My Brilliant Career: Dr Andrea Douglas

How to embrace the opportunities that come from left field, and why finding balance your way – is better.

Dr Andrea Douglas wears many hats – she is a medical researcher driven by the prospect of discovery and also a Director of AusBiotech, Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute and BioCurate. Formally the CEO of the Gene CRC, this year, Dr Douglas began a new role as Senior Vice President, Organisation Transformation and External Affairs for CSL Limited.

“If I think back to when I was 16 and look at where I am now, I would never have mapped this path,” she says of her distinguished career which includes a PhD in Forensic Medicine and Masters in Health Administration.

“In this industry, the pathways are so broad…opportunities come from left field. Yes, you should plan ahead, but taking your opportunities when they arise adds to the wonder and beauty of careers, and life.”

Importance of soft skills

For Dr Douglas, diversity in the workplace is not just about gender balance or work/life balance, but the importance of cultivating both intelligence quotient (IQ) and emotional quotient (EQ).

“In my career, I’ve learnt the importance of some of these things that people used to call softer skills,” she says. “If you took the whole population, maybe women are better at the softer skills like bringing people together and relationship management – but ultimately, supporting a broad skillset is part of the diversity equation.”

Finding balance for better

While achieving it at times can be challenging, having balance in her life fuels Dr Douglas with energy to “be a better wife, mum, friend and colleague”. 

She adds it’s important to remember there’s no set 50-50 or 20-80 rule about balance, and finding it is different for everybody.

“I think the portion of work, home, relaxation or sport is different every day, it’s different every week and it’s absolutely different at every phase of your life and of your career.”

Accepting support and advice

It’s been the backing of multiple male bosses across a 30-year career that has helped raise her ceiling, says Dr Douglas.

“That shouldn’t be a surprise, but maybe for some women it would be because they haven’t been as supported by men,” she says. “I’ve always had male bosses that have more confidence in me than I have in myself – and that’s often a bit of a male/female thing as well.”

When it comes to seeking out support and career advice in biomedicine, Dr Douglas advises women to call upon all of their reserves whenever they need to.

“Talk to people and ask for help, particularly in periods of your life where it’s challenging,” she suggests.

“When you’re going through one of those phases when your balance is not ideal, asking for help is beneficial both psychologically and physically.”

By Harriet Edmund

Read more about the illustrious careers of female leaders in medical research in the School of Biomedical Sciences ‘My Brilliant Career’ profile series.



Hear more from Dr Douglas and the panel of leading women in biomedicine in the International Women’s Day: My Brilliant Career podcast. Available from Friday afternoon, 8 March.

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