iSpeak Blog

Your Strength Lifts Me Up

Shannah Falcone
Your Strength Lifts Me Up

I’ve been involved in Women in Pharma at ISPE since its inception. I’ve been a proud supporter and contributor to the group. Today, more than ever, I have an unwavering belief that this group is invaluable. In light of the recent COVID-19 crisis that has affected all of us significantly, this blog post may seem trivial. However, as we all try to keep some semblance of normalcy to our day, both professionally and personally, many of the points may resonate even more. And to the women (and men) out there trying to develop a cure, treat the ill, or keep vital projects moving forward while risking their health and the health of those around them, my gratitude is infinite.

I’ve often identified myself by my career, so when I finally got pregnant, I had to reconcile my professional and personal identity as one. How would that work? I was having an identity crisis during the most exciting time of my life. And, as I was initiated into motherhood, I had to learn how navigating that role would forever be a work in progress. I wasn’t going to just ‘figure it out’ and call it a day. This journey would forever change my perspective, my growth, and all the pieces that make up ‘me’. The following are a few aha moments, that for me, have resonated as tangible take-aways from my journey.

Get Rid of the Noise

As I prioritized my “how am I going to get this done before I leave list”, I realized I was spending too much time on things that surely needed to be done, but in hindsight, should have been delegated. By focusing on the things that needed to get accomplished, I was able to “up” my contributions to both work and my newly chaotic home life.

Find Your Home

Finding an employer that supports you -- both professionally and personally is invaluable. I was fortunate to have a boss and employer that supported me through my journey to get pregnant, take leave to be with my newborn son, and transition back to work. This has increased my loyalty and even my desire to be the best employee I can be. They had my back, I will have theirs. Find and treasure an employer that empowers you to be the best you can be. Inside and outside of work. I’ve always felt privileged to work within the life sciences industry. Through the journey of infertility, I became even more so. My path to pregnancy was filled with countless clinicians, hundreds of injections and medications, and immeasurable setbacks. That path led to the birth of a perfect little boy that has my nose, my husband’s eyes and the sweetest soul. Our hearts have never been so full. The technologies our industry develops and manufactures changes lives and I am forever grateful.

Many of us have read or listened to talks about vulnerability. I personally have always struggled to embrace that attribute in myself. I think many of us have, especially in a male dominated industry. The last few months have submerged me in a sea of vulnerability. I truly believe that embracing vulnerability at work will make me a better colleague, leader, and contributor.

As a young female in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry, I established my career with vigor, passion, and a lot of hard work. I feared that becoming a mother would somehow take those parts of me from work. Not the case. This added title of “mom” makes me a fuller person. I can be successful in my career AND be the mother I want to be. Balancing choices, making trade-offs, and building a supportive team (personally and professionally) will allow me to do this.


I haven’t had more than two weeks off at a time since I was in high school. Taking 12 weeks off to adjust to motherhood was critical to giving my newborn the parenting he needed. But it also gave me some clarity, refocus, and re-energizing for my professional career. Take a step away when you can. Shut off the phone, stop emailing, and disconnect.

As an avid (aka fanatical) planner, list maker, and calendar addict, I quickly learned that my child didn’t care what I planned for his sleep or eating schedule to look like. I had to let go. Being nimble to react to the chaos has given me a greater sense of control. I can adjust, pivot, and succeed even when the path isn’t what I’ve planned.

Set Your Intentions

S*!t happens, often at the worst time, sometimes a huge blow out and usually stinks. When things don’t work out the way you planned, sometimes veer left or don’t go your way at all, keep forging ahead. Have faith. Be patient. Be determined. Be resilient.

“Go to sleep happy” is what my husband says to my son every night as we put him to bed. Maybe a coincidence, but my son wakes up every morning with a huge smile. Maybe there is something to be said for simply being happy. And grateful. What you set your intention to be really might just happen.

Women are simply amazing. I’ve always thought it, but holy crap, now I believe it even more than ever. I am experiencing the challenges of juggling a baby while my return to work has been more chaotic and atypical than I ever imagined. Many days -- I take calls or lead meetings while feeding the baby, rocking him to sleep, and tag-teaming duties with my husband. This is an over-simplistic commentary, but real and exemplify the many “hats” women juggle. I know there are millions of women before me and beside me now that have handled this and so much more.

Their strength lifts me up.