Stepping outside your professional comfort zone

Below, Vanessa shares her perspective for those considering a career in STEM. She offers a thoughtful perspective on how to step out of your comfort zone to take advantage of opportunities to advance your career. She discusses universal obstacles many individuals face when considering new, challenging roles that could offer significant career growth, including fear and familial obligations.

I work at Mirati as the vice president of clinical development operations, where I help support the clinical development organization with initiatives related to continuous improvement and operational efficiencies.

I have worked in the biotech industry for 26 years, but I began in a different space than where I am today. I have a pre-med background, but I started my career at a clinical research organization. Even though I had no idea where it would lead me, I kept an open mind. It can be intimidating to consider a STEM career, but there are so many avenues to find the area within this industry that is right for you.

It can be intimidating to consider a STEM career, but there are so many avenues to find the area within this industry that is right for you.

I encourage young professionals to understand there are a variety of opportunities regardless of background or education. For individuals with no experience in a specific industry, it is important to get your foot in the door in your interest area because there is so much growth that can happen within a role. My advice is to accept that a role may elicit feelings of hesitancy but use it to your maximum advantage. Step outside your comfort zone and try something new because that is when you thrive.

I encourage young professionals to understand there are a variety of opportunities regardless of background or education.

I love my current role at Mirati, but I was not always fulfilled with my career. I stayed well within my comfort zone for many years in a previous role, but I didn’t have a lot of growth opportunities because I could only go so far with the qualifications that I had. Although I was content in my role and would have stayed, I received the chance to join a new company that would provide exciting opportunities. The new role had the potential to expand beyond my comfort zone and taking the job would require a leap of faith. This new position ended up being a great learning experience. I realized that making changes and taking chances can open up many opportunities for professional and personal growth.

I would strongly advise others to not let fear keep you immobilized in a role with no growth potential. Give yourself that chance. Once you have succeeded in a certain role, keep moving forward and grow. Throughout my career, I’ve had several conversations with my colleagues who have been doing one avenue of work for a significant period of time and are afraid when presented with a different opportunity.

It is not always the easiest decision to change, especially when you have obligations, like family. When considering a new opportunity, you might be more inclined to stay if your current situation is comfortable and stable. I also have seen other factors – such as concerns of handling additional responsibility or having to travel frequently – affect whether to take a new opportunity, especially for working mothers. I went through that myself and have had that same conversation with some of my colleagues.

It has been encouraging to see my female colleagues go through similar journeys, where they started in a certain role just to get experience then found specific interests and inspirations that led them to executive roles in various companies.

Ultimately, you can never know with complete certainty if a new opportunity is right for you until you try. Once you acknowledge the opportunity and choose to commit to the unknown, your growth potential increases dramatically. And if it doesn’t work, at least you’ve tried. Allow yourself to learn what you capable of, you may surprise yourself!

Ultimately, you can never know with complete certainty if a new opportunity is right for you until you try.

My advice to someone who is interested in taking a leap of faith professionally, but does not know whether the timing is right, is to not focus on evaluating the timing of the move. It is easy to get wrapped up in thinking about the various reasons why the timing of a move may be bad, but don’t restrict yourself. I think we use timing as an excuse, and we make excuses because of fear. However, we move forward and grow by overcoming our fears.

We should all be able to have an adequate life-work balance that allows us to grow as an individual in all our roles, as a partner, a mom, and a colleague. Fortunately, we continue to see improvements in the workplace to accommodate individuals to ensure they can bring their best selves to work and strive for the career that they want. I sincerely appreciate Mirati’s culture which has provided me that flexibility, and I hope others are increasingly able to work in similar, supportive environments as well.

Mirati remains committed to raise funds for cancer research at Padres Pedal the Cause 2022

Mirati believes that supporting our local community is as important as the research we do. We have channeled that belief into an extensive history of supporting community-based organizations, with continued focus on our mission to discover, design and deliver breakthrough therapies to transform the lives of patients with cancer and their loved ones. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without the perseverance and commitment of our employees who strive to achieve our mission and positively impact the communities around them.

Padres Pedal’s annual event was held on April 9, 2022, at Petco Park. It was the first in-person event in over two years due to the pandemic. Participation could come in various ways such as in-person cycling, a 5K walk/run, spin or virtual participation.

