Updated: May 6
Today we're talking with Christine Carberry, previously the Chief Operating Officer of Keryx Biopharmaceuticals. As part of the Executive Committee, she led the Technical Operations, Quality, Human Resources, Regulatory, and Program Management functions.
Prior to Keryx, Christine served as a Senior Vice President at FORUM Pharmaceuticals where she established Program & Alliance Management while also leading Technical Operations and Quality.
During her 26 years with Biogen, she held positions in technical operations and spent her last 9 years leading Program and Alliance Management for a portfolio of over 30 programs.
Hey Christine, could you tell us a little about your career path and what brought you to your current work?
This idea that there is a career ladder is how I thought about my career early on moving up from individual contributor to upper leadership. A mentor early in my career pushed me outside of this straight path and outside of my comfort zone. I realized then that it was not a ladder, but more like a jungle gym. Sometimes to move ahead you have to move to the side and be open to different kinds of experiences. My prior position was a culmination of all my experiences in a very broad role covering manufacturing, supply chain, human resources, and program management. This all led me to my ultimate goal for a profession.
You mentioned being open to different kinds of experiences—how do you know when to make this choice?
At some point in your career, you are going to be faced with a transition - sometimes earlier than you originally thought. I took each of these as an opportunity to grow personally and professionally.
So how did you get into mentoring? How would you describe your approach, and what you try to achieve when working with mentees?
I started mentoring at University of New Hampshire by tutoring nontraditional students and found that I loved working with people and learning together. I always felt that I learned as much as they were learning from me. We all go about this differently and I really enjoy the process of learning together.
As a manager, I always felt a big part of my responsibility was to work with my team to develop each of them both personally and professionally. Looking back, I am really proud of the success of those that I worked with. It then came naturally that I would continue to make time for mentoring others.
What’s the biggest buzz you’ve got during your time mentoring?
I have had a lot of those moments actually. I had a woman in my department and I worked with her to help her explore career options. She inevitably took a huge turn away from being a scientist and working in a regulatory field. This type of mentoring would often result in gaps on my team.
Administrators feel stuck in a linear path and I have helped them grow into non-admin roles. It has been exciting to see them spread their wings when they didn’t think it was possible to break free of the stereotypes.
What would you say that you get from mentoring, both personally and professionally?
I feel like I am giving them insight and support. It is so humbling and rewarding to work with these individuals and then receive gratitude from them later in their career.
One word -- verb, noun, adjective, adverb -- that describes a Mentor's role.
Are there any tips you’d give to new mentors who are unsure what they’re letting themselves in for?
One of the things I have learned is to understand when to use inquiry and when to use advocacy
Natural inclination is to always be advocating but you may make too many assumptions about the mentees needs
Be very curious and spend time to really understand the mentee and what they are trying to accomplish. The way they will accomplish may not look like what It will take for you
And how about mentees who’ve never experienced 1-on-1 mentoring before—do you have any advice on how they can approach the experience to get the maximum benefit from it?
Go into it being curious and really wanting to learn more about your mentor.
Don’t feel intimidated if you are matched with someone who you deem successful.
Ask questions about your mentor to understand their history and what they would have done differently in the past.
Recognize your mentor has gone through the same struggles.
Humanize the mentor - get to know them. Everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time.
How do you think mentoring can help create an inclusive culture?
My latest theory/thinking that I have been testing is what if we just went at our careers in a position of abundance that there are plenty of resources, ideas and time in the world. We just need to unlock the right ideas with the right resources at the right time. Mentoring can absolutely help make this a reality. Inclusiveness can be created with a spider web of connections so we can use mentoring to create these connections by introducing each individual to three other individuals.
Finally… funniest story from your career so far?
This story is funny in a weird kind of way.
When I was at Biogen, I was a manager; I was married; I had children and all the things.
I had an Italian business man at a company in Italy drop his silverware at lunch and tell me that the possibility of me did not exist in his mind.
This Italian company was behind in delivering the project that my company needed. So I gave them two choices:
Deliver the project on time and you will never deal with me again.
If you continue to be behind the schedule, I will camp out in your plant.
To which he responded, "We deliver the project early"....and they did.
It’s easy to get offended in these situations, but you need to understand the perspective of the other individual.
Want to join the live conversation this month at our next Rise & Diversify virtual event? Register today for May 20th!