February 21, 2024

Creating the Career You Always Wanted with Brena Williams

I'm Melissa
I'm a Career and Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech. I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.
Get the proven strategies your boss or HR don't want you to know that are proven to work (even with budget cuts, restructuring, and if you've been told "no")
Download now

This week I am joined by my client, Brena Williams. Brena is a Principal Scientist and member of my group coaching program, Beyond the Ceiling. She is sharing why she joined the group, what it’s like on the inside, and the results she experienced that blew her mind. Tune in for this candid conversation about what it’s like to work in the industry and the unexpected results she experienced when she invested in herself.

Brena’s views on this episode do not reflect the company she works for. These are her personal insights based on her experience and expertise in the Pharma/Biotech space and in her experience as my Coaching client.


  • Why Brena chose to invest in her career even when she had reasons not to
  • The power of having a community of like minded women to support you in your career growth
  • How Brena landed her ideal job, built her confidence, and created more time with her family than she thought was possible
  • The advice she wish she had earlier in her career and a message for anyone who thinks that the results she achieved aren’t possible for them



  • Get a new job, get promoted, or improve your current role inside Beyond the Ceiling – a group coaching program for women in Pharma/Biotech. Learn more
  • Looking for private 1-1 career and leadership coaching? Learn more and schedule a consultation
  • Want insider tips, access to new trainings, behind the podcast details and first-to-know information from Melissa? Join the free VIP Email Insiders


If you are loving the podcast, please consider rating and reviewing my podcast! This helps me support more people — just like you — to get happier in their career and their life by making the show more visible.

Click here, scroll to the bottom, tap to rate with stars, and then select “Write a Review.” Let me know what you loved most about the episode!

Also, if you aren’t already, be sure to subscribe to the podcast. If you’re not subscribed you can miss out on any bonus episodes! Subscribe now!


Melissa Lawrence (00:03)

Welcome to Your Worthy Career, a podcast with me, Melissa Lawrence. I’m a career and life coach with all the corporate credit and talent development and organizational psychology, and I help women like you get extraordinary results by being more you, not less. I won’t just help you have a career experience worthy of you, but I will help you build your self-worth to shift what you think is possible and take the action that will create the career you’ve always wanted, whether it’s more meaningful work you’re passionate about, making more money, getting to your next level, or being more effective as a leader. We are shattering the glass ceiling here, the one that exists for women at work and the one we put on ourselves with our doubt and inner critic. Each week, you will get practical teachings grounded in neuroscience and effective career development strategies. You’ll experience deep mindset shifts and the perfect amount of woo so you can run your career with ease rather than your career running you. You were born for more, and I’m going to help you get there with maybe a few dance parties along the way. Your up level begins now.

Melissa Lawrence (01:10)

Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the podcast. This week, I am joined by my client, Brena Williams, who is a Principal Scientist and member of Beyond the Ceiling. Beyond the Ceiling is my group coaching program for women in pharma or biotech who want to figure out what they want out of their career and make it happen, whether it’s a new job, a promotion, or upgrading their current role. And she’s joining me to talk about her career experience, what led her to joining Beyond the Ceiling, and the results that she has achieved in just a few months of us working together. She’s also going to provide some advice based on her experience and what she wishes she had known earlier in her career, and some tips for how you can create the career that you have always wanted. So I cannot wait to dive into this conversation. Without further ado, here is my conversation with me and Brena. Hi, Brena. I’m so happy to have you on the podcast today. Thank you for joining me.

Brena Williams (02:18)

Thank you. I’m really excited to be able to sit here and talk with you today.

Melissa Lawrence (02:23)

So everyone listening, could you share a little bit about yourself, who you are, what you do?

Brena Williams (02:29)

Yeah. I am a Principal Scientist in Upstream Process Development, and I’ve been doing this for a little over 15 years. I started out as a cell person, a cell biologist, I did a lot of that in my undergrad and graduate studies, and I like keeping what I call my cell babies happy.

Melissa Lawrence (02:51)

Amazing. What made you want to work in this industry?

Brena Williams (02:55)

I did not know I wanted to be in this industry. I can’t say that through my schooling that I ever imagined seeing where I am today. It’s been an interesting roadmap, but definitely once I fell into it, there was just a lot of love and passion for it and the idea of being able to help patients and people and making medicines that can help provide better life quality for people.

