Dana Farber Cancer InstituteFellowship, Medical Oncology
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How did you get to where you are today? What is your story? What incidents and experiences shaped your career path?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Fri Nov 20 2020
sure. So I have a little bit of a long, long path to get to where I am now. I'm the CEO of a biotechnology company called Index, but my career, obviously I went toe was a biology major in college. I went to medical school. I thought that I wanted to be a practicing doctor. Um, but E would take both in college and medical school. I got very interested in research. So when I finished all of my medical training, I spent five years doing research and then realized that what I really wanted to do was sort of the interface of research and clinical medicine. And that was sort of the pharmaceutical initiative developing out I went through to Merck, which is one of the large global companies. I worked in the R and D division, learning how to develop medicines on, then worked for two other large pharmaceutical companies in sort of senior positions in the company. And after doing all that, I decided what I really want to do is run a little company and to sort of start up. So I left our companies and have been building a small bottom technology

What responsibilities and decisions does one handle in a job like yours? What are the top three priorities? What are weekly work hours like?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Fri Nov 20 2020
Yeah. So the main responsibilities. You know, when you hear the when you're the CEO of a company, I mean, obviously, you you need to sort of set the strategy of what the company is going to do. Um, you need to decide where you're going to allocate capital as you as you, you know, think about where is the best return on investment. I think one of the most important things you do is to try to make sure that everybody in the company knows what the company stands for. And so there's a lot of vacation about the value of the company, the mission of the vision of the company, Um, so that that there's a lot of what you do as CEO. We also do a lot of what I call storytelling both to the employees and investors so that they you know that that's that whole street. Why does your company exists? What is it you're trying to accomplish? And why should people either work for you or invest you or join your, um, you know, the top three priorities are develop medicines, develop medicines, developed medicine. That's what we do for a living. And that's true of. But behind that is really, you know, making sure that you have the absolute best people working for you working with you, appreciating the hard work that they do and keeping them motivated. You know, times get hard. Sometimes on bi weekly work hours, my weekly work hours buried a covert world. My work hours were spent just like this. Yeah, on videos, talking thio two employees to investors to partners. Um, but I would say in the non covert world, spend a fair amount of time out talking to physicians who are We're trying to develop medicines that they're going to use. So I want to understand their perspective. I way run a lot of clinical trial. I would like to go out to the States, were running the trials and see how the physicians were experienced in using our medicine. Um, and then a lot of time, you know, with with my employees, just making sure they understand what we're about, Why we're doing what we're doing. And they have the resources to do that

What are major challenges and pain points in a job like yours? What approaches are effective in overcoming them? Discussing examples will help students learn better.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Fri Nov 20 2020
eso the major challenge when you're developing medicine. Um, you know, there's, ah, it's a long and complicated process and you learn a whole lot about your medicine as your developed. So e would say the pharmaceutical industry in general, biggest challenges Do you have? Do you have, ah, novel new medicine? You have something that's gonna, you know, improve people that you're working on and along the way you think you do, and then a new piece of data and you realize you don't and you have to start all over again. So that the biggest challenge and I would say the pain point in our industry is just just scientific method of trying to figure out Do you actually have an important new method? Um, e gets the effective strategies to overcome that. My point of view is to realize that you're in a high risk business. And so you know, what I've learned over my many years of working in this industry is most of the things that we work on turn out to not be great medicine, the nature of our business. And once you understand that, and you internalize that, you don't get too attached anyone program. And so if a program turns out, have a problem, it's not gonna be a great drug. That's okay. We just move on and you find other things to do. So what What is having that? That stuff that you can't control? There are things you can control, and you worry about those things. You can't. You can't roll If you spend a lot of time worrying about them. That my point of view, that's gonna wasted energy. Yeah, yeah. Science will tell you whether you have a great medicine. You for the right experiments Do the right kind of apples. Yeah, it's not a good medicine. Then you've done your job. You have this old saying in the pharma industry. Did you fail the medicine or the medicine fail? You Medicine failed to, because it's just not a good medicine that out of your control, there's a good medicine. And you got proving that that your control That's your focus. Yeah,

