Frances Toneguzzo emphasizes that each career step is a learning opportunity

The quote “Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder” by Patti Sellers, mentioned in Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In”, was definitely echoed at Frances Toneguzzo’s talk at our de la Femme event last night.

Frances shared the story of her career journey from academic science to becoming Executive Director of Partners Healthcare Research Ventures and Licensing.  It was refreshing to have Frances speak in such a candid manner, and to hear from an extremely successful career-oriented woman that she took a circuitous path in her career.

Frances divulged that she wasn’t necessarily successful in every stage of her career path, but she emphasized that she gained important skills each time.  She encouraged us to work hard and to view each step in our careers as a learning opportunity.  Also, we should realize that no decision is forever and that it can be changed so we shouldn’t worry unnecessarily that we are making wrong decisions.  The correct decision is the decision that is the best for us at that time.  And, yes, major decisions can be quite scary, but we need to trust in ourselves and our abilities and always work hard.

Another part of our conversation that was quite memorable for me and I applaud Frances for having shared it, was that she took time off from her career when her children were young.  She didn’t regret it and had always planned to go back to her career afterwards.  She suggested that we can and should stay current with what is going on in our field during time off and that this would help ease our transition back.  In Frances’ case, she maintained enough of a presence by doing some consulting that had a low time commitment.

Another lesson learned from Frances that resonated with the group was the importance of self-promotion and self-confidence.  She said that generally men are better self-promoters and they are not shy about asking for promotions and salary increases.  She also mentioned that women in general feel that their managers will notice their good work and they will be recognized appropriately, but this might not always be the case as the hard work might go unacknowledged if one does not self-promote.   Everyone in the meeting resonated with this topic and some members suggested practicing self-promotion among their peers in order to become comfortable doing this.

Frances also talked about career options in the technology transfer field and how to go about applying in this field for PhD graduate students.  She suggested they could gain some hands-on experience by applying for internship programs at tech transfer offices.  These careers could be viable options to gain valuable business skills.  And, besides the traditional role of licensing managers, there are emerging jobs such as project managers and alliance managers that can help accelerate research projects and partnerships with industry.

We thank Frances Toneguzzo again for sharing her amazing story and lessons learned during her career.