Melissa Lawrence (03:26)

Awesome. I think a lot of people can really relate to that. I think almost everyone I talk to, that’s why they want to work in this space, is really the impact on patients and helping other people. You’re a member of Beyond the Ceiling, which is my group coaching program. I really am so happy that you are here to share your experience and share what it’s been like for you being in the program. When you started looking at your career, can you take us back to what things were like for you before you pursued coaching?

Brena Williams (03:58)

Yeah. You know what? This point in my career, I’m very comfortable in the lab and doing what I do. I can run bioreactors with my eyes closed and just really predict what the work is. But I wasn’t really sure about other kinds of things that were maybe holding me back in my career progression. Was it my theatrical personality or if I wasn’t showing enough dedication to the job? And I was really constantly feeling drained and always trying to do more, but never really feeling confident in myself as a scientist or the space that I was in.

Melissa Lawrence (04:40)

You were at a pivot point, right? You were impacted by a layoff. You were looking at what is going to be your next move and wanting to address some of those concerns around feeling energized by your work and making sure that you were in the right place. Can you tell me a little bit, I guess, if you think of that time when you were in between and we had that initial conversation, why was it important to you to figure out what you wanted next in your career and to pursue coaching at that time? Instead of just running out and getting the first job available to you and thinking about it later?

Brena Williams (05:16)

You really had said something that sparked me in being excited about the opportunity of getting career coaching. I’ve always been hesitant of investing in myself. I always put effort towards the work or the dynamics of a work environment, but I don’t think I had ever inwardly worked on myself or done something to help me, specifically. So, yeah, even though I was unemployed, it was an opportunity to invest in myself, and there was really no better opportunity. I had the time being laid off, and it was just really a no-brainer for me at the time. I was hesitant and I was nervous, but the opportunity of being able to see more in myself, I had to. I had to take a chance and try something different.

Melissa Lawrence (06:08)

Yeah. And what was the main problem that you were looking to solve, other than building your confidence?

Brena Williams (06:17)

That was definitely a huge one. The work-life balance. There’s been a lot that I’ve learned there with you, but I was always feeling just tired and drained. I didn’t have enough energy to go to work. I didn’t have enough energy to really spend with my kids. But at the same time, I felt like I was always working or I was always just doing more, more, more for work and just never really seeing any benefit from the more that I gave.

Melissa Lawrence (06:50)

I think that’s really relatable. I have felt that way about my career in the past, too. And it sounds like when you say, Oh, it was a no-brainer, some people could look at those circumstances not just with the position, but just the way that you felt about yourself and not interpret that as, Well, the no-brainer is to invest in myself, especially when you haven’t before. And it sounds like you were also looking at it as a tipping point because you had given so much to your career and you wanted more time with your family and you wanted something different, and there wasn’t another option that you were seeing. And this looked like it was something that could help, that it seemed like it was a break the glass moment.

Brena Williams (07:31)

Yes. I was always worried about maybe being vulnerable, maybe in the group. There was a hesitation point there, but we’re not being good enough at work. And just all of those kinds of things played a big role in how do I overcome that. I’m realizing now how much pressure I was really putting on myself and just to be more always. There was a lot of self-driven pressures that maybe spiraled out of control.

Melissa Lawrence (08:04)

Yeah. When you were thinking about where you were then, I think you’ve painted such a good picture and it’s so relatable, what interested you about Beyond the Ceiling? Because like you said, you had a little hesitancy about speaking up, some worthiness coming up. And so going into a group space, what called you to that?

Brena Williams (08:26)

It was really the opportunity to not just learn more about myself, but also hearing what the struggles are from other people and learning about what other people are doing that has worked for them. But it might give me an idea on how to try it myself or maybe making tweaks so that it applies to me. Really, it’s been this interesting network of possible possibilities in learning different job functions, different ideologies, and how the workplace is for other people, and seeing how it fits for me, and being able to really take those ideas into consideration on how I, A, present myself, and B, how I might pivot to help other people view me differently and more positively.

Melissa Lawrence (09:22)

Yeah, I think it’s so interesting this group that we have right now that’s wrapping up. It’s really all of my clients, which is why I wanted to do a group like this so that you can all see how similar you are. But you’re all so different and unique, but you also have a lot of overlap. I think it’s really fun. It’s fun for me to see how you all interact with each other and to see that you’re not alone. I think sometimes at work, especially anyone who has struggled with speaking up or being too visible or worrying what people will think about them, when you’re in this space with other women that are all different companies, all different levels like we have in the group, and you’re seeing that they’re feeling a lot of the same way, it gives you that courage, aside from the skill you’re learning in the space we’re in together in coaching. But it gives you that courage and reassurance when you’re at work to be like, Oh, there’s a lot of women that are just like me. They’re probably thinking the same thing as me, and it makes it easier to speak up.

