Teri Lawver: “Believe in something greater than yourself”

Find uncommon insight into common data. Take the time to examine, reflect, and think about the things we see and hear every day. It’s easy to fill our days responding to the quantity of information coming at us and not allowing any time to process what we see and hear. When we create this time, […]

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Find uncommon insight into common data. Take the time to examine, reflect, and think about the things we see and hear every day. It’s easy to fill our days responding to the quantity of information coming at us and not allowing any time to process what we see and hear. When we create this time, we can use the information to develop better insights and make better decisions every day — both personally and professionally.

As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Teri Lawver, Global Commercial Strategy Leader, Global Vice President, Immunology.

Teri Lawver is the Global Commercial Strategy Leader, Global Vice President, for the Immunology Therapeutic Area with Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. In this role, she has end-to-end responsibility for the Janssen Immunology 13B+ dollars portfolio and pipeline.

Teri has more than 25 years of global healthcare and business leadership experience spanning three continents, three healthcare sectors, and dozens of disease areas. Since joining J&J in 2002 at Centocor, she has held several leadership and executive positions across the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies and has delivered an above-market performance in each of the five Johnson & Johnson business units she has led. Prior to joining Johnson & Johnson, Teri was an Associate Principal at McKinsey & Company and a leader in the Firm’s Global Healthcare practice. She began her career as a Derivatives Analyst at Bloomberg Financial Markets, LLP.

An impact-oriented executive, she has an exceptional track record of developing innovative strategies, building diverse, high performing teams, and inspiring organizations to deliver meaningful healthcare advances, sustainable growth, and value creation. Teri has been recognized by NJ Biz as one of New Jersey’s Top 50 Women in Business and is a frequent speaker and panelist across several leadership forums.

Teri holds a Bachelor of Science degree, summa cum laude, from Georgetown University, and a Master of Business Administration from Duke University. #GoHoyas. #GoBlueDevils.

An active community leader, Teri serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors for Episcopal Relief & Development, and on the Board of Trustees for the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. She resides in NJ with her husband, their two amazing children, and one giant rescue dog.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Teri! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I started my career on Wall Street. This was a great training ground for understanding the capital markets and economic dynamics that drive any business. I also learned what it’s like to be the only woman in a room and how much harder you have to work to be heard. That experience definitely shaped my passion for ensuring diversity and inclusion on teams.

After graduate school, I spent several years with a consulting firm, McKinsey & Company. Working with dozens of Fortune 100 C-suite executives was a crash course in business problem-solving and leadership effectiveness. The most effective leaders I worked with were those who cared deeply about their work and saw a connection to a greater purpose — well beyond the profits. These were also the most authentic and inspiring leaders.

When I had the opportunity to join Centocor in 2002, the biotech company had just been acquired by Johnson & Johnson. This was a unique opportunity to leverage/utilize my financial and problem-solving experience in helping this biotech company maximize the impact for patients, employees, communities, and shareholders, and to do so in the context of Johnson & Johnson and Our Credo. What was Centocor is now Janssen Immunology, the company’s largest therapeutic area.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

At Janssen Immunology, we focus on developing and delivering transformational medical innovations for patients suffering from a range of devastating, difficult to treat, chronic immune-mediated diseases. Our purpose is to continuously disrupt treatment approaches with newer, better medicines. We are driven by a relentless dissatisfaction with the status quo, which propels us to tackle the greatest areas of unmet medical need. With this mindset applied to scientific discoveries and new data insights, treatments that were considered impossible 10 years ago are now becoming reality.

We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I’m grateful to have had so many mentors, counselors, and advocates throughout my career. Some of the best advice often comes in the form of a challenge. As a new national sales leader at Centocor, the Commercial Vice President pushed me to deliver my first national address without any slides or data. He taught me the importance of connecting and inspiring people through storytelling- how to capture hearts as a way to open minds. My father also provided invaluable guidance and leadership example as I forged my career. He taught me every day that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. His equanimity in all situations is something I work to emulate.

Can you share three of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

GROWTH: There’s no growth in the comfort zone, and there’s no comfort in the growth zone. If you want to continue to grow as a leader, be ready to be uncomfortable, and at times to make others uncomfortable. Don’t confuse comfort with competence! Most people are capable of doing far more than they may be comfortable doing.

INSIGHT: Find uncommon insight into common data. Take the time to examine, reflect, and think about the things we see and hear every day. It’s easy to fill our days responding to the quantity of information coming at us and not allowing any time to process what we see and hear. When we create this time, we can use the information to develop better insights and make better decisions every day — both personally and professionally.

PURPOSE: “Believe in something greater than yourself” — Barbara Bush. How does your work every day connect to something bigger? Answering that question is key to prioritizing our time and our energy. It frees us to deprioritize (and help our teams and families deprioritize) the things that don’t matter as much, creating time, space and energy for things that really make a difference. What will you do today that will make a difference 1, 2 or 10 years from now?

How are you going to shake things up next?

This is an interesting question in today’s context, with a global pandemic already shaking things up significantly! I’m now asking: how can we use the disruption of the global pandemic to accelerate important work of improving the state of health for humanity? The need for economic and community development programs, domestically and globally, has never been greater. Last November, I had the opportunity to travel throughout Sri Lanka, visiting economic and community development programs there that are making a difference in terms of health and supporting women in business. The COVID-19 pandemic reminds us how supporting those in greatest need results in a healthier society globally.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

For joyful inspiration: the movie Hidden Figures, and book by Margot Lee Shetterly on which the movie was based. There are so many words of wisdom in the book. Two of my favorites:

“Their goal wasn’t to stand out because of their differences; It was to fit in because of their talent.”

“She always kept questioning until she received a satisfactory answer.”

For books:

  • Head, Heart and Guts: How the World’s Best Companies Develop Complete Leaders provides an important framework for developing leaders of the future.
  • Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly has certainly impacted how I raise my children — working to instill in them the courage and confidence to take chances and pursue their dreams in the face of an uncertain world.
  • Leading with Intention: Every Moment is a Choice, by Mindy Hall, reminds me that every interaction is an opportunity for impact.

You are a person of great 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.)

Make STEM fun. Make STEM cool. Make STEM advancement ubiquitous in our education system and culture. We have to do this for both girls and boys. For our girls, while we see equal performance between boys and girls in high school math and science, our system leaves many young women behind at the Ph.D. and career level. [see https://hbr.org/2015/03/the-5-biases-pushing-women-out-of-stem] Such gender and racial disparities impact our overall progress. Despite access to immense resources, more than 30 countries scored higher than US students in a 2019 international math exam. [see usnews.com US Students Show no Improvement in Math, Reading, Science on International Exam.” Dec. 3, 2019.] There are many fantastic organizations right now working on this problem. The real tipping point will come when the great work of in-classroom programs is magnified by high influence pop-cultural leaders.

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

“Never follow anyone else’s path. Unless you’re in the woods, and you’re lost, and you see a path. Then by all means follow that path.” — Ellen DeGeneres

I keep this quote framed on my desk as a reminder to always maintain a sense of humor. It also contains a serious message: Even the world’s greatest innovators benefit from the paths paved by those who came before. While we carve new paths, let’s remember with humility those on whose shoulders we stand.

How can our readers follow you on social media?


This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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