Mirati pledged a fundraising goal of $25,000, and our employees exceeded expectations in their commitment to fight against cancer by raising over $37,500 for the event.

Mirati pledged a fundraising goal of $25,000, and our employees exceeded expectations in their commitment to fight against cancer by raising over $37,500 for the event. Team Mirati got creative with their fundraising efforts and held companywide events which included a comedy night, toffee sales and an internally organized Peloton ride to raise awareness for cancer research. Forty-two employees registered to participate in this year’s event with many additional employees showing support to individual participants or by donating to Team Mirati.

Our belief is that transforming the lives of those with cancer is more than a job – it’s the chance to be part of something game-changing.

“I am proud of Team Mirati’s efforts at this year’s Padres Pedal the Cause to help support funding cancer research,” said James Christensen, PhD., chief scientific officer, Mirati Therapeutics, Inc. “We are unified by our passion for helping patients and are inspired by a single vision – to unlock the science behind the promise of a life beyond cancer. Our belief is that transforming the lives of those with cancer is more than a job – it’s the chance to be part of something game-changing.”

Mirati was also the corporate sponsor of the Padres Pedal the Cause 2022 Featured Fighters. This initiative highlighted videos from three members of our community who have inspired others with their courage, warmth and dedication to creating a world without cancer.

A sincere thank you to Team Mirati for all you do to positively impact the lives of cancer patients, their families and our San Diego community, and for bringing so much team spirit while you do it!

“I’m grateful for Mirati’s continued partnership in supporting Padres Pedal the Cause which brings together thousands of participants each year to raise money for life saving cancer research,” said Anne Marbarger, chief executive officer, Curebound. “A sincere thank you to Team Mirati for all you do to positively impact the lives of cancer patients, their families and our San Diego community, and for bringing so much team spirit while you do it!”

What’s money got to do with it?

As originally published on LinkedIn

In today’s job market, amidst the ‘Great Resignation’, there is a much talk about reevaluating your WHY.  Why am I working here? Why should I stay? Why do I want to give my time and energy to this team, this group or this leader?

The importance of the WHY has become even more important in recent times.  Like a lot of our personal decisions in a post-pandemic world, many of us are recalibrating what gives us purpose and motivation in our professional lives too.

Here are three things to ask yourself when asking your WHY when it comes to your career:

  • Go beyond compensation – does the company’s mission, vision and values align with yours?
  • Belonging and inclusiveness – do you feel respected/heard and is there trust between employees and senior management?
  • Opportunity – can you use your skills and abilities beyond the job description?

Of course, compensation is still relevant, but with the candidates I and the Mirati Talent Acquisition team speak with, we like to share the full picture.

I’m proud to be part of a company like Mirati that gives people the opportunity to learn, lead with empathy and grow professionally alongside talented colleagues who are committed to helping patients with cancer.

We believe when it comes to achieving our mission, we must “go big, or go home.”  We strive to create a sense of belonging and inclusion – one in which we laugh and have fun, while we drive positive impact together.

Creating an environment where you can challenge norms, celebrate courageous attitudes, and operate with grit – this is what each of us should be asking ourselves – are you part of a work community where you can do this?

The power of self advocacy

Below, Lamisa answers questions based on her experience and offers valuable advice about how, and why, it is important to advocate for yourself throughout your career.

Q. When did you learn the power of self-advocacy?

A. I’m a physician by training and before I came to the U.S. for business school, I practiced in India and the U.K. When I started my career and first job in the U.S., I didn’t realize the importance of advocating for myself. I thought I would be considered for the best opportunities simply because my work was so good. But then, I saw myself passed over for new opportunities because I was in the background. This is what changed my perspective. It is important to speak up for yourself. Once I recognized that, I identified my interests, career goals, and how I was positioned for certain opportunities – then I started advocating for myself. This helped me find the right opportunities to advance and best contribute to the company’s success, and my own.

I also noticed throughout my career that people can be subconsciously blind. I used to believe people did not notice skin color, gender, or nationality, but, subconscious bias is real. I believe it is important to remind others what sets you apart.

Q. Is there particular advice that you find yourself giving to other women?

A. Yes. It is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. At times, it can feel as though we are on this milestone-based path and that everything is time bound. Many people can start believing “I need to be manager in two years” or “I need to be VP in four years” and can forget the big picture of what they are trying to accomplish.