What are the job titles of people who someone in your role routinely works with, within and outside of the organization? What approaches are effective in working with them?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Fri Nov 20 2020
Yeah, So within the organization, there are a whole variety of skill sets of people that you work with. So you'll work with scientists who invent molecules. You work with people who do clinical trials. You work with physicians, you work with the finance team, you work with the strategy team. And so there are people who come. It really is sort of a general management role. You have people with multiple different backgrounds. I think that the important thing about doing that is realizing, Um, I own personal view that that you aren't there to do their job. They're experts in the job that they do. You've hired them to do the job that they've been trained for, their expert in. You can't possibly be an expert in all of the variety of different jobs that you oversee. And so, for me that the right approach is to is number one toe work really hard to hire the best people and then trust that they will do their job. And your job is to bring all of that together into a strategic framework. But your job is not to do their job. What I sometimes he is senior leaders essentially trying to do the job of somebody below them and checking everything and trying. I think that's a a difficult, difficult path to take. I think you're better off spending a lot of time and I don't wanna get into this, but how you hire people once you hire great people, then you just let them do their job.

How would you describe your management style? How has it evolved over the years? Can you tell about experiences or books that influenced your management style?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Fri Nov 20 2020
so I would say my management style is e think what some people refer to is the that sort of servant leadership. And I tell everybody, just as I said earlier, I hired great people. My job is to help, um, make it easy for them to do there if they need. Resource is if they need, um, air cover if they need. That's the new person to collaborate with. That's my job. My job is not to do their job. So my management style is to try to step, um, you know, objectives that we all agree on let people do their work and be there for them if they need help for assistance or resource. So I have a very open door, and I just tell people anything at all you need. That's my job is to provide for you. Your job is not to provide for me. How has it evolved over the years? You know, I think early in my career I did not understand that at all. And I did everybody else's job. If something wasn't done exactly the way I wanted it done, Yeah, E would go take God away from them, and I would do, and I came to realize that number one, it's not fair to that individual because then they feel badly that they were. They didn't meet my and it just puts more work on many, which doesn't at the end of the day. So what I, you know, evolved over the years is to realize if it's not exactly my style or the way I would do it, then I have to ask myself, Is that is it okay, so I'll give you one example a story that anybody who's trained in medicine, you trained in medicine. There's what we call an attending physician. The attending physician is overseeing the training that the doctors who are training and, um really, really good attending physician will oversee those that was training doctors and let them make decisions and actually even let them make mistake's. If they're going to make a mistake that's going to be lethal to the patient. And then, of course, you have to step in. But if they're going to do something, that's not exactly the way you would do it. Not gonna be harmful, but they'll probably learn something for it from it. It's better to let them make their own decisions, right? Different things. And so that's a fact that, you know, work with employees. A. You say, if I think's terrible mistake for the company and my company is going to stuff I have to have. But if it's not, if it's just well, you do it this way. I do it that way. Judgment fall, that you have to send people. You know, sometimes it turns out their address is better than yours. And so you just let them, you know, take a risk, take jet, do what they do, and we'll all learn.the one book that I that has stayed. It's an old book. So many of you, many of your students may not have read it. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Um, I have found the lessons in that book to be just incredibly helpful as I've gone through my career. And, uh, even the company that I run now which we're building it from scratch many of those concepts air in the values of our company. Um, so I think that I would recommend that probably available in paperback.

