New in 2020: ’Leadership Lessons’ Series

Interested in learning about successfully navigating your career, dealing with common challenges and developing the traits required to lead? Every month HBA GTA (Greater Toronto Area) will feature a Canadian leader and share the personal insights and learnings that have helped advance their careers. Have a question you would like to ask? Know a Canadian leader we can all learn from? Send us your recommendations- we want to hear from you.

Leadership Lesson 1: Featuring Susan Marlin, CEO Clinical Trials Ontario

The biggest lesson I learned that has helped me progress in my career… "Keep an open mind, keep learning and be patient.”

  • When making decisions or solving complex problems, go broad. Bring in other perspectives, learn from others, do research around the issue. 
  • Move from a mindset of making things happen to helping things happen; this takes time, collaboration and patience but helps the best path to emerge.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your professional journey and how did you work through it?

  • It can be challenging to know when it is time to make a change
  • Invest time in making face to face connections inside and outside of work to hear different ideas, learn from others experiences and develop relationships with individuals you can trust for good advice 
  • Find good people to work with--people who provide growth opportunities, push you, challenge you, are supportive but let you take risks and make decisions
  • When you are in an environment in which you are not doing your best work- move on.

My advice for women looking to advance their careers…try new things, take risks.

  • Be recognized as someone who takes on challenges; keep looking for opportunities to develop new capabilities 
  • Take an interest in activities outside your job; this can be especially important in mid-career. Get involved in activities outside of your organization that are recognized and valued by your organization-- volunteer, join working groups, committees, boards.
  • Take risks-- “You will make mistakes, some small some big and when you do…stop. Make a directed effort to look at what did not work, what you would do differently in future, apologize if needed; keep the lessons learned but leave the rest behind and move on.”

What techniques have you found useful to help you ‘move on’?

Two things:

  1. “I use a visual technique by imagining writing the issue on a piece of paper and throwing it in a stream and watching it float away. If you keep revisiting an issue, continue to punish yourself, keep looking back then the less well you are doing your job and everything else. Keep the lessons and positive learnings and throw away the rest.”
  2. When you have challenges to deal with (work, personal, etc.), don’t stack them on top of each other, creating too much weight to manage.  Lay them out horizontally and solve one at a time

What value can the HBA bring to business professionals in healthcare in the GTA?

  • It is a great mixture of healthcare and business which brings an interesting and balanced group of people together
  • Having the opportunity to meet face-to-face, share ideas, discuss trends and met people with similar interests

What was your one big takeaway from the Sept 2019 HBA event “Changing Minds, Minding Change: How Clinical Trials and Regulations impact Patient Care and Access”?

  • “I was struck by the warm and supportive environment- people were very engaged and welcoming of the conversation which does not always happen. I was more comfortable being myself”
  • Fellow panelists brought forth rich perspectives, a bigger picture and passion resulting in an excellent learning experience for all

Susan Marlin is the president and CEO of Clinical Trials Ontario (CTO), an organization established by the Province of Ontario in 2012 to make Ontario a preferred location for global clinical trials while maintaining the highest ethical standards. Prior to joining CTO served as the associate vice-principal at Queen’s University. Susan worked with the National Cancer Institute of Canada Clinical Trials Group for many years, initially coordinating cancer clinical trials and later leading the development and implementation of the Ethics and Regulatory Office. Susan has served as president of the Canadian Association of Research Ethics Boards, as a member of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Research Integrity Committee, the Ontario Cancer Research Ethics Board and the Tri-Agency Panel on the Responsible Conduct of Research. Susan is on the Board of Directors of Life Sciences Ontario and the management team for the Ontario SPOR (Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research) Support Unit.  She has an adjunct lecturer appointment at Queen’s University.