When I became a mom, I realized that I am in a completely new category, and I am stretching myself so much. Do I really want to put myself out for a promotion at this time? Can I take more responsibilities or extend my bandwidth and be able to do it justice? If that ‘bigger’ title came two or four years later, does that hurt me? I believe women tend think we need to do “better” all the time. We constantly set what I think are impossible targets or deadlines for ourselves and ultimately harm ourselves trying to reach them.

Q. What are your views on imposter syndrome?

A. It is real. I have felt it several times and I believe women may especially feel the effects of this ‘syndrome’. Some women tend to undersell themselves so when they land in positions they believe they are not qualified for, they feel like an imposter. When considering a job opportunity, I recommend overcoming imposter syndrome by getting into the mindset of the hiring manager who is likely considering whether the potential employee could hit all of the qualifications within a 6–12-month period. This is typically more important than a candidate immediately meeting all of the requirements when hired.

Another facet of advocating for yourself is establishing boundaries at work. Lamisa discussed how she does this to create a successful work/life balance. She also offers her perspective on leadership and why she chose to work at Mirati.

Q. Why are boundaries important at work? Do you set boundaries for yourself?

A. They are critical for ensuring people you work with know what is acceptable and what is not. I believe it is important to establish boundaries upfront or else it can potentially create awkwardness later.

As a working parent of two toddlers, time is precious. I have hard starts and stops. Weekends are off-limits. An understanding boss helps; for me it was easy to align on boundaries and expectations upfront.  Ambition and desire to please everybody can get in the way, so I recommend being deliberate about setting boundaries and adhering to them, setting the example for your team to follow.

Q. What makes a strong leader, in your experience?

A. To me, leadership is about inspiring and motivating a team to deliver their best every day. A strong leader is someone who is humble, a good listener, authentic and compassionate. A strong leader ultimately needs to be able to adapt to meet the needs of the team on any given day.

Q. How do you lift up your team or other colleagues to help them grow their careers?

A. My goal is to understand what that individual wants to do within their career. For example, where do they see themselves in one to two years. Then based on that information I seek to engineer specific experiences, or exposure to specific people, or train them for specific skills that will help them reach their goals. Understanding where employees want to go helps me help them to do so within their current position.

Q. Considering the breadth of this industry, why did you choose to work at Mirati?

A. I chose Mirati because I was fascinated by the science, and I thought it was a very innovative company. I also fell in love with the people that I spoke to as part of my hiring process. I was amazed at what the people I spoke to brought to the table and how much I would get to learn working with them. I was excited about kind of impact that I would be able to have.

I loved that Mirati was thinking about digital innovation. Although we are a small, but growing biotech, we have bold ambitions. Today’s world is increasingly digital. There are infinite technologies that can simplify or automate our business process or allow us to get closer to patient and physicians in a just-in-time manner. These technologies are generating millions of data points, which when analyzed, can inform critical business decisions and allow us to serve our patients and physicians better.

Operating with a growth mindset

The urgency with which we work enables our organization to build from the great work and culture that has been established our humble start nearly ten years ago.

We proudly remain a nimble biotech focused on challenging areas and novel programs – we are not seeking incremental innovation, but on areas that can have a transformative impact for patients.

Our culture is one that values the team over the individual, bold action and an ability to move quickly. We chart our own path.

Truly listening to the people closest to the challenge is an important part of our success.

As we grow and advance our clinical-stage pipeline and approach commercialization, I like to think we prioritize listening and learning over speaking. Finding the right experts both inside and outside the company is essential to filling important gaps and addressing key risks.

I personally spend time with our new team members to talk about the risks of only relying on what you have done before and ensuring that prior experience is not an impediment to relearning new skills or addressing the unique challenges and opportunities we have. Truly listening to the people closest to the challenge is an important part of our success.

Mirati is filled with individuals who have valuable perspectives that will help us to advance our patient-focused goals, but we must first understand what has been done before. Once we understand, we need to operate with a growth mindset, learn from the lessons that came before us, and progress quickly toward the future.

To me, being relentless means we are not anchored in one place. We are constantly learning, improving and moving forward. My team and fellow colleagues “show up” every day, work hard to achieve our shared goals, and constantly put into action innovative ideas to help patients as quickly as possible.

