June 14, 2023

Inside the Incubator with Stacy Valluzzo

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.
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Today we are peeling back the curtain to the Stand Out Leader Incubator. Join me and my client, Stacy Valluzzo, for an insider look into the Stand Out Leader Incubator. She is sharing her experience from being in the Incubator the last couple of months. Stacy is an experienced people leader who isn’t just sharing her insights on the program but also her advice for being an effective leader.

Mentioned in This Episode:

What you’ll learn:

  • What it’s like to be a member of the Stand Out Leader Incubator
  • The surprising benefit of being in a Community with other women leaders in the Pharma/Biotech industry
  • The impact that continuous development has on your every day life and your career
  • Stacy’s leadership advice she wishes she had earlier in her career

Work with Melissa:

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Melissa Lawrence (0:00)

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. 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 rule 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. Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the podcast.

I am so excited to have my client Stacy Volluzzo on the podcast today. Stacy is an Associate Director of Biosample Operations and she is a member of the Stand Out Leader Incubator. I invited her to come on the podcast to share her experience.

For those of you that aren’t familiar, Stand Out Leader Incubator is my leadership development program exclusively for women in the pharma/biotech industry, and I launched it earlier this year. So she has joined and she has been getting phenomenal results like everyone else in the program. 

I wanted her to come on and talk about what it has been like for her, to give you a behind the scenes look of what it is like, what her development has been, the things she wanted to focus on, why she wanted to join and why she is continuing on to the next round of the leader incubator, which is opening up on July 6th. 

She’s going to talk about why she made the decision to continue.

So without further ado, here is the conversation between me and Stacy.

Melissa Lawrence (02:23)

Hi, Stacy. Welcome to the podcast.

Stacy Valluzzo (02:25)

Thanks, Melissa. I’m so happy to be here.

Melissa Lawrence (02:28)

Can you share with everyone that is listening today a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Stacy Valluzzo (02:34)

Sure. I’m Stacy Valluzzo. I currently work in the biosample operations team at Daiichi Sankyo. I’ve been there for about seven months. Prior to that, I worked at Regeneron in the pre-clinical bioanalytical sciences area, supporting sample management, quality control, IT. I was in the lab originally before moving up, in a nutshell.

Melissa Lawrence (02:57)

And you’ve worked in the industry for how long?

Stacy Valluzzo (02:59)

Over 20 years.

Melissa Lawrence (03:01)

Yeah. So you are an expert.

Stacy Valluzzo (03:04)

In something.

Melissa Lawrence (03:07)

And I wanted to have you on to talk about your experience as a leader and being in the standout leader incubator. So can you share a little bit about your leadership experience and how long you’ve been a people manager and maybe a little bit about what types of teams you’ve managed?

Stacy Valluzzo (03:23)

Sure. So I’ve had direct reports for over 15 years. Initially, it was a direct line, a small team of two, three people as I developed the sample management area. And then when I switched, actually, I expanded that to multi tier, and I think I got up to 17 people. I switched groups and I went to more than eight and then expanded that to multi tier. And currently I’m back to direct reports in the process of hiring and onboarding someone else.

Melissa Lawrence (03:54)

Okay. So you have a good amount of leadership experience. So for those that might not be familiar, how do you define multi tier? Is that when you have managers reporting to you?

Stacy Valluzzo (04:04)

Correct. So I would have a direct line and they had people reporting into them.

Melissa Lawrence (04:09)

Okay. And so for the purpose of this conversation, because we’re going to talk a lot about leadership, not just in the context of what you’ve experienced in the incubator program, but just your experience as a leader, how would you define the difference between a manager and a leader? I know this is something we’ve talked about before. And so given that you’ve so many years of experience as a people manager, I’m curious how you define leader and manager, if you do at all.

