Spotlight On: Mark A. Lanfear, Vice President and Life Sciences Industry Leader
When having a conversation with Mark Lanfear, Vice President and Life Sciences Industry Leader at Oxford, you might find yourself discussing in-depth industry issues that will inevitably impact the future, or you may be learning about each other’s families. By the end of your conversation, however, you will find that you have had a captivating discussion on trends and opportunities for the life sciences industry, and established a relationship that will help you achieve future success. Here is your first opportunity to get to know Mark, and the industry insight he brings to the table.
Q: What is your professional background?
A: I attended the University of Michigan, where I earned a BS degree in biology and a Master’s in physical therapy. After college, I went to work for a biopharmaceutical company managing drug and device human clinical trials. Throughout my career, I have worked for several organizations overseeing clinical operations, biometrics, and regulatory affairs teams. For the past 15 years, I have directed the architecture and execution of workforce solutions across the life sciences sector.
Q: How long have you been with Oxford?
A: I joined Oxford in October of 2019.
Q: What daily habits do you recommend for success?
A: Two things. First, I’ve worked in both remote and office environments, but no matter what, I got dressed for the day like I was headed into an office. I think this was a big influence from my father, who was always “buttoned-up” and had his hair perfectly combed.
The second would be to take time to read new things. A mentor of mine introduced me to this habit. He took the beginning of each day to read several industry articles. So, every morning over coffee I read life science and workforce media online. There are so many great, in-depth resources these days and absorbing the information they provide helps me stay on top of the changing environment. I promise this will give you an edge, too.
Q: What resources would you recommend?
A: Fierce Pharma, Fierce Biotech, Fierce Regulatory, and Pharma Voice are all great resources. This is also a good opportunity to leverage LinkedIn. Following other professionals gives you the opportunity to have relevant information presented to you in a curated way.
Q: What would you say contributes most to your success at Oxford?
A: Relationships and credibility are tied to my success. Being informed, bringing value, and pitching in wherever possible are all ways to prove your worth. There’s no better way to be successful in a new group than rolling up your sleeves, getting involved, and voicing your informed opinion.
Q: What is one of your greatest achievements to date?
A: I’m the 13th of 14 children, so surviving that was an achievement in and of itself! Managing eight brothers and five sisters required leadership, so I learned that early on. My father was a Detroit police officer, and my mother was a teacher. My father taught me that with hard work, almost everything is achievable. They worked to drive us forward, and those teachings informed my path. From our start in Detroit to what I’ve achieved in my career: publishing articles, practicing my science, and leading teams. Their values contributed to the person I am today, and that extends into my career. In later years, my parents came to live with me, and I’m very proud of that.
Q: What attributes do you think are most important in a leader?
A: Listening. A leader must listen to the team he leads, then transform that information into actionable steps to reach their goals. An absolutely critical part of any organization is that leadership is needed at every level. You can’t just lead from the top, there should be leaders throughout. It’s important to set up an environment where everyone not only feels like a leader, but is a leader.
Q: What’s the best book you’ve read on business or leadership?
A: I enjoyed StrengthsFinder by Gallup. Understanding yourself, your limitations, and (as outlined in the book) your strengths makes you a good team member and leader. Once you have this foundation, you can adopt other leadership techniques to create your own special brand.
Q: What skills will be most in-demand in 2020?
A: The most in-demand skills in the workforce now are indicative of changes in response to the pandemic. Remote work is more common than ever before. Highly-educated, sought-after professionals are taking short gigs of work, and this is becoming the norm. In context, this means that the most in-demand skill sets are more soft skills such as flexibility, and being multi-skilled in your area of expertise. For example, you can’t just be a clinical associate or a data manager, you must also be a project manager. You have to bring the additional skill set to be able to propel the project forward in order to remain competitive.
Q: What are the top trends impacting life sciences that you see today?
A: In media and politics, life sciences had always been top of mind but we are seeing it pick up now more than ever. Changes in the life sciences world will transform workforce solutions. Because of COVID, we’ve seen technology being used to drive human clinical trials, amazing speed in the pursuit of a vaccine, and an incredible amount of collaboration between companies to reach these goals together. Overall, this challenges workers to increase their technical skill. Another rising trend is regulatory affairs for medical devices and pharmaceuticals. Since new discovery for drugs and devices has declined, there is an increasing requirement of regulatory bodies to evaluate and interact with pharmaceutical companies who are keeping drugs and devices on the market longer.
Q: As technology continues to advance, how do you see that impacting the recruiting and staffing industry?
