No two days are the same

26 Oct 2005 | Network Updates
A partner at Dewey Ballantine in the East Palo Alto office, Noemi "Nicky" Espinosa has more than 20 years of experience in intellectual property law for biotechnology and high technology clients.

Nicky Espinosa, intellectual property lawyer

A partner at Dewey Ballantine in the East Palo Alto office, Noemi "Nicky" Espinosa has more than 20 years of experience in intellectual property law for biotechnology and high technology clients.

What's your favourite thing/least favourite thing about your job?

My favourite thing about my job is the variety. No two days are the same, and no two legal matters are the same. It's never boring, and you learn so much from every experience. A close second favourite thing is enjoying the people I work with, both as colleagues in my firm, and as clients. They provide an amazing work environment. My least favourite thing about my work would have to be long airplane flights in economy seating. I have to travel fairly often, and when it gets really hot, stuffy and cramped in an airplane, my misery meter peaks out.

How is science business - i.e. the business of science - changing for women?

Hopefully the field is expanding in opportunities for women, as executives, legal counsel and in leadership positions in institutions and academia. Certainly it has been my observation that the number of women in the intellectual property law field is increasing. There have always been more women in the life sciences than in high tech, but their numbers have been increasing over the last twenty years. It is still rare to see female CEOs of science-based companies, but that is true of almost all business entities. There are more and more women at the board level at life science companies too.

What are the top three trends affecting women in the business of science?

Inadequate support systems for working mothers has always been a problem area for women in the business of science or any profession for that matter. The same trends that affect the men will affect women. There is a trend towards the convergence of information technology and life science technology. After all, DNA is just another means for storing genetic information. Both men and women will need to grasp the importance of the two fields to one another. Globalisation of the business of science is a reality now and will only be bigger over time. It is important for women in science to have an appreciation of how important the global emerging markets (like China and India for instance) are to the business of life science research and medicine.

What advice would you give to young women looking to make a career in the business of science?

First of all, I'd tell them to find an aspect of science they love. The more passionate you feel about your work, the easier it is to pursue. Learn as much about the finance and other business aspects of running a company. The more you understand the driving forces of business, the more you can appreciate what can and cannot be commercialised, and why.

What are the big ideas that affect your work at present?

Stem cell research and the political problems it faces are important to my practice area. Understanding the FDA's regulatory impact and the insurance industry's reimbursement system for medical care are two broad areas that indirectly impact the types of companies in the space I practice in. The issues surrounding the application of genomic information to the success of drug development is an area I follow closely.

Are there any differences in the ability of women to get ahead in different science-based industries?

There are subtle differences, sure. So much of success in business is based on developing positive working relationships. Because at the management level it still is predominantly a male world, women need to pass through an invisible filter to move up in the ranks. Women need to be comfortable working with men, and develop positive working relationships in environments where the men interact with each other in ways that are different than the ways women interact with one another. How women react to conflict, stress and competition will colour the way their often male bosses react to them. In order for women to "get ahead," they have to be very credible and competent, they need to make the men, especially those in positions to evaluate and promote them, feel comfortable with them, and confident of their abilities.

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