This is the fourth post in the Be Your Own Best Blog’s Inspirational Women series. This series highlights exceptional women across a diverse spectrum of occupations and industries, and allows them to share some of their insights with an equally diverse audience.
Meet Lydia McNally
Vice President, Head Patents Oncology & IP Site Head
Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation
New York, U.S.A
My current position is Global Head of Patents for the Oncology business at Novartis, and U.S. site manager for the U.S. patent attorneys supporting Novartis Oncology and General Medicines. The focus of my work is on patent strategy, procurement and defense, with extensive experience working on agreements and transactions. I manage a team of 18 lawyers located in the U.S. and Switzerland.
My background as a scientist made patent law the perfect fit. I graduated with a chemistry degree from Colgate University, followed by a Master’s Degree in Chemistry from the University of Vermont. I decided that a career in Chemistry was not right for me, so I went to Albany Law School where I received my J.D. and that began my career as a patent attorney. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve had the opportunity to work in diverse legal environments, including at a large NYC firm, a midsized law firm, a midsized US chemical company and a large global pharmaceutical company. That pharma company is Novartis, where I have been since 1999.
How would you define a “successful” career and what needs to happen for more women to achieve that level of success?
A successful career is one that satisfies you intellectually and one where you can make a contribution – whether to your coworkers, your company or to society. It is not about a specific job “title” or level, but rather about doing something that you believe in. In order to have a successful career you must also be fulfilled outside the workplace. The balance is necessary, and to meet the balance you need the support of your family, friends and coworkers.
What is your proudest career accomplishment and why?
I have been a people manager for many years, and one of my key responsibilities is to develop future talent. One of my proudest accomplishments was when a member of my team was promoted out of my team to a more senior position. I was proud to see this associate develop and grow in a way that was recognized by the company, and I was proud to be a part of that.
Please describe a challenging problem that you had to overcome in your career and the steps you took to do so.
I have had jobs that were just not a good “fit”. There was nothing wrong with the role, or with my skills, it was just that the “fit” was not right. To recognize that the issue was the “fit” and not me personally was one of the most challenging problems I have had to face. It’s hard to not blame yourself, and it takes courage to make a change.
If you could be mentored by anyone, who would it be and why?
I would encourage everyone to find a mentor as that relationship can be invaluable. If I had to choose a mentor for myself, I would choose Sheryl Sandberg. Her speeches and writings about gender equality at home and work are inspiring, and she gives good practical advice. But what I most admire is her genuine interest in seeing women rise to the top of their professions. It is that interest, along with her good practical advice, that I relate to and find inspiring.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Be courageous, take risks and stand up for what you think is right. If you make a mistake, learn from it. Mistakes make you a stronger person and people will admire you for the courage.
What words do you live by?
A strong woman stands up for herself. A stronger woman stands up for everyone else.
If you would like to suggest an inspirational woman for consideration, please e-mail Lisa Mueller at firstname.lastname@example.org.