Stacy Valluzzo (04:35)

I think I have more insight to that after working with you. I look now as a leader, somebody who is going to provide a positive environment for people to thrive and do their best. Collaboration, trust, open communication, provides guidance, encouragement, support to achieve their goals, whether they’re personal or business goals, and has a positive impact on the team and individuals. I feel managers more now somebody who really just handles the day to day tasks, making sure you’re meeting your deadlines, I guess more very project oriented opposed to encouragement and not really coaching, but I guess coaching would be part of it, too.

Melissa Lawrence (05:17)

So you’re saying leader, more big picture. And then you thought of managers as being more directive.

Stacy Valluzzo (05:22)


Melissa Lawrence (05:23)

And now do you see how anyone can be a leader, regardless of their title? Especially being in the group, right? We have people of all different levels in there, and all of them can embody those leadership principles. So do you see how you defined a leader before or how you think of it now is really something that anyone can take on?

Stacy Valluzzo (05:43)

I do. I definitely think so, especially when I first onboarded in my new position, I didn’t have direct reports, but I still found everything that I have learned or known as a leader to be very applicable, even just for yourself.

Melissa Lawrence (05:59)

Given all of your extensive experience with the multi tier management and the over decade of experience leading others, what made you want to join the Stand Out Leader Incubator?

Stacy Valluzzo (06:12)

I had only been a few months in my new position and I really wanted to put my best foot forward. I also really wanted to effectively develop teams. I feel the last, I don’t know, handful of years, I feel like personal development has become such a big portion of your team, and I wanted to make sure that I could do that really well. Also, I wanted to make sure that I was a strong influencer. I could be clear and direct and really just build my confidence.

Melissa Lawrence (06:44)

So it sounds like you were already being an effective leader and you really wanted to just take it to the next level. The same way that we would look at our employees is we want everyone to continually grow within their space and advance their skills. And so this wasn’t in an effort to fix a problem. It was more to elevate your skill set and to continue to grow as a leader, especially as you moved into this new role.

Stacy Valluzzo (07:08)

That’s correct.

Melissa Lawrence (07:09)

And so you talked a little bit about some of the things that you wanted to work on. What were those essentials that you wanted to focus on in this round of the incubator?

Stacy Valluzzo (07:17)

Yeah. So my essentials were pretty much team dynamics, motivation, effective teams. And that really applies even outside of direct reports. I collaborate with a lot of different functions, so I think a lot of that stuff really can overlap, at least my mindset anyway. Same with communication, stronger influencer, clear, direct, and being able to set an example for the team.

Melissa Lawrence (07:43)

Okay. And I asked you to come and share your experience because you’ve really been showing up and sharing your goals and showing up to the calls and raising your hand for coaching and sharing your wins and practicing what you’re learning. You’ve really been really engaged with the content, and it’s been really fun to watch your experience and your growth throughout the last couple of months in this space. So what do you think has changed since you’ve joined as far as your skills?

Stacy Valluzzo (08:07)

My skills. So I think I’ve really improved my action. I really feel like you know, almost like a turtle that takes all these little steps and then has a really big impact. I literally love the layout of the course because it keeps me so accountable. And they’re not big steps. You just have to plan for it during your week. So making all these small little steps have really made a big difference in me being more effective at work, getting things done quicker. I’ve continued to build trust and relationships with new people at work, and it’s really increased my confidence a lot. I censor myself less before I respond to something to make sure that it’s right. I’m very comfortable with my initial response and move forward. More proactive, I come ready. Even when I meet with my boss or my teams, anybody I’m working with, I have my questions outlined or topics I want to cover. And it’s very effective for me getting to know what I need. And also it helps build that trust with other teams when I show up that way as well because I see that I’m prepared and can support as needed.

Melissa Lawrence (09:16)

I don’t know if you have a favorite, but of the things that you’ve learned and applied over the last couple of months, is there anything that you just saw a really quick win with your team or with your team or with your clients or your boss?

Stacy Valluzzo (09:33)

A really quick win question. I think a really quick win for me was the mindset sheet.

Melissa Lawrence (09:40)


Stacy Valluzzo (09:41)

Just to be able to get my thoughts out and get a new perspective so that I could keep a clear mind and I guess more logical, less emotion and handling different things. Probably my biggest win.

