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Success means different things to different people. To Jennifer Moe, an Open Innovation manager at Procter and Gamble, it means achieving a balanced life, in which she gets to use her training and strengths to solve important yet challenging problems at work, and be an involved mother and wife at home.

 

Born and raised in Colombia, Moe always knew she wanted a family and a career in her life. It’s no doubt that her parents, an entrepreneur and a homemaker, played a huge role in Moe’s view of life.

 

Both European descendants, Moe’s parents encouraged their three children, Moe and her two younger brothers, to be all they wanted to be in life. Her parents sent their children to a German school that offered strong math and science programs where Moe fell in love with chemistry. “You can make smells or colors appear or disappear by making just a small change to a molecule. It was fascinating to me,” Moe marvels as she recalls fond memories of her high school chemistry classes.

 

It was no surprise to her family that after high school Moe decided to pursue higher education in chemistry in the US, an uncommon adventure for girls growing up in Colombia back then. 

 

“Jenny has always been extremely driven and very smart. She is very passionate about learning and she is very inquisitive,” says Greg Leupin, Moe’s younger brother who followed Moe’s footstep to study abroad.

 

Moe knew limited English in high school, but that didn’t stop her from taking the SATs and applying for colleges in the US. Eventually she was accepted by a small university in Florida. In 1984, Moe flew to the US, accompanied by her parents. She first studied chemistry at the University of West Florida in Pensacola and later pursed a PhD in organometallic chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. And from there, she started her pursuit of success both at work and in life, on her own terms.  

 

From the Front End of Innovation to Open Innovation

Upon graduating from UNC, Moe was recruited on campus by P&G where she has been working the past 22 years. At P&G, She worked on many different assignments ranging from technology development and formulation to program management in the Front End of Innovation programs. She enjoyed using her expertise in chemistry and problem solving to improve existing products and help develop new products.

 

However, after 8 years Moe started to “feel restless.” “I was doing okay, but not shining,” she recalls. Besides her scientific knowledge, she was hoping that she could better use her other strengths as well. To find out what she could do in other areas, she sought an assignment in the home appliances group that few scientists at P&G wanted to join. This change in assignment was a turning point in her career. “It was a whole different culture and experience working with appliance companies, and I got to use my strengths in blending cultures and in making connections,” she says. Moe loved the experience so much that when a full-time opportunity in the Open Innovation program came along, she grabbed it.

 

Moe cherished all her previous roles at P&G, but she admits that she enjoys her current role as an Open Innovation manager the most because she gets to use her ability to adapt; her passion for creating win-win situations; and her strength of making connections, between people as well as between problems and potential solutions. And her colleagues agree. “Jenny is a true collaborator with a great vision,” comments Wael Safi, an Open Innovation leader at P&G. And that, he believes, is really helping Moe make all the necessary connections both internally and externally.

 

Would she be happier if she had started with the current position? Moe doesn’t think so. She believes all the roles she has played collectively contribute to her success today. She credits her previous roles for helping her understand the culture, the technology and products, the formulation, and the challenges at P&G, which is essential knowledge for her to make suitable connections between teams at P&G and with outside partners.

 

Striving for Balance

A fulfilling career, a supportive husband, and two thriving daughters-- at 48 Moe is living a life that many working parents envy. Moe herself is happy with what she has achieved so far: a balanced life.

 

Achieving a work-life balance, however, was not always easy to Moe, especially when her children were young. To be able to return to work, Moe had to put her young children at a full-time daycare when they were only three months old. Today, she still remembers the days when she had to stay at home with the girls when they were sick, all the while feeling that she needed to make a statement at work. But as the children grow older, things are easier to manage, Moe points out. 

 

Moe attributes her success in managing a work-life balance to a supportive husband, an employer with family-friendly policies, and her strong desire for “having it all.” For many people, trying to “have it all” could create huge pressure, but Moe has managed to use it as her motivation.

 

Insights and Advice

Looking back, Moe has no regrets in her pursuit. She hopes her pursuit and success can inspire her daughters to go after what they want in life. And she wants them to know it is possible to be a loving mom and spouse and have a satisfying career at the same time.

 

To working parents who are at the early stages of their careers, Moe offers the following advice based on her own experience.

