An industry veteran with over 20 years of experience under her belt, she has overseen the delivery of integrated consulting, as well as insights and analytics services to Trinity’s various clients. Her support for billions of dollars in strategic transactions and the launches of dozens of products gives Leslie a unique vantage point on the industry. We sat down with Leslie to discuss her experiences at Trinity, moments of doubt, and the dynamic, ever-changing world of consulting.
BPR: Could you give me an overview of your new role, the work you do at Trinity Life Sciences and what the company focuses on?
I have just assumed the role of CEO and president, meaning that I oversee both the business itself day-to-day as well as the strategic decisions that we make, such as executing on M&A and determining new products or services to offer. Given this dual role, I keep some of the responsibilities that I had previously as president, such as overseeing the commercial and operational arms of the business, but the addition of CEO will require me to expand my purview and learn how to lead and influence our Board of Directors at a new level.
This new role is the next step for me in a long line of roles at Trinity, where I started as an Associate Consultant in 2001 after leaving the bench as a scientist. I have seen virtually every level at Trinity and know intimately the challenges each brings, including stints overseeing HR and Finance. Of course, being an “insider” brings its own challenges – I have told everyone and I tell myself every day how important it is that I keep my mind open to new ideas and new ways of doing things so that my transition to CEO can be a time of opportunity for everyone.
A quick note on Trinity – we have been around since 1996, formed as a spin-off from a major consultancy to focus exclusively on the life sciences. We service over 350 global life sciences customers, including pharma, biotech, med devices and medtech, on a range of commercialization activities. These start from corporate strategy to new product planning and early commercialization strategy, through full-scale launch and brand planning. Our goal is to provide best-in-class experts across all commercialization verticals, starting right at the beginning of “is this the right product to develop?” all the way through commercial optimization.
BPR: When did your interest in science develop?
I knew I wanted to be “in science” since high school, when my first biology teacher really got me excited about the intricacies and yet logic behind the topic. I liked lab experiments then, and later spent a lot of time in the lab through college, working on an honors thesis at Dartmouth College and the Woods Hole Biological Laboratory under the guidance of Professor George Langford.
That said, my time in the lab also taught me that, while I loved the science, being in the lab wasn’t a long-term career for me. I considered medicine but being in the clinic wasn’t really the right fit either. I didn’t realize how many jobs there actually were in the business of science until after college when I started in consulting at Trinity, which is really a great first career for those that are interested in the science but don’t want to actually do the lab work themselves.
At Trinity I was exposed early on to an array of companies and roles, and while I ultimately realized that I love the energy and dynamism of consulting and the breadth of the vantage point it gives you, it is also a great place to learn about other career opportunities in the life sciences.
BPR: What piqued your interest?
I love problem-solving, knowing when you’ve got the answer right and feeling like you’ve accomplished something. Science provides such a plethora of mysteries which, when the right research is designed and conducted, provide such satisfaction when those mysteries are solved. Early on I was inspired by the mission to cure HIV, which, while we haven’t completely solved yet, we are making great strides. Similarly for Alzheimer’s – it is so satisfying to see progress towards such a terrible, previously untreatable disease. That said, on each of these mysteries, we still have a way to go but seeing progress made – and progress that impacts the lives of people that are close to you – is what makes this field so rewarding.
BPR: Can you tell us about your journey to where you are now?
At first, I thought a career in science meant living at the lab bench or in the clinical setting. I explored both of those pretty thoroughly throughout college, with a lot of time dedicated to stints in each. While I loved some aspects of those settings, I realized that both career tracks generally pushed you towards hyper-specialization, getting narrower and narrower in your focus as you advanced in your career. What I was really looking for was an opportunity to work in the sciences but have a broader and more strategic viewpoint on diseases, potential treatments and the chance to impact health at a broad level.
Consulting showed me how the business of science, the actual commercialization of new medicines, which means the delivery of those medicines to patients across the globe, provides its own challenges and rewards in that very broad way I was seeking. I got addicted to helping senior executives across the industry make important decisions about what medicines to buy or develop, how to develop them so that they proved their value and ultimately how to bring them to patients, which are really the types of decisions we consult on at Trinity. Here we say – “every decision impacts a life” – and it’s true.
BPR: Have you encountered any bumps in the road along the way?
Of course! There were many “off-ramps” from Trinity that I considered along the way. One memorable one was when I wrestled with the decision of sticking with Trinity as a career versus moving on to business school to see what else was out there. I actually applied, was accepted and enrolled at the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 2005, only to change my mind and withdraw at the 11th hour before matriculating. It was a hard decision, but my then-boss and mentor, Dave Fitzhenry, was a big factor in helping me see the potential (and the education potential!) of sticking with a growing company like Trinity and experiencing the ride first-hand. It was certainly the best education I could have asked for, and super rewarding professionally as well as we grew and flourished!
Of course, being in consulting and any client service will also be associated with bumps in the road, as clients are demanding, and you have many pressures put on you. But two overarching goals are immutable – we must provide the best client experience and outcomes that we can, and we must provide the best place to work for our employees that we possibly can. Those two goals seem simple but require endless amounts of work if we want to be the best on both … and we have to keep our eye on those goals every day.
BPR: What do you feel most passionate about in your current role?
As I mentioned above, I am passionate about making Trinity both the best partner to our clients and the best place to work for our internal team. If we do this, we can become the kind of iconic, lasting company that we always envisioned. I have the task of taking Trinity from a small-but-mighty version of this, to a major force in the industry. I want the Trinity name to be the first one that pharma execs mention when they are looking for a commercialization partner across the range of consulting, insights and analytics. I also want Trinity to be known on college campuses and in other talent pools as a great place to work that both develops leaders for the industry but is in itself a destination for great leaders.
We have built the company for the last 20 years to begin this journey towards being the best, and now it’s my job to fly the plane fast towards our next destination. I intend to spend a lot of time with both clients and our internal people listening, learning and helping to identify where we can do better. I hope to reinvigorate a culture of entrepreneurialism, run flat and create opportunities for movement within the company for our people. I hope to expand our service offering so we have a best-in-breed offer for every function that helps develop and bring new products to patients worldwide. We have a lot to do! And I’m excited to get started.