Women In Science – feat. Megan Sands

We caught up with Megan Sands, Chief Operations Officer at Origin Science a diagnostics company focusing on gastrointestinal diseases and female health. 

The purpose of article series ‘Women In Science’ is to feature, showcase and share the reality of being someone that identifies as a woman in science. We gather and showcase stories, career journeys, as well as advice and wisdom. 

Jazz @ ADLIB: Could you please introduce yourself as well as your background?  

Megan: I am Chief Operations Officer for Origin Sciences. The route I took getting into a biotech organisation is unusual in that I don’t have a scientific background. I studied Industrial Design at the National college of Art and Design in Dublin and then moved in to various design and technical roles in the medical device industry.  

I gained an inquisitive nature from my background in design and have approached every role I have had trying to understand every part of how that fits into the larger strategic goals of the business. This ultimately led me to my current position in operations at Origin Sciences. At Origin we are developing a colorectal cancer diagnostic test using an innovative sampling device and are currently in development of the assay. Additionally, we are starting to look at female health particularly in the diagnostic space.  

I have a passion in creating impact through disruptive and innovative design and I have been lucky to have ended up in a sector where there are exciting opportunities to be able to do that. 

The exploration into female health by Origin Sciences is a new avenue in that it is a huge opportunity – as a company we have always been focused on diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, and the research we are doing really leads into potential fields in female health. Moving into the female health space is something I have really pushed internally as it is something I am passionate about as I am aware of the research gaps in that area. 

Jazz @ ADLIB: Have you faced any challenges or barriers as a woman working in science, and how did you overcome these?  

Megan: I am a big advocate for having mentors that inspire and motivate you, or simply give welcomed advice. I work in a mainly male dominated environment, particularly at a senior level, and although I am surrounded by successful and influential individuals that have been great mentors to me, they are often not women, and lack the perspective gender has on career progression. This has pushed me to expand my network outside of my workplace and I have learnt a lot by doing that.  

I recently became a mentor of the Fem Tech lab accelerator program, and through this have met some interesting and inspiring people, from many different industries. Having that insight has helped me grow in my own role.  

There is a really nice balance when you become a mentor for others, you actually gain a lot of insight yourself and I have also learnt a lot from the other mentors at the events. 

Many work places still have a long way to go in achieving gender diversity but I hope that by expanding my network and having these conversations both internally and externally, shines a light on the benefit of diversity at top levels.  

Jazz @ ADLIB: How do you feel gender influences opportunities within the science sector?  

Megan: There are many ways in which gender influences opportunities in the science sector for good and bad, however one way in which I have benefited in being female by the opportunities presented to me is in the female health space. Female health has a long way to go due to gaps in research and systemic inequalities that have historically biased health development. However, there is an increasing amount of focus going towards development in this area. Unsurprisingly the sector is predominantly being led by female founders and innovators, who have the benefit of personal experience. The acknowledgement of the importance of development in female health is growing alongside the number of female innovators, founders, and gender workplace diversity improvement. It is a natural connection.  

Jazz @ ADLIB: Are there any changes that you would implement in the educational sector to make the field of science more attractive to females as a career path?  

Megan: It is difficult for me to answer this as I did not go through a conventional science route to get to where I am today in a biotech organisation. Perhaps that in itself highlights a need for a change in how opportunities are presented to young people, as my career path was certainly not one I had planned, or would have thought I was able to do, at a young age.  

I feel it is important that females in roles that have predominantly been male orientated set a precedent to younger generations, and the educational sector should facilitate that.  

Jazz @ ADLIB: What would you say has been the best advice you have received during your career as a female working in your role?  

Megan: Take chances and set big goals, but always be humble. Humility opens up the opportunity to be inquisitive and open minded, and provides a platform to be creative. I have learnt that being brave enough to listen to others opinions and expertise over protecting my own provides an incredible amount of power and potential for innovation.   This has been particularly important for me as I am often not the expert in the room, however I have found it a beneficial position to be in as it gives me the opportunity to bring together differing perspectives towards a greater goal.  

Jazz @ ADLIB: What advice would you like to pass on to the next gen of female leaders? 

Megan: Don’t be afraid to be outside of your comfort zone – really cool stuff happens there!  

To add more of a comment than advice, I am really looking forward to seeing the opportunities ahead for female leaders in science in the female health sector. As a society we have started moving in the right direction towards addressing gender research gaps, however it is the next generation of female leaders particularly in science that will have a big part to play in it and I think that’s incredibly exciting. 

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Senior Recruiter

Biotechnology & Pharmaceuticals

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Jazz Jones