As part of our ‘Female Leaders: Inspiring Together’ series, we interviewed Tracy Andrews – Field Marketing Manager at Beckman Coulter Life Sciences – about her transition from scientist to marketing manager and why she feels being taken seriously is a big barrier for women.


Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview, Tracy. To start with, could you tell us a little bit more about your current role and the company you work for?

I currently work for Beckman Coulter Life Sciences, which is a provider and supplier of laboratory solutions. The company is part of the Danaher group of companies. I am the Field Marketing Manager, which is a very broad role. It generally sits between lots of different functions; it sits between sales, between commercial marketing and it sits between the business units as well, and my role involves drawing lots of information back from lots of different people. The idea with field marketing is that you’re trying to develop all of those relationships with key customers out in the field to then bring all of that information back into the company to generate leads for the sales team going forward. So, in summary, the role is very broad and involves lots of interaction with lots of different people.


That sounds like an exciting role. What inspired you to start your career in this industry?

I became a scientist because I loved science as a child. As a young girl, I would always be found in the library looking for more information about everything and anything to do with the world. I was so curious about everything. I chose to go into biology specifically because it’s quite a broad field and it offers you a chance of being able to look at the world in general and it’s doesn’t restrict you to any particular part of science.


Having started your career in science, what made you decide to progress into marketing and become a successful marketing manager?

I progressed through from science to marketing because I started to ask questions that were a little bit outside of what a scientist would normally ask and also a salesperson would ask because I actually progressed from science, through to sales, through to marketing. So, as a scientist, whilst I was quite happy, I found that I was actually more interested in talking to people, so I moved into sales. Scientific sales was great because I could talk to other scientists who were out there and I could find out what they were doing. But then I started to ask really odd questions that salespeople wouldn’t normally ask, like, ‘why do we sell this specific product?’ and ‘why does this customer want this product?’ and ‘does that customer actually want those?’. So, then I ended up moving over into marketing, which basically suited my mindset a bit better because marketing tends to bring in that strategic element where you start thinking about what a company actually does and why should we do it. Obviously, it brings in all of that interaction with the scientists as well, so it was a perfect balance for me. I eventually got there, but it took a little while of working through different jobs.


What type of barriers you would say you’ve encountered during your career growth and your success as a female leader?

I think in general, women suffer from a lot of different barriers when they are trying to progress through. One of the biggest barriers that I found was the motherhood gap. So, when I stopped to have my children, I didn’t take very much time off, but I still found that I didn’t progress during the time that my children were young. I found that male colleagues would progress much faster than I would, and then when I came back from maternity leave, even though that maternity leave may have only been six to eight months, I had to work so much harder to catch back up with those colleagues again. So there are these big chunks of none-progression within my career every time I had a child and then the perception when I came back was that perhaps I wouldn’t be 100% committed to the role, perhaps I would have different commitments when I came back and I found that same question of commitment wasn’t really addressed to fathers in the same position. It would seem to only be addressed to mothers. So that was a very difficult barrier for me, and I think that a lot of women experience that as well.

“There are these big chunks of none-progression within my career every time I had a child and then the perception when I came back was that perhaps I wouldn’t be 100% committed to the role… I found that same question of commitment wasn’t really addressed to fathers in the same position.”


You have children and you have a successful career, how do you manage your work-life balance?

It’s very, very difficult and I’m not going to pretend that it’s easy to manage at all because it’s not; it’s multitasking constantly. You will find me balancing many different things at the same time. I will often be found walking a child to school and having a conversation with them while also listening to a meeting in one ear. I will try and balance everything as I go along. Luckily, I’m a very organised person, so I am able to organise my time quite well. One of the best tools I use is what I like to call my ‘impact matrix’ for my tasks. I list all of my tasks according to what sort of impact they have and how much time they take from me, and I can quickly go through that and know what needs to be done today. Every morning I get up and I decide the three things that I have to do today, and that could be personal or it could be work and then those are the three things I concentrate on. I consider it a success if I have done those three things.


Is there a big challenge that you remember during your career that you really struggled with but overcame?

One of the biggest challenges I faced, and again I think a lot of women face this, is being taken seriously. We often find that when we present ideas in meetings that those ideas are not taken forward. They’re often challenged more than ones from male counterparts, and this was something that I found quite a lot. Quite often I found that I had to create a network before I went into the meeting, get that support for the idea before, so that by the time I went into the meeting, I’m was ready for any challenges and I had my supporters in place. But this means having to work so much harder every single time to develop an idea and to get those ideas accepted. So, being taken seriously is a big barrier for women, the fact that we have to make this support network, that we have to get people to support us, and the fact that we almost have to get this male voice behind us to say, ‘actually, I think that’s a good idea’. It’s quite hard.


Situations like that could quite easily impact someone’s confidence. Do you ever suffer from any self-doubt and how do you manage that?

Absolutely, and I think, again, this is something that a lot of women struggle with and a lot of men struggle with it as well. I was given some really good advice from one of my friends who said to me, ‘when you walk into a room, if you can speak confidently, people listen to you.’ So, you know, it doesn’t matter what you’re saying, it doesn’t matter if you’re wrong, but if you’re confident with your message, people will listen to you more. I have tried this and in my experience, it works. When I spoke confidently, people didn’t challenge me as much. Often I find with myself and other women that sometimes we put an inflection into our voice, so we ask a question when we actually want to make a statement. Taking that inflection out of my voice is something I have worked quite hard at as well as presenting myself with confidence so that people accept the message that I’m bringing forward. I think we can raise young girls to have more of this confidence. I actually have three boys and they just walk into the world with this confidence that no one is going to challenge them in any kind of way at all. I think that if we can raise girls with that sort of confidence as well, it will make things a lot easier for us in the future.


It is great that you have had friends and colleagues to give you advice. If there was any advice you would want to give women in our industry, what would that be?

“I would say to any women in this industry to be brave, be confident, don’t accept no, go forward and just make your way. What’s the worst thing that can happen?”

I would say to any women in this industry to be brave, be confident, don’t accept no, go forward and just make your way. What’s the worst thing that can happen? There are a lot of different quotes out there by women, but for me, I think you should think of the thing that you’re afraid of doing and then go and do it. What happens is never as bad as you think it’s going to be.


Is there anything else you think all of us – including us as a recruitment company and you as a female leader – could do to encourage more women into those leadership positions?

It’s about respecting individual differences with people. When we talk about encouraging women to grow into leadership positions, companies need to recognise that there are individual differences between each woman and they need to value those differences, and there needs to be a culture that values those differences. We all act in different ways. A company doesn’t need the same clones over and over again because they bring the same ideas. If you look at some of the great female leaders at the moment, they’re very different from what we are expected to be. Many of them are more successful than their male counterparts because they’re bringing that difference. Understanding that there is that difference and valuing that difference is the first key step for me. Secondly, I think the biggest gain for me has always been to create a massive network of women so that we can create that leadership network, and companies can help do that. Recruiters can help by introducing you to other people who are in the same position as you. For example, at Danaher, they have a number of associate research groups. They have friends research groups that I’m part of, and that’s all of the women leaders across all of the organisation as a whole. In those groups, we talk to each other, we find out what the challenges are in the company, we discuss the challenges we face day-to-day and we’re sharing that information. That information can be used to improve things. So, there are lots of different ways we can support.


Our ‘Female Leaders: Inspiring Together’ series is running throughout March with the aim of inspiring and supporting women to become future leaders in their respective industries. Follow our LinkedIn page to join the conversation and hear the insightful stories of our featured female leaders.