Doreen Alberts: The Whisperer
I attended a Designing Your Life (DYL) workshop in 2019 with my Women’s Leadership Network ready to make a change in my professional life.
I was in a good state of mind and felt blessed to be where I was at that point: professionally, I was working on my 19th year working for my company and still woke up every morning enthusiastic about what I got to do on a daily basis. Personally, I was about to hit two major milestones. My two daughters were graduating from college, and I would be celebrating 29 years of marriage at the end of the year. Like many parents, getting our children through college signals the start of a new phase in life. At this point, I’m not ready for retirement, but I’m getting ready to explore other opportunities. I went to the DYL workshop hoping it might give me some guidance on how to navigate my new phase in life.
I started my career in pharmaceutical industry right out of college. I was a protein and medicinal chemist at a major pharmaceutical company for 13 years, but with my family expanding, I wanted a more flexible work schedule. In the span of two years, I changed careers and re-invented myself as an information analyst, moved across the country, and joined the company I’m still working at today. As many of my company’s projects progressed through the drug development phases (with a few earning FDA approvals!), I became focused on finding ways to make drug development processes more efficient. How can we make development times shorter so we can provide medicines to patients who need them quickly? I’ve been paying attention to how artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming the drug development process. Big pharmaceutical companies had been investing in AI to improve their drug development processes. Being from a small company did not prevent me from thinking big, but with limited resources, I could only test a few use cases to see the feasibility of applying AI technologies to our current workflows.
Ready to make a pivot in my professional life and with AI on my mind, I attended the DYL Workshop. During the Odyssey Planning exercise, I had to create an alternative life for when “Life 1”, my current career – was suddenly gone. I wrote down that I wanted to focus on the use of artificial intelligence in drug development. This is not a straight-forward transition. AI companies are looking for data scientists, computer science professionals and data engineers, and it had been too many years since I was a bench scientist to be considered a scientific subject matter expert. I needed to find a way to bridge the gap. While discussing my plans with a colleague, she asked, “Why can’t you act on it now instead of waiting for “Life 1″ to be gone?”
I didn’t think much of her comment afterward until I saw an advertisement for an AI online course. In the back of my mind, I heard my friend asking “Why not now?” Inspired, I signed up, completed the course, and earned my Artificial Intelligence Strategy Certification course from UC Berkeley School of Information. Through the course, I learned why now is the time to look at AI technology to improve our internal processes and how advancements in AI are playing a crucial role in streamlining drug development. Most importantly, I found my place in AI. I realized I can be the liaison between our subject matter experts and AI professionals.
By taking the first step of earning my AI Strategy certificate, I discovered a new “life,” one that makes me a better version of my professional self, right now. I will continue monitor advancement in AI technologies and identify internal processes that AI can improve. As a self-proclaimed AI whisperer, my goal is to raise awareness and educate our employees on how we can leverage AI technologies to be better drug developers.
Another “Life 1” alternative I wrote down was to share my love of science through volunteering. I’ve done a few of Science Fair events and I’m currently a “coach” to a middle school science class as they prepare to compete in a local science and engineering competition in April. I love interacting with students and seeing their faces light up when they finally understood the science concept. As a science whisperer, I will continue to seek opportunities to make science fun and to provide encouragement to students who are interested in science career.
DYL workshop helped make those “what ifs” actionable. It taught me that even though change can be scary and daunting, it’s up to me to make the move, even if they are just baby steps. I’m still very much thriving in my “Life 1”, DYL just gave me the tools to design a better me.