Ann Stevens: The Power of Reinvention
Ann Stevens, president of BioMed SA, has a degree in journalism and started her career as a newspaper reporter in the early 1970s. One might ask how she transitioned from being a West Texas journalist to a leader in the San Antonio biomedical field.
“If you can write, think and express ideas, you can work in any field, for any company and for any industry,” Stevens said. “It’s about conveying a mission, influencing people and telling the story.”
Ann speaks of the power of reinventing yourself and your career to reach your goals. She began her journey at the tiny Big Spring Herald (earning $350 per week) and today is responsible for enhancing our city’s status as a hub for science and medicine.
Ann’s career serves as an inspiration to all of us who are still traveling on our career path and have not yet determined what our final destination will be. Ann is someone whose interest in the world around her, combined with a natural ability to communicate, opened doors to a career she never envisioned for herself. This too could be the story of any scientist.
Ann speaks highly of her time as a journalist, “I was really passionate about my reporting career,” Stevens said, but was willing to take chances. After leaving the Big Spring paper for a stint at a larger Harte-Hanks paper, the Abilene Reporter News, she jumped into the corporate world by taking charge of the newspaper chain’s then-new corporate communications department in San Antonio.
She saw it as a way to remain in the newspaper industry while honing her skills in a challenging corporate environment. Along the way, Stevens became involved in supporting the company’s CEO in investor relations activities.
“I found that I loved investor relations — it was a new, exciting twist,” Stevens recalled. “But at Harte-Hanks, the CEO and the chief financial officer headed that area themselves. I realized that if I really wanted to play a frontline role in investor relations, I’d have to start over at a smaller company.” This was the second time that Stevens reinvented her career. She did this by joining ILEX Oncology Inc., a startup in San Antonio’s biotech industry that had just gone public.
“That’s when my career in biotechnology was born,” Stevens said. “I took my skill set — my media background, my writing and communications abilities, and my experience as a reporter — and applied them to a new industry. It was exciting to be at a company that was working to cure cancer.”
In ten years, two of ILEX’s medications for leukemia were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
And, in 2004, ILEX was sold to the Genzyme Corp. for what Stevens described as the “amazing figure” of $1 billion.
“It was a success story the whole city could celebrate,” she recalled. “It was good for the city and good for my career; it showed that a homegrown biotech company could be successful, and it brought Genzyme, a leader in the industry, to San Antonio.”
At the same time, the acquisition meant that Stevens was out of a job and back to reinventing herself once again. She spent many months working with an executive coach and thoughtfully planning her next move.
This resulted in her writing a job description for herself – one she later found to be a perfect match for that of her current position at BioMed SA.
In 2005, the founding board of BioMed SA, headed by former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros, plucked her from a pool of more than 100 applicants to head the then-new nonprofit organization, whose mission is to raise awareness of San Antonio’s biomedical assets.
Once again, Stevens is putting the skills she learned as a journalist to work in a successfully reinvented career opportunity.
“Instead of writing newspaper articles, I’m using all of the tools I learned as a professional communicator to tell the story of our city,” she said. When asked what her “anthem” is, she names “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross because it speaks to the power of passion and perseverance against all odds to accomplish your goals.
Photo credit: PPib