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How failure can inspire success

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.

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