How do you manage conflicts within and across teams? How do you promote trust, openness and a healthy work culture? Sharing stories will greatly help.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Fri Nov 20 2020
so conflicts. You know, the most important thing about to pay for a conflict is you have addressed on what sometimes people do. A large organizations is they're very clear either two people or two teams or whatever or not working well together. And rather than address it, they say, Well, maybe it'll work itself. So I'll give you an example. I, um in one of my roles, I had two people working for me. They're both part of my team, and they were like oil and water. They did not get along at all. And they were constantly this Constitution between them. One of them would come to me. You need to do something about that other person. The other one would be like Think about that. And so, you know, as you look at that need this it was like marriage. So we're gonna get two of you and we're going to talk about what are the issues between you what's underlying this conflict? And because you have thio. And once you understand that, then you start to solve it. So I think the most important, in fact, Tom, did you have? Yeah. Just dig right in. Um promoting trust. It helps. Yeah, um, you know, trust one of those things that you? Yeah. So I will tell you there was a company that I worked for. We have the large teams of people. Person has their own funked for teaching. They come together to get across, but a new person joined the team culture of that company was assume that is incompetent until they proved themselves competent. And I thought that was the most toxic culture I thought. Why would you Why would you ever way have a hiring process? We all agree to hire this person. And so I used to encourage people. Assume everybody has good intentions. Assume everybody is competent if they disappoint you. Okay, then. Well, but always always start off extending trust, extending confidence. And I have found invariably that brings out the best in people. They feel welcome. They feel free to participate in the team. So just always assume there is one other case of these. These conflicts arise, and people ascribe, um, ill intent. There isn't an old saying that I've found useful many, many times, never ascribe malice when simple incompetence will do so. There are times and someone just didn't call you when there's a decision to be made. It's not that they have anything. There's no malice against you. They just forgot to call you. It's just simple Incompetence will be ascribe bad intent when we really should so and trust some people have good intent to. People are confident and e seems very well on those.

How can one get better recognition of work from one's boss and higher management? What mistakes should one avoid? Stories or examples will be quite helpful.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Fri Nov 20 2020
one of the prints, One of the values we have in my little company. Now what we call proactive problem solved. This gets your first question. How do you get recognition from your boss? What will sometimes see if somebody will come to me and say we have a problem and they will articulate that problem in excruciating detail. And my first question is, Well, that we do. And they said, Well, that's why I brought it to you. Your boss. You solve the problem. I felt, you know. Yes. I'm here to help you solve your I'm here to help you be successful. But I would like you to come to me with a solution, and then we can figure out what that's the right solution and what we But the best recognition you could get is when you come into your boss and you say I found a way, have an issue thought it through. I've come up with a solution and here's what we're going to do. I need your support for X, Y and Z then you as a boss to sort of go. Wow, this person you know completely proactively on their own identified an issue identified this solution figured out how to do that. And all they want from me is a little bit of managers. Absolutely love them. And so the more you can come to your boss with solutions or, you know, novel, business idea. If you come to your boss and say, Well, I've been thinking about what have we ever thought about doing? X? It turns out excess, it is hugely valuable for the company. That's the way that you get right, Right. Um, the mistakes to avoid, um, you know, I sort of the converse of that. Don't wait too long. Who let people know that you need help? I think the converse of this proactive problem solver. It's sometimes people wanna they really do want voted themselves. They want to stop it. They wanna have a solution. Andi might wait a little bit too long to come and and talk about what about I would be careful that

What indicators are used to track performance in a job like yours? Think of the indicators such as key performance indicators (KPIs), objectives & key results (OKRs), or so on.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Fri Nov 20 2020
k p I. You know, um, in almost every every role I've had, um, it's Ah, yeah, one of the delivery bols of the project. Time cost risk. Those deliver ahead of schedule and under budget. Those are always good things. Goes back to my my expert about proactive problem. Um, in our business that KP is air really? The phases of drug development or the launch of the medicine or the sales of the medicine? Um, fairly straightforward. From a financial point of view. You know, meeting budget is like that, but it z and today I think it's develop a reputation for being somebody who delivers ahead of schedule and under budget.

