iSpeak Blog

Member Spotlight: Jennifer Lauria Clark

Member Spotlight
Jennifer Lauria Clark, CPIP
Executive Director, Strategic Development

Jennifer Lauria Clark joined ISPE as a college student, and since then, has been highly engaged with the Society in numerous ways – from serving as an officer in the NC State ISPE Student Chapter all the way to her current role as Women in Pharma® (WIP) 2019 Steering Committee Co-Chair and WIP 2020 Steering Committee Chair. An Executive Director of Strategic Development with CAI, an MBA candidate, and a mother of two young daughters, Jennifer lives a busy, high energy life! We asked Jennifer to share with us some of her experiences with ISPE, the Research Triangle area she calls home, and her philosophy on how to juggle so much, so successfully.

When did you become an ISPE member and what inspired you to join?

I became a member of ISPE when I was a junior in college in 2003.  My sister, Kari Lauria Delahunty and dad, Tom Lauria, were members and encouraged me to join. I joined the NC State ISPE Student Chapter and haven’t looked back.  I was an officer my senior year on the student chapter board and attended my first ISPE Annual Meeting in New Orleans.  I met some incredible people that years later are still my friends, mentors, and one of them was my first boss.  I was given an opportunity to socialize and meet industry professionals that have been instrumental to my success not just in ISPE, but in the industry as a whole. By joining as a student, I participated in many activities and events that were targeted towards raising up the youth in our organization, by giving us access and opportunities to learn and grow.  This is the main driver for people being my passion and the work that I do with giving back to the students and young professionals.  Without the push from our parents to enter into programs that would provide security for our future, and into organizations like ISPE, neither my sister, nor I, would be where we are today in our careers and family lives.  ISPE has afforded not only me the opportunity for advancement, but without it, my sister would have never found her love for working in the industry , my husband would not have found his previous job in the industry, and our family would have had a completely different story to tell.  I guess it’s a family thing for us and being able to keep the tradition going as we raise our kids inspires me to keep pushing the boundaries every day. I am humbled by the experience, and by the opportunity and friendships that I have made along the way in my ISPE journey.

You live and work in North Carolina and with the ISPE CaSA Chapter. What is the Research Triangle pharmaceutical industry experiencing these days?

Right now, the RTP area is a growing hotbed for innovation and research. The visionary leadership of North Carolina’s Biotech and Pharma economic development teams are bringing more and more multi-national companies to our community every day.  There is more work than talent in the area, which makes it a great place for ISPE members, because there are jobs out there for people who take advantage of the training, the networking, and the edge ISPE can provide in a job search.  I know ISPE-CaSA takes great pride in producing programs and opportunities for all members to grow their careers, their networks, and their experience in the industry. I applaud the chapter for being thoughtful with programming and focusing in on key topics that need to be addressed in our community.  The chapter has intentionally expanded into Georgia and Florida, connecting many of our members to programs which they are benefitting from the engagement, education, and exposure. I’m looking forward to seeing ISPE CaSA grow and evolve over the next few years bringing the chapter more education, talent development opportunities, and overall stimulation for growth no matter your age or current career position. The next few years are going to be full opportunity and movement, so there is no better time for you to be an ISPE member than it is right now.

So – you’ve stayed with ISPE and now have a successful career as Executive Director, Strategic Development with CAI! And you are the new Chair of ISPE Women in Pharma. And you’re in an MBA program! With two young daughters! How do you do it all?

Running around is no understatement in my world.  My husband and I choose to look at our lives as being very happily full.  John and I are not overburdened with work, but overly blessed that we have the opportunity to start our own business together, to have me work in an industry that is raising the bar every day in delivering lifesaving medications to patients, and to raise two daughters who bring more joy to our lives than any promotion, degree or material object ever would. 

We make a lot of lists. We make menus. We make plans.  We probably achieve about 80% success on all of those things, and we are good with it. Our menu even has a place holder for which night we know we will be getting take-out.  We have support from our family who helps on a daily basis in keeping our home right-side-up. Without our moms, Debbie and Dessie, we would not be able to accomplish all that we want. We rely on text messages, calendar reminders, protecting family date nights, protecting momma and daddy date nights, and spending time with our family and friends even if my computer is always in my purse in case I have a free minute for work or homework. 