 

  • Know who you are and what you want.
  • Improve your weaknesses but focus on your strengths. Your strengths are your true assets. Use them the best you can and they’ll help you stand out.
  • Embrace your uniqueness. “Being different is awesome,” Moe exclaims. Your uniqueness sets you apart from others, which means you may have something valuable that others don’t. So use it to your advantage. A Spanish-speaking female chemist from Colombia, in the early days at P&G in Ohio, Moe was surely different from many of her colleagues. But as P&G continues to increase its strong global presence, Moe’s multicultural background and her global perspective are helping her thrive in her current position.
  • Learn from others but set your own aspirations. Moe thanks many colleagues and supervisors at P&G for their support and advice. She accepts helpful suggestions and learns as much as she can from others. But again, everyone’s life is different. To be successful on your own terms, you have to “set your own aspirations and go after them,” says Moe.

 

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Yanni Wang is a principal scientific writer and the owner of International Biomedical Communications, a company dedicated to translating research data into clear messages. Yanni has a PhD in chemistry and writes about biomedical research-related topics for professional audiences and the general public.

ACS Industry

One Year Work Anniversary

Posted by ACS Industry Mar 19, 2015

Today, I walked out of my boss’s office and survived my first annual performance review ever. Wow, it has been more than a year since I landed this job in Shanghai.  It was such an interesting year for me; it went by so fast and so many new things happened.

 

My thoughts went back to 2013.  Around the holidays, I flew from California to New Jersey to help my wife with the packing before we moved back to China. We spent busy days trying to squeeze eight years of stuff into boxes and suitcases, but we still took the time to enjoy Christmas in the States.  The family across the street put up a wonderful display of Christmas lights; passing cars even slowed down for a look. Every evening, we would put on our heavy coats and go for a walk to enjoy the scene. Back then, I was mostly thinking about what my life and work would be like in Shanghai.

 

As a Chinese person living in the United States for eight years, there are of course many challenges; but it was all minor compared to the things I gained. I wanted to get more experience in the drug discovery industry and I wanted to grow professionally in the field.   I think my time living in the US helped me work towards these goals.

 

When I decided it was time to move home to China, it didn’t take me much effort to find this job.  I actually met my current boss at the ACS meeting.  We had a short interview and I was offered a job with a multinational pharmaceutical company soon after that.  He told me that I could have the opportunity to lead a project within a few years if I joined his team, but I might have to wait for ten years if I continued working in the United States.  This is why, I decided to return home sooner than I expected.

 

Many friends in the United States have asked me how to find jobs and opportunities in Shanghai.  The world of pharmaceutical research in Shanghai is small; people tend to know each other.  So the best opportunities will come from reaching out through your work network; get connected with someone in the area and see what comes out of it.

 

I have had a good first year of work here in China. My typical day starts by arriving at the office around 7:45 and catching up on my reading.  I take the company van to a local CRO around 9am.  Our company is using an embedded research model in the attempt to break the low research efficiency the industry experiences; as well as take advantage of local CROs.  Simply put, we try to keep our internal team small so we can keep focused on our goals and move quickly.  We use our internal team to do the core experiments and we design our other experiments so that local CROs can execute them for us.  Although they are external CROs, we feel like they are part of the team since we see each other so often.  When I arrive at the CRO, I talk to the project team to see if they have any problems and answer any questions.  At the same time, I pass our new designs and ideas to them and make sure they understand the goals.  After lunch I will go back to the office to continue with any trouble shooting and work to gather data.  I also have the chance to collaborate with biologists on target identification, which provides me more opportunities to learn and grow. Sometimes friends from previous labs ask me what my new job is like. When I tell them they often respond, “How interesting!”  That always makes me smile; I enjoy having such a fulfilling job and that was another big motivation to return to China.

 

A friend of mine, who also recently returned to China, said “the setup of things we are doing is bigger in China”.  I totally agree with that idea.  The field of innovative drug discovery has a short history in China, but it is growing on a large scale and there is room for more talent. Relatively speaking, there are more opportunities for young people to get training and to grow in their careers.  Since we are doing “bigger things”, there are more opportunities to show your ability and talents; of course this means there is also more opportunity to expose your shortcomings. However, by taking the risk of larger responsibilities you will have the chance to learn and grow much faster. I feel like one year working in Zhangjiang was like two years working in the United States. There is much room for personal and professional growth among the fast development of Zhangjiang’s high-tech park.

 

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Quan Zhou has studied and worked in the pharmaceutical center of Boston and biotech center of San Diego for eight years. He moved back to China in 2014 and started his career as a drug discovery scientist.

Last week when I was deeply behind schedule on something, and thinking that everything around me was moving way too fast, I took a moment to daydream about the times early in my career when it seemed like I had things better under control.  It struck me the number of complete changeovers in work technology I’ve seen in my career.