A culture designed to unleash the potential of our people

“We are purposefully building a collaborative team to tackle the problem of understanding and treating cancer head on,” says Jamie Christensen, chief scientific officer, Mirati Therapeutics, Inc. “Bringing together unique skillsets across translational research and discovery science, we are exclusively and aggressively focused on programs where existing interventions are unknown or insufficient.”

Our labs are set up to be integrated so that all disciplines in R&D can benefit from one another and help rapidly share ideas.

From seating charts to lab configurations, we are aspiring to maximize collaboration, curiosity, and our drive to do more for patients.

“We have an open office setting providing an opportunity to intermingle different functions and teams,” says Jamie. “Our labs are set up to be integrated so that all disciplines in R&D can benefit from one another and help rapidly share ideas.”

The Mirati culture is designed to unleash the potential of our science and our people by creating an environment that fosters open-mindedness and collaboration as we seek to transform the lives of patients with cancer. The company’s more than 320 employees are uniformly focused on patients by trying to make a difference with our science and in our communities.

“Where we differentiate ourselves is that we believe in advancing innovative oncology medicines focused on areas with significant unmet needs. Our portfolio is built on what is right in front us – we simply accept the challenge,” says Jamie. “The goal is to do things in a way that will help solve specific problems for identifiable patients by targeting the genetic and immunological drivers of cancer.”

Read more about our science and how we’re tackling cancer head on.

Bridging R&D and the real world

Kelly Covello, head of Medical Affairs, shares a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the dynamic work of the Mirati Medical Affairs team and how their work intersects with patients, patient advocacy groups and healthcare professionals.

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Mirati participates as the largest corporate team in Padres Pedal the Cause 2021

Mirati’s mission to discover, design and deliver breakthrough therapies to transform the lives of patients with cancer and their loved ones is well aligned with the Padres Pedal mission of a world without cancer.

For patients with cancer and their families, the Padres Pedal annual event creates connections and shared experiences for survivors, family members and supporters as they raise critical funding to accelerate the search for a cure for cancer.

Cancer research and treatment advances have led to improvements in patient outcomes over the last several years, but more progress is needed to increase long-term survival and improve quality of life.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to many things, Mirati’s collective fight against cancer did not miss a beat. In 2021, Padres Pedal the Cause announced their annual event would be held virtually. Employees had the option to participate by joining a spin, yoga, or strength class offered by local fitness studios or by committing to the 100 percent challenge. Employees could also take part in an activity of their choice for 100 reps, 100 minutes or 100 miles, or any other challenge that was important to them. Mirati pledged 75 percent of its employees would participate with a total fundraising goal of $50,000.

Although virtual, the Mirati team found ways to collaborate and motivate one another to support the effort, including technological collaboration tools, weekly discussions to share engagement strategies and creative activities, including a silent auction. Most Mirati employees hiked, rode bikes, or swam to complete their 100 percent challenge.

Until each person with cancer has a therapy targeted to their disease, we will pursue our research with relentless focus for the next breakthrough.

“I am proud of Mirati’s efforts for this year’s Padres Pedal the Cause to support funding local cancer research,” Charles M. Baum, M.D., Ph.D., president and chief executive officer, Mirati Therapeutics, Inc. “As we work to bring life-changing medicines to patients with cancer, we are deeply committed to making a difference in the lives of patients and their families, our employees, and the communities with whom we collaborate and the neighborhoods where we live. Until each person with cancer has a therapy targeted to their disease, we will pursue our research with relentless focus for the next breakthrough.”

Mirati was named the largest corporate team of 2021 with 204 members, exceeding our employee participation goal, and raising over $74,000 for the event.

Mirati was the featured corporate sponsor in the Padres Pedal the Cause 2021 Honor Video, a video memorial composed of photos from cancer fighters, survivors and family members. Mirati was also named the largest corporate team of 2021 with 204 members, exceeding our employee participation goal, and raising over $74,000 for the event.

“On behalf of Padres Pedal, I am so thankful to Mirati for its outstanding partnership with our organization. One hundred percent of funds raised by Team Mirati and all other participants will go directly to fund life-saving cancer research in our community,” said Anne Marbarger, executive director, Padres Pedal. “Thank you, team Mirati, for honoring loved ones touched by cancer and fighting to improve outcomes for patients.”

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