In the ever-evolving biopharmaceutical industry, developing and delivering game-changing therapies that change patients’ lives is complex. At Syneos Health, we attack this challenge by bringing forward a wide-ranging set of disciplines, perspectives and ideas to deliver new solutions. Beyond combining clinical and commercial capabilities to speed therapies to market, we value, recognize and develop a diverse set of leaders who enable our customers to achieve their goals.


Today, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, we’d like to introduce you to exceptional Syneos Health female leaders – from rising stars to industry veterans. Below they share their leadership lessons that we hope will inspire you on your career journey too.


Supporting Leaders at Syneos Health

For the past 16 years, Syneos Health has been a member of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA), supporting employees by providing access to a community of successful women role models and career-boosting resources.


More than 50 Syneos Health women have been honored with the prestigious HBA Rising Star or Luminary distinction to date.


To further recognize and develop exceptional female leaders, in 2017, Syneos Health launched an inaugural internal Rising Star and Luminary employee recognition program honoring 16 impressive women shaping the future of healthcare solutions. Top talent who embody organizational values are nominated by their leadership, in partnership with Human Resources, to be recognized - a celebration of their accomplishments while offering access to training, mentoring and networking opportunities.


Check back on the blog for news about our 2018 program honorees – we’re excited to introduce you to a new class of Rising Star and Luminary leaders in May.

Julie Adrian, President, Syneos Health Communications Europe

It is my best day when I am not needed. If we as leaders adopted that mindset, we would do all we can to mentor and support our teams and then get out of the way. Adopting this philosophy is quite liberating, and if you do it enough, you will begin to truly revel in the successes that your teams have without you directly involved. But, say some of you who haven’t yet learned to embrace this glorious philosophy, what if the person isn’t ready, or they say they need you. That’s the work – getting them ready and helping them see they don’t need you. This is not to say that you aren’t still available, but more in a coaching capacity. Give them the room to try, succeed and even fail, so they learn and evolve in their own way. It’s magical when it works!

Diana R. Cucos, PhD, Senior Vice President, Global Operations, Strategic Resourcing, Clinical Solutions and 2017 Healthcare Business Women (HBA) Luminary

I have been fortunate to have some great women mentors and what I have learned from them and my own journey as a leader is to trust myself and have a voice. My advice is to believe that your ideas are worth sharing, have the courage to speak up and have the confidence to express your view. Our industry is challenging and complex, requiring innovative thinking. The more diversity you have contributing innovative ideas, the more progress we make as a team. And as you speak out in support of your idea or your team, you not only drive the business but also inspire the next generation of leaders to be engaged, find their own voice and help shape the future.

Tara Fitzgerald, President, Clinical Development Services

The most important thing I have learned throughout my career is to remain humble and kind – and, with that, to always listen with patience. Our industry is fast-paced, filled with science and technology and innovation, but at the end of the day, it is about the people. We don’t hire talent to fill space, we hire talent because they have brilliant minds and ideas to contribute to our industry. We as leaders serve a purpose to open up doors for our teams, to push them just a bit so they can see and feel success – to show them that no matter your gender or where you sit in the world, you too can make a difference. If we create a safe environment for our teams, we develop individuals who are persistent, accountable, committed, and dedicated. That is how successful teams are built.

Kiely Flanigan, PhD, Senior Director, Talent Development, Syneos Health Consulting

In my experience, one of the most important initial leadership lessons to learn is that when you are invited to step front and center on the stage, say yes! And, if you’re not invited, request an invitation. You might not feel ready. You likely won’t have all the answers. You might hear ghosts from the past saying you might fail. But, as much as possible, have faith in your own skill set, find your amazing mentor or boss in the audience, and let yourself shine. Syneos Health needs our women (and men!) to recognize their gifts and talents, have the courage to showcase them and teach and encourage others to step up onto that stage, as well.

Cathy Foca, PhD, Project Director

Leadership has little to do with hierarchy. In a team, all members regardless of position or title, have the power to shape the outcome of a group effort. We each have leadership qualities within us and can bring that value to our teams through our actions – active mentoring, taking on additional responsibilities or staying back late to help a teammate finish their tasks. These behaviors contribute not only to the task at hand, but more importantly, to the creation of solid relationships across the team. To encourage these positive behaviors and draw the best out of teams, I have found that it is important to provide an environment where the individuals are encouraged to share ideas and feel confident that their thoughts and opinions are valued. This kind of engagement breeds confidence and empowers individuals to formulate their own ideas or resolutions because they feel supported and respected.

Tara Isherwood, MSc, Director, Regulatory Consulting

Staying positive and determined is my top lesson for our current and future leaders.

