People at Sartorius: Magali Barbaroux
“I have a job that I love and that I can make an impact with – what else would I need?”
After moving up the career ladder and leading a high-performing Research & Development (R&D) team at Sartorius for many years, Magali Barbaroux reached a turning point in her career. Did she really want to further move in senior management? She decided to take her dream job.
This article is posted on Sartorius Blog.
“When I was young, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. But I did know I wanted to spend my life learning constantly,” Magali remembers. Her curiosity led her to a Ph.D. in material science and engineering from École Nationale Supérieure d’Arts et Métiers in Paris – one of France’s most esteemed universities. “In my postgrad studies, I focused on silicone for drug delivery and continued to do so for seven years in my first job in the healthcare research division of a global leading chemical company. I was fascinated by the potential of polymers and how they incredibly unlock innovation in healthcare.” In 2000, she joined R&D as a project manager at the French-based biotech company Stedim, which was known for its disposable bag systems for biopharmaceutical applications.
Magali expanded her responsibilities gradually and with the merger of Stedim and Sartorius in 2007, new possibilities arose. “My evolution followed the evolution of the company,” she explains. “It was not climbing the stairs. The company was just getting bigger and bigger — and as a result revealed opportunities for management.” She contributed to the growth of the R&D team working on fluid management technologies for ten years and eventually became Vice President of Bag Technologies.
Spoiled for choice: Being a leader or an expert
In 2019, Sartorius reorganized its enterprise structure: The R&D unit was split up. While the product development moved into the two business divisions, a centralized Corporate Research unit was established and asked to collaborate closely with customers, research institutes and startups to identify new technologies and application fields. At this point, Sartorius was already big enough to propose career alternatives to Magali: She could either continue in a management role in Product Development or join the Corporate Research department as a research fellow.
“As a Vice President at that time, I had reached almost the top of the management path. Of course, I could remain in a management position in a business area and further grow with Sartorius — but how high did I want to go? Or I could go back to research in a corporate role, exploring new concepts which could accelerate progress in life science and bioprocessing. I started asking myself what I really wanted,” she recalls. Like she did for all her big decisions, Magali wrote a pros and cons list. The arguments for the position as research fellow largely predominated. “For me, it was a really a dream job. I knew I would have a lot of autonomy and opportunities to learn within this position and that my work would have the same business impact it would have had in product development. I was proud to have it proposed to me,” Magali shares. “However, something was holding me back.”
What’s in a title?
It took her some time to realize what bothered her: She would have to leave her title behind. “It sounds silly and I never expected myself to have an issue with that,” Magali explains. She discussed her thoughts with family and close friends to identify why it was so difficult for her. “Eventually, it was my teenage daughter who asked the crucial question. “If you take this other position, can we still go on skiing vacation?” she asked.” Magali answered: “Sure, we can.” Her daughter shrugged her shoulders and looked at her mother: “Then if you like it better, why are you hesitating?” That hit a point with Magali. “With this question my daughter brought attention to what is really important. She was right. How is the title important? If I can spend quality time with my family and have a job that I love and that I can make an impact with — what else would I need?”
Rethinking professional success
Soon Magali realized: “As Sheryl Sandberg states in her book ’Lean In,’ careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder. Ladders are limiting — people can move up or down, on or off. Jungle gyms offer more creative exploration. There are many ways to succeed and to leave your footprint in a company – not only in management positions. It is the projects you are part of that count.” Today, Magali leads research programs related to advanced polymers and opportunities brought by the New Plastic Economy. “In Corporate Research, we work on very early technologies, with the objective to select the ones that will have a business impact and will bring additional value to Sartorius. Together with an interdisciplinary team, we develop solutions all over the product lifecycle to further improve environmental sustainability of biopharmaceutical technology solutions — being part of this means a lot to me.”
Looking back at her career so far, Magali summarizes: “My journey was all about learning and seizing opportunities. Sometimes opportunities look quite different than we expect them to – but they are still real. For me, it was and still is about the best fit for me and my company: what I would like to learn, would like to share, who I would like to meet and how I could best contribute to the success of my team. Her advice to young professionals is to look within: “Get to know yourself well, understand what is important to you and where it comes from. Is it your education? Your willingness to prove? If you know your drivers, you will make the best decisions for yourself and your career.”
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