Céline Talabaza of Noble Panacea: “Maintain curiosity throughout everything”

Maintain curiosity throughout everything. Keep asking questions because if you do not you will stop expanding your mind. When I was younger, I decided that I wanted to speak multiple languages, live different cultures, travel and work abroad despite not being something I really needed to do, my interest to understand a foreign environment was […]

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Maintain curiosity throughout everything. Keep asking questions because if you do not you will stop expanding your mind. When I was younger, I decided that I wanted to speak multiple languages, live different cultures, travel and work abroad despite not being something I really needed to do, my interest to understand a foreign environment was driving my choices. In the end your experiments, multicultural knowledge broadens your mind, tolerance and understanding of the world. If I had stopped asking questions and simply settled for the present situations, I would have never had the tangible experiences I did and that is something contributing heavily to the uniqueness of each individual.


As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Céline Talabaza.

Céline is the Chief Executive Officer at Noble Panacea, which she co-designed with Sir Fraser Stoddart, the Founder and 2016 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, and Audrey Bois Nicolaï, the Head of Brand Development. She comes with fifteen years of experience in brand development and strategy crafting in the beauty industry. She made her debut globally at top multinational corporations such as L’Oréal, LVMH, and Unilever where she led these functions across international markets in Paris, Madrid, New York City, Singapore, and most recently, Zurich.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My career began a little but over fifteen years ago, I was immediately fascinated with brand development and strategy crafting for brands in the beauty industry. Since then, I’ve worked with rather established corporations such as L’Oréal, LVMH, and Unilever where I led these functions across international markets in Paris, Madrid, New York City, Singapore, and most recently, Zurich. Now as the CEO of Noble Panacea I’ve been able to bring my years of experience into this role and help guide the brand from the ground up. My equal love for both Science and Art has now come to fruition. Looking back on the brand from its inception to its launch and up until now, it has been amazing to watch its tremendous growth over the past year and a half plus.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

I remember meeting Sir Fraser in his house for the first time, surrounded by so many PHD students, they were coming from all around the world, all brilliant minds. So much talent, dedication, and passion under one roof was a mine of intellectual wonders for me. Sir Fraser was cooking and serving coffee to all of us. That is when I got inspired by his humility, his approachability, his mentorship, and the true collaboration it takes to come up with groundbreaking research.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I thought I could count on the development framework I was used to deal with in the industry. The reality is that the OSMV technology process is way more complex, absolutely unique, very sophisticated and is a work of a true master craftsman. Only few scientists in the world are able to create our formulation today, the delivery system of the active ingredients is coded and programmed for optimized skin results. A true piece of art for skin geek.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

Something I am personally most proud of is Noble Panacea’s long-standing partnership with GirlUp, which is a global leadership development initiative part of the United Nations Foundation positioning girls to be the leaders of tomorrow. Through their programs, girls broaden their social impact skill set, benefit from a platform to tell their stories, and apply STEM for social good.

The partnership came about organically, as our founder, Sir Fraser, holds mentorship and education close to his heart. To keep this legacy going, we decided to partner with Girl Up to help educate young girls around the world and to expand access to STEM education and overall empower girls’ development.

This partnership has been a main point-of-focus for Noble Panacea since our inception, and because of so, we are constantly looking at new ways to support the cause. Most recently, as of April, we launched our latest initiative within our partnership, the first-ever STEM Scholarship, offered as part of The Girl Up Scholarship Fund. Its purpose is to mitigate financial burdens of post-secondary education. Members of the Girl Up community globally are invited to apply for scholarships to facilitate their pursuit of education in the fields of science, technology, engineering or math.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I always stay close and read comments from the girls we interacted with during leadership summit last year and different panels we led since then to understand if the content is valuable to them.

Both Noble Panacea and myself believe that innovation is accelerated by diversity. Scientific collaboration across culture, gender, and different ways of thinking pave the way to inventions and innovations that otherwise would not have happened. We are proud to directly empower and support the advancement of women in the fields of STEM by facilitating girls’ access to education and resources, supporting their paths to becoming future leaders and innovators. Noble Panacea is helping create a platform for women to empower other women.
Most currently, we’re especially excited to announce to winners of the STEM Scholarship so we can see the true impact this program can make in these young women’s lives.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Putting education at the center and core of the progress of a nation. I come from a family of teachers and I consider education and mentorship as being the key for understanding history and making sure we take the accurate most valuable decision for the future.

Driving awareness and education of the issues and obstacles young people can face especially in the STEM field is key to addressing the root of the problem. The more we can educate others and drive awareness of the facts — the lack of resources and accessibility to education, the more involvement and engagement we can get from the community.

