At MassMedic’s Women in Medtech event last month, Lantheus Medical Imaging CEO Mary Anne Heino spoke with MassDevice.com editor Sarah Faulkner about her career in life sciences, the power of mentorship and the necessity of courage.
“I was walking into a company where the average tenure was more than 25 years,” she said. “So these were people who knew what they were doing and had been doing it for so long…I was intent from day one to show that I was ready to learn and that I knew nothing and therefore was an open sponge for them to teach me.”
Six years later, Heino describes Lantheus as a “completely different company” – public, profitable and “one of the darlings of medtech.”
She came to Lantheus with 20 years of experience at Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) and training as a nurse under her belt, so she certainly wasn’t new to the world of healthcare. But she believed that successfully transitioning to the C-suite at Lantheus would require showing her employees that she was willing and excited to learn from them.
“If people sincerely read that you want to learn and that you value them and what they can teach you, you get this incredibly different experience than if you come in trying to superimpose some kind of experience that you think is relevant on them,” Heino explained. “And I just left myself open to learning from them and to learning the entire field of diagnostics.”
The value of mentorship is clearly written out in Heino’s career – her first female mentor now sits on Lantheus’ board alongside a former J&J colleague whom Heino has known for two decades.
“I asked them to join my board and help me and they did. Because if you ask, you get more than you think,” she said.
“I met a lot of folks who were professional mentors and the commonality that you always find is that your mentor is right for you if they challenge you and don’t console you,” Heino added.
Offering advice to audience members seeking a mentor, the CEO noted that people need to keep in mind the commitment that they’re asking of a mentor.
“You’re asking for someone’s time and your asking for their commitment and their energy. We’re all incredibly busy; we all have very, very busy lives and so it is a request and it’s one that you should honor by bringing the type of conversation that has a goal that takes you forward in some direction for having had it and for having used somebody’s time,” she said.
But Heino also made sure to point out that, generally speaking, “people want to help and people want to feel like they have value and that’s what a great mentor can do for somebody.”
Beyond the relationships with mentors that she formed throughout her career, Heino found another way to learn from those around her.
“I looked around me my entire career and saw people doing great things. Either thinking different ways or coming at situations different ways and I modeled what I liked and what worked and I also learned what didn’t work for me,” she said.
Early on, Heino learned that if she wanted something, she needed to ask for it. She found herself constantly looking for and asking for new ways to grow within J&J, Heino explained.
“I quickly got myself into a pattern of looking for things that were different from what I had been doing that would stretch me in a different way,” Heino said.
This technique served her well over the course of her career, as she stepped into the new opportunities presented by J&J and later at Lantheus.
“My true belief about leadership is that the most important component of it is courage, because courage makes everything else possible,” Heino said. “What has to sit right behind it is your own confidence in yourself.”
“The world desperately needs leaders,” she added. “Our industry desperately needs leaders. So it’s almost our charge and our obligation to step up and fill in the spots.”