My Journey to the C-Suite

Women in Biotech Leadership

This past May marked my 1-year anniversary since joining Senti Bio as Chief Financial Officer, and I can say that this has definitely been a very hectic and unique year. Upon joining Senti, I immediately embarked on a journey to transition Senti into a public company - a herculean task to take on. While some days I faced more challenges than others, it’s been such a fun and exciting team to be part of and I’m very proud of the progress Senti has made in the past year!

When I was young, I never imagined that I would become a Chief Financial Officer one day. A CFO role wasn’t necessarily a dream of mine, but rather something I found my way into as I progressed through my career. My parents both pursued careers in science, so working in the field felt natural for me. As a young child, I thought that my work in science would be as a paleontologist or marine biologist. I ended up getting my PhD in Neuropharmacology. However, I soon realized that working in an academic lab wasn’t a fit for me, so I learned about career alternatives for scientists when I was in graduate school and chose to try working on Wall Street. And guess what? I loved it.  As an Equity Research analyst on Wall Street covering the biotech and pharma sectors, I got a unique perspective of the industry.  One where I was exposed to the science, how investors perceive the science as well as the company as a whole, and the money it takes to make it all possible .  At a certain point my interest shifted to the operational side of the industry - the inner workings of how biotech companies make decisions and advance the science. I worked at large companies (Pfizer) and small (Series A startup companies), and eventually found myself at Senti. Along each step of the way, I identified something that I enjoyed and something new that I wanted to learn more about - this determination and perseverance is part of what led me to the role I hold now.

Recently, I was asked what it means to me to be a woman with a leadership position in biotech - a field where, according to the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, roughly 34% of executives are female. For me, it can get overwhelming thinking about gender bias in the workforce. Based on my experience, the financial side of the industry is still predominantly male and that’s how it’s been for my entire career. Women often need to work harder and have more credentials in order to have the same opportunities as men. For example, I’ve noticed that men can get hired as CFO’s immediately after working in Wall Street, and while things are definitely changing, historically that has not happened as often for women.

Throughout my career, whenever I faced challenging moments where my ability or level of experience was questioned, I used these comments as fuel to motivate myself to keep pushing forward. It is very easy to internalize others’ biased perspectives, but as long as you have goals and keep working to achieve them, you will find success. If I were to offer advice to a young female who aspires to be in a leadership position, I would encourage them to set goals, trust their own voice, keep seeking out the next logical step, and not internalize when people question your ability to execute.

Some industries have made strides towards gender equity, but there is room for improvement and companies need to proactively address gender bias. I am grateful to be at Senti, where together as a team we are committed to building an environment where all colleagues feel equal, respected, and valued regardless of gender, age, and ethnicity. I hope that Senti will become an example of a successful diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy. I also hope that I can be an example for other women, and show that becoming a female leader in biotech is a realistic and achievable goal.

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