Building a Business: Lessons Learned with Angela Osborne
Not allowing herself to be defined by stereotypes, Angela Osborne has created her own space in the industry and is helping the cell and gene therapy industry to bloom. Here, she shares the pivotal moments leading to the creation of the consultancy, eXmoor Pharma.
Maryam Mahdi |
Don’t let imposter syndrome hold you back
Pursuing a career in science never really felt like a choice – it was a calling. And, just like any passion, I willingly followed the path it took to making it an integral part of my life. English and history had no draw, but I loved the way science allowed me to explore the fundamental aspects of life as well as their practical applications. I made sure to take advantage of every opportunity that came my way. While completing my PhD in biochemical engineering at University College London, I was sponsored by Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), which was the largest British manufacturer of its time. The experience was pivotal, but I thought that I might be better suited to a smaller company. Once I completed my degree, I applied for a job at British Biotech. While my peers sent out hundreds of job applications, I only sent off one. I knew I wanted that particular role; I’d worked with some of the company’s founders during my degree as part of a summer job and I was lucky enough to be selected for the position!
As the only engineer employed by the company, I was afforded a great deal of responsibility from the onset. I was there for four years and I had the opportunity to manage my own team, work on the design and development of my own facility, and see one of our products enter the clinic.
Gender does not define anyone
I believe that many people let their differences hold them back from reaching their true potential. The notion that a person’s gender, race or age can limit their ability to excel is unfounded. My next position in John Brown (later Kvaerner), a process engineering and project management company, was truly formative. I was the only woman among a sea of male engineers. Chauvinistic behaviors and ideas ran rife and I had to navigate the machismo-laden environment to prove my own competence. It wasn’t an uncommon assumption that every woman who worked there was a secretary – and I was asked on multiple occasions to send out a fax on behalf of a male member of staff. But I knew I was as capable as anyone else there – a point reinforced by early promotion to a more senior position and strong reminders from my boss. My experiences have only made me more resilient and have allowed me to recognize the value I am able to bring to a role.
When I enter a boardroom full of men, I don’t think of myself as the only woman in the group. We are all just people. We have a conversation to get through – an agenda – and my womanhood doesn’t make me any less able to participate in it. I do believe that men and women have different ways of thinking and approaching problems; I think it is essential to have a balanced team so that more comprehensive solutions can be provided to any given problem.
I do believe that it’s only human to succumb to feelings of unworthiness on occasion, but I strongly believe that focusing on personal ambitions rather than negative thoughts is key to anyone’s success. A woman in a field dominated by men will stand out – and to anyone else in this situation I urge you to see it as your opportunity to shine!
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