Maintaining an optimistic determination in your working and personal life can help overcome uncertainty, doubt and frustration. With a little self-belief, we are capable of great things. I seek to empower those with whom I work to take on what they never knew they were capable of.

When it comes to determination, remember that sometimes you may need to evaluate where you are going, but you don't need to stop. Every step will take you closer to where you want to go.

Engage the strengths of those who work with you, appreciate the accomplishments, celebrate the wins and just keep swimming!

Michelle Keefe, President, Commercial Solutions

The most important leadership lesson I have learned is to build a team of talented colleagues who have strengths that compliment yours. When you build and lead a diverse team you accomplish more than you ever thought possible. Diverse teams challenge your thinking as a leader, they push the envelope to come up with better, faster and smarter ways of accomplishing goals. They are creative and innovative and build upon each other’s ideas. As a leader it is ‘easy’ to hire people who are similar in their approach to you. Hiring people with different points of view can be challenging and frankly more time consuming at times but ALWAYS get you a better outcome.

Sora Lee, Vice President, Value Architect/Alliance Management


여러분 가까이에 있는 분들에게서 배울 수 있는 기회를 놓치지 말고 충분히 활용하세요. Manager에게는 여러분의 career aspiration을 알리고 development 에 대한 조언을, 팀원들에게는 여러분의 리더쉽에 대한 피드백을, 주위 동료들에게서도 배울 점들을 끊임없이 찾다보면, 어느덧 훌륭한 리더가 되어있을 거예요 !


Don’t miss the opportunities to learn and get support from the people around you. Share your career aspiration with your managers, ask for and be open to development advice and actively seek out your direct reports’ feedback on your leadership. Your colleagues are a wealth of knowledge from which you can receive invaluable insights!

Kristen Spensieri, Global Head, Corporate Communications & Marketing

Leadership is a critical blend of strategic content knowledge, constructive conversations and collaboration. While leaders come in all shapes and sizes, authenticity, a belief in people first and walking the talk rules. Over the course of my career I've been inspired by women and men who embody these principles. Those who have propelled me forward have provided direct feedback, optimized strengths and identified new opportunities. It’s this ability to empower others to identify and achieve their goals – fueled by their own strengths and styles – that’s most rewarding to watch and cultivate. To aspiring woman everywhere – look, listen and learn to define your leadership contribution and style.


Rachel Stahler, Chief Information Officer

Be passionate. Never do anything half-way and be a true partner to your colleagues. Your passion for what you do and a collaborative, team approach will propel the company and you forward. This passion should also include a desire to deeply understanding the organization’s purpose. This will allow you to define strategies and plans to enable those goals and build teams with the skillsets needed to succeed. Once that strong team is in place, clearly communicate goals and activate the right team members for projects that align with their expertise as well as those that provide development opportunities. I’ve found this combination empowers my teams and positions them to meet and exceed the expectations of our internal and external customers.

Lisa van Capelle, Chief Human Resources Officer

The single most important leadership lesson I can share is to keep in touch with those individuals who helped shape your path and ultimately become one of them, by paying it forward. I’ve learned over my 25+ years that my career moments were realized by individuals believing in me, sharing an opportunity for me to shape my career path and my drive to be part of the team and deliver. Keeping those connections strong by sharing where you are in your career journey and recognizing the lift they provided gives thanks where it’s due. It will also allow you to have an opportunity to afford another the same experience. So, seize those moments with others along their career journey by sharing an opportunity, making your team and network feel they are supported and they too will seize the moment in front of them.

Nicky Walsby, Managing Director, Public Relations, Syneos Health Communications Europe

Be true to yourself and make no apologies. Don’t attempt to be a different version of yourself or try to be what you think others expect. The genuine, authentic version of yourself is the reason why your teams and your customers follow you and provides the motivation to go that extra mile.

Make no apologies for the concessions you have to make and don’t beat yourself up too much that you can’t do everything.

And finally, smile!

Jane Winter, Senior Vice President, Strategic Alliance Management

A mantra that has been my guide throughout the last 36 years in the pharma industry is, “To be successful by myself in any task is very good. To succeed as a team is even better” (Brahma Kumaris). I’m a firm believer that a leader’s success is a result of strong team contributions and an ability to collaborate effectively with colleagues. The role of leader is to encourage and motivate team participation and guide/challenge these groups of individuals to succeed. Some of the best ideas are as a result of learning from mistakes. Thinking creatively “outside of the box” may not work the first time, but ensures an individual/team becomes stronger along the way. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake and ensure its part of life’s learning. Encourage and celebrate team success and you will feel justly rewarded as a leader.