 

When I went to college, we had just finished sending a man to the moon in a suit made of shower curtains (vinyl) , Happy Birthday helium balloons (metalized Mylar) and a motorcycle helmet (polycarbonate), all controlled by less computer power than a Fitbit.  The computers we did have were programmed using decks of punched cards with instructions written in a language called FORTRAN.  You could search for an out-of-place card in your deck all day.  And dropping the deck was as disastrous as, say dropping your cell phone is today.

 

But as time passed, the manual typewriter and Corrasable (pencil-erase wax paper) gave way to electric typewriters, which were available to most secretaries by 1978 when I started at Rohm and Haas.  Secretary is an old term I’d like to spend a moment on.  Secretaries were specialist scribes—there was no keyboard in your laboratory or office.  You hand-wrote the report and gave it to the scribe.  Additionally, a secretary was the human interface to your office, and did more to make the company run smoothly than any of the rest of us.

 

When I moved to Firestone Plastics Co in Pottstown, PA in 1979, I had nearly half-time use of a secretary, Doris Shirey, who took care of me and my boss (which we frankly needed). Doris typed our reports, and at the beginning was still using carbon paper for copies.  Editing a typed document came at a cost.  I got used to thinking of words that would fit in an available space if whited-out rather than having to have the page re-typed.

 

Doris answered the telephone by punching the button for the appropriate line.  Telephones in those days were attached to a wire and you were pinned down when you used it.  She took messages and wrote them on pink pieces of paper that said “While You Were Out” (voice mail?) and she mainly kept us from self-detonating.  That was a palpable risk because both Ray and I were, well, a little mercurial.  There was a fair amount of counseling and ruffled feather smoothing that went along with the position as well.

 

In fact, in these days after two or three more generations of technology, when we all do our own typing, answer our own cell phones and pretty much operate independently, it strikes me that something is lost by not having that gatekeeper, that human interface to the outside world.  And it’s a loss from both sides.  Doris was our buffer from the threatening people in the world and she protected them from us.  I learned early on that good treatment of the secretaries and the receptionists and all the other people who were lower on the official importance list was your royal road to access to those who were more officially important.  And I’m thinking that to the extent they’re still there in other jobs today, the Doris Shireys of the world carry a lot of weight.

 

Not long after I arrived in Pottstown we got a copying machine.  I mean one that we were really allowed to use—previous models were deemed too expensive by our management.  Doris was liberated from the tyranny of carbon paper.  And it wasn’t too long after that when someone spliced the gene for a telephone into a copier plasmid and the fax machine was born.

 

The first time a fax machine figured intimately in my work was December of 1986.   Now this wasn’t exceptionally early in the history of faxing, but I remember it clearly.  We were negotiating a contract for our first license of technology into China.  The Wuxi Electrochemical plant had money to spend, but it had to be spent by the end of the year.

 

We negotiated the contract by fax.  Fifty pages back and forth in the last days of December at about a page a minute, and I remember standing there waiting for the pages to come off our machine.  From China!   Heaven only knows what the phone bill was.

Of course, now the idea of putting a piece of paper in an envelope and sending it to someone for arrival three days from now (or never, depending) is utterly unacceptable on a time and efficiency basis.  And yet, I kind of miss that three day lag that gave you a plausible excuse to take an extra day to get the work done.  “No, I put it in the mail yesterday.  I can’t imagine why you don’t have it.”

 

If you think your life moves too fast, the intervention that should have been made was to destroy all the fax machines.  That’s where it all started.  And I promise next month to write about something less ancient.

 

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Dr. William F. Carroll, Jr. holds a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Indiana University, Bloomington, IN.   He received an M.S. from Tulane University in New Orleans, and a B.A. in chemistry and physics from DePauw University in Greencastle, IN. He holds two patents, and has over sixty-five publications in the fields of organic electrochemistry, polymer chemistry, combustion chemistry, incineration and plastics recycling.

ACS Industry

You work WHERE???

Posted by ACS Industry Mar 13, 2015

I always get a little antsy getting on an airplane, but my anxiety has nothing to do with the physics of getting an eighty-seven ton machine off the ground and back again safely. It goes a little more like this:

 

I walk down the crowded aisle of the airplane scanning for a window seat and upon finding one near the wing, quickly put my bag overhead and scoot into my seat. No one else is in my row yet and so I scan the people looking for their seats. I am trying to give off the impression I am not up for conversation; maybe I should go ahead and put in my earbuds and get out my book. But before I can get my iPod turned on, a seemingly friendly face plops down in the seat next to me, “Hi!” With that simple greeting my pulse starts to race because I know what is coming next…

 

     “What do you do?”


