with what you have.

Resilience: Take chances and try something new. In business, as in life, finding a way to make a big decision without a risk is nearly always a fruitless search. Instead, it’s important to seek out opportunities for growth for yourself, your team and your company. Those opportunities are often found on the uncharted paths. These paths don’t always lead to success, but they often lead to experiences that make you stronger, wiser and – yes – resilient. The key to being brave enough to take the risky route is to know you are resilient; that you can bounce back from failure should it occur. At CSL, we are constantly searching the horizon for opportunities to make strategic acquisitions or to create partnerships with other companies and institutions where and when it makes sense. Pursuing these opportunities often bears fruit in the form of new treatments for patients. And when they don’t work out, we see them as another pillar in our company’s resilient foundation offering our people the opportunity to pick up and start anew all the while having enhanced our current capabilities.

3. Never stop learning. Life-long learners are less apt to experience job dissatisfaction and more likely to adapt to an ever-changing environment. Your best career insurance policy is to add to your skillset and personal toolkit. While biotechnology companies continue to change, what doesn’t change is that the employees most in demand are those who continue to develop themselves.

About the author

Bill Mezzanotte

Bill Mezzanotte

CSL Limited, Executive Vice President, Head of R&D and Chief Medical Officer

As Global Head of Research and Development and Chief Medical Officer, Bill Mezzanotte is responsible for developing and executing CSL Behring’s Research & Development strategy and portfolio, including the identification and development of all R&D platforms, skills and expertise necessary for success.  

In April 2017, Bill joined CSL Behring as Head of Clinical Development, responsible for clinical science, statistics and clinical operations across the portfolio. Most recently he had served as Senior Vice President and Head of Development, where he oversaw regulatory, project management, clinical science & operations, plasma, recombinant protein and gene therapy pharmaceutical development activities worldwide.

Prior to CSL, he was Senior Vice President and Therapeutic Area Head, Respiratory for Boehringer Ingelheim and spent 16 years with AstraZeneca in research and development, assuming roles of increasing leadership and management responsibility across multiple therapeutic areas.   Most recently at AstraZeneca he was Senior Vice President and Head of the Respiratory and Inflammation Therapeutic Area.

Bill’s career has been notable for his adaptability and success in different settings.  He has been directly involved with 30 successful global approvals across 15 different products in 10 distinct therapeutic disease areas and representing 5 different platform approaches.  Across a number of companies, he has established, grown and managed top performing, multinational teams and developed numerous senior leaders.

In 2020, Bill was named to the Board of Directors of the Philadelphia-based University City Science Center.

Bill holds an undergraduate degree from Villanova University, obtained his M.D. at the University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Public Health degree from Johns Hopkins University. 

Bill is board certified in internal medicine, pulmonary medicine, critical care medicine and sleep medicine.

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