STEMM PROFILE: Dr Michelle Zajac | Director of Research and Alliance Management | Cancer Therapeutics CRC (CTx) | Melbourne | VIC

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Dr Michelle Zajac

“I took a big risk when I decided I did not want a career in academia. I quit my postdoctoral fellowship without knowing what I would do next and trusted I would find the right space for myself”

Dr Michelle Zajac is the Director of Research and Alliance Management at the Cancer Therapeutics CRC (CTx) in Melbourne. Before this Michelle was the Strategic Initiatives Manager at Biomedical Research Victoria, the peak body representing Victoria’s diverse and remarkable health and medical research community.

Michelle completed a Bachelor of Arts / Bachelor of Science (Honours) from The University of Melbourne and has a PhD in neuroscience from The University of Melbourne (Howard Florey Institute). She worked for BioMedVic for several years firstly as Manager of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program; a position she took because she was passionate about the opportunity to expose the best and the brightest science students to a career in biomedical research.

What Michelle loves about working in STEMM is that everyday is different. She gets to spend time thinking about how to support our science sector and talking with lots of people about the best ways in which it can be advanced. Then she gets to support and implement projects both big and small to further this goal.

What support structures did/do you have in place that have facilitated your success?

In the workplace I have a very supportive boss who has encouraged me to work out what I need and then to negotiate for it. I had financial support for parental leave and support to return to work flexibly in a way that accommodated childcare responsibilities and expressing breast milk.

What do you believe are the greatest attributes of a successful leader?

An ability to make strategic decisions, to read people and empathise with them, and to know when to let go and delegate. All the great leaders I know lead by example.

What is it about you that got you to where you are today?

Decisiveness and a willingness to take risks. I took a big risk when I decided I did not want a career in academia. I quit my postdoctoral fellowship without knowing what I would do next and trusted I would find the right space for myself. I set myself a six-month deadline and just a couple of days before the deadline I started in my new job.

Do you set boundaries? If yes, which is the most important one?

Yes! I set boundaries at home and at work. Most importantly I don’t routinely look at my work email when I’m not working.

Do you have a mentor? What is the most important advice they have given you?

Yes, I have more than one. I think mentoring relationships are extremely important; both being mentored and mentoring others. I have found great organic mentoring partnerships often work in both directions.

The most important advice I have been given by my mentors is 1. Just go for it, 2. Never apologise for yourself, and 3. Intuition is important, use it.

Michelle on LinkedIn: Michelle Zajac


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