Melissa Lawrence (10:21)

Did you find that?

Brena Williams (10:22)

I definitely did. Actually, it’s given me a lot more courage to just quash those feelings of not speaking not just in the group, but I’m finding myself speaking more boldly in my meetings because where else am I going to get an opportunity?

Melissa Lawrence (10:40)

When you think about that hesitancy you had to join the group, you talked a little bit about being seen in the group or speaking up in the group. Was there any other doubt you had or hesitancy in joining?

Brena Williams (10:53)

I think the initial hesitancy was really just, again, investing in myself and am I worth it? After talking with my husband, I was worried about getting my husband to also be on board with it. He actually had looked you up after a while, and he was like, Oh, no, this is a great idea. She’s got a great background, and she’s very successful. You should do it. I was like, Here I came to make this argument, and he had already made it for me. And it really, again, just made it easier to say, Okay, let’s do this. Yeah. And it was just the opportunity of helping to elevate myself.

Melissa Lawrence (11:39)

Yeah. It’s almost like the things you wanted to achieve, you got started right away by advocating for your sofa this investment. Because that’s a lot of the same skills we talk about around advocating for yourself at work, speaking up at work. To do that at work, you have to do that for yourself. You can start by doing that by going after the things that you really want, whether it’s this or something else, by speaking up in a safe space, like in this curated group we have. All of that allows you to build that skill in a way that feels less scary than going out into the workplace. So let’s talk about some of the results that you’ve gotten in the program. So the program is four months long. So we’re almost finished with the first round. So it’s only been a few months. What are some of them that you’ve gotten?

Brena Williams (12:32)

I have been almost recognized differently by people in leadership. I feel like before, nobody has ever said the words leader with me in mind. And simply having conversations with both my CEO and my direct manager, both of them have seen the idea of leadership potential in me. And they have mentioned that growing towards leadership or you should use your experience as a way to help lead within your team. And these are just things that have never been discussed in my presence or really realized by anybody else before, at least not verbally to me. I really feel like I’m carrying myself differently as I talk to my own core leadership in the company. And that has been a huge pivot for me, where I’m feeling the work that I’ve been doing, realized.

Melissa Lawrence (13:36)

Just to bridge the gap for the people listening, Brenda did get a new job right away. Right away, it said she was in between jobs, right? And now you’re talking about how your leadership is recognizing you as a leader yourself and how you’re showing up at work differently. But you did get a new role within the first month of the program, which is fantastic.

Brena Williams (13:59)

Yeah, I had started. I had gotten a couple of interviews right as we were starting. And by, I think, week two or three of the program, I was getting an offer. And I had I don’t know, I want to say I had charmed them into really not just giving me an offer, but they went beyond what my expectations really would have been. So I had a calm confidence about myself already, even just a couple of weeks in, in talking through everything. So it was really very eye-opening in that as well.

Melissa Lawrence (14:39)

What would you say about the support that you get in the group around navigating the job market, interviewing, negotiating, and how that impacts the type of job you get, and then how good your offer is?

Brena Williams (14:53)

That was very interesting. I had never gone in trying to negotiate before. And I will tell you this time around, we had not gotten to the negotiating process of the discussion yet, but listening to everybody as they’re going through their interviews and we talk about navigating negotiation. There are so many tips and tools that you give us, as well as you would brought in a recruiter to talk with us about different negotiating tactics and understanding the job market. And there is so much information available in that that I had never even considered. And also just being able to put all of that in that career protocol that we work through, dialing in on what are your wants? What would you need to be happy? What are your asks? And I had never even thought to consider so much of that. And here I am going, Oh, I can ask for that? Oh, people ask for that? I just never would. I never would have myself. And so really, it was an opportunity to even learn more than I had even considered before that I didn’t even realize people would negotiate in the ways that you taught us about.