What skills and qualities do you look for while hiring? What kind of questions do you typically ask from candidates?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Fri Nov 20 2020
So again, in our business, there's a There's a, uh there is a technical competence, and I think that's probably true in almost all businesses at the the the foundation of things. Do you have the technical competence for the role that we're hiring you into? That's the assuming You have the text of competence, then the question is is really about how you interact with other people so much what, at least our business we do is a team based, um, crossed as I mentioned, you will have these cross functional teams 10, 12, 13 different functions, all working together. You have black. And so that's the truth that I try to look for. Yeah, you know, I think the easiest way to do that is just asking, for example, back to your clear fight when you had a conflict. How did you handle it? Uh, when you missed the deadline, what did you learn? You know, and you can tell whether people are collaborative or, you know, through and and there are some places where individual contributors who don't collaborate well, they're fine and not so much in our business. We're really looking for people who have the core skills and then can collaborate can be proactive problem solvers. But drive to do things better. I'm always, you know, I always one of the questions I always ask, What book have you read recently? Cause I think, um, you know what you read when you don't have to read, says a lot about who you are and what you have uninterested. And, you know, Are you Are you inquisitive? Are you trying to learn new things? Um, so that's sort of what I look for when I'm one other thing, I will say when I'm hiring people, um, they will give me references of people that I have to talk to. I may be call one or two of those. But what I try most to do is to think to figure out who else knows this person that I can ask riel question. Because, of course, no one is going to give me references if somebody who's going to say bad things about them, right. So you got to do that. That sort of, you know, figure out, uh, triangulate others who know this person, uh, that and who you get inside scoop of. How did they work with other people? That to me, that's very

Can you discuss career accomplishment(s) that you feel good about? Please discuss the problem context, your solution, and the impact you made.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Fri Nov 20 2020
Yeah. Um, So again, in our our business, we no way try to develop medicine and, uh, at the end of day, That's what I feel most proud about in my career. Of all the medicines that I've developed and what particularly rewarding is when you you have a medicine that everybody else thinks isn't gonna be a great medicine, and you see something in the way that it's being it could eventually be used. So one of the companies I work for we had when I joined the company, they had actually shut down the product and they had written off the product. They said We're And so I knew a little bit about the science behind that product and the medicine and asked a few questions about how they had tried to develop it, why they had stopped developing it and came to realize that they hadn't really done the right trial. And so I said, Can we can we bring it back and do something a little more thoughtful? And it turned out the fantastic fantastic that change the lives of millions of ovarian cancer. So, you know, that's one of those ones where you just have to times. Ah, you know, ask some questions about why something stopped you thought might have been. And, you know, those have again, in our business as big impact on the patients who have They now have a medicine that if we're not asking questions, they would never

What responsibilities and decisions do you handle? What are the top three priorities and pain points? What strategies are effective in dealing with challenges?

Based on experience at: Managing Director, MPM Capital
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Fri Nov 20 2020
So MPM Capital is a venture capital firm on essentially, what we do is take novel technology that's being developed in an academic lab and build a company so way think the technology is now really ready to apply to a specific. And so my responsibilities there are to help. Look at technology. Think about what these is that we actually, and how would we, as quickly and efficiently as can find out is this Is there actually something here? So somebody's gonna benefit patients? And early in our clinical development, the decisions are really where do we allocate our capital? So what? We raise a fund, we might have to say, a $400 million fund. We might invest in 20 companies $20 million each in 20 companies. So the decisions are who's going to be the $20 and those air Pretty important decisions, because if you if you picked wrong, you know you put the $20 million in, you get nothing back. If you pick well, you could get very good, very good returns. So the main priorities there are to just be out looking for great science and then tow our earlier conversation building great teams around that time. $20 million into a company we wanted a lot of times about who to hire. Are they the right people? Can they collaborate? They have the technical skills. Can they build a company? Um, the pain points are similar to him, but I talked about earlier many times. Start a company. It turns out, either we get the wrong people for the wrong technology and it doesn't work. Um, the strategy there is your 20 company and we had a portfolio basis. Majority of them do well. You're always going toe miss on a few, but it z quite a lot of help. Young entrepreneurs build

