Alexandra Bach-Weidmuller took a nontraditional career path and is now Head of Program and Project Management at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR). She describes how lateral career moves helped her become a leader.
What are your strongest skills?
I like and embrace change, and I go with the opportunity. What I feel I’ve been fairly strong at and have built on over time is that I like to build bridges. I think I’m somebody who bridges easily between different cultures, understandings, beliefs.
What is the best piece of career advice you have received that helped advance you into a leadership position?
Early in our careers, we always think opportunity has to come with a change in level, a promotion – that that’s the only way to move forward. One of my mentors said to me, in the middle of my career, that lateral moves are actually really important and that we can significantly learn from them. I started in the Pharma Development organization at Novartis, then I moved to Development in Vaccines, then to Technical Operations, and five years ago I went into Research; so I took my skills and competencies that I had acquired in the early parts of my career and transferred them into various organizational environments. These were all lateral moves, but I still felt that career-wise, I had strengthened and expanded both my mind and my skill set. That is definitely something that people should think about; moving laterally can set you on a different trajectory or get you in a different place that you would never have gone otherwise. Take a lateral move if you have that opportunity.
What I’ve learned along the way is that even a small change can have a major impact in someone’s life.
Alexandra Bach-Wiedmuller, Head, Program and Project Management
What other decisions have you made along your career path that you’d like to share with other women?
What I’ve learned along the way is that even a small change can have a major impact in someone’s life. For instance, I do a lot of work in dog rescue. Every week, we bring about 30 dogs from Arkansas to Massachusetts [in the US]. You may have heard the saying by Karen Davison that “saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever.” This can be translated to our jobs. If we are leading people, for instance, we can make a huge difference just by creating a positive environment. And when we develop people, we make their lives, in a way, the reason that they come to work.
What final words of inspiration would you like to share?
I don’t always quote sayings, but another quote from Vivian Greene that really resonates with me and that I have carried with me throughout my work life is: “Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain.” This motto was present throughout my career; things change, structure changes, and you kind of think your world is ending, but you just have to see the opportunities that come out of that. Be proactive; what are the opportunities that the situation creates? Be motivated, learn from it, and move forward.
The Head of Program and Project Management at NIBR describes her unique career path. #WomenInScience