      “I’m a scientist.”


      “That’s cool, where?”


      “Monsanto.”

 

Then a moment of apprehensive tension arrives. What is going to come next? Am I going to get lucky and hear, “that’s really awesome,” or will it be the dreaded, “you work WHERE?”

 

When I started my career at Monsanto, the field of agricultural biotechnology was in its infancy. My discussions about working in science and agriculture were never contentious. But as farmers began to see the benefits of genetically modified crops on their farms, and the field, so to speak, started to grow, the public controversy around genetic manipulation of our food also sprouted.

 

As scientists, we are trained to deal in hypotheses, experimentation, data, and refinement. We live in a world of evidence. We write up our ideas and observations and submit them for scrutiny by our peers. Then if our science stands up to this review, our work is sent out into the public. Once our science is published, it is up for analysis by anyone. And in the age of the internet, that “anyone” isn’t necessarily a scientist.

 

My field does not have a monopoly on controversy, particularly within the field of chemistry. It used to be that controversy in science was confined to a scientific conference. Now in the age of blogs and social media, scientific controversies often take on a life of their own, especially in the court of public opinion.

 

Many times the opposition to technology can be quite intense, as is the case with genetically modified crops. It is in this environment where we often find ourselves putting on our earbuds and opening a book to avoid the discussion. But if we, as scientists, sit out the conversation, we are abdicating our responsibilities to the public to make our often difficult science accessible. And when we do that, we enable others to frame the debate. When we choose not to engage, it is the science that suffers, sometimes to the detriment of the general public.

 

On a recent trip, I found myself at a conference where I suspected there might be many critics of my employer and my work. I was worried about the potential for ugly confrontation. As I expected, I got the “what do you do,” question and I will admit to being nervous when the question was asked. But, I answered with confidence and to my surprise no one accosted me or called me evil. I had several conversations about the need to feed a population of ten billion people in the next thirty years and the many approaches it will take to accomplish such an achievement.

 

I don’t know if I won any converts. That is not what is important. What mattered most is that I participated in the conversation.

 

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Jeff Seale is a Science Fellow at Monsanto where he has worked for 18 years building world-class protein engineering platforms and developing the next generation of science leaders. Outside of work he enjoys watching his children's artistic and athletic endeavors, sailing with friends and working to end extreme global poverty with the ONE Campaign.

ACS Industry

The Founding Team

Posted by ACS Industry Mar 13, 2015

A company is only as good as the people in it, which means it is important to pick the co-founders that will give your startup the best chance of success. There are three factors that are critically important while picking co-founders for your startup: how many, how you get along, and which roles you will play.

 

How Many

The prototypical startup has one to four founders. According to a study by MIT Sloan School of Management, each additional co-founder up to four increases the chances of a startup’s success. Paul Buchheit, the creator of Gmail and a partner at Y Combinator, says the “sweet spot” is two to three founders.


Why not one or five?


Five founders is generally considered too many because decisions are made slower with more people, and shares of the company are diluted to a point that may deter investors. One founder is too few because starting a business is simply too much work and emotional strain for one person. One person can’t bounce ideas off herself, and is much less likely to realize when she is making an obviously bad decision. Plus, when times inevitably get tough, one of the most powerful forces that can hold a company together is the founders’ drive not to let one another down.


Your Roles

It feels like every major entrepreneurship and business publication has its own answer to what comprises a “perfect” co-founder combination (see here, here, and here, for example). The stereotypical “perfectly balanced” co-founding team has a Hustler, Hacker, and Hipster. This means, someone who can sell (to customers and investors), someone technical, and a designer/creative person. But that is not to say those three skills are the only ones that matter in the early days of your company. From what I’ve seen in other successful founding teams and through research, your founding team should have people that can handle at least the following six roles (in no particular order):

  1. Technical
  2. Vision
  3. Financial
  4. Sales & Marketing
  5. Design
  6. Operations


In the early days of your startup, founders will fulfill several of these roles at once. As you progress, you can hire employees to specialize.


Typically, the primary Founder/CEO will be a vision person, along with one or several other skills. There is a massive list of useful skills that make an effective CEO, but the most important are arguably the ability to thrive in uncertainty and the ability to project a “reality distortion field.” According to Steve Blank, a serial entrepreneur whose book launched the Lean Startup movement, startups move quickly and grow in environments “where almost all of the variables are unknown.” That is, there are no concrete answers for who your customers are, how much you should charge, what your channels of distribution will be, etc. A good CEO and founder can make quick decisions and is not afraid of the uncertainty.