What college programs did you attend and what were their best parts? How did each of your college programs prepare you for your career?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Fri Nov 20 2020
is a biology major in college. I went to Georgetown University in Washington, D. C. Which is a Jesuit university. And fortunately, I would say, quite fortunately for me, they had requirement requirement in philosophy, uh, in religion, in sociology. And so I feel like I got a very, very good general education in addition to the throw, biology, chemistry, physics, to be a doctor on DSO again, I encourage people. I think there is a it gets to the point we talked earlier about how do you deal with so much of leadership? And this is how do you deal with people and how do you deal with people? I think in large part, has to do with, you know, psychology and understanding, incentives and motivations, understanding people. I think those are very, very important versus to take their There's a There's a lecture series that I I listened to regularly about entrepreneurship and very often the someone in your seat asking the question, What's the one course you wish you had when you were in college and I would say the majority of time they say, like how? Because so much of what I do is trying to figure out how to work with people and just understanding some of those principles

What three life lessons have you learned over your career? If any, please also discuss your experiences facing adversity, or trying something unusual.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Fri Nov 20 2020
so I'd say the first life lesson is, uh, don't be afraid to take. So when I was in medical school, um, it was many years ago. It was sort of the on of your incompetent DNA, And I wanted to work. I wanted to learn the new science, and I basically just called. I was I went to school in Washington, D C. And I was living in Connecticut. My now wife was my girlfriend. She was in D C. I wanted to go to D. C for the summer to be with her. And so I just called the guy at the N I H and said, You know, any chance you might be looking for someone to work in your lab? I could volunteer. I don't study Hey, but that, You know, a lot of people won't do that. Just don't Don't be afraid to call somebody who, you know, might be able to open the door for you. It may be a little intimidating, but if you don't yeah, the other one, I guess I would say is there's this old saying that I have kids of my own place. You don't ask. You won't get many times people go into some situation and, uh, there, you know, they're afraid to ask for when they're negotiating their their contract, they're afraid to ask or when they want to get promoted, they don't ask, or if they think there's a great project that the company should work on, they don't ask. There's worst thing that someone could say to you is no and that's perfectly fine. So you know, if you don't ask, you won't get and so just ah, put up there and ask, um, facing adversity. You know, I say I've been, uh It goes back to my earlier comments of If you're if you're grounded individual and you know what your life is all about. Your job is you know how you how you make money and how you support your family. Uh huh. And so when you get into very difficult situations, you just have to remember that this is a life or death. This is best in this world.

What starting job (after internship) would you recommend to students who hope to grow professionally like you? What other parting advice, dos, and don'ts would you give?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Fri Nov 20 2020
right. So again, my professional has really been in in biology, medicine and developing drugs. Uh, you know, unfortunately, it's just there's a lot of technical training, so you know that if they want to do this, whether they go to medical school or get a graduate degree or what? There's a lot of technical training that people have. People do that, Um, so I think that's the The career advice is to get dig in and do the hard technical work. Um, I think that there's, ah, you're always going to be in high demand if you have a technical skill that's in short supply. So get the technical train. Uh, sometimes we want to be a general manager too early in their career, and I would I would advise not to do that. You get that training and then developed a general manager, um, parting advice, tattoos and Jones. Um, accident. Um, if take a risk, have fun. Um, some people have, you know, eso I'm the I'm the CEO about tech company. If you asked me when I was in college, do you think there's any chance that you would be the CEO of technology? I would never in a million years. I don't even know what A CEO biotechnology company. Waas. I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to be out there taking care of patients. But I think being open to things that come along and not trying to plan everything out, but just be open to opportunity and things that sound exciting. Um, I've been very, very fortunate that things have come my way. And although I don't, I don't take care of individual patients. I like to think that, you know, we're developing medicines that are gonna help millions.