Melissa Lawrence (16:24)

Yeah, there’s so much inside information. I mean, The purpose of this group is really to help women figure out what they want and then to create that for themselves, no matter where they are in the journey. When you have someone that has tools and inside information and connections they can bring into the space, it just puts you on the fast track where you don’t have to struggle and you don’t have to do it alone, you don’t have to go the long way. So for people that want that type of support and help, it’s available.

Brena Williams (16:54)

I think it’s great to give that visibility that people know that is an option if that’s something that they I have to add one more thing, if that’s okay, because one of the mind shifts that I was able to accomplish with you was I had told you every job I’ve ever shared, I just felt really lucky to have And you were able to flip that back on me and say, And why are they lucky to have you? And that was such a mind-blowing moment for me. And I had never considered flipping that before. And it was just a really nice revelation to be like, Wait a minute. That is also… They have a benefit of having hired me because I do provide a lot of awesome talent. I say that maybe still a little bit lackluster because I’m still building confidence in feeling that. But being able to say it out loud, it’s definitely a change.

Melissa Lawrence (17:59)

Yeah. It’s changing the way that leadership is seeing you, but it’s also going to change the future of your career. We’ve talked about these pivots you might be making and how you might be growing within your role. That confidence is so important. I think just like the call we just got off of today, There’s the tactical, I’m an expert, I have technical expertise, I can do this job. Then there’s how you’re thinking about yourself and how you’re minimizing accomplishments and how the deep-rooted thoughts or beliefs that we have about ourselves show up in the way we communicate our expertise, which then impact how well we’re able to get offers, how well we’re able to get interviews, how well we’re able to negotiate, the types of leadership roles we might be exposed to. It’s my philosophy that you have to work on both. You have to have the career strategy that works, but you also have to have the internal work that you do, too, so that you can live up to your potential and have the courage to do the things that you want to do.

Brena Williams (18:57)

Setting fire to those limiting beliefs, squashing them in a way that they don’t belong there. I am more than my limiting beliefs, and that’s something that I really feel I have been working on with all of these little homework assignments. And, well, there’s nothing… Well, I don’t want to say little in a demeaning way. There’d be little snippets of gold where as you go through each homework assignment, you’re Oh, yeah, I’ve got something to say. And then all of a sudden, there’s a set of questions at the end, and you’re, Oh, well, well, dang, I never thought about it that way. It’s just this mind-blowing revelation of self improvement. Yeah.

Melissa Lawrence (19:47)

Tell me how you’re… Speaking of that, when you think about these skills that you’ve built, how has your communication changed at work?

Brena Williams (19:59)

Feeling more comfortable to openly discuss my career progression goals. I’ve very openly voiced to my manager, I am working on improving myself and building my career ideas with a career coach, so I’m very open about that. I tell him things that are on my career protocol that we’ve worked on. And he says, Oh, well, if these are the kinds of things that you want, then let’s work that in. So really, it’s allowing me to have the opportunity to work towards all of the asks that I want for myself and communicating them with him. He gets a better idea of where I want to be going, and I’m helping to drive that. So it’s giving the power back to me.

Melissa Lawrence (20:58)

Yeah, that is so powerful. So for anyone that’s not familiar with the Career Protocol. I do have a podcast episode called Career Protocol that talks about the process that I use. But the Career Protocol really is a tangible document that you create with me through a process that I facilitate to help you know exactly what it is that you want for your career, down to the type of tasks you want to do each day, the level of influence you want to have, the type of company you want to work for. It takes all of these different puzzle pieces of who you are and everything you’ve done and everything you want for your future, and it matches you up with what is going to be your next best move. That’s a core deliverable of this program. Do you have anything more that you want to say about the Career Protocol as far as the impact that that has on you or how it helps you?

Brena Williams (21:51)

I think that it really gets you to think about, A, what are you doing now and do you like it? Do you not like it. If you don’t like it, you can put it in the category of what don’t you want to be doing? And just really allowing this very specific catered towards your own self-desires in what you do for work. And I just had never considered the idea of having something catered to what I want to be doing. And I have taken on so many tasks in the past thinking, this is going to get me promoted this time. And then really, it’s just like, Oh, that was nice. You get the pat on your head and keep on building. Keep up the good work. But with the career protocol and you’re driving it and you can say, Okay, is this something that I want? Would this be seen? You’re really teasing apart each component that you’re putting in there. Is this something that would be a promotable idea? And then really remembering as you look through it, Am I doing this? Do I want to be doing this? Is it promotable? And how can I drive that conversation to make it promotable?