Empowering conversations, a small interaction can trigger bigger changes.

I personally have witnessed the stories and conversated with the intelligent young women GirlUp supports and I am always in awe by their strength and their courage to look adversity in the face and persevere. I know that there are millions of young women across the world with intelligence, experience and intellect that could positively contribute to society if only they can just be given the chance. Telling their stories to inspire others to help young women so they can become the future innovators.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership truly comes in many forms comprising all people from all walks of life.

A leader is someone others choose to follow. True leadership inspires, motivates and encourages others to achieve the best version of themselves and how they leave the world behind them for others to follow.

Leadership is somehow leading your team to the right path without necessarily giving the answers on how to get there.

It would be wonderful if leaders could all be mentors, the word leader assumes an imbalance in power, but to me someone who truly leaves an intellectual growth in someone else is a great mentor. Leadership is equipping your team with the right tool, the right frame so they can outperform, leadership should be empowering.

Sir Fraser has mentored over 500 Phd students in his life and that is why mentorship is so important to us at Noble Panacea and one of the key missions insisted upon by Sir Fraser — mentorship is not just the teaching of other but also the learning from others — and that is how serendipitous, innovative discoveries are made.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

I always love these types of questions because I think it is important to always self-reflect, learn from past mistakes while also appreciating achievements.

  1. Make mistakes, make them fast and learn from it. There is nothing like experimenting. There is a different print in your brain when you read something vs. when you experiment it. One thing that is always easy to see in hindsight is the acceptance of mistakes — being open to not only making mistakes but looking at them as opportunities to grow, innovate and develops new ideas. The pursuit of excellence is a journey that involves discovering solutions to problems that actually tend to develop more positive outcomes than negative.
  2. Whatever the title, the remuneration, take the opportunity to experience working in your dream field. Something France is quite amazing with is the number of internships you can take before graduation. Although it means working extremely hard for almost close to no remuneration, it is the best school. The experiment, the network, know what you are talented at, passionate about.
  3. The time you take off to read, have inspiring conversation, workout is key for the quality of your inputs. In my field, ideas, innovations, creative solutions are a constant demand and I get my brain juice from looking outside, the window, the world, the countries I lived in, the people I met.
  4. The importance of Trust in Business. Taking time to build trust, one on one, personal trust with business partners is an investment which will pay out massively on a day-to-day basis.
  5. Maintain curiosity throughout everything. Keep asking questions because if you do not you will stop expanding your mind. When I was younger, I decided that I wanted to speak multiple languages, live different cultures, travel and work abroad despite not being something I really needed to do, my interest to understand a foreign environment was driving my choices. In the end your experiments, multicultural knowledge broadens your mind, tolerance and understanding of the world. If I had stopped asking questions and simply settled for the present situations, I would have never had the tangible experiences I did and that is something contributing heavily to the uniqueness of each individual.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

To us at Noble Panacea, beauty and the environment are one and the same and both should be fortified, preserved, and restored with pure intention. Across every element of our brand — formulation, production, packaging — we design and think with sustainability in mind. It is a core value of the brand instilled by our founder, Sir Fraser Stoddart.

After the serendipitous discovery of the Organic Super Molecular Vessels™, (OSMV ™) Sir Fraser was inspired by the grandiose potential for this technology and how it could benefit the greater good with the greatest impact. If I could inspire a movement, it would be the rather inspiring yet earth-changing dream Sir Fraser envisioned that utilizes this revolutionary technology and apply it in a way the enables every individual to offset their personal carbon footprint. Because OSMVs have the ability to soak up carbon monoxide, this technology could be incorporated into some type of device that any one individual could purchase and use in their personal outside environment to capture carbon monoxide and essentially cleaning the air around them. To empower and enable all individuals to actively improve and prevent further impact to our planet would be remarkable. Engaging the individual with ease and encouraging simplistic yet impactful participation inspires and motivates sustainable habits without sacrifice. As a brand, we always strive to minimize our impact on the environment and continuously innovate new ways in which we can further improve our footprint. We understand our next step goes beyond minimizing our impact to actually reversing our impacts to improve our environment, leaving it better than it was before we arrived.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Maya Angelou: people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Anne Wojcicki. She is an inspiring female leader, disruptive founder, caring mother who is merging the power of science with the power of digital, tapping into big data in a very smart way. (Phoebe Waller Bridge, Stella Mccartney would definitely be part of my shortlist.)

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram @c3l1n3

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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