Melissa Lawrence (09:53)

Yeah. I really like that tool that we use also. I know I’m biased, my program, but I think, like you said, it’s something you can take out at any moment to shift your perspective, to shift your mindset, to see another way to solve that problem, to look at how you might want to plan something out, or if you have a presentation coming up and you’re not really feeling very confident about it, you can use that tool to help you figure out what you need to do to feel confident and to shift that for yourself. So I love that something that was really intentional for me was to have things that I provided in this space that you could use right away, that it wasn’t just awareness and good information where you’re like, Oh, okay, that sounds good. That makes sense. But then you just went back to your normal work day. But we had things that it was like, Okay, what can you do this week? What’s one small step? I think leadership is really, I don’t want to say a lifelong journey. It’s never going to end.

Melissa Lawrence (10:53)

But I really do think that just like the reason you joined this program, there’s new levels you reach almost like a video game. I guess you progress, then it’s like there’s new things that you can learn and you’re always working with new people. So there’s always different dynamics and conflicts and experiences to navigate as a leader. So I love having all of those things that you can just practice and get those wins with right away. So another part of the program is the community. The other women in the group who are in the industry and some are aspiring to be a people manager and working more in a matrix environment. Others are very experienced like you. Did you have any hesitancy in being in a group environment?

Stacy Valluzzo (11:37)

I didn’t. I like working in teams anyway. I like to collaborate, so I didn’t have any hesitation. And once I joined, if I had any, it left right away. You realize that no matter who shows up, it doesn’t matter what their title is or their experience, everybody was there to learn. And on top of that, we all run into similar challenges.

Melissa Lawrence (11:59)

If you.

Stacy Valluzzo (11:59)

Haven’t seen them before, you’ll probably see them sometime soon.

Melissa Lawrence (12:04)

Yeah, for sure.

Stacy Valluzzo (12:05)

And that’s value.

Melissa Lawrence (12:06)

Yes. And I think that’s something when people come into these group spaces, is that something they notice right away? I think sometimes we think that either there’s a little bit of pride of like, I’m very established in my career and profession. I don’t want people to know I struggle with this or I doubt myself in this way. Or maybe they’re thinking they’re the only ones that are dealing with something. And so very quickly you see that you’re all really going through the same types of issues. But because you have so much experience already, you can also help each other with navigating what those problems are and coming up with solutions that maybe they might not have thought of. So it really creates a support system. So what have you enjoyed about being in a group with these women and getting coached together, learning together? Is there anything else that you really enjoyed about it that maybe you didn’t expect to enjoy or get out of it?

Stacy Valluzzo (12:57)

Well, there are a couple of things I think. As I had previously mentioned, when somebody does speak about something they’re having a challenge with, it’s also reminding me of something that I might need to get coached on so then I can bring it up. Sometimes you just forget things. But also when I’ve gone to the think tanks, just talking about whatever has prompted me to take steps that I probably wouldn’t have in making sure I’m following through the different points in the class.

Melissa Lawrence (13:24)

And I think something that’s really important, too, is I think there’s a lot of leadership development programs out there for women that are out there to make women be something that they’re not.

I’ve seen some of these, whether it’s that women should wear power suits or wear certain colors or not say sorry so much or their voice in a certain way or whatever it is. And I just want to point out for anyone listening that this isn’t that type of program. There isn’t anything that says, Well, you’re a woman, so you have these deficits and this is how you need to be to sit at the table. It’s really more about you’re already good. Let’s just get you tweaked a little bit for where you want to be based on your goals and what’s going to help you stand out so that there can be more women at the leadership table feeling confident enough to speak up, to be themselves so that it’s different when you look around the room. And it’s not only women at a certain level. And then once you get past that, it’s a lot of the same. It’s really, to me, it sounds really cheesy, but for me, it’s really like making women on the stop level, like anything that would get in your way internally or externally, either working in this male dominated field or anything internally in your own mindset or beliefs that’s going to hold you back, like clearing that up and paving that way so that you can really achieve whatever it is that you want.

