Anatomy of a Leader speaker series inspires future biotech leaders

Edie Stringfellow event

What do the best industry leaders do? This was the central question posed by Edie Stringfellow during the second session of the Anatomy of a Leader speaker series on November 21. Ms. Stringfellow, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at MassBio, challenged students to examine the skills and qualities needed for leadership roles in the life sciences industry. She offered thoughts on specific skills such as decision-making, and on broader issues such as the importance of cultivating cultures of inclusion in the workplace. 

Student participants gained new insights on the definition of success in biotech jobs.  “I really enjoyed Ms. Stringfellow's perspective that what makes the best industry leaders are not a plethora of technical abilities, but being able to communicate well with others and have the confidence to take risks,” said Hazel Davis, PhD student in Polymer Science and Engineering, and Spaulding-Smith fellow, adding, “It was interesting to note that the origin of this term ‘soft skills’ comes from the military - where the ‘hard’ skills were mechanically inclined but the soft skills were things that were harder to be taught.” Another PhD student and Spaulding-Smith fellow, Jessica Caballero-Feliciano, was inspired by Ms.Stringfellow’s passion for teaching the necessary tools for leadership in the industry and motivated to make a difference in her field of Neuroscience and Behavior. “She made me feel like I can make a positive impact on the lives of so many people and that we are in a perfect place to do so.”

The series drew interest from other UMass programs, as well. Karen Utgoff, Director of the Institute for Applied Life Sciences’ Venture Development commented, “This was a great event! It was wonderful to see that the MassBio and UMass Amherst partnership is creating opportunities for students at all-levels and thus strengthening the biotech workforce. I plan to share the materials provided and look forward to working with Ms Stringfellow in the future to create opportunities for MBA and other students in IALS' Business Innovation Fellows program.”

The first session of the series, held on October 24, outlined ways for students to market themselves as valuable contributors to the life sciences industry, and highlighted the importance of building a robust skill set that includes networking, promoting research, mastering confidence, and personal branding.

The speaker series was sponsored by the Graduate School’s Office of Inclusion and Engagement led by Funmi Ayobami, Assistant Dean. “We are thrilled that students were engaged and eager to learn more about how to prepare for a career in the life science industry,” noted Funmi.  She looks forward to inviting Ms. Stringfellow back again to discuss diversity and inclusion. It is important for graduate students to understand that inclusion is an essential aspect of leadership.”