Magazine Article | July 31, 2014

Engage If You Want To Capitalize On Opportunities

Source: Life Science Leader
Rob Wright author page

By Rob Wright, Chief Editor, Life Science Leader
Follow Me On Twitter @RfwrightLSL

Commenting on his seemingly serendipitous scientific discoveries, Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” Though I agree with Pasteur’s 100+ year-old sentiment, in today’s hustle-and-bustle world, serendipity cannot reward a prepared mind if it is oblivious to its surroundings. However, situational awareness and a prepared mind are not enough for you to capitalize on opportunities presented by seemingly random interpersonal collisions. You need to be curious, willing to engage, and most importantly, not be in a hurry to rush your destiny. Consider the following example:

In 1981, musician and composer Peter Buffett, while living in San Francisco, needed a break from his keyboard. While washing his car, a neighbor with whom he had little more than a passing acquaintance happened by and struck up a conversation. When Buffett told him he was a struggling composer, he suggested Buffett get in touch with his son-in-law, an animator who was always in need of music. As it turned out, the son-in-law did have some work to offer Buffett — write a 10-second jingle for a newly conceived, unlaunched, cable TV channel. Not knowing whether his work would ever see the light of day, he took the work anyway. Today Buffett is an Emmy Award-winning composer. But his lucky break — that jingle was for MTV — began by first engaging with a neighbor while washing his car.

During the month of June, I had the opportunity to attend two of our industry’s biggest events — DIA’s 50th Annual Meeting and the 2014 BIO International Convention. Both occurred in back-to-back weeks in San Diego. Though I had many beneficial discussions from planned appointments, some of my most fruitful engagements occurred from seemingly random, interpersonal collisions. For example, at DIA, Julie Conry, senior director of advancement and outreach for Batten Disease Support and Research Association, struck up a conversation with me at our booth, taking the time to share the parents’ perspective of involving their children in clinical trials. Though Daniel Kerner, at the age of six, became the first U.S. child recipient of transplanted stem cells from an aborted fetus, it was his parents, Marcus and Joanna, who agonized over the decision. I often hear companies speak of defining and improving patient engagement. Perhaps a topic for DIA next year could include parent engagement? During BIO, I had a chance meeting with first time attendee, Michael Flanagan, Ph.D. I soon learned that Flanagan, CEO and founder of a new startup company with the working name FlanaGen, was formerly the CTO for Arieso, a networking software company acquired by JDSU for $85 million. Inspired by the work of his son, who is pursuing a bioengineering degree at Penn State, Flanagan decided to ply his mobile technology expertise in the world of life sciences. As he shared his vision of improving the quality of life for patients, I pondered who to connect him with that could help.

Frequently at shows and in life, I observe people constantly interacting with their cell phones, thereby failing to truly engage with the world and individuals in their immediate surroundings. What a missed opportunity. Don’t let this be you. Take the time to let people amaze you. This is what we try to do and why we were able to capitalize on the opportunity to strengthen the Life Science Connect editorial team. Be sure to check out the work of our newest executive editor, Louis Garguilo, author of this month’s cover feature on page 18, which he developed from an interview conducted in Japanese (Osaka dialect, to be precise) and then translated into English.