Stacy Valluzzo (14:47)

I agree. Actually, I was just at a meeting, I think it was last week or the week before, and it was a small group of people, but there’s senior VPs there and we’re halfway through the meeting and I realized as I’ve been speaking up and talking and blah, blah, blah, I was like, Oh, my God. I’m so confident. I was like, this is crazy. Sometimes you get nervous, you feel like your voice sounds shaky, but none of that. 

Melissa Lawrence (15:14)

That made me chills. Thank you for sharing that. I think that’s how a lot of growth happens. I’ve experienced it also. Sometimes when you’re growing, it’s like it is those little steps along the way. And then all of a sudden you’re this new version of yourself and you didn’t even realize that you got there. I did.

Stacy Valluzzo (15:32)

It just hit me and I was like, Oh, my gosh. The next level is no problem.

Melissa Lawrence (15:39)

And then I like to just think of the impact of that. If someone were to stay in their lane, so to speak, and not work on getting to the next level, not invest in their own development, not work through those things that might be holding them back, they might always stay in the same spot. And even if someone wanted to stay at the same level, because this isn’t even that everyone needs to be a VP or an executive, it’s really more about how you feel about yourself at work also. If you feel like you’re silencing yourself and you can’t speak up or what you’re going to say is dumb or any of those things. I’m not saying you say those things. But I know a lot of my clients feel that way. They’re worried about putting themselves out there. What’s really acceptable? And that isn’t only preventing your company from maybe seeing another perspective or seeing another solution to a problem, but it also makes us feel bad. If you go to work and you’re not able to feel good about yourself, if you don’t feel you can contribute fully, if you don’t know your place to speak up in a room, that doesn’t feel good.

Melissa Lawrence (16:41)

And then you go home and it’s almost like you’re silencing yourself. And then who’s your advocate then if you’re not advocating for yourself?

Stacy Valluzzo (16:49)


Melissa Lawrence (16:50)

From your experience in the program, is there anything that is unexpected? So there’s what you see on the website of what the program is going to be like, what you see in my emails, and then there’s you in it. Is there anything you can say to maybe what surprised you or if anything wasn’t what you expected?

Stacy Valluzzo (17:14)

Well, it’s gone by super fast. But I think what’s most unexpected is I feel like there’s less of a line between my personal and work now. I don’t feel like I’m showing up differently at work or home, but it just seems more smooth. It’s hard to describe, but it’s good. It’s positive.

Melissa Lawrence (17:34)

It’s like you’re the same person. Yeah.

Stacy Valluzzo (17:36)

I mean, I didn’t feel like I was different before, but obviously there was something different. But it makes it much easier, especially when there’s off hours things I need to attend. So I think that’s probably the biggest surprise I’ve had from this experience, for sure.

Melissa Lawrence (17:50)

Yeah. And that’s so important because it’s so much more than just loving your job or feeling like you’re in the right job or at the right level of leadership, but really not having to put a mask on. And I think I talked about a while ago when I went through my rebrand, how I had my walls agreeable gray. And I didn’t even realize that I was doing that, wearing my own mask within my own business when I didn’t have to. But it was just this subconscious, I need to be palatable to everyone. And I think that’s the same thing you’re describing where it’s like it wasn’t something where you’re like, I’m intentionally being different. Once you uncover who you really are and you feel confident in who you are, then you realize there is that shift where you were masking yourself unknowingly.

Stacy Valluzzo (18:36)

Yeah. So I think maybe it was set right at the beginning when we reviewed the values and put everything together, it just maybe made it more apparent for me.

Melissa Lawrence (18:49)

Okay. So is there anything else that you want to mention or share with anyone listening about your experience in the leader incubator?

Stacy Valluzzo (18:58)

It’s been great. It’s a good experience. I look forward to going every week. Even though I’m challenged, don’t get me wrong. It’s tough sometimes, but yeah, it’s great.