Brena Williams (23:16)

So that’s all in there.

Melissa Lawrence (23:18)

Yeah. And I think it’s been really fun to see all of you do different things with your protocol. So some of you have used it to grow in your current role. Some of you have used it to get a new job. Some of you are using it to have a new job or promotion created for you. So once you have that information, like you’re saying, it’s so easy to drive that conversation because management, generally, if you’re working for a good manager, if you’re working for a good company, of course, there’s anomalies to that. But people want to see you grow and develop, just like you’re talking about the conversations you have with your leadership. Where that can get stuck is if you can’t clearly articulate what you want. If you can just say, Well, I want to be promoted, or I’m ready for more, or I’m ready for growth, or I’ve worked so hard, or I’ve earned it, that’s typically not enough to get you promoted. You have to be able to make a business case. The queer protocol just makes it so easy to do that. Tell me about your work-life balance now, because I know that that was a problem for you before.

Melissa Lawrence (24:16)

I know even with this program, I remember you put on your consultation form that the only concern you had was you didn’t want to interfere with your family time because you already felt like you didn’t have enough of that. So where is it at now?

Brena Williams (24:31)

Oh, work-life balance. I did not ever dream of waking up before my alarm. I did not ever dream of going to bed before I felt like I was going to fall on the floor. I am doing both of those things now, easily. I have more energy to hang out with my kids. I’ve got three little boys and little boys are wild and energy filled, and I have more energy to play games and be goofy, which is a blessing. I feel like even they have noticed a difference. My husband has noticed a huge difference. He said, You just don’t seem as stressed anymore, which is huge. I’m doing the same job. I’m still writing reports. I’m still doing lab work. But I didn’t walk into this job. One of my previous jobs, I literally walked in and they were like, Here, write this report. I was literally in the first couple of weeks staying up until the wee hours of the morning saying, Oh, well, if they wanted this, I’m going to deliver it. I’m going to wow them. A, it didn’t really wow them in the way that I expected them to, but B, it really just wasn’t necessary, and I would never have seen it as not necessary until after we had done that work.

Brena Williams (25:58)

I’m doing the same work now that I was, and it is okay. I am doing okay.

Melissa Lawrence (26:07)

I remember your last evaluation. We measure progress along the way to make sure everyone stays on track and gets the support they need with the goals they established in the beginning. I think you had said something like, you can’t imagine your work-life balance being better. That was amazing to read for you because I do think some people will look at it as, I’m already stressed, I’m already overworking, I’m already… When you don’t like your job, frankly, every time just sucks away even more because you’re so stressed when you’re not physically at work that it just feels like you have no time for yourself. So you have that going on. And then the idea of, Oh, I’m going to join this program where there’s little homework assignments and there’s two calls a week, and I can’t add something more. I think it’s so powerful for people to hear that you did that, and you have such a great work-life balance now when you did take on a program into your schedule.

Brena Williams (27:07)

Yes. And not only taking part in the program, but because I was very vocal about it, I am able to maneuver it into my workday and still get my work done. Working with you guys, also just pushing back on deadlines. Deadlines are arbitrary a lot of the time that we put on ourselves or that our managers put on us. And so being able to say, Hey, I know that you asked for this by this date, but I’m not seeing this as being possible to deliver. May I have an extra three days? Or just saying, Hey, this is the timeline. I’m very clear about what my conversation is when I’m asking for additional time. I’ve done that a couple of times. It’s worked really well. There’s been a lot of good communication around it. I think that’s the key there is having good communication about why I am asking for extensions. It’s worked really well.

Melissa Lawrence (28:12)

How do you think the program has set you up to be successful in your new role? You started a new role after you joined. How have you been able to transition into that role without bringing in some of your prior issues that you’ve had around boundaries or just navigating obstacles in the workplace?

Brena Williams (28:36)

Putting them out there in the group, what maybe some of my boundary issues were, it’s helped me to have little accountability partnerships from you and the other ladies. Don’t go in and kill yourself doing work that… It’s a deliverable. None of this is to… You don’t have to prove that you can do the impossible. That’s been a really important key piece there. A lot of the conflict Confidence building has just helped in the communication aspect when talking about the kinds of work that I want to be doing. I’m literally getting the ability to do all of the things that I’ve asked. So just improving that communication and speaking up for myself and what my asks are, it’s unlocking what it is that I want to do. That has been very eye-opening and almost, quite frankly, mind-blowing.