Additionally, a good CEO convinces everyone involved with the startup - co-founders, employees, investors - that the idea isn’t as crazy as it sounds and that they can achieve the goals necessary to make it work. She can project a “reality distortion field” that knocks down doubts and keeps the team motivated.


For the other founders, Blank has a simple two question test to determine if someone belongs on the founding team:

  1. Do you have a company without them?
  2. Can you find someone else just like them?

If both answers are no, you have a co-founder. If either answer is yes, you can hire them as an employee once your startup takes off.


How You Get Along

Building a business is a long process, much of which involves spending a lot of time at your emotional worst with your partners. This is why it is important for founders to get along as people, not just to be a perfect balance of skills. It is wildly unrealistic to expect that you and your co-founders will suppress personal disputes and always act professionally in pursuit of a shared goal. Y Combinator founder Paul Graham says that “most disputes are not due to the situation, but the people. Which means they’re inevitable. Don’t suppress misgivings.” Misgivings are much easier to address before starting the company than after.


Make an effort to understand your co-founders emotionally. You should get to a point where if your co-founder is subtly upset, you are the first to notice, and you know why. Even if she isn’t upset with you, you should know the best way to recognize her frustration, and help her work through it.


Choosing the right team is one of the most important decisions you will make during the process of creating and growing your startup. You have to choose the right number of founders, with the right balance of skills, who get along with one another as both professionals and people. If you do create a great team, however, your startup will be strong, resilient, and ready to take off.


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Jack Fischl is a co-founder at Keteka.com - a website that connects travelers with authentic tours and activities in Latin America and allows them to book their experiences online.

Imagine you are CEO of your company for a day.  Once you’ve gotten used to the view from the corner office and enjoyed your first sip of coffee in a fine porcelain cup, where will you focus your time?

 

Probably one key area will be product strategy.  Without top-class products, your company will soon go out of business.  So whilst a real-life CEO would obviously have a thousand and one things on which to focus, you might well spend at least part of your day in this area.  And perhaps you might start by having a discussion with your team about the 4 Valleys chart below.

4 valleys.pngIt focuses on the two key areas of product strategy:

  • On the vertical side, it shows the lead times for product development
  • On the horizontal side, it shows the length of product cycles

 

Let’s say that you are a Napa Valley type of company.  It is characterised by long lead times, just like most pharmaceutical or chemical companies.  They have to invest large amounts of cash in R&D and manufacturing, and have no way of knowing at the outset whether the gamble will pay off.  Of course, you will hope for a major success – a superb vintage in Napa Valley terms.  But sometimes, as in wine-making, problems can occur right at the last moment.

 

Let’s say that’s your problem today?  Now you have some hard decisions.  Your project head is still sure everything will work out, but needs more time and money to have a second attempt.  However you’ve invested a lot of money on the project, and your CFO is getting difficult calls from investors and the banks; they want to know what’s happening.  To top it off, your investor relations head is hearing that a major competitor is preparing a hostile bid – they smell blood in the water and see a chance to get their hands on your company on the cheap.    

 

How would you react?

 

Would you back your project head and find the cash from somewhere, even if it meant cutting costs and letting good people go in other areas?  Would you implement a ‘bet the company’ strategy and plan to sell off a core part of your existing business, as a way of funding the bigger opportunity?  Or would you take the first steps towards cancelling the project, by instigating a major review to see if it still made sense to continue?

 

Tough decisions, all of them.

 

Many people in your team will get upset, possibly very upset, whatever you do.  There is, of course, no “right answer” to the decision you’ve made today.  The commercial world is quite unlike the scientific world in this respect.  Instead there are various shades of grey.  Good CEOs simply have to learn to live with high levels of uncertainty, over an extended time frame.  However things go, you’ll certainly feel you’ve earned your pay for the day when you go home.

 

In another post, I’ll look at what might happen if you were CEO in another type of business:

 

  • ‘Silicon Valley’, where a few weeks’ delay can mean the difference between rags and riches  
  • ‘Happy Valley’, where lead times are short, but then the product seems to sell forever
  • ‘Death Valley’, where it takes so long to develop the product, that the market has disappeared before it launches

 

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Paul Hodges is chairman of International eChem (www.iec.eu.com), trusted advisers to the chemical industry and its investment community. He is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Industrial Council on chemicals, advanced materials and biotechnology, and presents the ACS ‘Chemistry & the Economy’ webinars.