Navigating STEM Careers: Shared Wisdom from Inspiring Women at Ipsen

Navigating STEM Careers: Shared Wisdom from Inspiring Women at Ipsen

Navigating STEM Careers: Shared Wisdom from Inspiring Women at Ipsen

11th February marks International Day of Women and Girls in Science. To celebrate the occasion, we spoke to Martine Zimmermann, Jill Buck, Alison Mason, Florence Meyer-Losic, and Christelle Huguet to hear the advice they would share with their younger selves as they embarked on their STEM careers.

Media Image

Martine Zimmermann, who heads up Ipsen’s global regulatory affairs function, on the importance of effective communication and the value of investing in people.

Martine’s scientific journey was shaped by a crucial “Ah-ha!” moment during an internship where she gained access to technology enabling her to visualize the inner workings of cells. This profound ability to “see the science” became the focus of her work in molecular biology. It emphasized the importance of precision in understanding how medicines impact and target specific cellular structures, forming a strong connection between the source of her work and its impactful outcomes.

Martine’s leadership triumphs are rooted in her commitment to nurturing and empowering others. Martine firmly believes in the principle that “the more you invest in people, the greater the results”. Interestingly, she draws connections between stepping into a leadership role and entering motherhood: “Taking the time to explain things well, whether to my team or my children, leads to more successful outcomes.”

In essence, her fulfillment lies in the development of people, with the transition into leadership as the central focus, and motherhood serving as an additional dimension to her overall journey: “Witnessing the potential in individuals, investing in their growth, and seeing them flourish is exceptionally satisfying. It is developing people that makes me happy.”

Despite facing bias across her career, Martine emphasizes: “Biases exist everywhere in society, from your personal life to the workplace, but the key lies in recognizing and navigating through them – nothing worthwhile falls from the sky.” As such, her mantra is resilience and urging others to pursue goals without hesitation. Her advice for starting a career in STEM is: “If Plan A fails, explore other letters in the alphabet.”

Martine’s advice to her younger self:

Pursue aspirations wholeheartedly and do not give up at the first hurdle. The environment will adjust. You are the master of your career – one must shape it at their own pace.”

Media Image

Jill Buck, who drives Ipsen’s clinical strategy and operations, speaks to the transformative influence of being “authentically you” and the importance of embracing your professional journey.

Despite not initially pursuing a career in STEM, Jill believes this has benefitted her career journey, constantly gaining fresh perspectives and an “outside way of doing things.” From this, Jill recognized the crucial role that networking and connecting people has played, affirming one of her key takeaways: If you can be a resource to people, you absolutely should. The more we can do to reach out and help connect people makes everything better for everyone.”

On navigating challenges, Jill emphasizes that there is not always a “right” answer, advocating for overcoming difficulties through a solutions-based mindset and shared learnings. With this in mind, she adds: “While you might not have the power to shape your entire company, you can certainly make a meaningful impact in smaller, more manageable realms.”

Addressing the common experience of the “inner voice” and instead “embracing our uniqueness,” Jill recommends normalizing these feelings: “In moments of doubt, recognize that those around you may share similar uncertainties. Take the opportunity to reflect on the journey that brought you to this point and move past it.” Our uniqueness is what we, as individuals, bring to the table: “Being authentic and feeling secure in the value that you bring to the table is key to thriving throughout your journey. In every moment I have not been authentically me, I have looked back and wished I had done something differently.”

Jill’s advice to her younger self:

“View your career path as a rock climbing wall; it’s okay not to know the next step and you might have to go sideways or even backwards – embrace the uncertainty and trust in your ability to figure it out.”

Media Image

Alison Mason, who manages Ipsen’s upstream process development team, on the significance of seeking new opportunities and embracing a diverse range of perspectives for personal and professional growth.

Alison’s science journey started with an industrial placement year, which she considers the “best decision” she made during her early career. Recognizing that self-belief and seizing new opportunities have been crucial in her personal and professional journey, Alison imparts a key insight: “Be bold, step out of your comfort zone, and embrace moments of discomfort for career opportunities. Progression is all about finding the delicate balance between change and enjoyment.”