NC State football time is sacred because that is our dedicated time together every Fall. I even try to take my laptop there sometimes, but my husband and best friend, Megan always seem to get it out of my bag before we get in the car or stadium. Somehow… it always works out.  The kids are well adjusted and even get to travel with me sometimes.  Last year, they joined me in Rome, Italy for the ISPE European Annual Meeting. Our youngest daughter turned seven there before we left and had the experience of a lifetime traveling to Ireland on her birthday with special treatment on each flight.  She fell asleep on my lap during a late impromptu WIP meeting with Alice Redmond and Fran Zipp one night in Rome. My oldest daughter, Reese, pays attention to everything I do.  She watches the people I’m with on teleconferences, says hi to my colleagues and MBA classmates frequently, and asks a lot of questions. My kids and my husband are the solid foundation that gives me the strength and courage to get up every day and do what I love.  Every morning before I leave them at school, I urge them to be strong, tough, brave, and kind. I try to live the same way every day. Our family adapts, we are flexible, and the love for our jobs and each other truly keeps us fueled to live every day to the fullest.

Can you share some of the highlights of your experiences with ISPE? WIP?

I don’t know if this is one of my favorites, but it is definitely one of my most memorable experiences with ISPE.  In 2015, I was tasked with helping find the keynote speaker for the ISPE CaSA Technology Conference.  I had never been on the committee before and I wanted to help make a difference.  We decided we wanted the EVP from Biogen Idec who had once been in RTP and now worked in Cambridge. CAI had a meeting in Boston a few weeks later, so I volunteered to drop off an invitation from the chapter president and myself inviting John Cox to join us. I got to his admin’s desk and to my great surprise she was out that day.  I was deflated and felt defeated.  I had come so close.  My colleague pulled me aside and pointed at an occupied office with the door open and said, ‘that’s John Cox.’ I had come all this way, I was not prepared to talk to him, but I had a job to do and I knew my value proposition for the chapter and for him.  While I was deciding to make my move, he looked up and saw me standing outside his office.  I froze and he nodded for me to come in. I thought to myself, “Well, it’s now or never.” I walked in, introduced myself to John, gave him my pitch, and invited him to speak at our conference the following March.  Not only did he speak at the ISPE CaSA conference, but John Bournas and I invited him to speak at the ISPE International Conference later that year.  What I learned in this situation is that you never know when an opportunity is going to stumble in front of you and you have to take the chance or miss a great opportunity to meet someone who can make a difference.

One of my favorite experiences with ISPE was with Women in Pharma® at the June Conference this year.  The team planned an event that had a couple hundred people show up for a very early breakfast session where the co-ed panel shared influential advice on career advancement, working together with others, and urging us to take some time off to recharge.  The energy in the room during the group discussions and sharing session was high.  People were not only excited to be there, but they were excited to share their experiences with others from a personal and professional level. Looking back and seeing the impact of our community is impressive and makes me know we are doing the right thing by supporting people learning more to get better at their jobs, connecting people to increase their networking communities, and being a  getting better at their jobs, . This event completely embodied the mission of Women in Pharma® mission: ISPE Women in Pharma® (WIP) provides women in the pharmaceutical industry a forum for connecting and collaborating on technical and career advancement topics. WIP’s inclusive community leverages a network of mentors, role models, and resources across all levels to foster balanced professional success. If you have not had the chance to participate in a Women in Pharma® event in your affiliate or chapter, I highly encourage you to check it out.  Everyone has something to learn about mentoring, challenges in the workplace, and how to handle tough situations – no matter where you are in the world or if you are the CEO.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Giving back is something that fuels my passion for students and young professionals.  It is something that we are obligated to do as professionals with a story to tell.  The funny thing is, all that I do for ISPE never feels like an obligation. It truly feels like it is what we are supposed to do.  Leading committees, reviewing guidelines, speaking at events, planning events, making sure people are getting the education, training, caring, and feeding that they need from a complete membership perspective is how volunteers help make a difference every day.  I challenge each of you reading this to ask yourself, am I doing everything I can to help create something bigger than yourself? If you are that is great, and I commend your volunteer time and your efforts to be different.  If you are not, please consider how you can make an intentional decision to be a mentor, role model, committee member, or leader within your ISPE community.  You never know what your ISPE journey will hold.