+ Commercial operations
+ Strategic planning
+ Sales management
+ Customer service
+ Project management
What are your responsibilities at Envigo?
I am responsible for managing all of the directly customer-facing functions at Envigo. Commercial is at the front-end of the process for the company. It encompasses four areas: Sales, Customer Service, Marketing, and Sales Operations. Sales Operations, for those who may be wondering, supports all of our commercial efforts, providing pricing, contract management, data analysis, and business intelligence.
What inspired you to pursue a career in science?
I have loved everything about science and nature since I was a little kid. My grandparents used to send boxes of National Geographic and Smithsonian magazines to our house and I was the only one who would read them. I loved learning about anything scientific in nature - be it astronomy, biology, etc. When I was 5 years old, I remember having a discussion with my grandfather about the concept of human evolution. He may not have agreed with me, but I think he appreciated having the conversation with me.
I was that nerdy science student in high school who submitted projects to the state science fair, won a few prizes – which I thought were awesome – then would get teased in the hallways for it. I took that love and pursuit into college where I worked in labs the entire time. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina and a Master of Science in Experimental Pathology from the University of Washington in Seattle. I published a couple papers as an undergraduate and, after college, worked for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland before taking the next step to pursue a graduate degree. (Fun fact: My lab at the NIH was right around the corner from Dr. Fauci's lab. I often would run into him in the hallway when he was coming back from the clinic or his lunchtime jog.)
I was four years into my PhD when I had an epiphany – a career in laboratory research may not be the right path for me. As you progress into your scientific education, you go from very broad learning and then narrow it down to a very, very specific area of focus. Really specific. Like, down to studying specific molecules in a cell. I just found that the more narrow the area of focus, the less excited I was. I like being much broader in my scope. So, after lots of soul-searching, I decided to pursue other opportunities in science. I had a couple friends who had gone the sales route and said I should give it a try. I started selling scientific products to laboratories and really liked it. It was fun. I had to know the science and be able to speak the customers' language, but I didn't have to do the science – which is where I previously got bogged down.
What are the best parts of your job?
I've been in the life sciences industry for more than two decades in various roles like sales, marketing, business development, and sales management. I now lead a commercial organization. I still love it all. I still read scientific articles to understand how biology works and the ways scientists will find a treatment or cure for things like coronavirus disease. I find that by staying in touch with the science, I am able to ensure that I speak our customers' 'language'. By doing so, I can help my team think about ways that our product and services can help to fulfill unmet needs of our customers.
What are some of the key attributes of being successful in your role?
I think you really need to be a keen listener. This is something that I will always be working on myself – talking less and listening more. You need to first understand the challenges our customers have, then understand the challenges our company has, and then my organization within the company. The key to success is understanding the barriers a customer or a salesperson is having to their success and then hoping to lower or eliminate those barriers, or figure out a way around them. It's not up to me as the commercial leader to come up with the brilliant plan. My role is to empower the people with whom I work and help them build coalitions and gain the support, resources, or whatever they need to be successful in implementing their plans.
You need to be really flexible. Not everything is going to work. Every plan, every decision you make or every path you take is not going to be the right one. It's having the fortitude to keep moving forward when things may not be so sure. It's also having the capability, knowledge, and support to say, "let's go in a different direction" when something isn't working. I really strive to help the people in my organization feel empowered to do that.
Which career achievements make you proud?
I take pride in knowing that I'm playing a part in making the lives of others better. The contribution of any single individual is small. The contribution of Envigo as a company is bigger. The scientific community depends on us to supply the animal model and services they need to do their critical work. Animal work is necessary to understand biology. We can't recreate in a test tube exactly what happens in a living organism. Animal research plays a vital role in understanding how diseases progress, how you can treat them safely, and how you can create life-saving therapies. The animals we care for play a huge role in that. Envigo, by supplying the high quality products we have for decades, plays a role in advancing scientific breakthroughs. I take immense pride in that.
What goals have you set for yourself and the company?
A goal for the company is really to complete our transformation of going from playing in a lot of areas to really focusing on animal models, and the services and products that go with them. We need to continue leading the industry in animal care and quality. I joined Envigo because I was incredibly impressed by the people here. Everyone puts their heart and soul in to the business because we know how important the animals we provide are - each one of them is a hero.
My personal goal is to help make all that happen. If Envigo is successful, then I am successful. I take a lot of pride and a lot of satisfaction in that. I love what I do. I love the people with whom I work. They are so smart. They are so enthusiastic. They are so engaged. If I can just help steer the ship and make little adjustments to the rudder to make us go a little bit faster and a little bit closer to the goals we've set for ourselves, then I get immense satisfaction from that.
What are some of your favorite things to do outside of Envigo?
My second love to science was music – specifically Marching Band. In college, I was both drum major of the marching band and the student director of the basketball pep band. I'm still very involved in what is now termed the 'marching arts activity'. It's like professional marching band, but no one is paid. There's a whole global network of organizations that provide opportunities for students dedicated to the marching arts to practice, perform, and complete against other groups during the summer. I'm a volunteer for one of those organizations based in Chicago. All sports are great, but there's a whole segment of students who may not excel in them. This gives them something they can really sink their teeth into, excel in, and learn leadership capabilities. There's nothing that makes me happier than sitting in a stadium and getting that blast in the face from a hornline. It gives me goosebumps now just thinking about it. I also love to ride my motorcycle. I love getting out, hitting some country roads, clearing my head, and enjoying the scenery. I also really enjoy hiking in the Appalachian mountains.Please contact us if you have a question for Mike or would like to learn more about our research models and services.