SAPA 2021 Career Development Workshop-Master Class: “Elevating Leadership Capabilities” 


Brian Jiang, the Co-Chair of SAPA Career Development Workshop gave the opening remarks.


In the beginning, Brian Jiang, the Co-Chair of SAPA Career Development Workshop opened the event of the day, encouraging the attendees to embark on the journey to Go Higher– together with our panelists and elevate our leadership capabilities.


SAPA President-Elect, Dr. Xiaodong Chen, gave a brief introduction on SAPA.


Followed by Brian, SAPA President-Elect, Dr. Xiaodong Chen, then gave a brief introduction on SAPA, emphasizing this Master Class is especially dedicated to fostering the career development of pharmaceutical professionals at various stages. Special thanks were given to our 2020-2021 Corporate Members for their continued generosity and support, which is essential for the Master Class as well as other upcoming SAPA events such as 2021 SAPA Annual Conference.


CDW-MC co-Chairs shared their opening remarks on Getting Higher.


Next, the four co-Chairs shared their thoughts of organizing this valuable Master Class. Brian shared his personal roller-coaster like journey of seeking and understanding what authentic leadership is and encouraged the attendees to “Go Higher – Together” with our masters. Wah Yan followed up with his insights that leaders are not born but built. Dr. Xue Liang shared her perspective from another angle. Leadership is not restricted to manager roles. Instead, leadership is a mindset that brings people together to achieve common goals. Dr. Sun advocated that everyone enjoys this life-changing event and starts at an early stage by giving oneself a badge, a permission to be the leader.



Event agenda


The workshop consisted of a plenary morning session and two parallel afternoon sessions which covered a wide variety of leadership topics and SAPA report team has briefly summarized each session, as a way to refresh your memory and/or in case you may have missed one of the sessions.


*All sessions were recorded for the registered participants to view after the workshop. To access the recordings, please copy and paste the link ( and log in SAPA account. If you have any questions, please contact us at


Plenary Session — Piano-side chat: Leadership as an Attainable Art Form by Margaret Wacyk


The morning session began with a piano-side chat. Margaret Wacyk is a renowned pianist and educator. She specializes in Bach and has published a highly rated book Soli Deo Gloria describing her insights on Bach. Here, she approached the leadership elevation in a unique angle by addressing the similarity between music and leadership. For example, the first tone in a music piece is a character that resonates between leadership and piano. The first tone changes how interpersonal relationships start which resembles how piano communicates with the audience. In addition, piano and leadership can both be learned throughout one’s lifetime, and they are both skills and talents built upon time and failures. An interesting question was raised: everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. If someone is not able to play all ‘keys’, is s/he still able to become a good pianist or a good leader? The reflection went on lingering among the audience. Margaret ended the piano side chat with personal sharing that leadership is about serving and giving. She also recommended exposing to high arts to be constantly influenced and molded to become better people.


Plenary session — Leadership Lens: Why Leadership Matters by Lawrence Yu and Janice Chang


Followed by the piano-side chat, we next invited Dr. Lawrence Yu, Office Director at FDA, and Janice Chang, COO at TransCelerate, two Asian Americans role-models for leadership in the pharmaceutical field to share their invaluable thoughts on understanding why leadership is important. They began the session by talking about their journey to leadership. Janice Chang thinks that being a good listener and keeping refinement of one’s voice are the keys to become a good leader, while Lawrence Yu believes self-awareness and self-reflection are critical elements to leadership. Next, both speakers expanded the topics by sharing their own definitions of leadership. Janice defines leadership as a way to influence people towards a same common goal, and one should be curious about their team members by knowing their strengths and personalities, learning how to motivate them and make them become greater individuals. Lawrence thinks that leadership is about influence and knowing what impact you want to bring into your life and work. He also points out everyone can be a leader and one shall believe in themselves, willing to take the risk and seize the opportunity. Both speakers concluded the session by emphasizing, in order to make best use this workshop, one shall have an open mind, listen to others, practice during daily life and make the changes starting from today.


After the plenary morning session, the workshop was divided into multiple parallel immersive sessions in the afternoon.


Parallel Session A1: The Common Characteristics and Traits of the Senior Leaders by Fangying Stephanie Shi


Dr. Stephanie Shi is the Director of Executive Development and Assessment at Microsoft. She shared her insight of common leadership traits from a standpoint of psychologist and prominent organizational development expert. She talked about her life story to begin the interactive session and then talked about the common patterns of a leader’s journey. She then talked about her journey in Glacier National Park, where she normally could barely reach the top on her own, but the team was willing to do it together. Leadership in a team is just like hiking. You need to have a map, a compass to avoid getting lost, a pair of good boots, and clear purposes and motivations. Leadership also requires well-preparation, experience and skillsets, and eagerness of asking questions. Additionally, hyper-complexity and rapid changes occurring in today’s world require leadership to be taken to the next level, including four elements: thrive in the ecosystem, human-centered, collaboration and teamwork. She concluded the session highlighting that having a good strategy, willingness to bring in innovation and strong empowerment are the skillsets of good leaders.


Parallel Session B1: Leadership Strengths Finder by Jingrong Jamie Huang


Dr. Jamie Huang is the Founder and Leadership Coach of Princeton Leadership Academy. She first introduced leadership is to take accountability and fulfill company mission vision. By vivid examples and interactive discussions with the audience, Jamie pointed out the importance to always keep leadership in mind. As a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, Jamie then discussed 34 leadership talents in four domains, including executing, influencing, relationship building, and strategic thinking. Jamie also mentioned that Asian Americans never lack leadership talents but may not present the leadership talent properly. Finally, she encouraged everyone to discover individual unique strengths and grasp every possible opportunity to demonstrate the strengths.


