How failure can inspire success

By: news@Northeastern


Daphne Zohar, second from the left, managing partner at PureTech Ventures and a Northeastern University alumna, talks during the Women Who Inspire Speaker series on Wednesday morning at Biogen Idec in Cambridge. She is joined by Dr. Joanna Horobin, second from the right, and Dr. Rosana Kapeller, right. The panel discussion was moderated by Karen Weintraub, a health and science journalist. Photo by Brooks Canaday.

Failure is good. It fos­ters pro­fes­sional growth and can even­tu­ally lead to career suc­cess, according to three dis­tin­guished female leaders in the phar­ma­ceu­tical and biotech­nology indus­tries who spoke on Wednesday morning at the third event in Northeastern’s Women Who Inspire Speaker series.

“You actu­ally have to spend time thinking about your fail­ures because we learn so much from them,” explained Dr. Joanna Horobin, chief med­ical officer at Verastem, a clinical-​​stage bio­phar­ma­ceu­tical com­pany. “I think if we gloss over them and think about moving on to the next project too quickly, there is a rich­ness of under­standing there that we leave behind.”

The Women Who Inspire series is an ini­tia­tive designed to pro­mote the advance­ment of women in engi­neering, tech­nology, sci­ence, and sus­tain­ability. Wednesday’s event—attended by about 80 North­eastern stu­dents, fac­ulty, and staff, as well as pro­fes­sionals from the biotech and phar­ma­ceu­tical fields—­took place in Cam­bridge at Biogen Idec, a biotech firm that man­u­fac­tures a drug for mul­tiple scle­rosis treat­ment and con­ducts research on res­pi­ra­tory dis­eases and con­ges­tive heart failure.

In addi­tion to Horobin, the panel fea­tured Dr. Rosana Kapeller, chief sci­en­tific officer at the biotech firm Nimbus Dis­covery, and Daphne Zohar, a 1992 North­eastern grad­uate with a bach­elor of sci­ence in busi­ness admin­is­tra­tion who is a man­aging partner at PureTech Ven­tures, a ven­ture cap­ital firm. Karen Wein­traub, a health and sci­ence jour­nalist and former editor at The Boston Globe, mod­er­ated the 80-​​minute dis­cus­sion, which ranged from self-​​promotion in the work­place to the impor­tance of career men­tors, whom Zohar char­ac­ter­ized as “people who make you feel like you can do anything.”

When the dis­cus­sion turned to the experts’ take on self-​​promotion, Horobin said that women should forego self-​​aggrandizement in favor of pro­moting the quality of their work, adding that “pro­moting the out­come of what I have done is some­thing that I feel I can do.”

In her opening remarks, Alpna Seth, Biogen’s vice pres­i­dent of pro­gram lead­er­ship and man­age­ment, summed up the morning’s theme by praising women for con­sis­tently suc­ceeding in the face of adver­sity. “From Madame Curie to Mother Theresa and from Joan of Arc to Malala Yousafzai, women have proved time and time again their strength, their courage, their resilience and their intel­li­gence,” she said.