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Event Recap: Career Advancement and Development in a Hybrid Work Environment

Author: Sharon List

On Wednesday, 20 October, the HBA Northern New Jersey (NNJ) and HBA Central New Jersey (CNJ) held an educational event on “Career Advancement and Development in a Hybrid Work Environment”.  The summary of our event is as follows:

Lisa Yates

Lisa Yates, HBA CNJ Director of Programming, opened the event and Thalia Mingo, BMS, introduced the BMS network of women (BNOW), their mission, and the benefits of gender and ethnic diversity.

We moved onto our panelist discussion, which included:

The panelists:

  • Adam Lenkowsky, SVP & General Manager, US Cardiovascular, Immunology, & Oncology, Bristol Myers Squibb
  • Radha Ramkumar, Exec. Director, Global Proj. Mgmt & Leadership, Daiichi Sankyo
  • Ingrid Marchal-Gerez, Cell Therapy Customer Journey Manager, Johnson & Johnson

Co-moderated by:

  • Anne-Marie Sotire, SVP, Human Resources, R&D, Bristol Myers Squibb
  • Beatrice von Seckendorff, Senior Operations Manager, Pfizer


Our co-moderators kicked off the discussion by asking about the ways each panelist connected to their teams in their remote environments and the answers included virtual happy hours, coffee chats, stand-up comedy, attending virtual conferences “together” with a smaller group via Teams, mixology classes that brought in different regional specialties, and games to bring out competitiveness, connection, and winnings that went towards charity.

Radha shared what she thought was most important in our new ways of working in virtual/hybrid environments which included mindset changes across the organization. Some examples shared:

  • Practicing empathy by acknowledging each person’s situation and feelings and truly listening without trying to solve the problem
  • Focus Fridays – no meetings on Fridays in order to get other work done
  • No emails on weekends – to fully disconnect
  • Assisting others to prioritize their workload
  • Being your own advocate by being vocal and specific about the support you need

Adam shared some insights on what leaders can do to help their teams develop and advance others which included:

  • The importance of sponsorship (which is different than mentorship, although both are valuable) and how this focused, intentional effort makes a world of difference when it comes to advancing in your career
  • Sharing learnings that you have experienced in your career with others through meetings, speaking opportunities, etc.

Ingrid discussed the balance between being ready for a promotion professionally while also feeling overwhelmed in other areas of life and how to manage that, including:

  • Being upfront about how you are feeling
  • Truly prioritizing what you want and need
  • Pushing forward on opportunities that you are truly interested in

Ann-Marie shared her example of working overseas and ensuring that she stayed visible in multiple regions by meeting with individuals outside of her own department to discuss how initiatives may impact them.

Bea asked about being a mentee to a senior leader and how to come prepared for those meetings. Our panelists all responded with the following tips:

  • First and foremost, ask for a meeting with the senior leader. So many don’t even ask, and especially in our virtual environment without as much travel, senior leaders may be more available than you think
  • Come ready to share an overview of your career history, something about your personal life, key initiatives you are working on and how it impacts the business, and where you want to go in the organization
  • Ask the leader what is important to them so you can continue to bring mutual benefit to the ongoing relationship
  • Coming as a human and as a professional that can bring value back to the leader

Another great question about being high-potential introverts and how can they remain visible led to Adam sharing that there is a “Valuably Quiet” initiative at BMS. Their data revealed 30 - 50 percent of the organization are introverts. Leaders can help these introverts be heard by:

  • Being intentional about asking all to contribute
  • Sharing content ahead of time and asking members to bring a question so they can feel comfortable preparing and their voice can be heard

For those women who have recently been promoted, Radha shared insights on how to succeed which included:

  • Asking your manager for clear expectations
  • Positioning yourself to gain exposure by thinking about the more challenging aspects of your current role that you could take on if there are rotational programs or ways to see other parts of the organization, and by seeking mentors to help you
  • Prioritizing your time – you have to be able to say no because it is better to do one or two things really well than five or six things at a lower standard.
  • Being strategic by asking yourself "the tough" questions such as: Why am I doing this? What is my end goal? Am I having fun? Am I learning? Is this rewarding?

Ingrid added that the pandemic created an unprecedented situation that brought out new needs, such as empathy and supporting employee mental health. It is a tremendous opportunity to learn new skills and bring new ways of working to the table.

Alison Handler

The attendees went into breakout sessions with each of our panelists and co-moderators to network and have more intimate Q&A, and then we reconvened. Alison Handler, BMS, closed out our event sharing her key takeaways and the importance of networks such as the HBA.

The Key Takeaways:

Hybrid environments are our new normal so intentionally seeking opportunities to expand your network and obtain sponsorship is very important in order to continue your development and advancement

  • Ask specifically and directly for what you need in order to be successful
  • Take care of your needs unapologetically and without guilt so that everyone can embrace the flexibility that hybrid environments offer
  • There needs to be more shifts within organizations and investments in support for employees for true gender parity
  • Starting the dialogue about what is needed is the start to the changes we need for workstyles that help our workforce succeed
  • Be intentional in your actions
  • Bring your authentic self to work