Parallel Session C1: Pointers for Those Curious about Careers in Industry by Kenneth Maynard


Dr. Ken Maynard is a Senior Director of Pharmacovigilance Affiliate Relations, Global Patient Safety and Evaluation at Takeda Pharmaceuticals. He shared his unique experience of running an academic lab and working in industry simultaneously and addressed several key transferable PhD skills that can be utilized to move beyond academia. In terms of considering a career in academia or pharmaceutical industry, Dr. Ken Maynard highlighted the importance of knowing where our passion lies and what we want to accomplish in our life. In addition, he pointed out that when planning on a post-doc experience, it is beneficial for the candidate to be strategic and intentional in terms of selecting supervisor, determining the area of research, and performing a realistic self-assessment.



Parallel Session D1: Hottest Career Path in Pharmaceutical Research: Clinical Operation by Jane Fang


Dr. Jane Fang is the Founder and CEO of Polaris Strategic Partners. After close interactions with the audience, she started her discussion with Lei Jun’s comment – “even a pig can fly when placed against the wind”. She highlighted the importance of catching the trend in the pharmaceutical business, where clinical research is definitely one of the trends. She introduced the process in drug discovery and development, the way clinical studies are involved in pipelines, and potential positions that might interest the audience. Trending clinical development application such as digital clinic also draw a lot of interests. At the end of the session, Dr. Fang introduced uses of telemedicine in clinical trial during the pandemic, and answered questions such as security of digital clinic in the clinical development.


Parallel Session E1: Strategy: What Does It Mean and Why Do You Need One? By Nicole C.Quon


Dr. Nicole Quon is a Senior Director of Managed Care at Ferring Pharmaceuticals. She began the session by stating that strategy is important because strong skills in tactical execution, strategic thinking and planning, and communication can make you a great leader. However, when one thinks about developing a new goal, one myth is that only leaders can do that. In fact, strategy can be applied at any level and one must think about ways to contribute. She then shared three steps in setting strategies: strategic thinking, strategic planning and strategic communication. Strategic thinking starts with brainstorming on what you know, gathering facts, analyzing data, and refining the initial goal. Strategic planning involves brainstorming on what needs to be done, identifying knowledge map and gap, making decisions and listing resources needed. Lastly in strategic communication, one shall communicate the strategy through storytelling, clearly state the problem and the goal with timeline. Nicole ended the session suggesting that the easiest way to evaluate the strategy is to see whether one achieves the goal and compare one’s strategy with competitors’ strategies.


Session B2: Tenacity and Agility – How to Be Successful in Pharma Industry by Fan Zhang


Dr. Fan Zhang is an Oncology Search and Evaluation Lead, Worldwide Business Development at Pfizer. He is the first Chinese ironman participating in the world competition championship and currently serves as a senior management at Pfizer. Fan started by sharing his exciting career path. After academic research as a bench scientist for several years, Fan switched his role to project management, and later to business development, strategy, and marketing. Fan’s professional career journey is insightful and led to a heated discussion with the audience. For scientists interested in a career change, Fan suggested to be successful at one’s current role and gather new experience (horizonal) to expand leadership profile, which will be beneficial for a vertical (move up in the organization) or diagonal (rotate across areas outside of function) move. In addition, Fan also mentioned MBA degree can be helpful to expand connections and acquire additional knowledge. Fan concluded the session with tips to be successful: have tenacity, be curious, find a good mentor, and most importantly, keep learning new knowledge.



Parallel Session C2: Leadership Training for Scientist by Juliet Hart


Juliet Hart is the Principal and Founder of Hart & Chin Associates. She started her career as a bench scientist and transitioned into a leadership development consultant and career coach for scientists and their organizations. In this interactive workshop, multiple aspects of leadership development including effective communication strategies, the fundamental differences between managing and leading, and leader model were discussed. Juliet also addressed the challenges of communicating science to non-scientific audiences and the importance of emotional intelligence. In the end, attendees and speakers shared thoughts and experience in their leadership journey.



Parallel Session D2: Learn from the Career Path of a Technologist to an Executive by Henry Jiang


Henry Jiang is the Chief Information Security Officer at Diligent Corporation. He first talked about his background and his journey to the current position. He then pointed out that team building strategy is highly case-dependent and collaborative, and it needs to align with company’s culture. Leaders shall care about employees’ well-being, for example understanding how employees perform, expressing gratitude, being flexible especially under certain circumstances (i.e., during COVID pandemic), and encouraging employee to have work-life balance. Henry also recommended books such as “The 7 habits of highly effective people” and “Don’t sweat the small stuff”, both of which helped him advance his career. Lastly, he suggested one should do what is right, be honest and stay humble, as those are key elements to leadership.



Parallel Session E2: Cultural Competency for Leadership by Lauren Supraner



Lauren Supraner is the President and Founder of CAL Learning. She emphasized that cultural competency is critical for having effective cross-cultural communication. Cultural competency includes self/audience awareness, respect and empathy for target culture, flexibility and openness, self-regulation and motivation for learning. One should figure out what is the way to get the message to everyone in a clear way, how to communicate with and respect people from other cultures, be open to learn something new, and are motivated for learning. She also mentioned that one shall be aware of the culture gaps when it comes to communicating with people from diverse backgrounds. It consists of lack of culture-specific knowledge, lack of exposure to culture, lack of interactional skills of culture and bias, prejudice toward culture. Lauren concluded the session by stating leadership behavior has to be moderated by cultural intelligence.

After the immersive parallel sessions, speakers and attendees were invited to different breakout sessions where they shared their reflections of today’s Master Class, including new tools learned and plans to practice these tools in daily life. SAPA Career Development Workshop Master Class Organizing Committee concluded the successful event and welcomed everyone to join future SAPA events.