Wallner shared a concrete example of how she developed and exhibited leadership skills: In order to develop a technology for a company, she personally had to recruit the scientists who would work on the project by going to each one and encouraging them to become involved. She noted, however, that not all products and technologies worth bringing to market actually reach that goal. She has experienced situations when the products were great, and the clinical trials were great, but the markets changed and/or the funding realities changed. Therefore, she noted the importance of remaining passionate, and seeking alternate sources of funding because often “other opportunities are right around the corner.”

Within each of these examples, Wallner emphasized the key leadership traits discussed above that aided her in these entrepreneurial endeavors. In her opinion, passion, resilience, having an open mind, and the ability to think outside-the-box have all aided her in developing a successful career.

Lydia Villa-Komaroff, Chief Scientific Officer, Cytonome/ST, LLC

Lydia Villa-Komaroff began by questioning the idea of how success is defined, and referenced Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell as an inspiration for her address.1 Specifically, she suggested that success is not a consequence of individual merit, but rather results from cultural legacies, hidden advantages, and extraordinary opportunities. Villa-Komaroff reviewed her own career path, and presented some cumulative advantages she experienced that have led to her personal success. Specifically, she noted that as a Mexican-American and eldest child, she learned about competition and collaboration at an early age. Villa-Komaroff further emphasized the timing of her doctoral research and the emergence of her field, especially in Boston, that led to unique opportunities. She further underscored the role of mentors at every stage of her career that helped to push her forward along her path. She also personally undertook innovative business strategies to navigate through challenging real-life situations that arose in the companies with which she was involved, some of them were considered unconventional at the time.

Villa-Komaroff noted the importance of persistence and hard work to success. Citing Gladwell, she noted that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of practice for someone to master a field. In addition to this practice and hard work by individuals, there are specific actions that can be taken “to ensure that people of talent can live up to their talent,” including adopting policies that can help them succeed, changing our own behavior, and undertaking formal activities such as mentoring, networking, and training.


1 Gladwell, Malcolm (2008). Outliers: The Story of Success. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

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