Forging a nontraditional path
Company: The Broad Institute
Title: Chief Operating Officer
Samantha Singer's journey toward becoming chief operating officer at the Broad Institute has followed a unique trajectory. Singer joined the institute in April 2014 after a long tenure at Biogen ($BIIB) and worked in healthcare and biomedical consulting at different points in her career.
"I wanted to follow my interests and passions," Singer told FierceBiotech. "Because I haven't had a path that is based on specific expertise, I haven't had a series of opportunities that someone can map out. It's not an obstacle or a challenge, but it's something that has made it more challenging than for someone with a functional expertise."
Before jumping into the biotech industry, Singer started a PhD program in molecular biology at Rockefeller University. But "working at the lab bench wasn't for me," she said, and she decided to complete a master's degree instead.
From there, Singer started working in management consulting. She concentrated mostly on the research side of things at the global management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group, but found herself acting as a translator between the research and business departments. The experience prompted Singer to get an MBA from Harvard University. "I wanted to think through what strategy and business looked like," she said.
Singer then decided to pursue an entrepreneurial partnership, which led to her first encounter with her now-employer, she said. Along with her business partner at the time, Singer wrote the Broad's initial business plan, setting the wheels in motion for not only the institute but also her next career move. "I got really interested less in strategy but in how you execute the strategy. How do you help people execute against a vision you have?" she said.
Soon thereafter, Singer started working for Biogen in the company's Organization Effectiveness group. During her 7 years at Biogen she led the biotech's Supply Chain operations for new product launches and also served as chief of staff for CEO George Scangos.
Since joining the Broad a year and a half ago as COO, Singer has worked with different teams to refine the organization's vision and to make it more effective, she said. In the past year alone, the Broad has inked deals with key biopharma and med tech players, lending its expertise to companies' R&D initiatives. In March, Bayer said it would use the Broad's genomic analysis expertise to find new therapies for cardiovascular diseases. In June, the institute announced it would partner with tech titan Google ($GOOG) on a Big Data initiative.
"We have these technological platforms, leading edge organizations that do technological development and we work with scientists across the institute to execute broad ambitions they have. We're looking ahead over the next 10 years, asking, how do we do that?" Singer said.
Singer credits a willingness to look outside the box and a strong sense of self for her professional accomplishments. Throughout her career, she looked for opportunities to "grow and stretch," even when it meant taking a risk. And Singer would give the same advice to anyone pursuing a career in the industry, she added.
"Leadership is about creating futures that are not a direct path. It's about being courageous and being willing to speak about and talk about futures that aren't obvious to other people," she said. "Take a stand for a future you can see, one you know can happen even when you can't see how. That goes a long way, from creating opportunities to organizations and people." -- Emily Wasserman (email | Twitter)
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