Dr Jolanta Airey is an accomplished pharmaceutical/clinical development physician with successful record in medical management of global clinical programs in complex international environments.
Dr Airey has over 25 years’ therapeutic experience which includes immunology rheumatology, respiratory, dermatology, metabolic, vaccines, antivirals, proof of concept studies with novel biologic investigational compounds. She has been involved in the design and execution of multiple clinical trials from early through to late stage, encompassing a wide range of therapeutic categories in multiple geographies.
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Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us, please introduce yourself to our readers.
Jolanta Airey: I qualified as a physician in Vilnius University in Lithuania and shortly after, I joined the pharmaceutical industry. Due to my family situation I relocated to UK for 4 years where I started studying again and worked in a hospital. In 2005, we then relocated to Australia which has now became my home. My first job in Australia was at a Clinical Research Organization as a Medical Officer and since then I have worked in medium to large companies as a Medical Director and now as Chief Medical Officer at Cynata Therapeutics.
Can you tell our readers in what ways you are disrupting your industry?
Jolanta Airey: When I joined Research & Development in the pharmaceutical industry I noticed, but not straight away, that it is a male dominated industry. I decided though that it would not affect the way I work or communicate with others by staying true to myself and to focus on opportunities rather than obstacles. I didn’t want to change my character or personality, whether it was good or bad for any career development. I have always had strong views and opinions and happy to state them to whomever but I’m also more than happy to change my views but I have to be convinced for the right reasons and not just to win friends. For me personally, I find the motivation in developing new treatments potentially saving lives more than personal gains of career titles or awards. Although the titles are a biproduct and acknowledgment of many years of hard work which I am very grateful for.
Did you become a disruptor by choice or by necessity? Tell us more about the journey.
Jolanta Airey: When I moved to Australia it was the third country that I called home in the last 5 years. Continuing clinical practice was becoming challenging and I had to find a new career path which would challenge me and be meaningful. “Meaningful” means something different for each individual and the ‘meaningful’ for me always has been helping people to improve their lives. Within me, I knew that developing new treatments for unmet needs (diseases without treatment) to improve patients lives would fulfill my definition of ‘meaningful’.
The question reminded me of a funny story about some of my colleagues giving me the nickname ‘the disruptor’ due mainly because I was always questioning the norm and always looking for improving the way we work in order to be more efficient and to get to the finish line faster.
Now for the main focus of this interview: Many readers may wonder what are the biggest challenges women entrepreneurs must overcome to be successful?
Jolanta Airey: Despite the male dominated environment, the biggest challenge for me was multitasking my career and motherhood. After I had my children my priorities had shifted significantly and balancing work and young children took a lot of meticulous planning of my time. I also had to overcome the guilt feeling, am I spending enough time with my children and spending enough time on my work by trying to find the right balance between the two. I was very fortunate to have a flexible work environment and supportive management that I didn’t need to take much time out and continued working what was planned as maternity leave.
How did you overcome these obstacles? Who helped you during these difficult times and how did they?
Jolanta Airey: I have always judged a person by achievements, character and not by gender. I have never felt that women are different or inferior than men and despite the fact that it is a male dominating environment I personally didn’t feel that I was treated differently or perhaps I chose not to notice.
I didn’t see it as a difficult time just challenging and that I’m no different to any other working mother so I made the most of my time at work, away from the children, and then made the most of the precious time with my children, away from work.
How did these lessons shape the way you conduct business today?
Jolanta Airey: For each and every experience I accept that there are always times when it doesn’t go to plan. I have learnt to reset, move on and look to make the best outcome possible for these experiences even if its not perfect. I learnt more from bad experiences than good ones and realised that there is no such thing as failure if you learn from these experiences.
What advice you wished you had received when you started, that you’d like to share now with aspiring women entrepreneurs?
Jolanta Airey: Don’t change the way you act if you find yourself as the only woman in the room. You are there because you deserve to be there.
Out of all of your proudest moments as an entrepreneur, is there a particular one that stands out the most?
Jolanta Airey: Most clinical trials take a lot of time to set up and complete and in general there are many failed treatments at various stages of development. It would be difficult to pick one moment but I can say that I feel a great satisfaction every time we have successful trial results, as it means we are one step closer to treating patients.
What do you plan on tackling during the 2022 year? Share your goals and battles you expect to face.
Jolanta Airey: At Cynata we have a very exciting pipeline of indications and I’m looking forward to see the clinical trial results and starting many new programs with the forward thinking and enthusiastic Cynata team.
I’m sure our readers will be very thankful for the insights you have shared. What is the best book you’ve gone through lately and please share some take away lessons from it.
Jolanta Airey: I enjoy reading and have read many good books but probably my favorite book would be Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, which I have now read three times. The simplicity of the book is full of wisdom that each time I read the book I learn new things. I think I’m due for another read!
Thank you so much for your time but before we finish things off, I do have one more question for you. When was the last time you did something for the first time and what was it?
Jolanta Airey: It was scuba diving in Thailand. I had 15 minutes training on the beach before jumping off the boat and it’s worth noting that I don’t know how to swim and I’m proud to say that I didn’t panic when I saw a baby shark!
Jerome Knyszewski, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Jolanta Airey for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Jolanta Airey or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin
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