Regardless of career stage, she emphasizes the importance of pursuing new opportunities and gaining fresh perspective, stating that you’re “never too senior to benefit from the unique perspectives that can be obtained from actively seeking internal and external mentorship.” While advocating for “taking ownership of your own career,” she recommends proactively engaging with managers to enhance responsibilities and accumulate knowledge – an approach she herself applies as a leader.

On progressing into leadership, Alison explains that it was through her early mentors – or “science mum” – that she learned the value of varied leadership styles, emphasizing that diversity fosters innovation: “If we were all the same, we’d think the same and we wouldn’t benefit from that difference in perspective. By having unique styles, we can challenge each other to ultimately reach the right solutions.”

Sharing her career specialization strategy of “doing what I love doing,” Alison provides valuable advice on choosing a focus: “Be proactive, confident, and follow your passion. Taking that initial step is challenging but remember that when you’re nervous, it indicates you care. Don’t hesitate to seek support in pursuing what you want.”

Alison’s advice to her younger self:

Take yourself out of your comfort zone as much as possible – this is where you will learn the most.”

Media Image

Florence Meyer-Losic, Vice President and Head of Translational Science leading a team of scientists dedicated to supporting the transition of ideas to clinical success in oncology, rare disease & neuroscience research, discusses her key career learnings, from championing self-belief to recognizing strength within fragility.

Originally training as a vet, Florence was attracted to a career in science because of the dynamic nature of the work. Put simply, she loves “the gymnastics you have to do in your brain to understand what is happening, giving you a real opportunity to fine-tune your skills, apply your experience, and exercise your resilience.” Her drive has always been closely linked to her desire to continue learning.

Considering how she has faced challenges over the years, Florence advises that we must all embrace our support networks, as opposed to isolating ourselves. She emphasizes that “fragility is different to weakness. By expressing our concerns, we can unite our teams, support each other, and combine our strengths.” As such, she advocates for opening up about your fragilities, whilst maintaining your belief in yourself, your colleagues, and your work. By doing so, you can find alternative routes to achieve your goal and maximize the impact of collaborative efforts.

Florence expands on the importance of believing in yourself throughout the journey: “While you will always have doubts along the way, you must trust in your abilities.” She further suggests that “we should not be afraid to say what we did well in times of success, even if it feels uncomfortable and takes a conscious effort.” This is something Florence feels she is still striving to improve, recognizing how her career is “always evolving”.

Florence’s advice to her younger self:

“Believing in ourselves is key to being able to maximize our skills, but we must be open to our fragilities – fragility is not weakness.”

Media Image

Christelle Huguet, Executive Vice President who heads up and inspires the R&D team at Ipsen, shares her insights about navigating a career in science, including the power of mentorship, confidence building, and ultimately keeping focused on what truly matters to you.

Taking inspiration from many sources including her mother’s passion for learning new skills, Christelle is grateful to have learned a lot from role models in both her personal and professional life, sharing one overarching learning: “If you want it, you can do it. You just have to keep looking forward and moving forward.” 

Christelle recognizes the positive impact she has gained from the value of mentorship: “A mentor is not about your daily job. It is truly about how you evolve in your career and at different stages in life. It is important for everyone.” She has kept in touch with her own mentors from throughout her career journey, finding it an invaluable opportunity to bounce ideas, whilst also mentoring colleagues within and outside of Ipsen and following their development over the years.

In addition, building confidence is a key part of any career journey, and something that Christelle believes is never finished. “We must acknowledge the small wins, at every level of our careers. Women are often not good at this – judging themselves against the big goals and not really paying attention to positive feedback. While we should remember that growth is not linear, we must also recognize the steps we take forward.”

Christelle explains that it is crucial to learn how to effectively navigate transitions. While it is important to “try different things to open your horizons, you must focus on what you enjoy.” As we face challenges, celebrate successes, and continue to grow, “we must take a step back and think about our purpose. If we remain focused on the patients, that will continue to drive us.”

Christelle’s advice to her younger self:

Not everything has to be perfect. Look at the bigger picture – reflect on your passion, your joy, and your curiosity in all areas of work and life.”

Related Stories