Carmen Weese joined Syneos Health in 2005 as a Group Manager in Data Management and followed an accelerated career path to serve as EVP of Biometrics in 2017 following several notable promotions.
During Carmen’s 15 years at Syneos Health, she has developed diverse data management, project management and analysis processes. Carmen’s oversight responsibilities include employees in Data Management, Biostatistics, Statistical Programming, and Medical Writing personnel globally through functional services hubs in Asia, Europe, Africa and North America. Carmen is a certified Master Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma principles, which includes expertise in reducing waste and process inefficiencies. In 2012, Carmen created the vision for onboarding new graduates by indoctrinating them with Data Management knowledge via real-time in person training with hands on exercises, quizzes to confirm retention of information and hands-on assessment after the training to ensure successful comprehension thereby ensuring global adherence to the processes (i.e., CDA Knowledge College). Carmen collaborated with the International Academy of Clinical Research (IAOCR) to create the first Data Management individual contributor accreditation program for clinical research, with 150 of Syneos Health Data Management team enrolled in the IAOCR certification program. During Carmen’s tenure as Biometrics Business Unit Head (BUH), she grew Biometrics from an 800-person organization to more than 2300+. Carmen has mentored 10+ lead level staff to VP positions and higher.
Before coming to Syneos Health, Carmen was an EDC and EDM Technical Advisor at Quintiles, now IQVIA. Carmen used her experience, comprehensive and advanced technical expertise as part of a global team to develop and maintain corporate systems that met internal and external client’s needs. Carmen also served as a Project Manager, working with multiple service lines including Regulatory Affairs, Study Drug Management, Safety Surveillance & Reporting, Clinical Monitoring/Site Management, Data Management, Biostatistics, and Medical Writing. During Carmen’s tenure at IQVIA, she performed in other roles including Group Manager and Clinical Data Coordinator.
Carmen began her career at IQVIA in 1998 after graduating from the University of Mary Washington with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology.
Tell us about your career progression into your current role.
I graduated school with a BSc with a desire to get into clinical research, so I moved to North Carolina and took a temporary job with Quintiles performing data entry. Soon afterwards, I moved into a full time position. I progressed through several levels in data management to develop and manage their first night shift, where I was everything from IT to HR for that division. I learned so much about management in those few years and it was a pivotal time in my career. After my night shift management position, I moved into a daytime management position and as a secondary initiative, I collaborated with a group to develop a document management system that could read the data. Ultimately, Quintiles made some organizational changes that meant I was one of the last remaining managers there, but it didn’t feel secure, and I had the chance to move to INC Research as a Director of Data Services. It was a big change, moving from a vast organization to what was then quite a small company; I could see all the processes in the core team, which was great. I advanced to a VP and then a Senior VP before the opportunity came to lead Biometrics, which is where I am today as Executive VP. I have realized that I am definitely a creative ideas person and that has helped me in my career. I surround myself with strong leaders on my team who help implement the vision I have for Biometrics. The people who work for me and with me augment my success and I am very grateful to my team as well as the executive management team I report into at Syneos Health.
How important is mentoring and do you see any differences between men and women in mentoring?
It’s funny you should ask that because we used to have mentoring built into a toolkit for new starters and I was firmly of the belief that it wouldn’t work, so I removed it. However, we started to notice a gap between the department heads and the next level down, and after receiving my Lean Six Sigma master black belt, I realized the power of mentorship! I experienced the importance of mentoring in a team environment and the value of having a mentor you can go to and count on. So now, we have developed a mentorship program where the department heads mentor someone for six months. I think I have had at least 11 bosses in my career and had some incredible people that I have made a connection with, who I would not have called mentors at the time, but they have been so important.
Working across a variety of roles as you have, what are your thoughts on risk taking and do you think it's harder as a female leader?
I think it depends on the industry you are in and the role that you play in that industry. If you were a woman in IT, which tends to be a male environment, I would think that women are not risk takers, because if they fail, they are expected to fail. Female CIO’s come across as more aggressive and assertive, maybe feeling that they have to be in order to stay in that role and be respected. In my role however, I feel like I can take risks as much as any man could. However, it depends on the type of risk. No one would think twice about me to take a risk in my day-to-day job, but if it is a financial risk, that would be a different story because there would be ramifications of failure. Therefore, it depends on your role and the type of risk. It also has to do with personality and how comfortable you are with risk, and I am very comfortable with it. I have always been a risk taker and believe that personality trait has nothing to do with gender.
How do you find being a female leader in a mostly male dominated industry?
Within the CRO industry, the majority are females, but if you looked at the pharmaceutical industry at the executive level, it is mostly male. You have to wonder why it is not at least equal. Even though I am a risk taker when it comes to process, I am not when it comes to my communication style. Therefore, in a meeting with the C-suite, typically all men, I am not the first to speak up. I am not shy at all, but I will sit back, listen first, and then speak up second when I feel I am adding value. Here at Syneos Health, we have a good representation of men and women leaders in executive roles.
How do you feel the pharmaceutical industry compares to others regarding diversity and women in the workplace?
If you reviewed the number of employees across the sector, there would be a higher percentage of women, but it is the opposite at the executive level. I cannot say why that is. For me, I have always known I have wanted to be at the executive level. A reason could be something that I was once told, which was very good advice: it’s not my reputation that will get me to the next as I would one day hit a plateau and reputation alone would not allow my career to advance; instead, I would need to rely on my team’s capabilities, not my own. Turns out it was very true; I was able to get so far, but my team took me higher!
Looking back on your career, what are some of the key moments that you believe have helped you get to where you are?
The night manager role was pivotal to me, as I mentioned. I received five years’ experience in those two years because I had to learn so many roles. If you think of your first manager role, when you become your colleagues’ boss, is probably the hardest and maybe we don’t support that area as much as we should because it’s a real make-or-break moment. Taking the Lean Six Sigma was also a key time for me because it changes your mind about so many things. When I first ran a department, it gave me a lot of additional insight into establishing a culture and how important it is for employees to want to come to work and where they can say I have a “friend” at work. However important the work might be in clinical research, you still have to like what you do and whom you are working with, so being a department head was another big moment for me. I have always worn many hats in my leadership positions because for me it is so important that I know someone’s role if I am going to mentor or guide them. Perhaps that is also a gender difference – I have seen men who have no experience in a role be quite happy to relate it to something that they do know and give advice.
What advice would you give to someone looking to progress their career?
I would say plan the job you want from the beginning and have a goal. If you want to go into management, work out how you are going to get there and a realistic timeframe. Talk to individuals who are there already, look at their career path, and ask them how they did it. Get a mentor. Do not be afraid to try new things, in other departments, to help focus your goals too, even if it just helps rule options out. For example, at one point, I considered a move into the sales side of the business, but after speaking to a few sales team members, I knew it was not for me. Trying things out can help you pivot and change direction too, but more than anything, you have to manage your own career and be your own advocate. You have to figure out your own strengths and weaknesses and how you can offset them or improve them in order to make it work. No one else is going to do it for you.
I would like to extend a huge thanks to Carmen for taking the time to share her insights and experiences!
Do you know an inspiring business woman, and/or a leader in Life Sciences who is challenging the status quo? I want to meet them! Shoot me an email at email@example.com.Posted about 3 years ago