Interview With Andrea Wesp
Andrea Wesp is the Vice President New Business Development at Vetter Pharma International GmbH, a global leader for clinical and commercial sterile fill and finish for injectable drugs.
Andrea has more than two decades of experience with outsourced supply and manufacturing services for the life science industry. At Vetter Andrea plays a key role in building new CDMO partnerships with pharma and biotechnology companies of every size.
Throughout her career, Andrea has gained experiences in a variety of technical and business roles such as project management, inhouse consulting, product management, operational excellence and business segment leadership.
Andrea studied chemical & process engineering at Technical University, Hamburg (Dipl.Ing) and Business Economist as a distance learning program.
Is there anything that you wish that you could have done differently in your career?
- There are many things I would not change, but of course, some things I would do differently. I would definitely study process and chemical engineering again, as it gave me an incredible breadth of knowledge and a good technical background. I have worked on many different projects throughout my career, which has given me the opportunity to constantly learn and broadened my horizons.
- Of course, it is difficult to work in different technical and business areas, but I wish I had more self-confidence in my abilities earlier in my career and had dared to challenge myself more often to show those abilities. This process took many years and was also associated with some pain. Women are often reserved and ask themselves the question ‘can I really do it all?’. I would pull the ripcord much sooner if I were told that I am not able to think in a specific direction or if my value was clearly not recognized. Like many of my female peers, I endured a certain degree of pain when treated badly or unfairly; I stood up too late and stayed too long in some situations.
How do women lead differently?
- I don’t know if I can generalize that women lead differently than men, I just know how I lead, what I value and what is important to me. Furthermore, I have never had a female boss, but even the male bosses all had different leadership styles. From my experience, women can be significantly more communicative than men. Women provide a lot of feedback and therefore encourage their employees to develop.
- Women may think less in terms of status and power, but rather can be more task and employee-oriented, so they lead and develop their employees according to their abilities. Leadership for women more resembles leadership coaching, as there is less about ‘instruction’ and more about ‘understanding and acceptance’. Women are likely to be empathetic and responsive toward employees when they are having a difficult time.
- For me, leadership has nothing to do with status. Many of my male colleagues throughout my career have defined themselves by the number of employees, however, that has nothing to do with leadership. Leadership is about understanding people, developing them, supporting them, and directing employees in such a way that the best result is achieved; motivation is the top priority. Leadership is hard work if you understand it correctly.
What role has mentoring played in your career, either as a mentor, mentee or both? What industry organizations are you involved with and how has this enhanced your leadership skills and career development?
- In my eyes, mentoring is a very important topic, especially for women. When I started my career 25 years ago in a male-dominated environment as a young female engineer in the chemical industry it was very rough water with very conservative leading structures by men without any mentorship for women.
- Men had their “’old-boys’ network” – their regular groups, that women could not join. At that time there were no women’s networks available. I needed to establish my network over many years by attending networking events from VDI (Association of German Engineers) and VAA (Association of employed academics) for women in engineering positions and women in leadership.
- Many years ago, I had a very good boss who encouraged and challenged me because he believed in me and my abilities. Through him I grew and moved into a leadership role. I never had a real mentor myself, but I made myself available as a mentor to advise young female colleagues as to what went well, what didn’t, and what I would do differently if I were young again.
What is the one piece of advice that you would give to women in the Pharma Industry that will help them become better leaders?
- Be yourself! You don’t have to be better men, you don’t have to be harder and tougher than men, women lead differently, and that’s a good thing! Dare to do more, because you can do more than you think! We women often think we can’t do it and are very self-critical when we are offered a new position. Just do it; you will be surprised how fast you will grow with each new endeavor.