Melissa Lawrence (29:49)

Very cool. Yeah, it’s been such a change. So aside from the small things like the new job, and you’re making more money, and you have a good work-life balance, and you’re advocating for yourself, and you have the type of work experience you want, you’re being recognized by leadership. It’s look so amazing where you’re at with your career right now. I guess what would you say to someone that maybe thinks that you’re a unicorn? They’re like, Well, that’s just her. She probably just has a different boss, or she probably just has a more supportive husband. You know how people tend to dismiss what’s possible for them. What would you say?

Brena Williams (30:34)

I am going to say that I didn’t know I was a unicorn. I didn’t know I was a unicorn. And everyone can become a unicorn. And unicorns are beautiful before and after they realize they’re unicorns.

Melissa Lawrence (30:48)

That is so great. That almost makes me cry. I didn’t know it was a unicorn. That’s so good.

Brena Williams (30:55)

You don’t know until you unlock it. Yes. We didn’t know. We just didn’t know. And so many of my colleagues, other ladies in this same industry, they don’t know their unicorns yet. I always hope, and I’m always going to root for everyone to learn about their amazing uniform status.

Melissa Lawrence (31:23)

That’s so good. Now, I feel like we need a cheetah and a unicorn symbol within the face. A Cheetah with a Horn. So good. So before we move on to the mechanics of the group, is there anything else you want to add around any results that you’ve gotten in the group? Or do you think we’ve covered it?

Brena Williams (31:45)

I would say the other thing that I have really gained, I’ve always enjoyed the idea of networking, and I’m very good at talking with people, but just learning more of the concepts of networking and the fundamentals of what networking can give you, not just for making connections to improve potential career opportunities, but networking and becoming a mentor for other individuals that want to learn more. Even while in this program, I received a message on LinkedIn, Hey, I want to learn more about your career. And I was just very open to taking that call and explaining what it is I do and having an open conversation. I have a younger gentleman that I talk with at least once a month or so, and he asks me about my experience in biotech and my ideas on where to go and how to help manage his career, which I never, ever thought I would have had any advice. I suppose I have a lot of advice on what not to do. But as I am getting closer to knowing more about myself through this program, I’m having some great examples of what to do, and that’s been really phenomenal as well.

Melissa Lawrence (33:13)

That’s a great point. Because the approach that we use around networking isn’t the slimy, like Brosky way that I think people think of, is we approach it from a way that is more authentic and natural for everyone to do based where they are and what they want to achieve so that they can leverage the benefits of having a network in the industry because it is so important for how well connected everyone is, how small the industry can seem. But it doesn’t have to be the Broskies having a beer and with your collared shirt and passing business cards and.

Brena Williams (33:53)

I have not passed a single business card. It is legitimate connections, and they are very genuine connections. And honestly, we’ve done so much practicing within the group of reaching out to each other, checking in with each other, and just having those genuine, Hey, reach out to someone that you used to work with and say, Hi, I haven’t told you this, but I reached out to one of my first biotech bosses last week just to say, Hey, I don’t know if you knew the impact that you had on me in my career. And I wanted to tell you what I’ve been doing and how much I enjoy where I’m at and all my goals are being realized right now. And thank you. And it was just this wonderful thing. And I didn’t expect him to hardly remember me at all. And he had remembered that I had done theater and lots of back and forth there a little bit of just checking in. It just really felt nice to have that connection.

Melissa Lawrence (34:53)

I love that. That is a great story. That’s fantastic. I love that. Okay, so speaking of the community. That’s a hidden benefit is if you’re afraid to speak up, if you don’t feel you have a good network, if you don’t know how to build relationships with people where it seems intimidating, we talk about that skill and you practice it, but also you have each other, which is this natural curated network board of directors that I create for you all to get to know each other, to understand each of your roles. You come from all different backgrounds, and you obviously all have a lot in common because you’re working towards similar things. What has it been like for you to have that community?

Brena Williams (35:39)

I’m trying to find a word that really wraps it up so nicely. I don’t think there is just a singular word other than, again, community. It’s this community that’s simultaneously exploring, improving themselves, ourselves and really helping to hold ourselves accountable to self-improvement, learning more about ourselves, and being bold in a way that helps us to attain what goals, where we realize ourselves in being capable of getting to, and really helping us to define where it is that we can go and realizing it’s in our own hands.

