July / August 2018

An Open-Arms Organization: ISPE San Diego Chapter


Chapter President Nicki Lange is cultivating an enthusiastic membership and building a professional community. 

CRB_Nicki_Lange_12096.jpgNicki Lange, Director of Business Development for CRB and ISPE San Diego Chapter President, loves her community. “San Diego is the best place in the world. We’re people-oriented with a flavor of fun. Our chapter captures that.” Lange attributes much of her chapter’s success to enthusiastic board leadership and a continuous emphasis on collegiality. With four of its five Gold Sponsors represented on the board, the San Diego Chapter has a strong connection with its membership. “We work hard to welcome everyone,” she said, describing an inclusive organization with a “culture of synergy.”

In a conversation with Pharmaceutical Engineering, Lange was joined by Chapter Vice President Deborah Neatherlin, Account Executive, Siemens Building Technologies, and Chapter Manager Kimberly Syre, Principal, Attention to Detail. All three focused on a strong network of professional relationships. “Any organization is only as strong as its people,” said Syre. “Our meetings are genuinely productive, and much of that is driven by the personality of the board members.” The close ties among chapter members reveal a genuine community. “It’s very unique,” she continued. “We really are a family. We go to each other’s weddings and important events. We thoroughly enjoy each other’s company—we’re friends outside of work.”

Apparently, this people-first approach is working, with San Diego boasting 348 members—an 8% increase over the past year, versus the standard benchmark of 1% growth for ISPE chapters. According to Syre, this can be attributed to a full slate of events, including periodic “lunch and learns” at local pharmaceutical companies. These provide a friendly, relaxed introduction to ISPE and outline the benefits of membership.

Sustained growth has been a constant since 1992, when a group of engineers in the nascent San Diego pharmaceutical industry established the chapter. “At that time,” said Syre, “business connections were kept on a Rolodex.” An inaugural meeting featuring a talk by James Stumpf from the US Food and Drug Administration drew over 140 attendees, and growth took off from there. Members met quarterly and held the first vendor night within a year. Twenty-six years later, monthly meetings are the norm, and the annual vendor night is an unbroken tradition. Chapter members also look forward to the annual golf tournament.


While its emphasis on inclusivity goes a long way toward building good relationships, the San Diego Chapter couples that collegial spirit with effective practicality. This year, the chapter has embraced a new approach to its annual strategic planning meeting by inviting the advisory council to participate directly alongside the board. Syre described the difference: “We’ve had strategic planning meetings for many years. Typically at the end of meeting we ’d have ideas, but then we’d need to act on them, and there wasn’t always an action plan. Nicki changed that by bringing the advisory board into the meeting.”

It was a game changer, the women said, and so successful that it “might be a new best practice” for ISPE chapters and affiliates. As Neatherlin explained, “Our advisory board is made up of executives from leading life science companies in San Diego. They are able to help us understand the training needs of their staff, open their doors for facility tours, and host our dinner meetings at no charge. Their support and insight has been so invaluable to our chapter.” Lange emphasized gratitude, commenting, “We’re especially thankful to Abzena, Inovio, and Genentech for being such valuable resources.”

Inclusivity isn’t the only benefit to this approach, however—it has yielded specific practical advantages. Syre mentioned that including the advisory board led to both more effective strategies for implementing plans and a more complete year-ahead calendar. “The earlier our calendar is in place, the more effectively we can seek sponsorship dollars … we can offer companies the entire chapter calendar up front, and we can solicit an annual sponsor•ship instead of a shorter-term or iterative one. This greatly reduces work to coordinate through the year. It means better cash flow, which in turn allows us to focus more on engagement than money.”

Quick Facts

  • Founded 1992
  • Region San Diego County, California
  • Membership 348
  • President
    • Nicole Lange, CRB (Gold Sponsor)
  • Vice President
    • Deborah Neatherlin, Siemens (Platinum Sponsor)
  • Treasurer
    • Je Landgraf, Cannon Building (Gold Sponsor)
  • Secretary and Programs Chair
    • Juliana Ipuz, Charter Medical, Ltd.
  • Golf Committee Co-Chairs
    • Laura Ellery, Industrial Commercial Systems, Inc.
    • Annalisa Evans, Evans Consulting
  • Vendor Night Chair
    • ​​​​​​​Kelly Michajlenko, GLUMAC
  • Social Media Chair
    • ​​​​​​​Geo Parker, Sequoia Consulting
  • Social Events Chair
    • ​​​​​​​Chad Hawk, Pacific Rim Mechanical (Gold Sponsor)
  • Membership Chair
    • ​​​​​​​Lisa Yargeau, Sani-Tech West
  • Student Affairs/YP Chair
    • ​​​​​​​Emily Nelson, Azzur
  • Appreciation Committees
    • ​​​​​​​Martha Sosa, Gilead Sciences
  • Past Presidents
    • Noel Maestre, CRB (Gold Sponsor)
    • John Wammes, Water Works, Inc. (Gold Sponsor)
    • Rod Freeman, Beckman Coulter
  • Chapter Manager
    • ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Kimberly Syre, Attention to Detail


Neatherlin encouraged industry organizations to join the chapter. “People should join to network, pursue career advancements, find speaking engagements, and discover educational opportunities.”

Lange summarized the positive impact the San Diego Chapter has had on her career. “ISPE has never been ‘work’ for me. It’s been the opportunity to be a part of a team of like-minded and like-spirited people. Not only have I learned all the aspects of running a nonprofit business, but I have gained so much knowledge, and have been able to stay current in industry trends. I am truly thankful for the experiences and memories.”

With an 8% increase in membership in this, its 26th year, the San Diego Chapter is a growing, forward-thinking, people-focused organization that showcases the advantages of ISPE membership.