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Laura Mace is an MBA student at Manchester Business School in the UK. Born in Aberdeen, she lived in Paris and Hampshire before moving to Oxford to study for a degree in chemistry.

After graduation, Ms Mace studied for a PhD and then worked as a post doctoral research associate at Oregon State University in the US. She focused on natural product synthesis for nearly two years before returning to the UK, where she worked on drug development. Eventually she decided that lab work was not her long-term future and began her MBA last September.

When she is not studying she enjoys rugby, rock climbing, singing and reading.

(1) Who are your business influences / heroes?

Many of my inspirations and heroes are from the scientific arena: female scientists such as Rosalind Franklin and Marie Curie for fulfilling their passion for science and discovery, despite prevailing gender attitudes. In the business world I admire those who have created successful businesses from their scientific interests and innovations; people such as Herb Boyer (co-founder of Genentech) and James Dyson (the inventor). I’m also a fan of Dr Ben Goldacre (the writer and broadcaster); if you want to use scientific results or science, for whatever purpose, you must get it right.

(2) What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher?

“Trust your instinct” is one I have recently had from a mentor. Thinking back, there have been several occasions when I should have acted on my instincts sooner. Funnily enough, it’s something I happily did when I was back in research. Now, I must learn to trust my instinct in this new arena too.

(3) What academic achievement are you most proud of to date?

One might expect me to name the Ph.D., which of course I am proud of, but I am actually most proud of two awards I received during my doctoral studies: one was winning first prize at a national poster competition organised by Pfizer; the second being named by Roche as a “Leading chemist of the next decade”. Although now, nearly a decade later, I have moved on from being a pure chemist, these awards serve to remind me that I have pursued and achieved, excellence in the past, and that I should continue to do so.

(4) What is your biggest lesson learnt?

One that I am still learning - and will be learning for a while yet - is that while I may aspire to excellence, there are going to be many things I cannot do to absolute perfection and that equally I should not expect absolute perfection from others.

(5) How do you deal with male-dominated environments?

I have worked in some extremely male-dominated environments in my time; departments with only 3 or 4 women among 40 men. I didn’t find those environments any harder to deal with than those with more women present - ultimately I believe that the relationships you develop with your colleagues, which determine whether the environment is pleasant or unpleasant, have nothing to do with gender.

(6) What is the last book you read?

I like to have several books on the go at once; most recently finished are Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, which resonated with my learning above on trusting my instincts, and Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach, which was an inspiring gift from a friend.

(7) How do you deal with pressure?

For me, knowing my limits is important. Although I thrive on pressure and will quite happily commit myself to many activities, I have to be careful to not over-commit myself and to be ready to step back from something non-essential if it is becoming too demanding.

(8) Have you ever attended any workshops/seminars that have helped you in your career?

Many. In this context, though, the Association of MBA’s Introduction to the MBA helped me believe that the MBA was something I was capable of and that the seemingly large step from scientist to MBA was an achievable one.

(9) If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?

I wouldn’t go back and change my past. I see my current circumstance as an evolution of my career and life. The idea of the “job for life”, of doing the same thing for 30 years does not exist for me - as it has not for my mother, who, in her time, has a been a potter, an artist, a counsellor and art therapist - not to mention homemaker. Perhaps change runs in the family…

(10) What are your future plans?

I hope to move into general management in the pharmaceutical industry, or into consulting with a pharmaceutical focus.

Charlotte Clarke

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