Melissa Lawrence (36:29)

Yeah. And some of you have created connections for each other, introduced each other to people. And it’s something you’ll have outside of this group. I have no doubt. I think on the very first call, I say, or even before that, I think in the community introduction before we have our kickoff, I’m like, Connect with each other on LinkedIn, put it here. Then you continue to have those coffee chats and conversations as you want to outside of our group calls, too, so that you can have these relationships forever. Just like you sent that note to your former boss, even if you don’t talk to each other regularly after the group, you can still check in with each other. It’s just a really natural, nice way to have a support system.

Brena Williams (37:07)

For us, it’s like three or four different states’ worth of connections.

Melissa Lawrence (37:13)

Yeah, I think we have all the costs accounted for. What would you say is your favorite thing about Beyond the Ceiling?

Brena Williams (37:23)

Hands down, my favorite thing. I don’t even have to think about this. It’s the little exercises as learning more about myself and opening up where I have had shake ups in the past that may still really hinder me in feeling comfortable or confident about myself and pinpointing the why it bothers me or what’s holding me back and just busting through that and breaking it down and not giving it any power anymore. So at least that’s how I have a lot of these exercises and building a lot more confidence and not allowing folks who maybe kept me down in the past, but helping to break free of a lot of that perception I had on myself based on those interactions and breaking that down so that I can move forward and not let that hinder me any longer.

Melissa Lawrence (38:24)

Why do you think that’s important?

Brena Williams (38:29)

You can’t buy confidence. You can only do it through the self-improvement exercises. You can’t just one day say, I want to be better and then be better, but really diving in and opening it up. Sometimes it gets wrong. I’m going to admit, I cried on at least two calls, and it was just through that vulnerability in a safe space where, okay, I’m opening up. This is where I was struggling. And then saying, Oh, that doesn’t have to have power over me anymore because I am more than that. Again, that’s with the limiting beliefs. But then if I’m holding on to the other person’s ideas of me, well, those aren’t really true either. Just learning, that’s not going to benefit long term, holding on to that. That was in the past, learning why it bothered me and how am I going to make the change to allow myself to grow better.

Melissa Lawrence (39:43)

So where do you think you would be? What do you think things would be like if you hadn’t joined the program? If you were still the former version of Brena, who was still fabulous, but hadn’t done this work?

Brena Williams (39:55)

I’d still be questioning 10 times over every action I ever did. I remember at my last job just looking at someone, Is this okay? Am I doing the right thing? Are you okay with this? And just constantly questioning, Is this the right thing? And honestly, I’m chilling out a lot more and just saying, Hey, this is what I did. Let me know. Informing you of the decision I made. And they’re going, Oh, that was easy. And getting the feedback of, Sounds good, and not hearing that. I think that’s also where they’re seeing a lot of difference in me is that I’m getting rid of that whole questioning attitude of myself, and It’s opening me up to being more confident in decision making.

Melissa Lawrence (40:48)

Yeah, and that’s probably related to the feedback you’re getting around your leadership seeing leadership traits in you because they’re seeing you be more confident and not questioning yourself. That’s something that a leader needs to be able to do. That’s great. Okay. Is there anything else you want to mention around your experience in Beyond the Ceiling?

Brena Williams (41:08)

I love the fact that the Beyond the Ceiling program really creates a structured environment with very unique input so that even if we are being brought the same material, everything still comes out very uniquely defined to yourself because you’re helping to set and define what that is for you. And you can make it as big or as small as you want, but when you get in here, you’re going to just aim for the absolute stars and moon because you’re opening yourself up to all the possibilities, and there’s nothing at that point holding you back but yourself.

Melissa Lawrence (41:50)

That is such a good point because I think some people… That might be a question somebody might have is, Okay, this is structured. There’s two calls a week. There’s some open coaching components, and then there’s some curriculum where I’m teaching you skills or tools or you’re creating your career protocol. So some people might wonder, Well, how could this be that it works for me in my unique circumstances when it’s structured and there are set tools in a set way that I’m teaching the material? And so I think it’s great that you mentioned that, that that is the way it is. The set curriculum, the set tools, they’re all around helping you figure out what’s best for you. They are applicable to every unique person, which is why it works for everyone.

