This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Lucy Chard
3 May 2024

A Day in the Life of a Managing Director

We are continuing to get to know the people working day-to-day behind the pharma companies shaping the industry, the ones who keep the wheels turning and ultimately bring better healthcare to the population; we are talking to the individuals at the heart of pharma.

In this interview, Stephanie Gaulding, CQA, CPGP,  Managing Director, Pharmatech Associates a – USP Company, tells us about her day, the path she took to her current role including her inspirations, and how things have changed since she wanted to be a vet as a child. 

Please could you outline your background and the career path that has led you to your current position? 

In a nutshell, my college education provided me with a foundation in biology, biochemistry, and biotechnology and my career has centered in Quality roles starting at the bench and working my way into management roles. I’ll try to keep the path I took to my current role as simple as I can. 

I went to university thinking that I would pursue a science degree because I was good at science in high school. Once I got there, I found that a lot of the advice given to students, if they weren't already destined for medical, dental or some other postgraduate education, was directing them toward academic research. For me, an instrumental conversation late in my college studies introduced me to the biotech industry and set me on the journey to where I am today. 

My first full-time role was as a research assistant in an R&D lab for a growing biotech company. I quickly figured out that wasn't exactly the kind of job that got me excited to get up and go to work every day. I started talking to people I worked with to understand what other possibilities there were, discovering the newly formed quality control and quality assurance functions in our company. I applied for a quality control laboratory position and made my move into quality. I loved that job, but unfortunately, I developed a sensitivity to acetic acid, which is hard to avoid in a laboratory. At that point, I was offered an opportunity to move into the QA group, which I happily took. There I got to learn even more about GMP requirements, getting drugs to the market, and what all that meant. I eventually moved on to other organisations, still in quality assurance roles but learning about other product types, including pharmaceuticals, combination products, and tissue products. 

As my career progressed, I moved into quality leadership roles, becoming the site quality head for two different manufacturing locations. After almost 20 years, I found that while I loved working in quality, what I loved more was solving problems. Once I figured that out, I started talking to my friends who were consultants about what that might be like. After many conversations, I was presented with an opportunity to move into consulting, and I took it.

What do you most like about your role? 

This is an easy one to answer – I love the variety of things I get to do in my job. No two days are ever really the same. I get to teach, mentor, problem-solve, support our sales and marketing teams, oversee our project delivery capabilities... and so much more. As I progressed in my career, I've come to appreciate several of my strengths, which I get to lean into every day, and those are my systems thinking, my ability to see the big picture, my problem-solving capabilities, and my passion for connecting with people. My job as a Managing Director in a consulting company that services our industry means I get to use each of those strengths every day and surround myself with people who are strong at the things that I may not be so good at, making us a powerful team.

What made you consider getting into your field in the first place?

My first thoughts about getting into biotechnology stem from a conversation I had with one of my university professors, Dr Tracy Wilkins. I was doing undergraduate research in his anaerobic microbiology lab which, at that time, was located off campus. He came in one day asking me what I wanted to do when I graduated. I told him I still hadn't figured it out but certainly was open to any ideas he had. Unbeknownst to me, Dr Wilkins had become involved in furthering the emerging field of biotechnology at Virginia Tech. As we talked about what he believed the future of medicine to be, he advised me to consider a career in industry instead of pursuing further academic research. I was intrigued by this direction, as this was not something I was getting from other professors in similar conversations with them.

When I was looking for some part-time work, Dr Wilkins offered me a part-time position in his company based in the incubator space at Virginia Tech. I took him up on the offer and got exposure to what doing research could accomplish as part of a company aimed at solving a disease, medicinal, or diagnostic challenge. I also got exposed to my first lessons in GMP manufacturing. From there, and as I graduated, he supported me in getting my first full-time role as a research assistant at Human Genome Sciences. I am ever grateful for the conversations he had with me and the direction he provided me, as I don't believe I would be where I am today without that.