A: We need to evaluate the impact of social media and growth of the millennial generation’s contribution to the world’s workforce. 75% of the workforce by 2025 will be millennials. This is changing recruitment and staffing because you have to reach out to these folks in a way they’re comfortable with, like social media and apps. If you don’t have access to the workforce through apps and social media, you can’t expect them to engage in a meaningful way. In previous times, phone calls and face-to-face interviews were crucial, but now human interaction is all through technology. For example, people want to move around the country to different cities and still want to do computer programming work out of the Bay while living in Austin. We have to find those remote workers, set them up to be successful wherever they are, and bring that talent to our clients.
Q: How do you define customer care?
A: When we look at customer care in our industry, the best thing to do is look at ourselves and see how we like to buy. It is human nature to ask questions and get answers from experts. Why is something on the menu good? Tell me how the sausage was made, so to speak. To follow the restaurant analogy, you have the front of the house — you’re greeted, it’s warm and inviting, and it makes you want to know more. When the chef or manager wanders around the tables asking questions and giving information — it makes the customer experience feel very genuine and highly customized.
Even though you know a workforce solution is a single thing, it’s the nuances of each individual solution you create that matter. Asking open ended questions and giving your customer a bit of your experience and credibility is an excellent way to build trust. We’re workforce solution experts, so we need to ask the right questions to glean information and become solutions architects.
Q: What advice would you give to individuals interested in consulting?
A: Consulting is a great career in this economic environment, but it’s a competitive market. As we’re seeing the workforce grow older and retire after 30 years in their role, many of them are transitioning to consulting. On top of that, some of the remote work that’s available now supports a consulting career even more. The rise of Zoom and technologies like it has created a different environment. You can be a consultant in any field of subject matter expertise.
Anyone interested in consulting should be a subject matter expert in something. Think about who you are, what your core competencies are, and go from there. Decide if you are ok with the gig economy. You have to be comfortable with working in one role for a year and moving on. I’m with Oxford because I believe this is a great way for an employer to engage the talent they need and find interesting and exciting work they want to do.
Q: How do you support driving change with your team based on strategic business decisions?
A: Driving change is similar to leadership. It starts with listening, which leads to problem analysis and problem solving. This comes down to gaining a consensus through credibility in knowing the business. Then you can initiate action.
Q: What do you do to mentor the individuals on your team?
A: Because I am a new leader, I have been doing an equal share of learning and mentoring. I challenge my team to read about the industry so they understand how it works from other perspectives. If you’re not a scientist by trade, try to read and learn about it. In order to build a foundation of the functional skills you need to be successful in your role, you have to learn and develop them. I mentor my team by using my past experience. I’m also in the art of people. From big families to big businesses, relationships are an art, and they’re as important for getting things done in an organization as your skills and ability. Understanding professional relationships will make you successful. I advise my team to balance those two things.
Q: What do you like best about working with your team?
A: I found that the team has really embraced me and my newness; people were interested in what I could bring to the table, and we’ve had a good time with it. I’m a people person, so learning about my team’s lives has been great. It’s the personal things that bring us together, so the openness of my team has been the best part of working with them. It makes it easier to deal with the things that come up in the professional relationship.
Q: How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance?
A: I try to frame it a little differently and ask — how do you integrate your work into your life? There’s a healthy way to look at the things in life that we have to do versus the things in life that we want to do when we can. Life is an important thing, it’s no dress rehearsal. Your real life is your friends, family, your faith, and the things you celebrate.
Integrating your work into your life is your choice, and it’s a wonderful choice that is particular to this generation. This generation of workers has many more choices than the previous ones did — being able to work outside an office building, hospital, or particular region. Because of that flexibility, we can have a great integration of work into our wonderful lives. I always advise my group to let work be a part of your life, but not let it take over. Work gets done, and it must get done, but we integrate it into our lives.
Q: Why Oxford?
A: For clients, I see Oxford as a flexible and customizable workforce service provider, I would advise my clients that Oxford fills a niche in the workforce services they have now. It’s full of really great folks that are doing their best to customize solutions that are the right fit for people. We are publicly traded, and have an excellent global footprint.
Consultants choose Oxford because our people really care. They are the Jeremy Piven character in an Entourage — they’ll put you in their next great movie. They are their agents. They work to get consultants the best jobs to provide for them and their families. I’m very impressed with the talent agents here at Oxford.
My experience as an internal employee has been top notch, from the benefits to the employee share program, and the flexibility throughout COVID, I’m impressed with our leadership and the messages they send out to all of us.
For me personally, I was looking for my next challenge. I’ve created a lot of things over the years, and Oxford had all the fun tools on the shelf in my proverbial man cave to build what I think is going to be a very enjoyable career here.
From Mark’s beginnings in Detroit to his successful career in the life sciences industry, he has gathered invaluable experience. His in-depth knowledge of the industry and innate people skills make him an ideal Oxford team member. His collaborative strategies and willingness to listen serve him well when developing relationships with clients and colleagues alike. When working with Mark, you can be sure that you are partnering with an expert who can help you achieve your goals.