How to make it into the C-Suite in Life Sciences

I guess the one thing you can say for sure about C-Suite careers is that there is nothing steady or “mapped out” about them. They are challenging and competitive, they are going through change constantly and if there is anything constant about them, it’s probably the change itself. So when writing about C-Suite careers in Life Sciences there are no certainties but there are tendencies. What’s most likely to get you into a C-Suite career in Life Sciences?

Be the generalist in a world of specialists

The people who make it into the C-Suite in Life Sciences tend to be more generally abled than probably most of their employees. In Life Sciences one of the major discrepancies that we – as specialists in executive search – encounter is the one between industry expertise and management abilities. These two factors seem to be quite hard to combine. A lot of very gifted specialists that work in R&D are very reluctant to take a leading position where they actually have to deal with people and take care of their needs. If you want to make it to (and stay in) the C-Suite you need to understand the industry but much more you need to understand the processes and be a good leader. You don’t need to understand all the details but you need to be able to manage the people who do.

Be an entrepreneur

Entrepreneurial spirit is another feature that you will need in the C-Suite. You need to be able and willing to build an organization, maybe re-design it, embrace change and manage it all for your people. There is a reason most of our candidates in the C-Suite have two degrees, starting out with a specialized degree and adding up a Business degree. They start as scientists and work their way through different areas to (usually) a commercial function thereby developing the desire to lead.

Want to be a leader

Do you want to lead? Or do you have to lead? The answer makes quite the difference on your way into the C-Suite. Life Science careers (and probably most other careers as well) lead up through the leadership skills and abilities. And those are largely determined by the will to develop, to seek more complex assignments, to brand yourself as a leader and ultimately as an executive. Actively prepare for the next career move. Always.

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