Interview With Courtney E. Stanton
Courtney E. Stanton serves as President of Smithfield BioScience and the Vice President Bioproducts for Smithfield Foods, Inc., a $15 billion global food company founded and headquartered in Smithfield, Virginia. In this role, Stanton leads the Smithfield BioScience strategic platform, leveraging bioproducts from the meat production process for the development of pharmaceuticals, regenerative medicine, nutraceuticals, and medical device solutions.
Stanton joined Smithfield in 2015 and brings extensive experience in commercializing new ventures, business development, new product development, portfolio management, and acquisitions. She has played a pivotal role in establishing Smithfield as a leader in providing a range of biotechnology solutions in the areas of human therapeutics and tissue fabrication, and for growing Smithfield’s overall bioproducts business year-over-year.
Prior to joining Smithfield, Stanton held leadership positions at several large companies in the food industry, including Tate & Lyle, Fonterra U.S.A., and Tyson Foods. Throughout her career, Stanton has served in a variety of business development roles and was responsible for numerous successful ventures into new international markets.
In addition to DCAT, Stanton is a member of TERMIS and the Advanced Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI). She serves as an Advisor for the Animal Agtech Innovation Summit and the Georgia Research Alliance and Venture Fund. Stanton earned her B.A. in International Relations and Economics from Wellesley College and her MBA from Harvard Business School.
What surprised you most about your career?
- When I attended Harvard, I cultivated a growth mindset. I never imagined what an incredible impact it would have on my career and the businesses I have led. When I joined Smithfield Foods, I was tasked with leading one of their agricultural businesses. I successfully transformed what was originally an overlooked value stream into a new multimillion-dollar business. With a growth mindset, I knew anything was possible – with the right team and the right resources. We stumbled occasionally – but who doesn’t when they are helping transform an industry and a way of bringing medical solutions to market. In four years, we have grown from a basic porcine raw material supplier to a leading pharmaceutical, medical device and regenerative medicine business. It’s humbling to know that having the right mindset enabled me to have such a tremendous impact not only on one organization, but on an industry.
How do women lead differently?
- I’m a strong believer of a diverse workplace where gender and cultural differences are the norm. This often begins with a diverse leadership team. Including diverse perspectives on my team has led to the development of radically new ideas on how to grow a business by 10x over 4 years.
What industry organizations are you involved with and how has this enhanced your leadership skills and career development?
- In addition to DCAT, I am actively involved in Regenerative Medicine organizations such as TERMIS, the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine and the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI). I also serve as an Advisor for the Animal Agtech Innovation Summit and the Georgia Research Alliance and Venture Fund. Combined, these organizations provide me with a well-rounded perspective on science and technology trends and innovations across agriculture, pharmaceutical and general human health and wellness. I have had the great fortune of working with scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, investors and Fortune 100 companies to address and solve critical issues in health. This has made me a more knowledgeable and more effective leader in my career as I seek to address not only real-time health challenges through Smithfield BioScience, but also focus on the next generation of solutions in areas like tissue regeneration and organ transplantation. Learning from a multi-disciplinary group of minds has enabled me to be an industry leader, carving a new path, versus being a follower.
What have been your career learnings during COVID? What are you going to carry forward in the “new normal”/post COVID?
- Smithfield has been no different from other organizations in experiencing adversity during the pandemic. However, the BioScience business continued to expand and grow in 2020 and 2021 as we remained flexible to labor, supply chain, and in-person business challenges. I attribute this success and growth to the strength of my team, as we take an autonomous and decentralized approach to management. This decentralization of decision-making was especially important as the team was spread out across the country, and our customers were (and continue to be) spread out across the world. Empowering the team to better service our customers is a strategy we plan to carry forward.
What is the one piece of advice that you would give to women in the Pharma Industry that will help them become better leaders?
- My career path was untraditional. I never would have imagined being where I am in my career today. Through hard work, I developed the skills and knowledge base to be successful. However, what enabled me to turn hard work into a successful career was having a growth mindset. It forced me to look at challenges differently. Therefore, the advice I would give anyone on becoming a better leader is to always have a growth mindset. This enables you to look at any business, team or challenge and find creative solutions. A growth mindset reminds you of the importance of empowering your team, challenging them to learn from mistakes, persevering in the face of adversity and constantly reimagining ways to drive your business forward.