Melissa Lawrence (19:09)

Yeah. And that’s how growth is, right? It’s going to be a little bit challenging, but it’s great when you can look forward to it instead of it just being like a doctor’s appointment. I have to go do this thing.

Stacy Valluzzo (19:22)

Well, yeah. And it’s like bite sized pieces. You get something to work on, you identify it, you work on it. Not everything at once. And it makes it very digestible and easy to apply to your day to day job and life.

Melissa Lawrence (19:37)

Okay. So you’re going to be continuing on to the next round, which I’m so excited about.

Stacy Valluzzo (19:42)

I am.

Melissa Lawrence (19:43)

So what would you say to those who are listening who may be on the fence or unsure about if this is right for them?

Stacy Valluzzo (19:53)

I would say to just join. If you’re going to show up and apply yourself, there’s no way that you cannot get more out of it than you expect because it’s a great opportunity. I don’t know, it’s great. I love it. It’s positive. It’s a safe environment. Different industries, too. So I think it takes you out from maybe the influence or experience that you have at your current job. Another thing I really liked about it, too, that I forgot to mention is your supervisors or leaders, they all give great advice, but they might not be actually trained to actually really develop you, or maybe you need something different. So I think it’s a great opportunity to have the expertise of somebody else to do that and help you.

Melissa Lawrence (20:33)

Yeah. We didn’t talk about that either. When you mentioned the different industries, the different departments, really, from the different companies in the pharma biotech industry, I think that’s really a hidden gem because there’s really… We talked about the community piece, but there’s really not a lot of spaces in the industry that are bringing women together for development like this. It’s the only one that I know of. And you get exposure to people working in different departments and at different levels. And so that can also be really helpful, especially if you’ve worked for your same company for a long time or in your same type of department for a long time. You can get tunnel vision into what leadership is like, what’s available, what’s possible. And you get to open your eyes to so many other possibilities and ways of doing things and solving problems. And top of building the network. I think all of you are connected to each other on LinkedIn now. You can all become friends and just take that with you forever. And I think that’s so needed, especially as we change the landscape of this industry in the future.

Melissa Lawrence (21:39)

Yeah. Okay. So I always like to ask a question at the end around a piece of advice that you would pass on to people listening that you’ve learned from. So since we’re focusing on leadership today, I’ll ask you, what is one piece of leadership advice that you wish you had earlier in your career?

Stacy Valluzzo (21:56)

Get a coach, advocate for yourself. Yeah, I think those two will make a huge difference no matter where you want to be.

Melissa Lawrence (22:04)

Yeah. Okay. Is there anything else that you want to mention before we end today?

Stacy Valluzzo (22:10)

Well, I hope to see some listeners on the next Stand Out Leader Incubator because it is such a great opportunity so you don’t want to miss out. That’s about it.

Melissa Lawrence (22:19)

Well, thank you so much for coming on the podcast.

Stacy Valluzzo (22:22)

Thanks for having me. It’s actually been really fun.

Melissa Lawrence (22:26)

I get to do it every week. I know. Luckily, you know. I’m sure people will listen to this and they might want to check you out and look you up on LinkedIn. Are you okay with people reaching out to you on LinkedIn and connecting with you?

Stacy Valluzzo (22:40)

Definitely. Feel free to reach out.

Melissa Lawrence (22:42)

Awesome. I will put the link to your LinkedIn in the show notes so people can easily access it and connect and say hi. With that, we’ll go ahead and end today.

Stacy Valluzzo (22:51)

Great. Thanks so much.

Melissa Lawrence (22:53)

There you have it. Stacy’s experience in the Standout Leader Incubator.

Thank you for listening to today’s episode. If you are thinking the leader incubator really sounds like something that I need to be in, then I want you to go to my website www.yourworthycareer.com/incubator and get on the waitlist. The doors open to the public July 6th. However, you can get access to exclusive leadership tips and special bonuses and pre-enrollment perks that are not available anywhere else when you are on the waitlist.

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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. 

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