What would you consider your biggest achievement to date, what are you most proud of? 

I'm proud of a lot of things I've done along the way, but I think the biggest achievement I've had thus far is being elected by quality professionals in many industries to serve on the board of the American Society for Quality (ASQ). I've been involved in ASQ as a member leader for about 10 years and fell in love with the ability to connect with quality professionals to share learning and best practices, regardless of what industry you're in. I've had the opportunity to present some of ASQ’s Insights on Excellence research data at several conferences. All of this laid the foundation for me to serve as a member-elected board member of ASQ.

What advice would you give to other people aspiring to your position or getting into this field? 

I actually get asked this question a lot by people connecting with me on LinkedIn and people I meet at conferences. I consider myself fortunate that I was able to get into the industry right out of college and then chart my path to where I am today, but I recognise that path is not available to everybody. In some cases, people may start their careers in other industries and decide they would like to get involved in our industry because maybe they connect with that more universal mission to help treat those who are sick or suffering from long-term or potentially fatal diseases. So, the advice I typically give them involves a couple of pieces or tactics:

First, read and learn what you can about the industry and become familiar with its terminology. Like many industries, we have our own lexicon, and often, navigating job interviews or other conversations to get your foot in the door can be challenging if you don't understand that lexicon.

Second, take a look at how you're formatting your resume. If you're using a traditional chronological format and you're trying to get into this industry after working years in another industry, it may not be easy for people to see what you bring to the table in transferable skills and knowledge. Alternative formats can allow you to highlight that in a manner that makes you a bit more visible to potential hiring managers.

And the last thing I recommend is networking. Start building a network in the industry. Get involved in one of our many professional associations and attend local events where industry personnel will be present. That actually serves two purposes: networking and learning. Make it your objective to meet as many people as you can. Reach out and connect with people on LinkedIn, but if you're going to do that, don't just connect with them and ask to have a conversation. Ask them about their journey, ask them how they got into the industry, and ask them about the advice that they have.

How do you incorporate wellbeing into your day? 

I try to incorporate wellbeing into my day through several approaches. First, I always try to start each day with about an hour of quiet time where I can get myself organised for the day. I understand what's ahead of me, and I can prioritise the top three things I want to accomplish that day. Once I’ve reached the end of my workday (which is kind of funny because I’ve been working at home for ten years), I make a point to shut down my computer, avoiding the temptation to continue to do stuff, put my phone away, and just sit and relax for about 30 minutes. I often choose to meditate during this time frame, but I know that practice isn’t for everyone. For me, it helps keep me grounded and centered and helps me let go of the bad days a bit more easily. The other thing I do try and accomplish throughout the day, since I do work from home, is to get up and walk around either my apartment or maybe make a trip down to the lobby every couple of hours. This helps in two ways: it gets me up out of a chair that I find myself often sitting in for great lengths of time, and it allows me to focus on things that aren’t just 16 inches in front of my face (i.e., my computer screen).

If you weren’t in this field, what would you being doing? 

This is always a good question, and honestly, I’m not 100% sure. I believe I took the path I was supposed to by reading signs along the way. I started in a lab and now work with teams to solve problems and bring medicines to patients who need them…what could be better and more fun than that? Now, I do have a “second career” in mind for when I retire from industry and that’s photography, in particular, macro photography. 

When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I loved animals – still do – and was convinced I wanted to be a vet. It's a funny but related story; that’s how I picked the university I attended. As I was approaching high school, my parents took me to the only school in the state of Virginia that (at the time) had a veterinarian programme. I fell in love with the Virginia Tech campus, and all I could talk about was going there. So, when I changed my mind about being a vet – I figured out that dealing with sick animals was not something I was emotionally qualified for – I was determined to attend and get a college education from Virginia Tech.

Mentioned Companies
United States Pharmacopeia Standard R&D and Technical Service (Shanghai) Co., Ltd.
View company profile
Lucy Chard
Digital Editor - Pharma