Women Behind PHOENIX: Angela Fernandez-Otal
In honor of International Women’s Day, we are highlighting just a few of the many women behind the scenes at PHOENIX-OITB. This interview series takes a look at their career paths, frustrations and inspiration.
Angela Fernandez-Otal, Ph.D.
Job title: Mass Spectrometry Team Lead & Project Manager at Leanbio Pro
Role in PHOENIX: Managing the development and manufacturing of GLA drug substance used in a Demo Case #4.
Tell us a bit about your position and your role in the PHOENIX?
I am the Mass Spectrometry Team Lead at Leanbio and recently the new Project Manager and contact point for PHOENIX. At Leanbio we are developing the whole analytical panel and the manufacturing for GLA where we cover from the cell line development, USP and DSP activities, to formulation of GLA drug substance.
How did you end up where you are? Was it a straight path or did it take you along many curves?
Everything started when I decided to move from academia to the biopharma industry: first in contract research organizations (CROs), which gave me a strong analytical background. Thanks to the expertise gained in mass spectrometry, I had the chance to move to a contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) like Leanbio to start from scratch a new mass spectrometry platform. But here at Leanbio, I have also had the chance to develop other skills more orientated to have a broader view about an entire project life-cycle for biologics.
What is the best part of your job?
One thing is the creativity that we have to apply to overcome different issues. And the other is the dynamism that project manager role offers, since projects are fast-paced and it is necessary to be flexible when situations change.
Who are your role models?
One of the important things I always remind myself is the importance of being independent, what also includes financial independence. That is one of the things my mother taught me. She studied medicine in the 1970’s, although she finished working as a nurse for more than 35 years. I have always seen her sacrifice to give us everything, even sometimes taking double shifts without having any relatives close by to help. I have always received her support to achieve any goal I had in mind.
Is your field welcoming to women?
Yes, I think women are welcome. The majority of workers at Leanbio are women, as I have seen also in academia or in other workplaces along my entire career. I think the “Bio field” is very attractive for women. However, it is well-known that women face lower salaries and that there is still low representation of women in upper leadership roles. We have a lot more work to do.
Do you have tips for dealing with sexism in the workplace?
I think the first thing should be having a zero-tolerance policy for any situation that indicates sexism in the workplace. Also, having a good representative in the company to talk with in case any situation arises.
What advice can you give to young women contemplating a career in your field?
For a career in science, studying hard and having a good background is a life saver, because that will lead to better opportunities later on. And not giving up in following your desired role. It could take a bit but that’s the best part – the path and the efforts put in to achieve something you really want.