marthasarpong.jpgMartha Sarpong ’97, PhD
GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals
Director and Project Leader, R&D Medicine Development, Portfolio and Project Management

I really benefited from excellent teaching in small classes within my major (chemistry) while at Macalester and had the fortune to superbly balance this with an exposure to liberal arts and global affairs. This ignited a passion for medicine development, global health access and social justice issues, which Macalester really fostered. This passion, as well as my academic interest in science (specifically chemistry), really influenced my professional path, landing me in my current role working to develop medicines with a specific emphasis on meeting unmet patient need in emerging markets and the developing world.

I received a great education at Macalester that served me well in pursuing a PhD and postdoc in chemistry. In addition, throughout that additional training, my experiences at Macalester (such as track team, undergrad research, volunteering) taught me to build consensus and work with diverse teams toward a common goal. This also taught me how to be resilient in the face of challenges—be it overcoming aches and pains in order to compete in a track meet or attempting a chemistry experiment the 10th time to eventually get it to work! The opportunities I have been able to capitalize on in my career has been the result of my commitment to hard work and exposure to many cultures and diverse ways of thinking gained in my time at Macalester. This has really helped me in my career successes working with various teams. The ability to build trust with and within teams and to galvanize passions around a common goal (in my current work it is making medicines available to patients) has been the key to successful leadership for me.

Work hard and take advantage of every traditional and non-traditional learning opportunity you can. Use the subject matter expertise you gain in your major and couple it with your passions to guide your career choice. This will ignite a real drive in you and result in success in your chosen area of work. That passion is what will help foster resilience in the face of challenges you encounter in your work (and personal life).