Brena Williams (42:42)

But not just each individual, but being able to take all the tools and the materials that you provide us, having the ability to use them long term and having them grow as you grow. Just learning that as we’ve gone through everything going, Oh, I can modify this. Oh, okay. I can keep adding to this. Every time you say, Oh, as you change, this will change, and you’ll just make modifications. Hearing that has really helped me to not be in a rush to complete things. I’ve been very calm getting through things and just adding it and just asking a lot of questions of you and others in the group, especially if I don’t know what this means for me because I’ve never allowed myself to think about something like a non-negotiable before. Just getting feedback from others to help me whittle my way through and make it more tailored towards myself. It’s very refreshing.

Melissa Lawrence (43:48)

Yeah, that’s a really good point. Nothing that we go over in the program becomes outdated. No. So all of it is something that you learn, and then you continue to use it after you’re in the program. Program, or as you continue to grow, like you said, and you evolve, you’ll start looking at things from your new perspective, and then you’ll start going to a more advanced level of using the material that you got. So that’s a really great point. Who would you recommend the program to?

Brena Williams (44:15)

I feel like there is no limitation to who could benefit, but definitely anyone who feels like they’ve been spinning in circles, anyone who feels like they’ve been spinning in circles and not making any progress or feeling like, Oh, I don’t know why I would do anything other than this. And this just is how it is. This is where I’ve gotten this, where I got to be happy at. It’s not true. There is more for you if you want it.

Melissa Lawrence (44:46)

Yeah. This is where we watch the mud off your shoes. You’re not stuck anymore. Whenever it is, you’ll create it. So I like to ask everyone at the end of the podcast, What is one piece of advice that you wish you had earlier in your career?

Brena Williams (45:05)

I really enjoy this question, and I have this response of, not everyone is going to look like you, and not everyone is going to teach you something you want to hang on to, but we can all do hard things, and it doesn’t mean we have to break to do them.

Melissa Lawrence (45:23)

Oh, that is so meaningful. I think that is really going to help a lot of people to hear that. They can become a unicorn. I’m telling you. That is so good. That is so good. Okay, so I’m sure when people listen to this, they’re going to want to look you up. They’re going to want to know who this amazing Brena is. Are you okay with us sharing your LinkedIn in the show notes? Yeah. All right. So we’ll put that in there so anyone can connect with you that would like to reach out. Is there anything else you want to add before we end today?

Brena Williams (45:56)

Melissa is amazing. I have been always in awe and pleasantly surprised with every exercise and learning who I am more as a scientist and as an individual contributor and myself as a leader. I can only go up from here.

Melissa Lawrence (46:18)

Thank you so much. It’s been such a joy to have you in this group.

Brena Williams (46:21)

Thank you.

Melissa Lawrence (46:24)

I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. If you’re ready to know your best career move and get into a new job, get promoted, or upgrade your current role to one you love, join me inside Beyond the Ceiling. Beyond the Ceiling is a four-month group coaching program exclusively for women in pharma biotech. Enrollment begins February 16th. Learn more and join us at www.yourworthycareer.com/beyond.

Share this Episode

+ show Comments


Top Posts

Organizational Psychologist
Career & Life Coach
Fierce Advocate
No longer settles for “good enough”

Hi, I’m Melissa.

Career & Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech

I'm a former Talent & Development leader in Pharma/Biotech turned CEO and Certified Professional Career & Life Coach. I also host the podcast, Your Worthy Career.

I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.

I'm leading a movement of women in the industry who are figuring out exactly what they want and shattering the glass ceiling. The very real ceiling in the industry, but also the one that we impose on ourselves. 

So long, imposter syndrome and overthinking. It's time to step into the impact and life you're worthy of having.

Free Guide!

*Downloading the freebie will subscribe you to our email list, You may unsubscribe at any time, though doing so means we cannot contact you or provide you with more free resources, trainings, and tips.

4 strategies including when to use each one and a deep dive on putting it into action

bonus tips proven to work to get you more interviews and dream job offers

career advancement strategies specifically proven for women in pharma/biotech

Get the 4 hidden strategies you can use right now to advance your career as a woman in Pharma/Biotech. These are industry specific strategies that work even with budget cuts, restructuring, or if your boss already said "no" to your request.

4 Hidden Ways (shhh)
to Advance Your Career

- Margaret

"Wow. I wish someone had told me these strategies were an option earlier in my career."

    Group coaching

    beyond the ceiling

    Private coaching

    1-1 Coaching

    tune in

    Listen to the podcast